The Flash RECAP: What's the Frequency, Harrison? (S1:E11)
Previously on The Flash: Joe invited Harrison for drinks to kiiiiinda interrogate him juuuuust a little bit about his time in Central City, and Caitlin is sad because Ronnie was killed in the accelerator explosion except really he was turned into Firestorm.
Voiceover!Barry is talking about heroes while chasing down three motorcyclists with the assistance of Caitlin and Cisco…and Harrison, who comes up with the plan of putting up super-fast roadblocks that redirect the riders—Ace, King, and Queen, the Royal Flush gang (comic check: the Royal Flush gang is an ongoing throwaway villain group that have showed up versus the JLA, Green Lantern, and Superman, among others)—into one central intersection where Flash can swipe their keys and leave the cops to mop up. Barry returns to STARLS triumphant, and Cisco demands a team picture for being awesome. Barry DOES note that it’s bad form to snap secret-identity-revealing selfies, but, well, Cisco begs, so he relents. Flash selfies involve framing the picture, hitting the shutter, and then running into the picture before it snaps and running back to catch the phone, in case you were wondering.
At home, Iris is picking up a box of stuff she forgot when she moved in with Eddie, and after last week’s Talk, she and Barry sound pretty normal. Joe wants her to stay for dinner, but she has to get back to helping Eddie paint—after she retrieves the message Central City Picture News left for her, something Joe is mentioning a couple days later. She’s annoyed at the delay, especially when the message indicates that the newspaper wants to hire her. Based solely on her blog. That’s how finding a job works, right?
Harrison is at his home, WALKING around (and taking off his FAKE glasses) and pouring himself a drink, when his phone buzzes. There’s nobody on the other end for a long moment, and then a vaguely threatening voice informs him that they both know what he did. Harrison gets out a gun, but the voice continues, now disembodied rather than phone-based, telling Harrison that he has to “pay the piper” (comic check: I told you last week that the Rathaways’ son, Hartley, became the villain Pied Piper; in the comics he was obsessed with sound after being born deaf and cured—he used music to hypnotize and break stuff) and his weird rich-person giant-ass skylights begin breaking. Harrison speeds (like, Flash-speeds) out of the way to avoid the glass.
Barry and the CCPD arrive at Harrison’s mansion to check out the crime scene. Harrison’s trying to play off the whole deal as a prank, though Joe doesn’t seem convinced. Cisco and Caitlin show up, concerned, but exposit that they’ve never been to Harrison’s house before, because he’s very…private. Obviously.
This triggers a FLASHback two years: Harrison is playing chess and speaking Latin with a younger, bespectacled man who I’m gonna guess is Hartley Rathaway. Hartley’s pretty confident, putting Harrison in check, but Harrison’s next move is checkmate. As Hartley shakes his head, Cisco arrives, a new hire, and Harrison introduces him to Hartley, who is a pretentious little shit: he tells Harrison that he doesn’t trust anyone who comes to work at a “billion-dollar research facility” in a “Keep Calm and Han Shot First” t-shirt, which tells me that the writers of this show have never met a scientist, because we live for that shit. Harrison dismisses Cisco and tells Hartley that he has a good feeling about Cisco, just like he did about Hartley, and then recognizes that there’s some jealousy going on bec ause he tells Hartley that he’s still “his guy.” I’m not gonna lie, it sounded pretty gay. In the “I feel like they’re probably sleeping together” sort of way.
Back in real time, Eddie’s reporting that nobody else in the neighborhood had any vandalism, and he’s a little suspicious that Harrison doesn’t have any cuts or nicks considering he was under the glass when it broke and he can’t walk. Meanwhile, Barry (who was worried about his secret identity being compromised by a selfie taken with Cisco’s phone, remember) is super-speedily reassembling the broken glass with cops very obviously still at the scene. He determines that there wasn’t a single point of impact; the panes of glass just shattered. Harrison admits he knows who the villain is already: Hartley.
At STARLS, Harrison is telling Team Flash about Hartley: he’s a genius; he’s the son of the Rathaway Industries moguls, though they disowned him when he came out; he pretty much co-built the particle accelerator; and he was a total jackass. He left STAR Labs before the accelerator explosion, and Harrison says it was because they had a disagreement. Joe tries to ask what about, but Barry interrupts, telling Harrison that he’ll protect him and the team and herding Joe back to the police station.
In FLASHback, Hartley is giving Cisco a very reluctant tour of the facility, which includes a pop quiz on physics’n’engineering stuff. Cisco is uncowed and answers Hartley’s questions with a smirk until Caitlin interrupts them to say hi to new hire Cisco. They seem to like each other immediately (aw), but then again, they are seeing one another in direct contrast to Hartley.
Iris is at her first day at Central City Picture News, cheerfully introducing herself to her snarky neighbor at a staff meeting. Her neighbor is, turns out, a senior reporter who never really deigns to attend meetings, and as such is assigned Iris as his cub. He is displeased. Iris is also displeased because the editor is only interested in Flash stories and her mama bear is not interested in helping her. Do newsrooms really use terminology like “mama bear”?
In the Worst Lab Ever, Barry is explaining the concept of the sonic screwdriver to Joe (more or less), and Joe accepts that something supervillain-y broke the windows, although he’s more concerned with what Harrison might be hiding. Barry thinks if Hartley was such a jerk it makes sense Harrison wouldn’t mention him, and Joe equates that to how Harrison never mentions his dead wife, either. They…are not doing anything to make me think Hartley and Harrison weren’t boyfriends. Eddie interrupts to report that Rathaway Industries is under attack, and of course Barry gets a call right after from Caitlin, so he’s on the way too.
Hartley is breaking glass in random spots on the building and hitting a few cars as it pleases him, too. The cops arrive first, somehow, telling him to get down, but he just sonics the car. Flash gets there a moment later, pushing Hartley down heroically. Hartley can apparently hear the radio waves in Flash’s suit, so he asks if Caitlin, Cisco, and Harrison are going to hear Flash die. Barry informs him sadly that they’re actually going to hear Hartley get his ass kicked. Hartley proceeds to sonic Flash through a statue. YOU’RE FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF SOUND, BARRY. But he gets up and starts stealing police batons and throwing them at Hartley to distract him long enough to rush up and pull the sonic gloves off. Hartley breathily informs Barry that he knows Harrison’s “secret.” Barry glares at him, but the fight is over.
Flash escorts Hartley into STARLS (wait…the police let the costumed vigilante take their prisoner?) while he quips that getting arrested by someone clad in leather is a fantasy. Cute. He also informs Cisco that he’s calling himself Pied Piper, which Cisco reluctantly approves as he takes Hartley down to the metaprison.
Some sort of scanner they’ve installed in the cells detects tech in Hartley’s ears, and Cisco orders him to remove them. Hartley protests that he suffered severe hearing damage when the accelerator exploded and is in horrible pain without the aids. Cisco apparently is going to let that go, which I’m sure won’t turn out to be a mistake. Hartley begins showing off all the languages he can speak by insulting Cisco in Spanish, Caitlin in French, and Harrison in Latin, and the former two quickly depart, leaving Harrison to make his heartfelt apology (in English). Hartley is skeptical, though, and tells the cell’s camera that the apology is for Flash, not him. He actually says “feels good to have the great Harrison Wells behind you, doesn’t it?” I don’t even have to try.
Back up in the lab, Harrison reveals his deep, dark secret, but luckily Harrison has so many deep, dark secrets that he has spare ones to let out when needed. This time, the secret is that Hartley knew there was a nonzero chance that the accelerator would explode, but Harrison thought the potential benefits outweighed that small risk and went ahead with the test. Caitlin is not amused, and she and Cisco leave the room. Barry tells him that he owes Cisco and Caitlin more than apology after they stuck with him post-explosion, and he leaves Harrison with something to think about.
On Day 2 of her reporting job, Iris approaches the Picture News editor, who quickly assigns her to investigate the Flash’s victory over Pied Piper. She tries to go to Mason for help, but he has his own story and ignores her to head out for…investigating, or whatever. Iris stops him and tells him that she gets she was hired because they think she has an in with the Flash, but she really wants to be a journalist. (So…is she done with school now? Why is her continuity so hard?) Mason is unimpressed with her blog and vaguely sexist as he leaves her alone.
Iris meets Barry at the coffee shop, where he’s sulking, but she insists that he can’t be sulking, because she had a terrible day and needs to complain a lot. He graciously allows her to go first, and she laments about how she can’t fulfill their Flash expectations because she doesn’t have an in with the Flash anymore. She also was assigned to Mason Bridge, who’s won two Pulitzers and who she really looked up to, and he insulted her, because the theme of this episode is When Your Heroes Turn Out to Kinda Suck. Barry commiserates and gives her a pep talk about how she’s awesome, and it’s very best-friend-sibling-y and not gross so YAY.
At STARLS, Cisco is messing with Hartley’s sonic gloves and tells Caitlin that the gloves are on the lowest setting; he could’ve exploded the entire Rathaway Industries building if he’d wanted. They quickly realize that Hartley was trying to get captured, so he clearly has some nefarious plan. Sure enough, Hartley’s no longer in his cell. Cisco radios Harrison, who’s in his secret lair staring at the Reverse Flash suit, and he speeds off. Cisco runs too, telling Caitlin to stay in the main lab. Down in the hallway, Harrison slows down, sagging against the wall; apparently there’s something wrong with his speed. Hartley, meanwhile, is pulling his hearing aid out of one ear (and brain, apparently). He uses it to blow out the main door into the metaprison, knocking Cisco out in the process.
Alarms are going off as Caitlin tries to raise Cisco on the radio, but she doesn’t get very far before Hartley knocks her out and takes his gloves, using a memory chip in them to download a bunch of files from the lab computer. Harrison is still on the ground—looks like maybe his speed is what allows him to walk, even if he’s only walking at normal speed—and he calls Barry, who’s still at the coffee shop with Iris. Naturally Barry drops everything and speeds off while Iris is in line. How long are we expected to believe she’s that dumb? Hartley approaches Harrison in the hallway to ask creepily (and suggestively, oh my god) if he’s still Harrison’s “guy.” By the time Barry checks on Caitlin, though, Harrison is back in his wheelchair and Hartley is gone.
Barry and Caitlin wake up Cisco, who’s concussed and angry that he let Hartley get away. As they all try to blame themselves, Harrison comes in and announces that it’s his fault and nobody else is allowed to have any blame so there. He tells the team Hartley wants him to pay for his crimes, so he will—and earn back the team’s trust in the meantime.
In FLASHback, Hartley confronts Harrison about the risk of the accelerator exploding when turned on. He doesn’t even relent when Harrison speaks Latin! Hartley says if Harrison won’t admit he could be wrong, then he’ll go public. But he only gets a couple of steps towards the door before four black-suited men arrive to escort him out of the building. Harrison completes his threat by telling Hartley if he breathes a word, he’ll never work in physics again.
In real time, Harrison is holding a press conference at the police station, with Mason and Iris in attendance. He admits that he knew there was a chance of accelerator failure and he ignored the possibility. Hartley is watching on TV, but he’s still working on his gloves, so he doesn’t seem impressed by Harrison falling on one of his many swords. Harrison asks for questions, and Mason asks if he plans to rebuild the accelerator. But Harrison ignores him at calls on Iris. Weighing her options, she chooses to re-ask Mason’s question. Harrison says he does not, and Mason looks confused at Iris—and maybe impressed, although to me it just sounded like she didn’t have a question of her own.
Team Flash is trying to figure out what Hartley will do next. Even Harrison doesn’t think his plans were derailed by the press conference. Cisco, despite his concussion, is especially determined to find what piece of information Hartley wanted from the STAR Labs files he stole. Harrison tells him he doesn’t have anything to prove, that Cisco’s brilliance is different from Hartley’s, because he’s warm and funny and has heart and Hartley doesn’t, and anyway, he never did have a favorite.
As the pep talk wraps up, the lights spark and Hartley’s voice comes over the intercoms. As expected, he doesn’t care that Harrison admitted wrongdoing—he calls it a “bishop sacrifice”—and wants to play one last game of chess. Y’know, with people’s lives. He’s chilling on a toll road above the Keystone-Cleveland Dam, gloves charged, ready to sacrifice some pawns!
The team locates Hartley by finding seismic tremors registering from his sonic blasts, and Flash heads out, quickly rescuing a woman from her falling car. Hartley uses that distraction to throw four more cars over the edge of the dam, forcing Barry to save the people instead of disarming him. Meanwhile, Cisco figured out what Hartley stole—all the data on Flash, of course. This allows him to tune his gloves to Flash’s “molecular frequency.” Harrison warns Barry to run, but he dodges a few sonic blasts and rips Hartley’s gloves from his hands again. Hartley just laughs, though, because of course the first attack on Rathaway Industries allowed him to get a taste of Barry’s fighting style, which is pretty static. Disarming Hartley just triggered the gloves to emit a signal to the comms in Barry’s suit, which then antagonize his molecular frequency (whatever, comic book science) and…fuck him up, basically.
Hartley monologues about all of that, of course, while Harrison figures out how to counteract the attack: he’s going to use the surrounding cars’ satellite radios to send his own signal.
He does this in about two seconds, and his frequencies destroy Hartley’s gloves, which stops the transmission to Barry and prevents his organs from disintegrating, or whatever.
Back in the labs, Barry is mostly healed, although his hearing is a little off judging by how loudly he’s speaking. Cisco heads off to rest with Catilin’s supervision, leaving Harrison and Barry alone. Harrison says it’s hard for him to admit he’s wrong, which… Welcome to humanity? But of course Barry is utterly swayed and trusts Harrison again, shaking his hand and giving him a framed picture of the Team Flash selfie.
Barry voiceovers about heroes and how he learned to be a hero from the people in his life, and then he goes to see Joe. Aww. They talk a bit about how the press conference was gutsy, and then Barry says he figures it was hard for Joe to raise Barry. Joe protests, but Barry thinks he was difficult because he was a science nerd and sort of out of Joe’s wheelhouse, interest-wise. Barry tells Joe that none of his childhood heroes—he namedrops Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson, plus his dad and Harrison—could replace him, which…is really sweet but not something Joe seemed to have any insecurities about. They high-five anyway, and Barry leaves as Eddie arrives. Joe immediately turns serious, and Eddie reports that he searched Harrison’s house but didn’t find anything. Eddie asks if Joe’s sure he wants to investigate Harrison. Joe is very sure.
Hartley wakes up in the metaprison again, and Cisco tells him his hearing aids will not work as escape aids this time. Hartley is unconcerned, because the team will be releasing him soon since he has a very interesting piece of information: he knows where Ronnie is and what happened to him.
In his secret lair, Harrison has the tachyon device strapped to his chest, even though Gideon (that’s his AI, have I told you that?) recommends he not expose himself to any more tachyons. Harrison is apparently absorbing the speed force directly in an attempt to stabilize his own speed, but it’s not clear how much longer the tachyon device will work for that purpose: but that’s okay, says Harrison, because it was only meant to be temporary. Apparently the real endgame is coming.