First Look: The Flash (2014)

Over the last few months, I’ve had friends tell me how awesome the CW has gotten with shows like Arrow. And despite all the hype, I never did get around to watching Arrow, even though I’ve been assured that its quality is top-rate from storytelling and acting to special effects.

So, I figured I had two options this year. I could either binge watch the last 2 seasons of Arrow and see if I became a fan overnight… or I could just watch the pilot to its spinoff, The Flash.

Guess which one I went with?

Though I’m not a diehard comic book fan, I do love stuff that comes out of comic book universes, which includes heroes like the Flash. Compared to Arrow, this new show is a lot less gritty, putting more of a positive spin on the origin story and journey of Barry Allen.

Haunted by the bizarre death of his mother, Barry works as a CSI tech in Star City. One stormy night, a particle accelerator experiment at STAR Labs goes wrong and Barry ends up struck by an unusual bolt of lightning. When he finds that the lightning gave him a supercharged metabolism and the ability to run faster than humanly possible, Barry has to reevaluate his whole life—as well as his past. With the help of STAR Labs, Barry takes a shot at being a hero, rescuing citizens from danger and putting a stop to another metahuman who was hit by the same freak storm. With a little encouragement from another superhero—the Arrow himself—Barry becomes The Flash and devotes himself to keeping his own city safe.

Grant Gustin does a fine job at Barry Allen. It’s easy to see him as a bit of Peter Parker knockoff (a geek who lost his parents at a young age and can’t get anwhere with girls), but it’s nice to see his skill as a forensic scientist in action. I’m guessing the showrunners have watched Sherlock because the first thing they have Barry do is drop to the ground of a crime scene and see virtual clues pop up everywhere. Still, Gustin’s performance does come off as earnest without being annoying.

The rest of the cast ranges from decent to fair. We’ve got the Cool Science Team who explain what happened to Barry and give him his costume, the Gruff But Lovable Police Officer (played by Law & Order veteran Jesse L. Martin), and the Love Interest (played by Candice Patton), whom I honestly didn’t care for one bit, but that’s not much of a gripe.

My other issue about the cast is the villain (played by Chad Rook). We get a lot from him except special effects, but in all honesty, that might be a good thing. It’s better that the pilot episode focuses more on our main character than on a villain’s origin story.

As far as the plot and pacing go, I felt that the first 10 to 15 minutes are a bit rushed. We get some clunky exposition delivered by Barry, his friend Iris, and others—not to mention blatant foreshadowing (see how often you can hear “fast” in the first 10 minutes). However, after the lightning strike, the episode definitely improves as we see Barry try to control his new powers and make sense of the world 9 months later. And while some might call it out of nowhere, I think the showrunners did a good job of establishing a connection between The Flash and Arrow, using a scene between Grant Gustin’s Flash and Stephen Arnell’s Green Arrow to demonstrate a quiet but effective moment of friendship.

I think the key selling point for this show are the special effects. Yes, there’s some good dialogue and decent acting, but the marvel that’s sure to keep audiences coming back are the shots of Barry Allen turning into a brilliant red streak that thwarts criminals and leaves a trail of mayhem in its wake. The show also deserves some credit for trying to come up with a plausible explanation for the Flash’s iconic red suit, reminding me of the way we got to see the Batsuit and other gadgets introduced in Batman Begins.

Even with some of the emotional drama and romance angles that we’ve come to expect from shows on the CW, I think The Flash is going to be a lot more fun as a superhero-based series. We don’t need to see a brooding vigilante leaping through a noir cityscape. Instead, we get a bright-eyed hero in a bright red costume running in to save the day—during the actual daytime, no less.

The Flash will soon be available for viewing on The CW.

Bibliography: The Flash (TV series). Developed by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Geoff Johns. Produced by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns, David Nutter, and Sarah Schechter. Perf. Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Rick Cosnett, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, and Jesse L. Martin. Bonanza Productions, Berlanti Productions, Warner Bros. Television, and DC Entertainment. The CW (channel). Original broadcast date: October 7, 2014.

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