Well…that escalated quickly. It really got going fast. The show hit the ground running, and never really slowed down. It…ran fast. Like…superhuman speed. Like a flash.
Ok! Now that that’s out of our system… I’m here to talk about the freshman year of the CW’s newest hit… The Flash!
Warning! Even though we won’t be talking in detail about the plot, there’s gonna be some spoilers. So, if you haven’t seen the whole season, stop reading this, go watch it, then come back.
So, here we go… Technically, The Flash is a spinoff from the other CW hit, Arrow. Our main character, Barry Allen (the affable Grant Gustin), was introduced in Arrow‘s second season, and thus the DC-TVU (is that what it’s called?) was started. The Flash was picked up for a full season right away, with the writers and producers from Arrow pulling double duty behind the scenes. Our show has everything you’d expect from a CW show… attractive cast, relationship drama, abs, and love triangles. It also has everything we wanted from a superhero TV show: An origin story that’s not completely drawn out and boring, super powers, familiar villains, Easter eggs, links to the larger universe, and, in the words or our hero, Barry, “team-ups!”
Let’s start with the origin story. Every superhero show or movie needs to show and explain how the hero got his powers and how he developed his skills. Arrow accomplished this with flashbacks: Oliver was fully trained and ready to suit up early on in the series. Smallville took all of ten seasons to get all of Clark’s powers on the table, and it wasn’t until the very end that we saw him in costume (or glimpsed him in the costume, at the very least). For The Flash, we know he has his powers, we see him test those powers a little bit, and then right away, we have Barry in a Flash costume, complete with pointy lightning ears… all in the pilot. No, he doesn’t have all his powers yet, well…he does, but he doesn’t know how to use them yet. And that’s where the journey gets interesting and keeps the intrigue and excitement up all season.
We have to watch Barry and his friends try to figure out how to use his super speed in different ways to defeat different villains and save people in the process. All of his abilities are grounded in science, and when they’re not, it’s at comic book science. Everything Barry is able to do with his powers is explained through science… or at least the science within the show; it’s refreshing that show actually tries to justify his abilities, and to have real-world (or as real-world as can be) consequences and limitations. One gets the feeling that everything we see The Flash do with his speed is actually possible, which is one of the show’s best qualities and biggest successes.
With a show like Arrow existing in the same universe (essentially, a show where it’s just a regular guy with a ton of training, wearing a hood and beating up bad guys), it’s easy for a guy with super speed to seem silly and out of place. Thankfully, it never felt that way, and it was easy to imagine that both of these great characters actually would meet up and interact and not have it seem tonally jarring; and it made sense that they’d meet up in each other’s turf. And boy, did they. The few times both characters crossed over, it worked like a charm and really complemented each other. Neither outshines the other, they both have use for each other’s skill set, and they learn from — and occasionally save — one another.
That seems like an apt segue to the subject of friends and allies on the show. Every hero needs help, and The Flash has a great support system. We don’t have time for a full breakdown of each character, but here’s the short version:
- Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdez), he’s both the gadget-master and the comic relief of the group; whenever a funny quip, some new tech, or a code name for a villain is needed, Cisco’s the one to whom to turn.
- Then there’s Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker): engaged to one half of Firestorm, she’s a doctor who works for STAR Labs, and also monitors The Flash’s vitals and patches up the team when they need it.
- Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), a detective with Central City PD, and Barry’s surrogate father.
- Iris West (Candice Patton): Barry’s true love, who’s engaged to Joe’s partner, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett).
These characters are all played brilliantly, and they all contribute something to the overall story. However, at times it did appear like there were too many characters to focus on them all equally, which short-changes their worth– and yet, other times, it seems like there’s nothing for some of them to do. Hopefully Season 2 will flesh out some of them a bit more.
Then we come to Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), who is the true lynchpin to the entire show. He’s the one responsible for Barry becoming The Flash and his primary mentor throughout most of the season. As it turns out, Wells is actually Eobard Thawne, The Reverse Flash. An evil speedster from the future, stuck in our time. He’s lost his powers and needs The Flash to become fast enough to open up the speed force so he can get back to his time, and everything he’s done the whole season was a manipulation to accomplish this.
A show about super heroes is only as good as its villains, and Wells/Reverse Flash, serves as a good overarching one for our first season. He’s more than a match for our hero, and he’s not just evil for evil’s sake. His endgame is simply to go home, and as much as he hates it, he cannot do it without the help of the man he despises, even if why exactly he hates Barry has et to be revealed. Despite how well he’s utilized, we’ve seen the whole “villain with the same powers as the hero” thing way too much. Iron Man & Iron Monger, The Hulk & Abomination, The Arrow & Merlyn, and so on and so forth. That dichotomy can only be dramatic for so long before it loses its appeal.
The rest of the season’s villains are largely forgettable for the most part. With a few exceptions, the show almost seems to suffer from a “villain-of-the-week” mentality. Normally this would be problematic, and it definitely would have been if the Reverse Flash story arc wasn’t so solid. Every time the focus wasn’t on the man in yellow, it was easy to start losing interest in the story. It overpowered the weekly story, and it was the main point of interest, even with everything else going on, which is a huge credit to the writing team.
Overall, the season was damn near perfect. And with the crazy cliffhanger the writers left us with, I can’t wait to see where season two takes us– the multiverse hint has even been dropped. As was the likelihood of more speedsters joining in on the fun, and, of course, yet another spinoff coming our way!
Bonus Easter egg: With all the strong Green Lantern references, it would surprise me if we didn’t see Hal Jordan make an appearance sometime soon. A GL TV show would cost too much, but a mini-series wouldn’t be too bad, almost like DC’s answer to Agent Carter. Put it on during the Flash/Arrowhiatus, and then Hal can pop up in the other shows as needed.
Bonus Universe theory: With all the talk of multiple timelines and multiverses, this could be a great way to revamp Arrow a little bit after its lukewarm reception to season 3. This could be a way for us to get a more familiar version of Green Arrow, with secret identity intact…perhaps even possibly bringing Roy back into the fold.
This review originally was published on GodHatesGeeks. Thanks to our friends on that site for allowing us to rerun it.