In the “Who is Harrison Wells?” episode of The CW series The Flash, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) heads to Starling City with Cisco (Carlos Valdes) to continue their investigation of Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh), while Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) is still trying to wrap her head around the possibility of her mentor being evil. At the same time, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has to catch a meta-human named Hannibal Bates (Martin Novotny), who can transform himself into every person he touches, including Eddie (Rick Cosnett), Iris (Candice Patton), Caitlin, and even The Flash.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actress Danielle Panabaker talked about what fans can expect from the investigation into Dr. Wells, Caitlin’s struggle to understand who Dr. Wells really is, facing a shape-shifting meta-human, the “wild ride” of the remaining episodes, the biggest surprises of the season, how grateful she is for the arc Caitlin has had, that she can’t wait to see what people think of their take on Killer Frost, having Ronnie return, the flashbacks during Barry’s time in the coma, how she got to read the finale script early, and that the season is ending on a big cliffhanger. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: What can fans expect from the investigation into Dr. Wells, now that Caitlin and Cisco have been brought into it?
DANIELLE PANABAKER: It’s a struggle. Episode 119 is one of my favorite episodes this season because you really get to see Caitlin struggle with everything going on. Obviously, the audience knows more than the characters know, and Barry and Joe have been a little bit ahead of the curve, compared to where Caitlin and Cisco are. At the end of 118, they decided to bring Caitlin and Cisco in. Barry has decided that he can trust them, thanks to Felicity. But it’s not going to be as simple as saying, “Dr. Wells is bad.” Caitlin has believed in him for so long that it’s going to be a real struggle to convince her that he is not this perfect human being that she thinks he is.
Dr. Wells essentially helped shaped who Caitlin and Cisco are, so that must make it even harder.
PANABAKER: Absolutely! And he brought Ronnie back. He’s done so many wonderful things for everyone they know that it’s very difficult for her to believe that he’s not perfect.
You also have a shape-shifting meta-human to contend with. What issues will arise from that?
PANABAKER: It’s definitely a little crazy. It’s difficult to figure out who he is, and tracking him down is going to be difficult, as well. Caitlin warns Barry, “Don’t touch the meta-human, or you’ll put yourself in grave danger.” He begins to take the form of some of our favorite heroes, and that’s a real challenge for everyone else. You think you’re dealing with Eddie, and you’re actually not.
What can you say about the final episodes of the season, beyond this week? Just how much danger will this team be in, the closer they get to the truth?
PANABAKER: That’s the real problem. Wells is so smart and can see many, many steps ahead of them. They’re inevitably going to be fighting an uphill battle, as they try to figure out more about Dr. Wells and what his motives are. On top of that, they have to defeat him. The rest of this season is going to be amazing. Obviously, Wells can see them coming, so he tries to throw things in their way and trip them up. It’s a pretty wild ride.
What’s it been like to see such a dark turn from Tom Cavanagh, who is just the nicest guy, in real life?
PANABAKER: He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s great, and he’s a pleasure to work with. In retrospect, to go back and watch earlier episodes of the season, I obviously knew he was keeping a secret, and he was so wonderful all season because there were so many different layers to his performance.
Now that you’ve finished the season, what were the biggest surprises in the journey that you ultimately took?
PANABAKER: While I knew their intention was to reveal that Harrison Wells was actually evil, the way in which they did it, I thought was extremely clever. I’m so impressed by Matt Letscher’s performance, and how he was able to imitate Tom’s cadence as Eobard Thawne so well. That’s been a huge reveal. And the finale is devastating, as well.
Did Caitlin end up at a point that was very different from what you expected when you started the show, or is what you were told about her, in the beginning, what actually played out?
PANABAKER: I am very grateful because Caitlin had such a beautiful arc, all season. We’ve dealt with so much already, in the first season. She struggled with what to make of Barry. And then, on top of that, you have Ronnie come back, and they had to figure out where they were going to go with Ronnie. Now, they’re stuck with this challenge of, who is Harrison Wells? It’s really been a pleasure to play so many different things.
Katie Cassidy talked about how, when she signed on for Arrow, she was teased with the eventual possibility of Laurel evolving into Black Canary, but that took some time to happen. And when you signed on for The Flash, you were teased with the Killer Frost possibility, but it sounds like we might be seeing her sooner than expected. When did you find out that your story would be headed that way, and how did you feel about that possibility?
PANABAKER: I knew, very early on, that they wanted to take her in the direction of Killer Frost. Even though I’m a girl, all I want to do is get in there and fight with the guys. I’m constantly begging for more stunt scenes. So, I am really excited about that future for Caitlin, and for me, as an actor. I think it’s gonna be so fun. Truth be told, I’m constantly bugging Andrew Kreisberg saying, “So, when are we doing this?” It’s really exciting that we get to see her so soon. I can’t wait to see what people think.
Did they give you any specific comics to prepare for that, or is it their own take on the character?
PANABAKER: As they’ve done with the entire series, it’s a combination of being true to the comics, but still putting our own spin on it. Drawing things in a comic is a little bit easier than creating it in real life and putting it on film. So, it’s our own spin on it.
You’ve teased that Robbie Amell would be returning as Ronnie, before the season is done. What can fans expect from that interaction?
PANABAKER: It’s great to have Robbie back. He’s such a joy to have on set, to begin with. He’s so talented. It’s really exciting to have him back, and it’s going to be really exciting to see what the future is for their characters.
In Episode 20, we will get some flashbacks to the time that Barry Allen was in his coma. What can we expect to see from Caitlin, during that time period?
PANABAKER: Shooting the flashbacks is actually really fun because it’s a very different Caitlin than we’re seeing now, which is nice to play. It makes me so grateful for how far we’ve come, just in one year. So, you get to see a much colder and a much more reserved Caitlin.
Without giving specifics, do you have a favorite scene in the remaining episodes, this season?
PANABAKER: Oh, my gosh, there are so many. In this episode, I’m really excited for some of the scenes between Barry and Caitlin. They’re a little more emotional than her perfunctory diagnoses as a doctor can be, so that’s really exciting. As the season continues, they’re trying to set a trap for Dr. Wells, you finally see Grodd, and there’s an all-star team-up again. Barry needs a little bit of help battling Reverse Flash, so some familiar faces show up to help him with that.
Caitlin has been all about the science and the facts, and even though she’s been aware of some pretty extraordinary things happening because of the particle accelerator, wrapping your head around Dr. Wells not really being Dr. Wells would be difficult for anyone to comprehend. What will it take for her to really understand the magnitude of what has actually happened?
PANABAKER: It’s a real struggle. The writers did a great thing by giving us a whole episode to go on this journey with Caitlin while she digs her heels in and resists and says that there’s no way. It’s going to take a lot of convincing. As a scientist, she’s going to want to see some proof.
What was your reaction, when you finally read the finale script and saw where everything was heading?
PANABAKER: It was the end of the season, so we don’t get scripts quite as early as we do, at the beginning of the season. So, I snuck a copy from someone on the crew and read it earlier than I probably should have. That’s what I love about this show. I’m so invested in it that I can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen. I read it as early as I could, and the finale is devastating. It’s so emotional. It’s such an emotional roller coaster. We’re dealing with so much. We’re figuring out who Dr. Wells is. A lot of characters make some big life decisions.
Would you say that the finale both provides answers we’ve been waiting for, but also gives a good indication for where things might head, next season?
PANABAKER: The finale leaves us with a huge cliffhanger. It’s great that we’re coming back for another season because I think people are going to be yelling at their TVs, after the finale. I’m not sure that it gives a lot of answers.
The Flash airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.