- "It's time to pay the piper!"
- —Hartley Rathaway [src]
Hartley Rathaway, self-styled as Pied Piper, is the son of Rachel and Osgood Rathaway. A former employee of S.T.A.R. Labs, he was fired by Harrison Wells (Eobard Thawne in disguise) for trying to stop the activation of the Particle accelerator, which he'd discovered was at risk of exploding. After being affected by the particle accelerator and gaining the ability to hear at superhuman levels, Hartley attempted to get revenge on Wells for firing him by trying to kill Barry Allen/The Flash, believing Wells to have replaced him with the Flash. After being defeated by Barry and Wells, Hartley was re-incarcerated, having planned his capture and escape the first time as part of his revenge plan, but not this time. However, he knew the whereabouts of Ronnie Raymond, and Cisco reluctantly worked with Hartley to find Ronnie and succeeded. Nonetheless, Hartley used this opportunity to escape.
In an altered timeline, Hartley's revenge was interrupted by the appearance of a Time Wraith, but worked with Team Flash to defeat it. As a result of the timeline change, Hartley made amends with Team Flash and became an ally of the team, even knowing Barry's secret, and made up with his parents.
Hartley was a child prodigy and son to Rachel and Osgood Rathaway. He was set to eventually take over the family business, Rathaway Industries, founded by his grandfather. However, when he came out as gay to his parents, they threw him out and cut off all ties to him. Hartley was estranged from his parents when he and Harrison Wells met.
Time at S.T.A.R. Labs
Eventually Hartley was hired by Harrison Wells at S.T.A.R. Labs, becoming his protege and favored employee, something that did not sit well with his fellow S.T.A.R. Labs co-workers, including Caitlin Snow. While he got along well with Wells, Hartley was arrogant and demanding towards his co-workers making few if any friends. He was quick to alienate himself to Cisco Ramon on his first day of work, showing outward contempt for Cisco, due to the fact he arrived to work wearing a Star Wars T-shirt and also because of Wells' praise of Cisco's skills. Eventually, Hartley made the realization that the particle accelerator could explode, Wells refused to listen, fired Hartley in order to avoid his interference, and blackmailed him into staying silent about the problem. As Hartley predicted and Wells planned, the accelerator did indeed explode. Hartley was caught in the effect, resulting his hearing being augmented to superhuman levels. Unfortunately the levels caused him overwhelming pain and caused him to have to create a special device in order to control his hearing. He also went on to create gloves that emitted sonic attacks. Hartley attempted to call his parents, Rachel and Osgood, though they refused to call him back.
The prodigal son returns
At this point Hartley sought out vengeance against Wells and S.T.A.R. Labs. His first act of vengeance was by sending Wells a warning at his home, shattering the glass windows with a sonic attack. He next attacked his family's office building, in order to draw the attention of The Flash, and be taken to S.T.A.R. Labs.
There he antagonized Cisco (even naming himself "Pied Piper", much to Cisco's annoyance) and Caitlin, while snidely telling Wells he let his 'pet' know that Hartley knows Wells' deep dark secret, referring to his back-and-forth with Barry at their fight. It turns out that Hartley had intended for himself to get captured. After escaping his cell using his hearing aids to explode the doors (and injuring Cisco and Caitlin in the process) he hacked Wells' computer to steal files on Barry so as to create a means in which to kill the Flash. Wells holds a press conference about the accelerator explosion, winning back some approval from Team Flash, but he holds back the whole truth, so Hartley is not dissuaded from his revenge plans, calling the admission merely a "pathetic bishop's sacrifice" He lured the Flash to the Dam, where he executed his plan by having his gloves emit a tone that matched Barry's speed frequency, which starts to shear apart his organs. Thankfully, Wells used nearby cars radio signals to interfere with Hartley's weapons causing them to explode in Hartley's hands. Hartley found himself back in his cell at S.T.A.R. Labs, where he was confronted by Cisco. Rather than being worried, Hartley coolly informed Cisco that he himself would let him out of the cell, because he knew where Ronnie Raymond was and what really happened to him.
Search for Ronnie Raymond
Cisco talked with Hartley on his own several times, attempting to find out more about Ronnie. Hartley continued to be condescending and arrogant, but insisted that he does know how to help Ronnie and bargained to show Cisco how if only he lets him out of the cell. Eventually, Cisco's guilt regarding what happened to Ronnie during the accelerator accident drove him to do just as Hartley predicted, and release him from his cell. Using specially designed handcuffs, Cisco and Hartley investigated where Professor Martin Stein was killed during the accelerator accident. There they found a blackened outline of his body, similar to the kind left by nuclear explosions. Hartley attempted to use Cisco's confusion to make a run for it, but Cisco was ready, having adjusted Hartley's hearing aids to let out a painful sonic vibration which Cisco triggered via remote control. Although in pain, Hartley was impressed by Cisco's ruthlessness.Their next stop took them to Barry's lab at the Central City Police Department where they examined footage of Professor Stein's death. There they saw that what looked to be a ghostly image of Ronnie merged into Professor's Stein's body. As Cisco realized what this meant, Hartley employed his hearing aid device to use Cisco's own weapon against him, rendering him incapacitated, and allowing Hartley to escape again.
About a year later, desperate to stop Zoom but not having enough speed to do so, Barry traveled back in time to the same day he first encountered Hartley. After drugging his younger self and impersonating him, future-Barry brought Hartley back to S.T.A.R. Labs as he originally did. Knowing about Hartley's rigged hearing aids, future-Barry clued his friends about it and had them removed and replaced with non-explosive ones. Later, a time wraith appeared, forcing Cisco and Caitlin to take shelter in Hartley's cell with him. Cisco had Hartley's gloves with him and thought to use them against the creature but didn't know how to use them but Hartley told them that he could save them. Cisco and Caitlin relented and handed him his gloves and he was able to use them to drive away the time wraith. This event started to make Cisco and Caitlin less hostile towards him and even consider to trust him. Before future-Barry returned to his time, he pulled Cisco aside and told him that Hartley knew the truth of what happened with Ronnie.
Months later, as future-Barry told his friends to prepare for his return with a way to stop the time wraith that followed him back, Cisco attempted to stop it with a sonic gun, which failed. As the time wraith began to suck the life from Barry, Hartley appeared, having figured out how to destroy the time wraith and saved Barry. Once Barry awoke, it was revealed that him going into the past altered events for Hartley, having reformed and become an ally of Team Flash. He then said his goodbyes before heading off to meet for dinner with his parents, whom he had reconciled with.
While searching for a way to deal with Zoom's meta-human army, Team Flash took note on how Cisco wasn't able to vibe on Earth-2 because of the differences in vibrational frequencies between the two Earths; and how the Time Wraith had a different dimensional vibration frequency that was exploited by Hartley. They later mentioned contacting Hartley for help to create a weapon to exploit the dimensional frequency difference of the people from Earth-2 in order to stop Zoom's army.
- "Hartley had a challenging personality."
- "What she means is he was mostly a jerk. But, every once in a while, he could be a dick."
- —Caitlin Snow and Cisco on Hartley Rathaway[src]
Hartley is intelligent, arrogant and demanding, according to Cisco Ramon, he is a jerk towards his co-workers, making very few friends. He was quick to alienate and belittle Cisco, largely out of jealousy, although he did respect and get along well with Harrison Wells (Eobard Thawne) whom he saw as a sort of father-figure, until he was fired by the latter. Despite these negative traits of his, Hartley did care about the well-being of the people of Central City, when he realized that the particle accelerator could explode.
Hartley may have shown little interest in connecting with his colleagues, but his conversations with Cisco and Caitlin in the pipeline were pointed and harsh, suggesting that he understood his colleagues well but choose not to act positively towards them. Hartley seemingly cared a great deal for his parents, Osgood and Rachel Rathaway, however, when he revealed to his parents that he is gay, they rejected him and their relationship became estranged.
After the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator explosion, Hartley became vengeful and unstable, behavior that escalates as his plans progress to the point of him endangering innocent lives.
When Barry Allen altered the timeline, Hartley became much kinder, seeming more stable and less troubled and on civil terms with Team Flash, occasionally helping them with a problem that can use his expertise although he is not a regular presence in the lab.
Hartley's parents, Osgood and Rachel, made amends with him, as he is now on good terms with them again.
Powers and abilities
- Meta-human physiology: After Hartley was struck by the energy of the Particle Accelerator explosion, this altered his DNA and supercharged his cells, augmenting his physiology to enhance his ears.
- Superhuman hearing: After surviving the S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator explosion, Hartley gained the power of superhuman hearing. It allows him to hear far better than a normal human. He is also able to hear radio waves and distinguish their frequencies.
- Genius-level intellect/Expert tactician: Hartley is a genius of the highest caliber and is described by Eobard Thawne, impersonating Harrison Wells, as one of the most brilliant minds he has ever met. Hartley even found out Wells' "dark secret", concerning the particle accelerator instability. Nevertheless, despite Hartley's superior intellect, it is highly unlikely that he saw through Harrison's/Eobard's entire master-plan, namely his intention to create the Flash from the particle accelerator explosion and exploit the latter's connection to the Speed Force to return to his own time. Hartley also possesses a keen, tactical mind able to keep his enemies guessing what the endgame is until it is too late.
- Computer specialist/Expert computer hacker: Hartley is a capable computer hacker, he was able to hack into the computers from S.T.A.R. Labs to create a means in which to kill the Flash; that matches Barry Allen's speed frequency.
- Master engineer: Hartley is skilled enough in engineering to make a pair of sonic gloves from scratch.
- Multilingual: Hartley is capable of fluently speaking at least six languages, including English, Spanish, French, Latin, and Japanese.
- Skilled combatant: While unknown to what degree, Hartley is aggressive in a fight. Despite being handcuffed at the time, Hartley was able to fight off Cisco and initially escape his captor before Cisco activated a rigged setting on Hartley's earpieces.
- Vulnerable eardrum: Because Hartley's hearing is so powerful, he can be overwhelmed by even the most basic sounds. Due to this weakness, he is forced to wear a device in his ear to limit the sounds he hears for the rest of his life. However, this can be circumvented if put in a confined space and listening to music; which Cisco did to Hartley in the altered timeline.
- Hearing aids: Hartley's implanted hearing aids double as smaller sonic devices, capable of emitting bursts of sonic vibrations once removed. However, he needs them in order to stand even the slightest of sounds, and as such removing them is difficult and induces tremendous pain. They are powerful enough to blow down doors, and Hartley used them in order to escape the Pipeline.
- Sonic Gloves: Hartley possessed a pair of gloves that were able to emit sonic vibrations. At their lowest setting they could shatter glass, while at their highest setting they could bring down an entire office building. The setting of the gloves is not necessarily correlated to their frequency and is more likely to have been in relation with the range or amplitude of the sonic beam. Hartley would have to find the natural frequency for an object to bring it down, each object being of a different natural frequency. This is why Hartley had to download notes on the Flash - to find out his natural frequency and attempt to take him down. In physics, striking an object at its natural frequency would cause catastrophic results over time - even quicker with fast sonic vibrations. This phenomena is known as resonance.
- Hartley was the first person to escape from the Pipeline, in the original timeline.
- He is an avid chess player, and often incorporates chess metaphors into his speech (e.g. describing his victims as "pawns", and the Flash as a "scarlet knight").
- One of Hartley's dreams was to be carried by a man in full-body leather. To the Flash's disgust, this was fulfilled by him when Hartley was captured.
- Although in the present timeline Hartley is seen to have made amends with Team Flash, Cisco still refers to him as a “Dick”.
Behind the scenes
- In the DC comics, Hartley Rathaway is the supervillain (who was later reformed) known as Pied Piper. In the "New 52" reboot of The Flash comics, he was also romantically tied to David Singh.
- Hartley's sound emitting gloves and his hearing problems coming from an accident (the comic version was born with them) make him similar to the Batman Beyond villain Shriek. Comic-verse Pied Piper has the power of music with hypnotic powers and was born deaf, acquiring superhearing from his hearing aids. While in the Flash superpowers often seem connected to personal traits or the circumstances of their being affected by the accelerator explosion, if Hartley had any other hearing issues before the explosion it is not mentioned in any way on the show.
- In a draft of the pilot episode dated February 3, 2014, Hartley was still a member of the S.T.A.R. Labs team at the time that Barry came out of his coma. In fact, it was Hartley who created the original costume for The Flash, claiming that he had made it for firefighters after having been involved with a fireman named Chip. Most of Hartley's dialogue and role within the episode itself were inherited by Cisco. Within the episode, both Cisco and Caitlin describe Hartley as difficult to work with and unpleasant to be around.
- Due to Barry travelling back in time, Hartley is good just as he was in the first draft.