And before I reveal this mystery, remember that I am 100% a fan of this show — one who has unequivocally enjoyed the show since its mid-season return. Ready? The mystery is this: Why do I love this show so much when the characters are often so damn dumb?
It’s weird, because as a show, The Flash is reasonably smart — it’s the characters who aren’t. The show does a great job mixing the weekly supervillain-catching procedural with its overarching plot, and it almost perfectly balances mass accessibility with the type of nerdy comic specifics that fans love, while also working with Arrow to so that both shows feel like they help the other advance their plots and characters. It’s an extremely nifty bit of juggling, but The Flash makes it look easy.
Take, for instance, last night’s episode “Who Is Harrison Wells?” Obviously, the big story is how Barry and the others are still trying to figure out if — and how — Wells is the Reverse-Flash. Joe and Cisco head to Starling City to investigate the car crash that killed Wells’ wife 15 years ago, the one that Dr. McGee said Wells became a different person afterwards. This leaves Barry, Caitlin and Wells himself to deal with the Freak-o’-the-Week — Hannibal Bates, a.k.a. “Everyman”, a dude (maybe?) who can transform into anyone he touches.
I feel like the copycat character can be found on practically every genre TV show, and The Flash goes through the standard routine — Everyman disguises himself as various members of the team, gets one of them in trouble (Eddie), creates awkward sexual tension (kissing Caitlin as Barry), and forcing two romantic leads to fight each other (battling the Flash as Iris). But The Flash manages to tweak these in some interesting ways: Everyman doesn’t just get Eddie in trouble, he literally shoots two other cops as Eddie while on camera, and the police are appalled at what their fellow officer has done. Rather than have Caitlin merely melt into Barry’s arms — after all, Grant Gustin is a handsome dude — Caitlin’s open-eyed look of complete bafflement as Every-Barry tries to snog her is a wonder to behold. And while I fully expected for Barry to have a hard time punching Every-Iris, being the love of his life and all, Barry doesn’t. He beats the crap out of her, and it’s actually a little weird. These aren’t major twists, but they’re unexpected enough to make all of these rather clichéd moments interesting. Best of all, in order to clear Eddie’s name, Barry has to show the Central City Police footage of Everyman changing forms. Yes, they were previously attacked by the Weather Wizard, sure, but now they have concrete, incontrovertible proof that many meta-human criminals are wandering through the city. This is could be a big deal moving forward.
Also a big deal: Joe and Cisco heading to Starling, and meeting up with police chief Quentin Lance. Really, no one was expecting much more than a chance to see these disparate character on-screen together while they discover the original Wells’ corpse buried off the side of the road (since Eobard Thawne used his future-doohickey to murder the real Wells while absorbing his form all those years ago). That would have been completely fine. But The Flash takes a moment for Lance and Joe to bond over their daughters — but also mention how Lance is angry at Laurel for lying to him (about Sara’s death), while Joe mentions he’s been lying to Iris (about the Flash’s identity) to keep her safe. Both men take a moment to realize their moral stances might not be so justified, which may have ramifications for the Lance family in a future Arrow episode. You know what definitely will, though? The fact that Cisco upgrades Sara’s Black Canary sound bombs into a choker, which means the new Black Canary will finally have her actual Canary Cry. That’s awesome.
But that’s the show being awesome; meanwhile, the characters on the show are being stupid. I’ve complained about Barry’s emotional immaturity before, as well as the fact that it seems he’s gone from brilliant forensic scientist to… dude. But it wasn’t just Barry who looked like an idiot in “Who Is Harrison Wells?”
First of all, almost no one on the show ever considers the possibility that the Evil Person with Shapeshifting Powers who is currently running around might be the reason why their friends and loved ones are acting in bizarre ways. Sure, the SuperSTARS and Iris immediately assume it was Everyman as Eddie who shot those cops, and not Eddie himself. But when “Eddie” shows up at Barry’s door, claiming the police just set him free for some reason? Barry lets him in without a second of hesitation. When Barry starts macking on Caitlin? It never once occurs to her it might not be Barry. Seriously, if Wells hadn’t realized Everyman was left-handed, I assume he could have taken Barry’s place on the team for months.
Unfortunately, that’s not Caitlin’s dumbest moment in the episode; it’s when she decides to head over to Wells’ house to confront him about Barry’s theories. Now, I like that Caitlin is very resistant to the idea of Wells as a bad guy. Wells has been nothing but a mentor to her as well as a therapist, of sorts, after Ronnie seemed to die. Yes, the man in yellow killed Barry’s mom, but that doesn’t match her lengthy experience with Wells at all. I especially like it because last episode, Felicity was 100% certain both Cisco and Caitlin would immediately be on Barry’s side because they’re good people. Caitlin is a good person, but to her, Wells has also been a genuinely good person — and for all Barry’s claims otherwise, they’re just claims.
That said, Caitlin is (or at least still should be) smart enough to understand the problems with going up to Wells and saying, “Hey, Barry thinks you’re a superpowered murderer. What’s that about?” Even if there’s only a 1% chance of Barry being right, if he is, then Wells is immediately going to kill her, Barry, and god knows who else. It’s not a smart move, even for someone who is 99% sure she can trust Wells.
If The Flash didn’t have a solid, interesting overarching storyarc for the season, or if it didn’t have these clever storytelling moments or nods to the original comics. or even just its sense of fun, then the characters’ stupidity would be incredibly frustrating and obnoxious (and the show would technically be Gotham). Luckily, there’s more than enough to make up for these lapses in judgment — although it’s baffling that they still happen, given the fact that the show itself doesn’t have the same problem.
Seeing as “Who Is Harrison Wells?” ends with Barry, Cisco and Caitlin finding not only Wells, secret lair, his yellow Reverse-Flash suit and the 2024 newspaper — and next week’s episode promo makes it look like the Flash-vs.-Flash fight is on — I’m not too worried about it. The show will obviously continue to be a ton of fun, although I imagine if the SuperSTARS have the same brainfarts when they battle Eobard Thawne as they did this week, they’re in for some serious trouble.
- The fact the group’s “Our Beloved Mentor Might Be A Secret Supervillain Who Murdered Barry’s Mom” meeting was also a pizza party made me chuckle. It’s like the characters are 10 years old sometimes.
- Barry gets the pizza from Coast City, which is the home of Green Lantern, which you likely recognized from the big “Ferris Air” sign on the outskirts of town. Does this mean Greg Berlanti and The CW have some kind of Green Lantern show in the works?! No. Settle down.
- Cisco is a huge Black Canary fanboy, and gets an 8x10 photo of him with Laurel in costume for his work on the Canary Cry choker. This is so dumb, but Cisco has won me over so completely that I still loved it.
- Speaking of smart moves, Everyman turning into a little girl and screaming she’d been kidnapped when Iris and Caitlin tried to take her in? Kind of genius.
- I thought for a second there that Everyman was going to be trapped in Iris’ body at the end, and we’d have a future episode with an evil Iris running around. I would have liked that.
- When Eddie is freed, Wells stops by Central City Police HQ to give his regards. Smooth, The Flash. Very smooth.
- I can’t believe we still have Grodd to look forward to, too! The final four episodes are going to be awesome.
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