To quote a friend of mine, “DC just whipped their dick out onto the table.” Following the series premiere of The Flash last night, I’m inclined to agree.
Following the amazing success of two seasons of Arrow, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment have gone for broke with their ambitious plans for television. We have Gotham airing on Fox, Constantine arriving on NBC at the end of October, and Supergirl touching down on CBS next season, but we can’t ignore the fact that this particular trail has been blazed byArrow on The CW. And who better to continue along that trail than the Fastest Man Alive.
Among the aforementioned titles, The Flash has the distinction of being the first spinoff that is officially part of the shared DC universe on the small screen (the jury is still out on the others), thanks to Barry Allen’s debut on Arrow last season. With that being the case, the bar was already set pretty high for the Scarlet Speedster’s return to television, so the question really has been if WB/DC/CW can capture lightning in a bottle for a second time (pun very much intended). I believe they have.
One reason is Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, the perpetually tardy CSI who, when struck by lightning and bathed in the right combination of chemicals, is imbued with super-speed. Gustin captures the driven, yet innocent nature of Barry, who struggles with his crusade to solve his mother’s murder, his romantic feelings for childhood friend Iris West (Candice Patton), and his inability to ever be on time. Gustin’s Barry also provides a stark contrast to his counterpart in Starling City, the vengeful Oliver Queen, in many respects. Oliver, having honed all the appropriate skills, chose to begin his life of crime fighting to extinguish the flame of corruption in his home city, whereas Barry is thrust into this strange new world of powers and villains, and quickly adopts the heroic sensibilities that will help make him a symbol of Central City. It’s a much lighter tone than Arrow, thus providing something that isn’t just a transplant of what came before.
However, the two are not entirely dissimilar as our titular hero receives the support team treatment, only this time, instead of an ex-soldier, and skilled hacker, and a trained assassin, the Flash team consists of a group of S.T.A.R. Labs brainiacs more interested in exploring (and perhaps exploiting) the nature of Barry’s abilities. Heading this squad is wheelchair-bound Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), a seemingly well-intentioned humanitarian who may or may not have ties to a Flash villain, Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), whose cold demeanor comes off as a heavy-handed way of letting us know she may become the villainess Killer Frost, and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) aka Vibe, a lower-tier DC hero whose status has been elevated significantly in recent years.
The DC Easter eggs don’t stop there, though. Viewers will catch a not-so-subtle reference to villain Gorilla Grodd, Ferris Air gets a shoutout with some signage, the episode leaves us with a very clear acknowledgement of the famous “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, and, of course, we can expect The Reverse Flash/Professor Zoom to appear as he is clearly being set up as the main antagonist. Plus, if the promotional poster for the series is to be taken at face value, expect some appearances by several other DC characters. Even the original Flash series from 1990 gets some love as John Wesley Shipp, the original Flash, appears as Barry’s father, and Amanda Pays, while not present in the pilot, has been tapped to reprise her role as Dr. Tina McGee from the original CBS series. We know he’s busy shooting Episode VII, but can the original Trickster himself, Mark Hamill, be far behind? We’ll keep an eye open for that one.
While treats like these will keep the fans happy, the elements that make it a good TV show are strong. Barry’s likeability is clearly the anchor, but the hour pilot does an excellent job of telling an origin story without dragging out the details or cramming too much in. The youthful cast members like Gustin, Patton, and Valdes are complimented by the gravitas brought to the table by Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin’s Detective West, which makes it a show the whole family can enjoy as it delivers equal parts humor and drama.
Arrow has established a hero who relies on skill and bad-assery, occasionally dipping into a darker element, but sooner or later, combat proficiency and seedy dealings give way to superpowers and lightheartedness. That being the case, The Flash winds up being entertaining because it knows exactly what it is and what will work for itself. Flash Fact.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET on The CW!