“Everyone has a hero, someone they look up to or admire. Someone they just wish they could be.
It’s easy to believe in heroes. What’s hard is when our heroes stop believing in us.”
The idea of heroes and their protégés has always been a big part in society and, like most things taken from reality, are even more pronounced in stories. In Barry’s immediate life, there are two such heroes: his surrogate father, Joe West, and Professor Harrison Wells. When Wells takes the reigns during one of Barry’s villain runs, helping him take down three members of the Royal Flush gang, we’re reminding of the speedster’s admiration for the brilliant professor. After a few moments of levity with the gang—including a camera selfie of the entire team—Barry spends some time with Joe and Iris, with the latter getting offered a job at Central City Picture News. Things are going well for everyone until…He calls himself the Pied Piper
Wells makes his way to his monstrous and beyond amazing home when he gets an unwelcomed visitor, one who whispers “we both know what you did” and “it’s time to pay the piper” before directing sonic vibrations to shatter Wells’ massive skylight. The next day Barry, West, and the rest of the gang arrive to check on their fearless leader, who’s no worse for wear but not sharing everything either. Eddie remarks on the mysterious Wells having not a scratch on him despite the falling glass. Barry comes to the same conclusion when he pieces together the fallen skylight. “This wasn’t some teenage prank,” he remarks to Wells. The professor agrees but also tells Barry he already knows the assailants identity: Hartley Rathaway.
At STAR Labs, Wells gives everyone a breakdown of Rathaway. During the first flashback, Rathaway has already been established as a world-class jerk (Cisco remembers quite well) but also as the “chosen one,” a brilliant scientist and heir to Rathaway Industries, estranged from his family due to coming out. He left the Labs after he and Wells had a disagreement. Wells’ reticence to share with the team his falling out with Hartley is the second red flag for the ever suspicious detective West, though he keeps those suspicions to himself.
While Iris is getting a reality check during her first day on the job, one that includes a brilliant but prickly Mason Bridge and the realization that she’s been hired for her ties to the Flash, Barry’s giving West a science lesson on sonic vibrations and their effects on matter. For the first time, West expresses his concerns to Barry about Wells keeping things to himself. Barry defends his mentor but Eddie (then Caitlin) tell him about the attack on Rathaway Industries. Barry arrives and, after a bit of unnecessary chit chat takes down Rathaway by removing his sonic gauntlets. The former chosen one doesn’t go away silently, boasting that he knows Wells’ secret.
When they bring him back to the Lab, it’s verified that Rathaway was also a victim of the Particle Accelerator explosion, requiring metallic wires of some sort to remain in his ears to lessen the horrific pain he suffers due to the accident. Wells has a conversation with his bitter protégé, who warns Barry that “one day this man will turn on you…In a flash. And you won’t see it coming.” Wells knows he can no longer keep things so close to the chest and admits his mistake to the team. Hartley had warned him about the possibility of the Accelerator going critical but Wells believed the benefits outweighed the risk. Caitlin takes it the hardest, no doubt wondering how Ronnie would be alive if Wells had heeded the warning. She and Cisco walk about but Barry stays, reminding his idol how much his decision cost those around him and what he owes all of them. “You broke their trust—our trust,” he says before leaving Wells to his own devices.
Iris isn’t having the greatest of days either. After Bridge insults her once more, she meets Barry for coffee and they commiserate on their disappointing days with people they looked up to. “Well, the people we admire aren’t always who we’d like them to be,” he tells her. It’s what she needed to hear but their friendly cuppa is interrupted when Cisco discovers Hartley’s plan was to get caught all along. Though Wells tries stopping his former student, uncontrollable shakes hit him and he calls Barry but the Flash arrives after Rathaway has escaped with his sonic gauntlets and information downloaded from their servers.
Wells and Rathaway argue about the dangers of the Accelerator. “You are wagering the lives of everyone in this building. Everyone in this city,” Hartley warns but it falls on deaf ears. Determined to push the Accelerator online, Wells fires his former protégé and warns him that if he “breathes any kind of unsubstantiated accusation”, well, Hartley will have a hard time finding any scientific position outside of junior high school.The Flash falls right into Rathaway’s trap
Wells understand he can no longer keep such a secret under wraps and calls a presser to admit his mea culpa. It won’t stop Hartley though and he proves Wells’ supposition when hecalls out the professor and Flash as he starts trouble at Cleveland Dam. The Flash arrives, saves a few people that’s reminiscent of ‘The Amazing Spiderman,’ before disarming Rathaway once more. But it’s all too easy and the removal of his gauntlets was a part of Hartley’s plan. It triggers sonic vibrations matching Barry’s bodily frequency courtesy of the data he stole from the Lab but a quick thinking Wells uses a bit of trickeration by tapping into satellite radio waves from the cars on the dam to destroy the sonic gauntlets. Game, set, and match. One more for the good guys.
Victory theirs, Wells and Barry have another heart to heart, with the former hoping he can one day “to restore your trust and faith in me.” Barry doesn’t keep him on the hook, telling him “that day was today.”
“Not every hero wears a mask; some heroes save the day in the simplest of ways…just by being there for us. Or letting us know we are believed in. If I’m any sort of hero today, it’s not because of my speed. It’s because I learned how from the people in my life. All of them.”
Barry and West have their own heart to heart, with the Central City speedster acknowledging West’s sacrifices to raise him. “No one could ever replace you,” Barry tells him, “not even Wells.” But it looks like West has his own agenda; investigating Wells with Eddie’s help. At the Lab, Cisco believes he has finally one-upped Hartley but the arrogant genius drops a bombshell. “I know where Ronnie Raymond is,” he tells a stunned Cisco, “I know what really happened to him that night. And I know how to save him.”
The explanation for Wells’ collapse in his inability to control his speed. Despite his absorption of the speed force, he’s not stabilizing. Gideon can’t fix it but, as he says, the tachyon device has always been a temporary fix. “The real game is almost here.”
- Hero worship can be a wonderful thing but also comes with one or two caveats. Invariably, we often put those we admire on pedestals and hold them to unrealistic standards and are disappointed when they fall and we realize they’re only human. It can be just as hard for the idol as well; the pressure to meet such impossible expectations may drive such people beyond the limits of reason and to eschew the parameters they would normally follow. A genius like Wells, one who is so used to having all the answers, could not abide a man who was supposed to be his student contradicting his life’s work. Such a bout of arrogance doesn’t make Wells a bad man…it just makes him human.
- For the idolizers, in this case Barry and Cisco, it was difficult to hear Wells’ fallibilities. Their disappointment was understandable but, at the same time, good for them. Our heroes aren’t gods beyond reproach. They are human beings who, through their personality, accomplishments or the like, have found their way into our hearts, driving us (directly or indirectly) to become a better version of ourselves. One thing we must realize is sometimes a person can be our hero for the day, giving us strength with a kind word or heartfelt gesture at the moment we need it most.
- Barry was given a rude awakening when he discovered Harrison Wells, despite his brilliance, could be the author of such colossal mistakes. Though it shook him to the core, Barry will be better off for it, his relationship even stronger with the professor and, hopefully he will remember that when West’s investigation into Wells (behind Barry’s back, no less) comes to light.
- The mention of the speed force and the real game hints at things to come. What, in fact, is the series’ end game? Do they even know yet? And Rathaway’s comments on Firestorm promises Ronnie Raymond’s return though how he will fit into the Flash’s world is anyone’s guess.