Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New TV Show Mini Review - The Flash

"My name is Barry Allen.  I am the fastest man alive."

I was very surprised when the CW announced that they would be doing a television show of The Flash.  Some might remember that this super hero had his own TV series many years ago in the post-Batman world.  That pilot had the distinction of being the most expensive pilot ever shot up until that time.  But the show flopped and was cancelled after 1 season.

So based on the pilot, how is this Flash for the new millennium?

Wonderfully fun.

The show is from the same producers as Arrow.  While it has the same aesthetic, the tone and tempo are much different.  Whereas Arrow would sometimes go for gritty realism (though in an comic booky way), The Flash fully embraces the world of super powers.

The show focuses on Barry Allen (Grant Gustin).  We see in a flashback how he was a physically slow but moral strong child.  But then his mother is murdered under mysterious circumstances and his father is wrongfully convicted of the crime.  By the way, it is a wonderful bit of casting to have John Wesley Shipp who played Barry Allen in the old Flash TV show to play Barry's dad in this incarnation.

Barry becomes a perpetually tardy forensic scientist for Central City.  One of the parts that I really dug was watching Barry's mind work as he figured out the details of a crime scene.  It reminded me of how the way they show Holmes' mind observe evidence on the BBC show Sherlock.

The connective tissue of the series is an explosion that occurs at a particle collider at STAR Labs in Central City.  A giant wave of energy is released that causes a freak lightning bolt to hit Barry and give him super speed.  But the energy also triggered unexplained powers in people all over the city.  This will be the main driving force of this series: Barry encountering and dealing with people with powers like Smallville's meteor freaks.

The biggest drawback of the pilot is that it feels like a 2-hour story cramped into 1 hour.  There is a lot of exposition and tons of character relationships to set up, all the while highlighting The Flash's visually stunning powers.  I'm hoping that the other episodes do not feel as constricted.

The cast is fantastic.  Gustin has this youthful openness and optimism that fits perfectly with Barry Allen.  Most heroes are dark and brooding, even Superman in his latest movie.  But Barry has always been different.  And even though he has a tragic and emotional backstory, there was always something a bit lighter about the character.  It is refreshing to see a super hero show that has a little fun to it.

Jesse L. Martin is a great piece of casting as Det. Joe West.  He carries with him a very grounded Law and Order vibe that anchors the show in a strong suspension of disbelief.  Candice Patton has great chemistry as Iris West, the girl that Barry pines after.

At STAR Labs Barry finds a support team in the hipster techie Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker)  who foil each other nicely as the perky and the dour respectively.  And then there is Tom Cavanaugh as Dr. Harrison Wells who has been riding in a wheelchair since the STAR Labs accident.  Cavanaugh's performance is actually wonderfully layered the more you watch.

Thematically, I like the idea of Barry struggling with what responsibility he has with his powers.  Wells talks about the greater good, but Barry wants to help out the people immeadiatly in the area.  Neither is wrong, but it reminded me of the Catholic need to help people out in the concrete, not just the abstract.

As a comic book geek I noticed a ton of inside jokes and gags.  But even for the uninitiated, there is plenty of fun.  The special effects are excellent for television.  The adventures seem fun while keeping an emotional core throughout.

Right now, it is one of the shows I already most look forward to each week.

(oh, and if you watch the pilot, watch until the very end, post end logo scene)

4 out of 5 stars


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