Even some of the pickiest TV critics have listed The Flash as their favorite pilot of the 2014-2015 season. The new series, which premieres tonight (October 7) at 8PM on The CW, is probably one I’d have been predisposed to like anyway, as a big fan of Arrow from the same producers; I am happy to say, though, that the pilot exceeded my expectations.
The Flash has a few factors going for it that make it stand out. For starters, despite the tragedy in the past of the lead character, Barry Allen, and the current annoyances that may be in his life, Barry’s a happy guy. That the pilot pretty much starts off with a great amount of joy sets the show apart because he’s not always brooding like most other TV heroes. There’s nothing wrong with brooding – again, I love Arrow and the original Flash series from 1990 was heavily inspired by Tim Burton’s dark Batman movies – but there’s something great about watching a guy who loves what he does. The pilot is directed by David Nutter, who has done some of the best pilots in decades, including Smallville, Supernatural, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Writing and developing the pilot are Arrow vets Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns, and Greg Berlanti – we know their track record, with Arrow being great (and getting even better!) already, and Johns, of course, is the writer who brought Barry Allen back to relevance within the past decade, and introduced new elements to the Flash mythos in Flash: Rebirth. The score from Blake Neely is inspiring, just like the content of the show is.
As far as the action and effects go, a friend made a comparison between this and Smallville – which, despite its detractors, was one of the biggest hits of CW history. I feel The Flash takes cues from shows like Arrow and Smallville to see what has worked and not worked before in a show like this, and the finished result is well done. Still, if you liked Smallville, chances are that you will also really enjoy this. What sets The Flash apart greatly from Smallville, though, is that this series embraces the superhero angle of it all in a way no comic book adaptation series has in decades. Here, you have a costume that is at least 90% like what you’d see in DC Comics. There are references to elements from the comic book lore that I wouldn’t dare give away, but they’re there. Like Barry Allen instinctively knowing he needs to help people, The Flash instinctively knows that if we want a TV show about The Flash, we sure as heck had better get it. And about Barry and his inherent goodness: That is a quality rarely seen in live-action heroes, and again, this show embraces it. Oliver Queen obviously has his demons. Batman? Don’t get me started on his issues. Superman? Snaps necks. But this guy? He’s the Fastest Man Alive, and he loves it.
Another bonus: I was 12 years old when the original Flash series aired in 1990. I may have thought that that foam rubber costume he wore was the coolest thing I had ever seen, but again, I was 12. It’s obvious that the creators of the new show loved the original one, too, as the first series’ star, John Wesley Shipp, has a role in the new series and it’s not just a cameo. It’s been revealed who he is playing, but if you don’t know yet, watch it and see for yourself. As a bonus, Amanda Pays, who played Dr. Tina McGee in the original show, will appear in the new one as… Dr. Tina McGee.
As the lead character of Barry, Grant Gustin surprised me. He was definitely not who I would have pictured for the role, and to be honest, having only seen him as the slushie-throwing Sebastian on Glee, who I kind of hated, I wasn’t thrilled when he was cast. His two Arrow episodes last year, where he played Barry, showed me exactly why he was chosen: Gustin has that earnestness that “sells” Barry as a character and makes him someone you can relate to. Barry is awkward as heck sometimes, but that makes that journey all the more interesting. I can still hate Sebastian Smythe but hey, that is a sign of good acting, if two characters can end up being so different.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive. I hadn’t seen much of Candice Patton beyond a brief appearance in About a Boy, but as Iris, she plays a character you can’t help but really like. Often times the intended “love interest” character takes some time to develop chemistry with the lead, but not this one. Her father is played by Law & Order’s Jesse L. Martin, and – even moreso in next week’s episode – you see that he has a very fatherly relationship with Barry that gives his character many layers – layers you’d expect when an actor of the caliber of Jesse L. Martin joins the cast. The Vampire Diaries’ Rick Cosnett is “Detective Prettyboy,” aka Eddie Thawne, a detective who works with Joe West who may have moved in on Barry’s girl. Uh-oh!
In the STAR Labs side of things, Carlos Valdes plays Cisco Ramon, a character we first saw in Arrow last year, and this is a character that will easily be relied on to be the audience stand-in, geeking out over the great things within. Next to him is American Simmons, I mean Caitlin Snow, played with chilly quirkiness by Danielle Panabaker. Both of those characters could easily be throwaway support, but again, the actors take it to a level that you can’t help but love them. Their boss, Harrison Snow as played by Ed’s Tom Cavanagh, will probably fuel the mystery side for a while, as he might not be everything that he claims to be.
The villain in this episode is Chad Rook as Clyde Mardon, a man who can control the weather. Quick, where’s Cisco to call him a “Weather Wizard?”
If I were to say anything in The Flash is less than perfect, it might be the costume, which I really liked when I saw the first still photos, but in other situations, it’s… not all that Flashy. Especially in a sequence before the lightning bolt is on Barry’s chest, at times it more resembles the costume worn by Ben Affleck in the Daredevil movie. Perhaps the intention of the new series is to make the costume sleeker as time goes on — ideally, also with a brighter red and a white circle underneath the emblem. It’s not a deal-breaker, and by no means is it awful, but I do hope there are some changes.
The Flash is so good that if Warner Bros. decided to make a Flash movie WITHOUT this cast and crew, I wouldn’t know why they’d bother, because, like Arrow, this looks like a movie, and I think fans are really going to connect to Barry and these versions of the characters. Watch it tonight at 8PM on The CW and see if you love it as much as I did. It’s only an hour of your time (well, an hour and three minutes, as the premiere runs long), and hopefully, it’ll be as much of a breakout in the ratings as it was in critics’ hearts.
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