Last week’s episode of ‘The Flash’ (yes, I’m late in catching up with last week’s TV) was a pretty good one overall, but is unfortunately undercut by the silliness of Flash’s latest villain.
I fear that this will only grow to become an even bigger problem as the show goes on. In the comics, The Flash has just about the goofiest rogue’s gallery of enemies of any superhero character, and things that work on the comic book page don’t necessarily work in live action.
Introduced in episode ‘The Sound and the Fury’ is a foe who calls himself The Pied Piper. He wears a cape and hood, as well as a pair of souped-up Nintendo Power Gloves. He looks like a massive dork. There’s really no other way to put it.
Pied Piper’s real identity is Hartley Rathaway, and he was a former scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs. More than that, he was Dr. Wells’ star pupil. Regretfully, he’s also a total jerk who treated everyone around him very badly, as Cisco remembers all too well. Hartley holds a big grudge against Wells, and suffered major hearing damage during the particle accelerator meltdown. He used to hear an intense ringing sound that caused him great pain, until he installed special hearing aid implants that counter the ringing and allow him to hear radio waves. To exact his revenge on Wells, Hartley has built fancy sonic weapons (the aforementioned Power Gloves) that can shatter glass and cause other damage by vibrations.
When Hartley attacks his house, Wells doesn’t want any help from the police, not even Barry. Nevertheless, The Flash gets involved and rather easily captures Hartley. As he’s being locked up in the reactor core prison, Hartley taunts everyone by claiming to know Wells’ deepest, darkest secret.
Being that Wells had to use his own speed powers during the assault on his house, my assumption was that Hartley knows he’s the Reverse-Flash. However, Wells tells the others that his secret is that Hartley had warned him about the danger of an accelerator meltdown. He not only ignored the warning, he fired Hartley and had him dragged out of the lab by security. Is this really the only secret Hartley knows?
In preparing for his new role as a supervillain, Hartley apparently studied up by watching ‘The Dark Knight’ (and/or ‘Skyfall’). In other words, he allowed himself to get captured on purpose, so that he could infiltrate the S.T.A.R. Labs base from the inside. He somehow uses his hearing aids as a weapon to break out of his cell and hacks the lab’s computer system.
So that Hartley won’t have anything to hold over him, Wells gives a press conference in which he publicly admits to ignoring warnings about his accelerator. This will not help his popularity in Central City, I’m afraid.
Hartley next attacks traffic on top of a dam in order to lure The Flash out to him. Cisco discovers too late that Hartley has the frequency to Barry’s own speed vibrations and has tuned his weapons to cause Barry immense pain. With no way to get to the dam in time, Wells figures out a way to hack the satellite radios in some of the cars to transmit a signal that will destroy Hartley’s weapons. Barry then recovers and grabs him again. Cisco replaces his hearing aids with a harmless version and locks Hartley back in the cell. The arrogant Hartley doesn’t seem too concerned. He taunts Cisco again by claiming to know where Caitlin’s fiancé Ronnie is and how to save him.
In an epilogue, we find Dr. Wells in his secret room at the lab, with an electronic harness device strapped to his chest. We learn that he’s been absorbing tachyons in order to restore his Speed Force, which is dwindling. This is only intended as a temporary fix, and he needs Barry to cure himself permanently.
The relationship and dynamic between Wells and Hartley in this episode is nicely complex, and the final revelation helps to shed some light on Wells’ motivations for why he’s been grooming Barry to be The Flash. I’ll even forgive an uninteresting storyline about Iris taking a job at a newspaper with the most ridiculous name ever: Central City Picture News. Still, Pied Piper… That’s pretty damn lame, sorry.