The Flash (2014): Season 1
For those of us who up cost me being told by parents and teachers that comic books worthless waste of time we finally have our revenge. Comic books and now the basis for the most popular in the films in cinematic history and a ripple effect are currently being felt through television. While it is undeniable that Marvel comics dominate the movies and have begun to make some inroads on television and Netflix, their perennial rivals, DC comics, is making its mark on television. It began a couple years ago when the CW premiered ‘Arrow’ based on the ‘Green Arrow’, comics. Within the course of the series the audience was introduced to a certain forensic scientist from Center City. This led to a direct spinoff, ‘The Flash’. A few crossover episodes between the two series did help establish the spinoff but, no pun intended, it hit the ground running. Right from the beginning ‘The Flash’ was able to establish its own individual identity which included a lighter approach to the story than the seriously dark ‘Arrow’. While will lead character in that series was tempered in a crucible of five years and during torture and betrayal, the Scarlet Speedster was a young man learning to accept his new superpowers and figure out how to use them. While this did lead to a few comical moments throughout the season the underlying main story arcs were suitably dramatic and able to ground the series with some relatable emotional and psychological twists.
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is a forensic crime scene assistant working for Central City Police Department. When he was a young boy’s father was convicted of murdering his mother although Barry knew the truth but no one would believe it. Young Barry witnessed a whirlwind of activity with what looked like human figures within it that were actually responsible for the death of his mother. His father Henry (John Wesley Shipp) languishes in Iron Height’s prison unable to prove his innocence. In one of several connections to the 1990 single-season rendition of ‘The Flash’, Mr. Shipp portrayed Barry Allen. Later in the season his costar, Amanda Pays, reprises a variation of her character, Dr. Tina McGee. In another episode, Mark Hammil returns to the character he played on the original series, ‘The Trickster’ for the connecting the two shows together. The origin story pretty much follows the Silver age comic with Barry being struck by lightning while being dealt with chemicals in his laboratory. In this variation the lightning was a result of a particle accelerator catastrophically failing during its initial use. The device was part of an experiment being conducted by one of the leading scientists in S.T.A.R laboratory, Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). Due to an injury Dr. Wells is confined to a wheelchair. After the accident Barry here is an amazingly fast and begins to realize he now has superpowers.
Barry winds up joining a team in S.T.A.R laboratory headed by Dr. Wells in order to control his newfound powers and help capture the super powered meta-humans created during the accelerator explosion. Also parts of the team are Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), and MD/PhD and project engineer, Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). After his mother’s death and father’s incarceration Barry was taken in by police Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin Jesse L. Martin) growing up with his daughter Iris (Candice Patton). Since they were raised more like brother and sister was only natural that Barry and I was to become best friends. Of course, things more complicated to Barry who wants to be much more than just friends. The romantic tension is heightened when Iris falls in love with her father’s partner, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). Iris starts out as a blogger who eventually becomes an investigative reporter for the major newspaper in town. The reason for hiring is a blog appeared to have some inside information concerning The Flash. Barry was giving her some inside information disguising his identity by moving his face as super speed to disguise his voice and appearance.
The show follows the popular format of entwining elements of both episodic and serial story arcs. The episodic stories typically take the form of ‘freak of the week’, with Barry using his super speed to apprehend the criminally inclined meta-humans that now played the city. Since no regular prison can hold these people the team constructs and ad hoc containment area and part of the damaged particle accelerator. This aspect of the series is greatly helped by the rouge gallery found in the comic book. Within the DC comic universes The Flash as a great number of eclectic villains that can readily translate to the television show. Another DC hero, The Atom, began as a major story thread for ‘Arrow’ but is migrated over to Central City as part of another plan spinoff, ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.
The main villain throughout the first season is a mysterious figure in yellow also possesses super speed, ‘The Reverse Flash’. His costume is complementary colors swapping the use of red for yellow. This also introduces the concept of time travel which was an important part of the comic book canon. Dr. Wells has his own covert agenda which involves pushing Barry to constantly increase his top speed. At one point he is able to vibrate his body to phase through a solid object. This is also straight from the ancillary powers shown in the comic book. So many times when a favorite comic book is brought to movies or television they can’t live up to the halo effect provided by our enjoyment as kids. This is certainly not the case here. The CW has already proven their expertise with DC comic books as demonstrated by the decade-long run of ‘Smallville’. They have managed to capture the essence of the comic book enhancing it during the migration to TV. Mr. Gustin is ideal in capturing the frequently playful attitude of Barry Allen. He was always the most optimistic member of the Justice League of America and that personality trait is perfectly imbued in the character by this talented actor. It creates a believable set up of how a young man would cope with suddenly having superhuman abilities. He makes his share of mistakes during the season on learning curve but in his heart he is a true hero and dedicated to using his powers responsibly.
Whenever a premise depends on something beyond normal experience, it is always a good idea to have some anchor to reality. This is accomplished quite nicely by how each character represents a fully formed human being. The each has their strengths and weaknesses and is subject to the emotional and psychological issues that plague us all. One episode has Caitlin taking Barry to a karaoke bar in hopes of the each finding someone to be with. Caitlin had lost a fiancé and Barry confided in her is unrequited love for Iris. As a single young man, Barry is naturally attracted to some degree to any attractive young woman in the vicinity. There is a degree of chemistry between him and Caitlin which never takes hold as well as Barry’s attraction towards Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) the computer genius and part of ‘Team Arrow’. The CW seems to be quite adept at creating comic book based shows with a considerable degree of heart. They play out as character oriented stories that workers well-crafted dramas regardless of the comic book affiliations. The CW was growing the DC universe and a very carefully planned manner. No matter how powerful these superheroes and villains may be they are first and foremost exceptionally believable as people. This series was renewed for second season only 9 episodes into the 23 episodes planned. In a time when many series windup canceled before the first season concludes this is a very rare occurrence. It is also one that is remarkably deserved.