[WARNING: Spoilers ahead from Tuesday's series premiere of The Flash.]
What is going on with Dr. Harrison Wells?
The CW's Arrow spinoff The Flash introduced a new mystery in the closing moments of Tuesday's series premiere, when the brains behind STAR Labs' particle accelerator — seen confined to a wheelchair following the explosion that created The Flash — was revealed to be hiding several big secrets. One, Harrison Wells could walk. And two, he was studying the front page of The Central City Citizen dated 10 years in the future (April 25, 2024) with the ominous headline, "Flash Missing: Vanishes in Crisis." (The others, for the record, were "Wayne Tech/Queen Inc. Merger Complete" and "Red Skies Vanish.")
"That's the reason to do it," Tom Cavanagh tells THR of the mystery surrounding his character. Even The Flash himself, Grant Gustin, had questions of Harrison Wells' place in the overarching story, offering assurances that answers will be given in time. Episode three, "Fastest Man Alive," will be heavily focused on Harrison Wells. "We will slowly find out more and more about Harrison Wells and what the hell is going on there," says Gustin. "The coolest about that moment [in the premiere], to me, is they're setting up the fact that the Flashpoint story line [from the comics] could potentially happen — that Speed Force could be an aspect and time travel is potentially a part of the show." Time travel will have a heavy presence in the first few episodes. Says DC Comics chief creative officer and executive producer Geoff Johns, "It's an important part of Flash mythology so it has to be in there somewhere."
While Barry Allen, Iris West and other Flash characters have DC counterparts, Harrison Wells does not. "Harrison Wells is a new character that was created, the name obviously is brand new. I don't think we can say anything else about it," says Johns. Adds executive producer Andrew Kreisberg: "There's obviously more than meets the eye when you see Harrison Wells. ... His motivations are a big mystery and tracking that through has been a very interesting ride with Mr. Cavanagh." Next week's episode includes a showdown that sheds more light on how far he goes to continue that agenda. "I think it bodes well for the viewers if there's characters you can't talk about," Cavanagh chimes in. "We've got secrets to unveil."
Cavanagh, who has appeared in two of The Flash executive producer Greg Berlanti's past projects (Jack & Bobby, Eli Stone), says Harrison is one of many characters on the show who aren't so easily definable. "In a strange way, even though he is an ordinary person who suddenly develops extraordinary powers, Barry Allen is the easiest character in this show to define. That's a crazy thing to say given how rich that character is and given how many decades of mythology are behind him," he explains. "Yet the rest of us are operating on a whole bunch of other levels that are maybe not so clearly defined. You have that license in a comic-book arena, and as somebody who hasn't done that, it's been fun to play."
Berlanti notes that Harrison's mentor-mentee relationship to Barry is equally as significant, and informs what the STAR Labs scientist hopes to accomplish. "Regardless of what [Harrison's] secret motivations may be, the most enjoyable aspects is Wells on the surface, in terms of his relationship with Barry, which is one of the primary relationships on the show," he says. "Hopefully, in some fun ways they'll twist back and they'll inform whatever the character's larger agenda might be. But on the surface, they're hopefully enjoyable too. I don't think anybody has witnessed [Harrison] tell a lie yet. I think he's been truthful about a lot of things. That'll be intriguing to see how that plays out."
When Cavanagh first met Berlanti and Kreisberg to discuss the role, they "outlayed" the first nine episodes of their plan. "Are we at all worried about story because we're getting so much out and so much crazy, great stuff? We're not saving any of that?" he recalls asking them at the closed-door meeting. "Greg Berlanti said, '[There's] always more story.' " And more will be unraveled.
"When I did the pilot I was hoping that it wasn't just going to be a glimpse, a flavor, a suggestion," Cavanagh says of Harrison's motives. "Thankfully, they're shining a spotlight on it. The next time we talk, you'll be like, 'Oh!' "
The Flash airs 8 p.m. Tuesdays on The CW.