Harrison Wells

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Harrison Wells
Arrowverse characters
Created by
Portrayed byTom Cavanagh
Years2014–present

Harrison Wells is the name of several fictional characters portrayed by Tom Cavanagh in the CW's television series The Flash. Created by Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, the character is an original creation for the series, and not based on any existing character appearing in comics published by DC Comics. Most versions are scientists from parallel universes, each being the founder and director of S.T.A.R. Labs on their respective Earths. This differs from the comics, where Garrison Slate was the founder of S.T.A.R. Labs.

Cavanagh has played a different version of Wells in each season; he has played Earth-1's Wells (and Eobard Thawne impersonating him) in season one, Harry Wells of Earth-2 since season two, writer H. R. Wells of Earth-19 in season three, the Council of Wells and Council of Harrisons (which consist of various doppelgängers) in season four, and detective Sherloque Wells in season five.

Cavanagh has been praised by critics and fans for his performances as various versions of the character, particularly for Harry, although some criticized H. R. The Council of Wells and Council of Harrisons received a divided reception among critics; some praised their humor and Cavanagh's versatility in portraying them while others criticized their skit nature.

Fictional character biographies[edit]

Harrison Wells (Earth-1)[edit]

Harrison Wells
Arrowverse character
Harrison Wells (Earth-1).jpg
First appearance
Last appearance
Information
Occupation
  • Scientist
SpouseTess Morgan

In season one, Harrison Wells is introduced as the founder and director of S.T.A.R. Labs, Central City on Earth-1.[1] He was devoted to his late wife Tess Morgan, whom he met when they worked as research partners in Maryland. The couple relocated to Starling City at some point after they married.[2] In 2000, the couple discussed a plan for a chain of independent research laboratories unconnected to government or big business. After drawing an initial design sketch on a paper napkin, Wells wanted to name his concept T.E.S.S. ("Technological Engineering Scientific Studies") but Tess opted for S.T.A.R. Labs ("Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories").[3] In the present, Wells activates a particle accelerator which explodes, and the dark matter energy released transforms various individuals into metahumans, including Barry Allen. Months later, Wells has become a paraplegic recluse and pariah in Central City. He and his assistants Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow help Barry as the Flash; Wells pushes Barry to run faster to increase his protege's abilities as a speedster by taking down metahuman criminals. Unknown to the rest of the team, Wells is faking paralysis and has a hidden futuristic time vault within S.T.A.R. Labs, from which he conducts surveillance on his co-workers.[1][4] He demonstrates a desire to keep Barry safe from harm, and murders Simon Stagg for seeking to exploit the Flash's powers.[5] Wells soon causes Joe West to become suspicious of him.[2] He ultimately appears as a tachyon-enhanced speedster who is later dubbed the "Reverse-Flash", and bests Barry in combat.[6][7]

"Wells" is later revealed to be Eobard Thawne, the Flash's archenemy from the 22nd century and a descendant of police officer Eddie Thawne.[8] Traveling to the 21st century to erase the Flash from history by fracturing the Allen family (murdering Barry's mother Nora and framing his father Henry), Thawne, left stranded with his Speed Force connection severed, caused a car crash that killed Tess, then killed an injured Wells by stealing his likeness using a futuristic device.[3][9] As Wells, he then founded S.T.A.R. Labs and created the particle accelerator to turn Barry into the Flash, hoping to use Barry's pure Speed Force connection to return home.[10] In the present, Wells's colleague Tina McGee tells Barry she always suspected something was off after Tess died.[11] An investigation into Tess's death eventually leads to Team Flash's discovery of Wells's corpse and Thawne's masquerade.[12]

In season two, several months after Thawne supposedly ceased to exist because of Eddie shooting himself dead,[10][a] Barry receives a flash drive containing Thawne's will (in Wells' name) that bequeaths S.T.A.R. Labs to Barry and a video-recorded confession to Nora's murder (also in Wells' name), allowing for Henry's exoneration.[14][15]

Harry Wells[edit]

Harry Wells
Arrowverse character
Harry Wells.jpg
First appearance
Last appearance
Information
Full nameHarrison Wells
Occupation
  • Scientist
  • Owner and director of Earth-2's S.T.A.R. Labs
Affiliation
  • Team Flash
SpouseUnnamed wife (deceased)
ChildrenJesse Wells

Harrison "Harry" Wells of Earth-2 is introduced in season two as the founder and director of the Earth-2 S.T.A.R Labs.[16] He is a widower and the father of Jesse Wells.[17] Like Thawne, he was responsible for using a particle accelerator that exploded and created the metahumans on Earth-2,[18] including transforming serial killer Hunter Zolomon into the speedster Zoom.[19] When Zoom kidnaps Jesse, Wells travels to Earth-1 to assist with Barry's fight against Zoom's extorted metahumans and to keep Jesse safe.[18][20] Wells, nicknamed "Harry" by Cisco, is initially distrusted by Team Flash due to Thawne's prior betrayal.[18] Because Thawne's actions tainted his Earth-1 doppelgänger's name, Harry's safety is often threatened because others mistake him for Thawne.[18][21][22] Harry later helps with Cisco's transition as the superhero Vibe,[18][13] and Caitlin with the speed-enhancing Velocity serums.[21] Zoom ultimately extorts Harry into developing a Speed Force transmitting device to steal Barry's speed in exchange for Jesse's life. But when Harry cannot go through with the plan, he confesses his collaboration with Zoom and the reason for it.[23] Barry, Cisco and Harry then travel to Earth-2 to rescue Jesse.[24] With their mission successful, Harry and Jesse seek refuge on Earth-1 from Zoom's pursuit.[25] After Barry's speed is sacrificed to Zoom for Wally West's safety,[19] Harry tries to recreate the particle accelerator accident to help restore Barry's powers; Barry is seemingly disintegrated in the process, and dark matter energy bathes both Wally and Jesse, rendering Jesse comatose.[26] Harry eventually locates Barry inside the Speed Force and is able to bring him back with Cisco and Iris West's help, and Barry revives Jesse.[27] Harry and Cisco then collaborate on a device to incapacitate Zoom's invading metahuman army.[28] After Zoom's defeat, Harry and Jesse return to Earth-2.[29]

In season three, Harry approaches Team Flash to dissuade Jesse, now a speedster, from being a superhero, but eventually comes to accept his daughter's intentions.[30] He soon returns to Earth-2 after helping the team recruit his replacement.[31] Team Flash rescues Harry after he is captured and imprisoned by Gorilla City's denizens.[32] Harry later assists the team against a corrupted future time remnant of Barry,[33] and he remains on Earth-1 as a favor when Barry goes into the Speed Force to stabilize it.[34]

By the beginning of season four, Harry has returned to Earth-2 for undisclosed reasons, but Cisco mentions him as one of the scientists who aided in developing a way behind Barry's retrieval from the Speed Force.[35] Harry returns to live on Earth-1 after a falling out with Jesse,[36] but eventually reconciles with her.[37] Harry also assists with Team Flash's fight against Clifford DeVoe / The Thinker.[38][39] Harry struggles with his frustration at being unable to anticipate DeVoe and his belief that he is just not smart enough.[40] He decides to emulate DeVoe's methods by creating his own intelligence-enhancing "Thinking Cap",[41] and nearly becomes addicted to its effects until Joe persuades him to forgo overusage. But when Harry pushes the device past its safety limits during one of DeVoe's assaults, his brain gets damaged;[42] now the more he uses his intellect, the faster he loses it.[43] He soon begins forgetting even rudimentary elements of everyday life and is eventually reduced to babbling.[44][45] Following DeVoe's demise, Team Flash uses a device provided by Marlize DeVoe to repair Harry's brain and restore his mind which succeeds to an extent: Harry recovers his normal mental functions, but not his genius or his higher education and knowledge. Undeterred, he is grateful for the insight into other aspects of his personality, and leaves for Earth-2 after bidding Team Flash a heartfelt farewell.[46]

Harry makes a cameo appearance in season five when Barry time travels to season two's timeframe to collect Harry's Speed Force transmitter to build a weapon to use against Cicada.[47]

H. R. Wells[edit]

H. R. Wells
Arrowverse character
H. R. Wells.jpg
First appearance
Last appearance
Information
Full nameHarrison Wells
Occupation
  • Co-founder of Earth-19's S.T.A.R. Labs
  • Writer
Affiliation
  • Team Flash
Significant otherTracy Brand

Team Flash selects Harrison "H. R." Wells of Earth-19 as a replacement for Harry Wells in season three—over Harry's objections—after he seemingly solved a complicated mathematical equation.[31] The team later discovers that the overbearingly good-natured H. R. is not really a scientist, despite his professed credentials. Although he did help found S.T.A.R. Labs on Earth-19,[48] his partner Randolph Morgan solved the equation meant for him.[49] H. R. professes to be the "idea man" who creates the plans for others to execute. Over everyone's protests, Barry suggests letting H. R. stay for a few more weeks to see if they can still work together. If not, they will send him back to Earth-19.[48] H. R. strives to prove his worth to the team. He is generally intelligent and intuitive, which helps the team make plans and battle metahuman criminals.[50] He recognizes the potential worth in everything he encounters, leading him to begin training newly-minted speedster Wally as Kid Flash.[51] Despite Thawne's tainted name as the Earth-1 Wells, H. R. is able to venture into public using an invention of Morgan's that disguises his appearance holographically; while Team Flash's members see the normal H. R., others see a projected image of a different face under the name H. R. Randolf.[52] He also transforms S.T.A.R. Labs into a museum open to the public to generate income for the team.[49]

An aspiring novelist, H. R. begins transmitting fictionalized versions of Team Flash's exploits across the interdimensional barrier, with himself as the protagonist. This allows Earth-19 enforcer Gypsy to locate him. Gypsy arrives to return him to Earth-19 as a wanted felon, since interdimensional travel is a capital offense there. Thwarted by Vibe, Gypsy spares H. R. and decides to claim falsely to have killed him, leaving him unable to return home.[53] In an alternate future, Barry discovers that H. R. became a successful novelist on Earth-1.[54][55] H. R. later meets and falls in love with Tracy Brand, a scientist Team Flash enlists to help build a device to imprison Savitar, Barry's future time remnant who is fated to murder Iris.[56][57] Although the West family seek refuge on Earth-2 with Harry, H. R. inadvertently gives away their location when Savitar poses as Barry. Savitar abducts Iris back to Earth-1 and forces Barry to watch her be killed.[33] However, "Iris" turns out to be H. R. in disguise. Guilt-stricken over endangering Iris, he had managed to find and free her. But when the pair were pursued by Killer Frost (Caitlin's split personality), H. R. used Morgan's invention to disguise himself as Iris and be killed by Savitar instead. H. R.'s sacrifice earns him Harry's respect, and his death is avenged when Iris kills Savitar. At his funeral, Iris eulogizes H. R. saying that although he had his limits, "when we needed him the most, he was a hero. He was my hero."[34]

Sherloque Wells[edit]

Sherloque Wells
Arrowverse character
Sherloque Wells.jpg
First appearance
Last appearance
Information
Full nameHarrison Sherloque Wells
OccupationDetective
AffiliationTeam Flash
Significant otherRenee Adler

Harrison Sherloque Wells, a detective from Earth-221,[58] arrives on Earth-1 in season five to help Team Flash track down Cicada. Unlike his other doppelgängers, Sherloque charges for his services an unspecified fee which he immediately spends on back alimony payments to his five ex-wives. Sherloque pinpoints career criminal David Hersch as Cicada, but forensic evidence and police reports prove that Hersch is not. Sherloque then confesses that he previously tracked down 37 alternate doppelgängers of Cicada, and it always turned out to be Hersch. He had merely chosen to simplify matters by naming Hersch, unaware that because of Barry's future daughter Nora West-Allen's tampering with the timeline, Cicada's identity here is different. After Sherloque attempts to evade refunding his already-spent fee by faking his death, Team Flash compels him to remain on Earth-1 and work off his debt by actually helping them locate Cicada. He even begins to suspect that Nora is not in 2018 for the reasons she gave.[59] Sherloque soon makes a breakthrough in determining Cicada's civilian life by following fellow detective Ralph Dibny's original hunch.[60] He also aids Cisco and Ralph in helping Caitlin locate her father Thomas.[61] Just after Thanksgiving, using all their gathered information, Sherloque announces Cicada's true identity: Orlin Dwyer.[62] He later discovers Nora's journal filled with mysterious symbols, and manages to decode one sentence: "The timeline is malleable." However, Nora's unsatisfactory claim of creating the code herself leads Sherloque to secretly investigate.[47]

During his inquiries, Sherloque finds that Nora has permanently erased all records of herself from the AI Gideon,[63] and discovers that the journal contains two different handwriting styles, concluding that Nora has a secret partner in the future.[64] He gets the opportunity to expose Nora's secret to Team Flash, but refrains from doing so.[58] Following the suggestion of Thawne, who is incarcerated at Iron Heights in 2049, Nora tries to distract Sherloque by introducing him to Renee Adler, the Earth-1 doppelgänger of Sherloque's ex-wives.[65] Despite Nora's initial success, Sherloque renews his investigation after managing to decode Nora's entire journal using symbols she unwittingly revealed to the team.[66] He later discovers that Thawne, when he was posing as Wells, cracked a source code for the multiverse, and created the symbols in Nora's journal as a means to preserve his knowledge whenever the timeline changed. After Dwyer is killed by a future version of his niece Grace Gibbons (who Team Flash nicknames Cicada II), Sherloque exposes Nora's partnership with Thawne in front of Team Flash.[67] This estranges him from the team, particularly Barry,[68] and he plans to leave Earth-1. But after he saves the lives of both Barry and Caitlin's mother Carla Tannhauser during a battle with Icicle, Ralph persuades him to remain.[69] Sherloque later sends Renee to his Earth for safety from Cicada II.[70] After Team Flash defeats Cicada II, Sherloque returns to his Earth and seeks out Renee.[71]

Other variants of Wells[edit]

Throughout the series, many versions of Wells from across the multiverse have made brief appearances.

In season three, Harry suggests that Team Flash recruit a replacement for him after he announces his intention to return home to Earth-2. To find a suitable candidate, they transmit a message asking for help across the Earths, hidden inside a complex mathematical equation. Several versions of Wells do solve the puzzle and transmit responses which Cisco, Caitlin and Harry review before recruiting H. R. over Harry's objections.[72][73] The variants of Wells considered before H. R. were a cowboy from an unspecified Earth calling himself "Hell's Wells"; Wells of Earth-17, a British-accented steampunk scientist; and a French-speaking mime artist from another unspecified Earth.[73][74]

Council of Wells[edit]

In season four, Harry reveals he has a circle of "friends", astonishing Team Flash's members. But when Harry introduces them to Cisco, they are actually other versions of Wells from other Earths.[75] The group, nicknamed the "Council of Wells" by Cisco, initially consists of Harry, Harrison Wolfgang Wells, a German author and scientist from Earth-12 who is known as Herr Wells; H. Lothario Wells, a wealthy playboy-scientist from Earth-47; and Wells 2.0, a cyborg from Earth-22.[75][74] During Cisco's first meeting with the Council, a wizard named Wells the Grey appears, but is quickly rejected.[b] As the group brainstorms possible identities of the Thinker, they start bickering because of their egos and clashing personalities. This irritates Harry to the point of abandoning the idea of the Council until Cisco notes that Harry shares many of the same traits as the others; what Harry hates about them is what he hates about himself. Harry then adopts a more balanced approach to the Council, which allows them eventually to discern the Thinker's identity: Clifford DeVoe.[75] Lothario Wells and Harry are later expelled from the Council separately, the latter because of his deteriorating intelligence.[78]

In season five, the normally arrogant and condescending Herr Wells treats Barry and Iris with courtesy and respect. When they ask for his help, Herr Wells instead recommends Sherloque's detective services to assist with their investigation of Cicada.[59]

Council of Harrisons[edit]

In season four, following Harry's expulsion from the Council of Wells, a new group, termed the "Council of Harrisons" by Cisco, is formed.[78] Along with Harry, this Council includes Lothario Wells; Sonny Wells of Earth-24; and H. P. Wells, a French poet from Earth-25.[79] More sensitive and empathetic than the Council of Wells, the other Harrisons consider the problem of the Thinker using more of a group therapy approach. When they leave, they seem to have provided no real help. Harry is angered by this until realizing, even in his befuddled state, that they have indeed helped by advising him to determine the Thinker's underlying psychology and emotions in order to defeat him.[78]

Development[edit]

Executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, and DC Comics CCO Geoff Johns, created the character of Harrison Wells for The CW series The Flash,[80] although he is first mentioned in the Arrow season 2 episode "Three Ghosts."[81] While a character named "Dr. Wells" had appeared in "Elevator To Nowhere", a 1980 episode of the ABC animated series Super Friends,[82] and another namesake character in Flash TV Special #1, a January 1991 tie-in comic book with the CBS live-action series The Flash (1990),[83] Johns has said that Harrison Wells is an original creation for the CW series.[84] On February 10, 2014, Tom Cavanagh was cast in the role, described as "a rock star in the world of physics and the mind and money behind Central City's S.T.A.R. Labs Particle Accelerator."[85] This differed from the comics where Garrison Slate founded S.T.A.R. Labs.[86] Cavanagh described Apple founder Steve Jobs as an inspiration for the character.[87] It was eventually revealed that "Wells" was actually Eobard Thawne, who assumed the real Wells' identity after murdering him.[88]

Since season 2, Cavanagh has portrayed other versions of Wells, primarily "Harry" of Earth-2.[89][90] He differentiated each version based on character mannerisms, voice, and origin story.[91] Cavanagh described Harry as someone who "seems bad but he's good", the opposite of Thawne.[92] Grant Gustin, who portrays Barry Allen, described Harry as a "douchebag." Cavanagh said it was his own idea to portray the character as egotistical, though he was not written that way.[93] He also described Harry as "socially awkward", but ultimately "a good guy at heart."[94] Kriesberg differentiated Harry from Thawne by calling him "a tortured man who's beset with guilt" who loves his daughter. He added, "[Harry is] a jerk, but he's doing everything he's doing because he loves his daughter more than anything in the world."[95]

Season 3 introduces "H. R." of Earth-19.[73] Cavanagh described him as "a bit of a con man ... But I didn't want to repeat myself from [season two], so what I thought I would try [this season] is a guy who fills it up with comedy."[92] He said the character was created to bring more "comedic power" to the series in a way that would not undermine its serious narrative.[96] Regarding the relationship between Harry and H. R., he said, "Harry hated [H. R.] because he thought he was an idiot. H. R. thought Harry was the best thing ever."[97] H. R. and the three other versions of Wells seen in the episode "The New Rogues" were created by Cavanagh.[98]

The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was the inspiration for Sherloque, introduced in season 5.[99] Similarly, Sherloque's unseen partner was named Watsune (a play on the name of Holmes' partner Dr. Watson),[100] and Sherloque's ex-wives named Renee Adler (a play on another Sherlock Holmes character Irene Adler).[101] Cavanagh described Sherloque as "a very intelligent human being who is maybe not to be trusted",[102] and as being filled with "intrigue and deceit, fun, humor, intensity, and very loud."[90] He called the character a combination of Harry's intelligence and H. R.'s comedic personality.[97] The Flash season four and five showrunner Todd Helbing described Sherloque as "a master detective." The character was written as a French man.[103][104]

Regarding the creation of the Council of Wells, Cavanagh recalled:

"We had a sprinkling of it when they were on their quest for H. R. Wells last year where we had Hells Wells, Mime Wells, and Steampunk Wells, and so that was just a one-off, but that got everybody's juices flowing like, 'If we were to do that, what would that look like with there being a Council of Wells that could convene?' [...] We thought, 'Oh, this is going to be completely obnoxious and shameless when I get a hold of it,' and it is proving to be super obnoxious and ultra-shameless in hopefully the most appealing way."[105]

Helbing described the Council of Wells as being "all about intelligence and being the smartest people in the universe", and the Council of Harrisons as its "emo version."[106] Cavanagh described Herr Wells as someone who thinks "everything that is not German is not good" and Wells 2.0 as a "bad ass from the Outback, who doesn't like anybody."[94] Gandalf, a character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth stories, was the model for Wells the Grey, Hugh Hefner was the inspiration for H. Lothario Wells,[107][108] and the Mad Max franchise was the inspiration for Wells 2.0.[109]

Reception[edit]

In her review of the episode "The New Rogues", which features Cavanagh portraying multiple versions of Wells, Angelica Jade Bastién of Vulture said that the different Wells "let Tom Cavanagh stretch himself even more as an actor."[72] She criticized his portrayal of H. R. in the episode "Untouchable." Bastién felt he was an "annoying character" who was "just another symbol of the show's inability to grow", with his only purpose being to "continue the Harrison Wells mythos."[110] Irina Curovic of Comic Book Resources described Cavanagh's portrayal of the versions of Wells introduced to that point as "flawless", noting that "Harry was the best fit for team Flash. Not only did he contribute to the team, but he also established meaningful relationships with the members of the team."[111] Writing for the same website, Stephanie Holland criticized H. R., describing him as a "hipster Wells, who carries around drumsticks, wears a stupid hat and skinny jeans." She felt he was included only to "keep Tom Cavanagh around in a new role." Holland added that while Cavanagh was "fantastic at making every Wells different, HR just didn't fit on the show."[112] Digital Spy's Morgan Jeffrey felt H. R. did not contribute much to Team Flash except for "plenty of enthusiasm", and was "a tad annoying", but wrote that, by sacrificing his life to save Iris, H. R. "eventually proved his worth."[113]

Adam Holmes of Cinema Blend ranked Harry sixth on his list of 10 Best TV Characters DC Introduced in 2015.[114] Reviewing Cavanagh's performance as Harry in the episode "The Darkness and the Light", Eric Walters of Paste said, "Having Tom Cavanagh back is wonderful, and he has brought a renewed energy with him. When Harrison 2 referred to Cisco as 'Crisco,' I knew this episode was going to be hot fire."[115] Screen Rant's Jason Berman ranked Cavanagh fifth on his 2016 list 20 Best Actors in the Arrowverse, saying, "By now, it has become clear that actors on The Flash are tasked with playing various incarnations of their characters. But Tom Cavanagh (who plays Harrison Wells) has had to take that to the extreme. Cavanagh has showed off his acting chops by playing no less than five different versions of his character on The Flash."[116]

The Council of Wells and the Council of Harrisons received a divided reception among critics; some praised their humor and Cavanagh's versatility in portraying them, while others criticized the skit nature of both Councils.[117][118][119][120] In his review of "When Harry Met Harry..." IGN's Jesse Schedeen felt the Council of Wells was "basically an excuse for Cavanagh to put on funny wigs and ridiculous accents."[121] He had similar feelings for the episode "Harry and the Harrisons" where Harry joined the Council of Harrisons.[122] Scott Von Doviak of The A.V. Club said this Council did not "make a whole lot of sense, even from a comic-book multiverse perspective", and that its members felt like "community theater skit characters."[120] In his review of the season 4 penultimate episode "Think Fast", which shows Harry's declining intelligence because of the effects of the Thinking Cap, Schedeen felt that "Cavanagh is doing a fine job of depicting Harry's deteriorating mental state, playing it both for laughs and tragedy as the situation demands."[123]

Mike Cecchini of Den of Geek! stated he was initially skeptical of Sherloque during the character's introduction in the fifth season, but while reviewing the episode "Godspeed", said he turned into an "absolute delight." He claimed that, despite the character's limited screentime in the episode, he used it "incredibly effectively", appreciating "the way that he doubles down on not telling the team about his Nora suspicions."[124]

Other appearances[edit]

Cavanagh voiced Thawne masquerading as Earth-1 Wells in the episode "Ants on a Hamburger" of the non-Arrowverse animated series Robot Chicken.[125][126] During the "Crisis on Earth-X" crossover event featuring episodes of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow (all part of the Arrowverse franchise), he appeared as Harry in all four episodes.[127][128] The Earth-27 version of Wells appears in The Flash: Johnny Quick, a tie-in novel to The Flash.[129]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The season 2 episode "The Reverse-Flash Returns" reveals that Thawne's existence lingers to preserve the timeline.[13]
  2. ^ While Wells the Grey's Earth is not mentioned onscreen,[75][76] it has been identified as Earth-13 on The Chronicles of Cisco, an official website companion of The Flash.[77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  5. ^ "Fastest Man Alive". The Flash. Season 1. Episode 2. October 14, 2014. The CW.
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