“To understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to do something first: you need to believe in the impossible.”
I’ve wanted to see the DC character The Flash get his own live action interpretation for a long while now. Ever since my obsession with the animated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited television series, he’s held a special place in my heart as far as superheroes go. I can readily say that this adaptation is worthy of my child- like excitement. For old fans and new, The Flash is a promising and exciting new series that brings fun back to DC superheroes without forgoing the pathos.
After a freak accident involving a lightning storm, the malfunction of a particle accelerator at STAR Labs, and the various chemicals in Barry Allen’s (Grant Gustin) office, Barry is transformed into the fastest man alive. Nine months after the Star Labs explosion, he awakens to find that a lot has changed while he’s been in a coma. With his new friends and powers, Barry must try to right the wrongs that have transpired, as well as put a stop to a new meta-human that can control the weather. For those of you who watch Arrow will know, we’ve already been introduced to Gustin’s Barry, and you will also know the impression he made. Boyish and sincere, Gustin brought a levity to his backdoor pilot and charmed the viewers watching, ensuring his spin-off series. And while “City of Heroes” isn’t a perfect pilot episode, it’s certainly strong, and all of the nitpicks held against it can be easily remedied.
The episode deals with Barry awakening from his coma as well as the moments leading up to the accident, told entirely from his point of view. He finds help in the disgraced STAR Lab team, led by Harrison Wells (Tom Caranagh) and the lab techs Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). They aim him in harnessing his super powers and learning how to control him when he’s off fighting the weather baddie, who was also affected by the particle accelerator. On the other side of his life he has Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), the man who took him in after the death of his mother and incarceration of his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp) and his daughter Iris (Candice Patton). Iris is also currently being written into the love interest box, but hopefully her character will be expanded upon once we’re past the introductory stages.
Of course, we also get the small cross-over moment where Barry meets Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) for a brief pep talk. It’s easily the cringe-worthy moment of the episode, but it also showcases an ability to combine the two shows and allow them to coexist in a similar universe.
For a television season that’s seen a lot of high concept pilots, superhero origins and just downright duds, The Flash is a welcome change. While Gotham has its charm, and I enjoy watching it for what it is, The Flash has a greater likelihood of establishing itself as a legitimately great series in a trajectory similar to that of their counterpart, Arrow, which is unsurprising considering they share members of the same creative teams. The Flash has a self-assured nature about it that’s refreshing: it’s not trying to pander to any one type of viewer, it isn’t attempting the flashier dark and gritty tone that many of DC’s other outputs have adopted, and it isn’t trying to be anything that it isn’t. This is a show about the fastest man alive, who will fight people like the evil weatherman and who is going to have fun embracing his inner hero.
Much of this confidence comes from the charming performance by Gustin. Well known mainly for guest starring on Glee, Gustin instills a youthful energy into Barry Allen, but also never forgoes the pain he carries as his burden as well. When he was young, Barry witnessed the murder of his mother (a nod to a prominent villain in the comics), and then had to watch as his father was wrongly accused and prosecuted as the killer. He’s spent most of his life trying to prove that the supernatural exists, and now that he’s a part of the myth he’s in a position where freeing his father seems tangible.
Gustin’s work is elevated when partnered with the more established case. He and Martin share fantastic familial chemistry. When Detective West lashes out at Barry for what he believes are ludicrous claims about our villain of the week, we can detect the pain that the words cause Barry and how hard it was for West to say them. Similarly, the dynamic between Gustin and Caranagh servers the plot well, and the ending scene between Gustin and Shipp brings a level of poignancy to the show not often seen so soon on these superhero television shows.
If anything needs a boost it’s the younger characters. Iris needs to break free of the unrequited love interest confines, and the writers need to get a better handle on who they want Cisco and Caitlin to be rather than have them serving as whomever is needed when the time befits it. Characters shouldn’t just be there to serve exposition purposes, but considering the good work done on Arrow with characters such as Felicity and Diggle, I’m optimistic.
The CGI running is a little hokey but much better than I’d figure a CW budget would permit, and if the show continues to gain traction I can see it soon being improved upon.
It’s the best pilot I’ve seen so far this year, and it’s based around a character I love. I’ve always been a vocal supporter of the fun and lively superhero adaptations, and I’ll be tuning in next week without a doubt – and not just because I have to write about it.
Also, anyone else catch the Gorilla Grodd Easter egg?
Who else is as excited as I am? Who still has reservations? Did anyone hate it?