After last week’s Rogues-centric episode of The Flash, this week bring a new foe -- one with a personal connection to Harrison Wells.
In fact, “The Sound and the Fury” is really all about Wells: his secrets, his past and so much more. First off, it’s revealed without any ambiguity that Wells does indeed have super-speed. It’s not hinted or suggested; it’s flat-out shown.
When the Pied Piper, played by Andy Mientus, attacks Wells’ home, the mysterious head of STAR Labs uses super-speed to get out of the path of falling glass. And by the way, when Wells runs, he becomes a red blur, not yellow. This should trigger some serious online speculation in the coming weeks.
Wells is a man of secrets – super-speed not the least among them -- but his former star employee, Hartley Rathaway, forces him to reveal one of the others: Despite Rathaway’s warnings of possible catastrophe, Wells turned on the particle accelerator anyway. Not only that, Rathaway was fired for daring to question his employer. Wells is forced to reveal to the world that he could’ve stopped the accident that hurt so many people, including Ronnie Raymond (we can expect this to drive a wedge between Wells and Caitlin Snow). However, Rathaway isn’t satisfied with forcing Wells to reveal his shame; he also wants to kill his former mentor’s new protégée, The Flash.
Let’s talk about this Pied Piper for a moment: So far we’ve met Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang and a Weather Wizard. Rathaway is the furthest from his comic book counterpart of any of the Rogues introduced to date. This Piper is the Pied Piper in name and sexual orientation only. In the comics, the Pied Piper – the modern version, at least -- has always been kind of a Robin Hood character, not a bitter prodigy bent on revenge. TV’s Pied Piper doesn’t even play a pipe; instead, he uses sound-manipulating gauntlets to cause chaos.
This Piper is more like Marvel’s Shocker or Klaw than a classic Pied Piper. The inner-traditionalist in me was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Rathaway playing his signature flute, but that may have been a bit frivolous in the light of the serious nature of the character’s motivations. This Rathaway is a broken young man, a genius who had his hearing severely damaged because of Wells’ hubris, and who feels he’s been replaced by The Flash and Cisco Ramon. I’m sure the evolution of this Pied Piper is not over, and I expect he will soon join with the other Rogues. However, don’t look for the troublemaking do-gooder from the comics.
Rathaway’s sexuality is indeed evident in this episode, and I wonder how the reaction to a gay villain will be. Ever since the Pied Piper was revealed as gay in William Messner-Loebs’ brilliant run on The Flash, he’s been the most altruistic of the Flash’s Rogues. Has there been a gay supervillain on television? Rathaway was shunned by his parents because of his orientation, so for him to look to Wells as a father figure is believable. This parental rejection also explains why Rathaway was so broken when Wells cast him away.
It seems the Piper will serve as a foil to Wells, as at the end of the episode, Rathaway reveals he knows where to find and help Ronnie Raymond. Yes, Wells is a man of secrets, the greatest of which is a certain yellow suit hidden in the bowels of STAR Labs. Might Rathaway’s vendetta expose Wells’ true agenda? Interesting stuff, even if this Pied Piper barely resembles the version comic fans are used to.
My only complaint with “The Sound and the Fury” is that, once again, Barry needs someone to help him defeat the villain of the week. Barry is looking a bit like a puppet manipulated by whichever member of the STAR Labs crew figures out how to take down the bad guy. I’d like to see him actually use his own mind to defeat some villains.
This episode also reveals more about Cisco’s past, how he met Caitlin, how he got a job at STAR Labs, and just what his humor and heart means to Wells. If Wells does have evil intentions, why does he keep such a good soul like Cisco around? It’s also cool that Rathaway could morph into Cisco’s foe more than Barry’s. The Piper truly hates Cisco for becoming so close to Wells, and those vibration powers of Rathaway’s could mean some bad vibes for Cisco down the road. (See what I did there?)
Our B plot centers on Iris moving up in the world. No longer is she coffeehouse-waitress Iris West; now she’s working reporter Iris West. When Iris was introduced in comics in 1959, she was a Lois Lane-like beat reporter. Now, the journalistic history of Miss West continues with the TV version as she graduate from blogger to for-real reporter. Of course, Iris had to prove herself to the more grizzled staffers of her new office. Having a great metropolitan newspaper as a center activity for The Flash gives the series a classical feel. Superhero adventures and newspaper offices … they just go together.
So the big takeaway this week is a new Rogue, and confirmation of Wells’ speed – a speed that’s failing him. And what were those words he uttered in frustration as he strapped on his power harness? Were they “Speed Force”?
I think the series just upped the ante once again.