So, after last week’s relaxed slide back into events, this week we resume playing to the overall story.
With that in mind, I have to give them some props. Considering the big reveals we had left things off with in the mid-season finale, this episode still managed to keep up that level of expectation by giving us some more answers, and a lot of the right questions to go with them.
In discussing this episode, there is one thing I need to make clear from the start. Though this is still The Flash, this week the real focus is on STAR Labs’ own Harrison Wells. While Barry still plays a good part in the narrative, Wells is at the heart of this episode first and foremost.
Which makes for an interesting challenge for the writers – in that he has to support the episode while much of him remains a mystery. That he is able to maintain this mystery, and for the viewers deepen it further, while still carrying the episode speaks well to both the writers and Tom Cavanaugh for his portrayal as the enigmatic antagonist at the center of this series.
This week, the focus is on an enemy who hits closer to home for STAR Labs than many others – former employee/colleague Hartley Rathaway (Andy Mientus). Hartley, as we learn, was a brilliant and promising young member of the lab whose generally prickly nature rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. We later learn that he got wind of Wells’s plans with the particle accelerator…and Wells made him pay for that.
In terms of the show’s villains, Hartley has made arguably the strongest first impression out of anyone so far. Just taken on his own, his polished arrogance is memorable in its own right. Pair this with his connections to everyone at STAR and we have someone who is pulling every possible string he can among the staff.
One of the strongest elements of said string pulling actually goes to his rivalry with Cisco. The first time we see Hartley on screen is in a flashback of Cisco’s first day, and right off the bat, Hartley is condescending and insolent to him. This kicks off an interesting side rivalry between the two that is left off with an interesting cliffhanger regarding the Firestorm narrative.
Of course, as the title character, Hartley’s interaction with Barry is also well done. Where his feud with Cisco is more one of condescension, there’s a strange sort of envy in his attitude towards Barry – as far as he views it, Barry is almost his replacement. Which is why he seems determined to push him even harder than the others to see the real Harrison Wells.
Meanwhile, Said real Wells is continuing to shape up to be one of the stronger parts of this series. He’s still continuing to be the curiously manipulative man we’ve come to know, but it raises questions of some of the interactions we see of him with his team- does he genuinely believe in his group, or are they, as Hartley suggests, merely pieces to be used and discarded in his greater game?
It’s a mystery we won’t have the answers to yet, but based on the end of this episode, we could be building to a head on the matter sooner rather than later.
As interesting as the A story is, the B story unfortunately takes a hit. The idea of Iris getting a job based on her coverage of the Flash isn’t a bad one, I’ll at least acknowledge that. The problem is, so much of it feels like cliches – the idea that she’s only valued for her connection to the Flash, having her co-workers look down on her because of her age/gender/etc, feeling frustrated that she’s not being taken seriously. At least when they played the well worn road with her before, they found little ways to tweak it. So far, this part of her life is off to a pretty recycled start.
I’ll give that plot a bit more time to develop before writing it off completely. In the meantime, the A story is strong enough to offset the difference. With this advancement, I’m already looking forward to where things move next week. Especially with the last two notes this week closed out on.
We’ll see how Crazy For You builds on these soon.
-Some great new development for Wells this week
-Hartley an interesting antagonist in terms of playing off of everyone at STAR Labs
-The Ronnie Raymond mystery gets a token shoutout line this week and little else
-Iris’s new story arc is off to an underwhelming start.