Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #25 - The Flash

1 Season

This show is still in its very early stages, so I can understand how people could be confused by its placement on this list of best dramas.  But this show has already fused science fiction, action, and melodrama all the while making the show incredibly fun to watch.

The Flash follows the story of police scienticst Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) who is struck by lightning and given miraculous super-speed.  He then takes up the mantle of a super-hero to protect Central City.  The connective tissue of the series are the various super-powered criminals that Barry encounters throughout the show.

The show could have fallen into just another "freak of the week" show.  The challenges of making a fast-running hero intersesting are not to be underestimated.  Keep in mind CBS tried to make this same show in the 1990's and it was never able to rise too high or go too deep.

 But the makers of the show have anchored it in a strong emotional core.  The main struggles of Barry's life are all incredibly personal.  His father (John Wesley-Shipp) is in prison for a crime he didn't commit.  Some of the shows most emotional scenes are the conversations between these two.  To complicate things, while his father was in prison, Barry was raised by Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) who has to play the strange balancing act of being every bit Barry's father while always understanding that Barry has a father.  And to make things even more complicated, Barry is in love with Joe's daughter Iris (Candace Patton) who only looks at him like a brother.

As you can see the emotional web is already complex.  But the show also goes out of its way to create some of the biggest and boldest spectacles I have seen on television.  It isn't that the special effects are good (they are), its that the creators unleash the power of imagination onto the small screen.

One of the joys of reading comic books is that the writers are never bound by the expense of depicting something visually.  A special effect that would cost millions in TV and movies can be drawn in a comic book for the cost of pencils and inks.  As a result, comics often explore big, cosmic spectacles all the time, whereas TV shows would scale back a lot of what they would like to show for budgetary reasons.  The Flash uses its special effects budget well, but the most important thing they do is to not constrain themeselves by anything but their imagination.

Time-travel, fancy physics, and mind-bending action are the order of the day in a way that I have really not seen outside of comic books.

Pilot 1x01
(From my earlier mini-review)
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.

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.


"Out of Time" and "Rogue Time" (2 parter)
This two part episode was a real game changer.  In it, Barry faces the worst crisis he has ever faced thus far as the Flash, but through unforseen circumstances, he travels back in time and relives the day over again.   It pushed all of the emotional buttons so that Barry's heart is stretched to its breaking point.  It also has a breakout performance by Carolos Valdes as Cisco and Tom Cavanaugh as Harrison Wells that is terrifying and heartbreaking.  But these two episodes do what a great super-hero science fiction show does best: marry overwhelming emotion with brain-twisting sci-fi.


The show already started strong and only improved as the season went on.  Even though I enjoy it greatly, I am waiting to see how it continues ot develop.

But as of now, it is the show that I look forward to the most each week.  And I don't see that changing any time soon.


  1. When I watched the Arrow episodes that the Flash appeared on, I wasn't sure it was going to work. This first season of The Flash has been very good; it's me favorite superhero show. The writing has been good, but nothing spectacular. It's the performances that has lifted this show, esp, Grant Gustin, Jesse L. Martin, and Tom Cavanaugh. I hope season 2 can bring the writing up a little.

  2. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun FLASH! ah ah!

    Sorry I couldn't I couldn't make it through the first episode.

    Sherlock is another matter.

    I can't speak of most TV shows without heavily quantifying them.

    The first three seasons of Hill Street Blues

    The first five seasons of Supernatural


    Speaking of unrequited pop culture love - how about shows you love that you can not defend?