Some thoughts on the financial well-being of STAR Labs employees

I don’t ask for a lot of believability in stories. I don’t mind that the Death Star makes a loud BOOM when it explodes in the middle of soundless outer space. I prefer violence in TV and film to be bloodless, even when really sharp blades are involved. Show me a hero standing in the middle of a hailstorm of bullets and not receiving so much as a scratch and I won’t have a problem with it. But there’s one aspect of my favorite currently running TV show, The Flash, that tests my willingness to suspend disbelief every time I think of it.

How in the multiverse are Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow paying their bills?

CaitlinAndCisco

The Flash himself, Barry Allen, collects a paycheck from the Central City Police Department, where he works as a CSI. Iris West is a reporter. Detective Joe West, like Barry, is on the police payroll. They’re all financially secure.

But Cisco and Caitlin worked at STAR Labs for Dr. Harrison Wells at the time the lab’s particle accelerator exploded. It was established in numerous season one episodes that while Wells secretly planned this “disaster,” most of the world considered it a terrible accident. The incident left STAR Labs and Dr. Wells disgraced. Things were so bad, the STAR Labs building was never fully repaired, and it was declared a hazardous site. Four years later, it still features a visibly damaged exterior.

The financial fallout of the particle accelerator explosion – read: negligence lawsuits – should have sent STAR Labs into Chapter 11. If I remember correctly, the pilot episode said the company was headed towards bankruptcy. But on a more human level, Cisco and Caitlin refused to abandon Dr. Wells after the accident. They continued to work at STAR Labs, and they were part of the team that helped Barry discover and hone his speedster abilities. While this is a heartwarming display of loyalty, they still need to eat. How was STAR Labs bringing in enough money to pay their (not insignificant) mechanical and biological engineer salaries?

Idea 1:
Dr. Wells was secretly Eobard “Reverse Flash” Thawne, a super-villain from the future. Knowing exactly what kind of legal and financial trouble STAR Labs would find itself in post-explosion, he put lots of money away in legally sheltered funds. This allowed him to pay for electricity and pay the salaries of Cisco and Caitlin.

That could work, but at the end of season one, Wells was defeated, and he bequeathed STAR Labs to Barry Allen. How does the money keep coming in, post-Wells?

Idea 2:
Dr. Wells also left Barry all of his money, so after Wells’s death, business went on uninterrupted.

My problem with this idea is that I doubt Barry’s moral compass would allow him to keep and spend Wells’s probably illegally obtained cash. He’d take STAR Labs because it was the place from which he and his friends defend Central City. But he’d want a way to keep it financially viable independent of Wells’s shady funds.

Idea 3:
Barry’s rich friend, Oliver Queen, could foot the bill to keep STAR Labs running after Wells’s death.

Could be. But, while I don’t watch Arrow, my understanding is Ollie has lost most of his money. Isn’t Felicity Smoak also rich though, too? A big strike against this idea is that in season three when Barry offers the use of a STAR Labs hangar (that looked a lot like the Hall of Justice) to his team, Team Arrow, the Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, he says he owns the facility. If Ollie or Felicity was bankrolling STAR Labs, wouldn’t they now own it? Considering they were both present when Barry said he owned it, wouldn’t they have corrected him?

Besides, STAR Labs being bankrolled by someone from Team Arrow seems to me like something too big to not mention. Then again, I may be the only person crazy enough to be bothered by this. (Or not!)

Idea 4:
STAR Labs is bankrolled by Bruce Wayne.

We now know he does exist in Earth-1 of the CW DC Universe!

Idea 5:
Cisco and Caitlin live off income from some sweet patents they own.

They’re both geniuses. They’ve both invented new tech to help Barry defeat a criminal metahuman multiple times. And I’m confident they’re smart enough to monetize those inventions. But if this is the case, then in early season two, when Barry temporarily shut down Team Flash, why did Caitlin go work for Mercury Labs? Was it just because she loves her job that much? Or did she have bills to pay? And of course, while this would explain how Cisco and Caitlin get their money, it wouldn’t explain how STAR Labs, as a company, continues to pay its property taxes and water bill.

Personally, I think the answer is a little bit of all of these ideas.

  • I think Cisco and Caitlin both own some patents and that they collect a little money from them, but not enough to live on.
  • I think Dr. Wells continued to pay them, even after the particle accelerator explosion, and I think after taking ownership of STAR Labs, Barry continues to pay them.
  • I think their salaries must include an extra stipend towards buying their own personal health insurance, because what group health provider is going to offer a plan to a company with only two employees, whose corporate office is a “class four hazardous location”?
  • I think Dr. Wells, a speedster who has mastered time travel far more than Barry ever has (and who paid the price for it), obtained his wealth by putting money in a savings account in the past and living off the beaucoup interest.
  • I think when Barry came into possession of this wealth, he was OK with spending it since the only laws Wells broke in obtaining it were the laws of physics.
  • And I think Barry gives Cisco and Caitlin matching 401(k), continuous education via a generous training stipend, and an extravagant Christmas bonus every year because he’s Barry Allen, the fastest, and nicest, man alive.

That’s my headcanon, and I’m sticking to it. Now don’t even get me started about how CatCo must have an unlimited PTO policy because if they didn’t, Kara Danvers would have been fired halfway through Supergirl season one due to all of her sudden absences from work.

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