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Tom Cavanagh: The Flash’s Harrison Wells, Throughout The Years

by Conor O'Brien

Tom Cavanagh has portrayed multiple versions of ‘Harrison Wells’ on The Flash since the series began in 2014. This is a look back at each iteration that he has played on a regular basis.

Former Ed star Tom Cavanagh has starred on CW’s The Flash since the pilot in 2014. However, unlike his cast mates, Cavanagh has played multiple characters on a regular basis. In addition to playing recurring villain Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash, he has also portrayed alternate versions of the Harrison Wells character since Season 2.

While the many Harrison Wells’ share a name and physical appearance, they are also very different. Each Wells has a different background, profession and way of thinking. Depending on their own skills and/or interests, they also bond with individual members of Team Flash, usually those who do similar work.

Tom Cavanagh has played numerous versions of Wells. However, only a select few were permanent fixtures on the show. These are who will be discussed in this article.

Season 1: Harrison ‘Wellsobard’ Wells (Eobard Thawne)

Harrison Wells Season 1

In the first season of The Flash, Harrison Wells wasn’t Harrison Wells at all… some might say he was the reverse. Wells helped revive Barry from a coma, became his mentor and helped the young forensic scientist hone his newfound super speed. All the while, he was secretly The Flash’s future arch nemesis, Eobard Thawne.

Thawne idolised The Flash as a younger man to the point of obsession. However, he was left disappointed upon meeting his hero. Thus, Thawne eventually travelled back in time to 2000, where he killed Barry Allen’s mother Nora. He had already learned The Flash’s identity. However, Thawne became marooned in the past, where he later stole Harrison Wells’ identity and was in the same predicament up until 2014, when the series started.

When considering The Flash’s villains, Tom Cavanagh’s Thawne is usually high on people’s lists. His mentor-student dynamic with Barry in the first season was very well played by both Cavanagh and Grant Gustin. Of course, acting as The Flash’s mentor while secretly using him made for compelling watching. Furthermore, when Cavanagh reprises the role in later seasons, the dynamic is that much stronger due to the actors now having years of history between them.

Season 2/4: Harrison ‘Harry’ Wells

The multiverse concept, parallel Earths co-existing unbeknown to each other, was first introduced in the second season by Hunter Zolomon. Shortly thereafter, Earth 2’s Harry Wells joined Team Flash, replacing the departed Thawne. Unlike his predecessor, who was a sociopath with a caring exterior, Harry was a good man was an unapproachable outward appearance. This was due to Zoom, the major villain at the time, having taken his daughter Jesse as a prisoner. Initially, Harry was secretly siphoning The Flash’s speed to Zoom until the truth was uncovered and he came clean about Jesse’s abduction.

During season two, Harry evolved from being a reluctant ally to a close friend of Team Flash. This was yet another difference to Thawne. Despite sharing a profession and face (albeit falsely in Thawne’s case), the two had very little commonalities, which only helped establish Harry as a separate character. Harry formed bonds with all of Team Flash, though perhaps most notably with Cisco Ramon and Barry Allen, with whom he worked closely on scientific and speedster matters, respectively.

Occasionally, Tom Cavanagh reprised the role of Harry in the third season. However, by season four, now somewhat of a fan favourite, he was once again the permanent Wells on Team Flash. This time, they were battling The Thinker/Clifford DeVoe. Ultimately, Harry lost most of his intelligence due to one of his experiments backfiring: a dark-matter infused ‘thinking cap’ which was intended to match his mental capabilities to The Thinker’s.

Harry Wells and his daughter Jesse were killed off-screen during the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, which occurred during season six of The Flash.

Season 3: Harrison “HR” Wells

HR Wells (a play on HG Wells), who hailed from Earth-19, was the resident Wells during season three. Unlike his scientific predecessors, HR was a writer who also documented experiences of living on Earth-1 with Team Flash. Another difference between HR and Tom Cavanagh’s previous characters was that this new iteration brought comedic relief to the show. This was much needed levity during what turned out to be quite an emotionally dark storyline.

As the team had been betrayed by someone with HR’s face before, they were initially sceptical of his intentions. However, while eccentric and hapless at times, the writer proved his worth by providing emotional support and genuine friendship. More so than his doppelgangers, HR had several quirks that would easily identify him. These included his signature drumsticks, love of coffee and habit of giving people nicknames – Barry Allen became BA and you get the gist.

Unfortunately, someone had to pay the price in season three’s unforgiving story arc. Near the conclusion, HR accidentally revealed Iris West’s location to her would-be killer Savitar. In order to make up for his mistake, HR sacrificed himself by using his facial transmogrification device to make it appear that he was Iris, thus saving her life.

Season 5: Harrison ‘Sherloque’ Wells

In addition to prominently reprising his role as Eobard Thawne, Tom Cavanagh also played Sherloque Wells in season five. This Wells was a French-accented Master Detective who was recommended by the Council of Wells to help Team Flash identify Cicada. However, Team Flash did not know that Sherloque had already captured multiple versions of Cicada on different Earths. Each one was David Hersch, the character’s comic book identity. Earth-1, however, had a different culprit due to timeline changes.

In particular, Sherloque bonded with Ralph Dibny during his time on Team Flash. As fellow Detectives, the pair worked on investigations together, earning the nicknames ‘Shirley’ and ‘Baby Giraffe’ from the other. Similarly to Harry Wells, Sherloque also had a comically contentious relationship with Cisco Ramon during his debut.

Soon after meeting Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy), Sherloque becomes suspicious of her motivations and begins an investigation. This is justified as Nora is later revealed to be secretly working with Eobard Thawne (as mentioned, also played by Cavanagh) behind Team Flash’s back. He would later expose this secret to the team.

Sherloque was another off-screen casualty during Crisis. However, he and Harry Wells have returned in interesting ways during season six.

Harrison ‘Nash’ Wells (Season 6)

The most recent version of Wells, as played by Tom Cavanagh, to join Team Flash is geologist and adventurer Harrison “Nash” Wells, who debuted in Season 6. Unlike other recent Wells’ who joined Team Flash, Nash was initially cold with the group and more interested in his own agenda. At the end of Season 6’s first half, Nash unwittingly released Anti-Monitor and set off the events that began Crisis on Infinite Earths, a catastrophic event in which Barry Allen/The Flash was fated to die. To repent for this mistake, he became Pariah, a notable character from the Crisis comic book series.

Nash has also bonded with fellow new character, Allegra Garcia, who works for Iris West-Allen at the Central City Citizen. It was later revealed that Allegra is a doppelganger of Nash’s late adoptive daughter, Maya. Unfortunately, Allegra reacted coldly upon discovering this, believing Nash saw someone else during all the times that they had interacted.

Due to Season 6 being cut short as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Nash was still with Team Flash after the impromptu finale. Usually, the Wells character has exited at the end of their season and Tom Cavanagh would return in a new guise during the following year. Whether the plan was to keep Nash all along is unknown at this time.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

Follow writer Conor O’Brien on Twitter – @CourageousConor

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