Random Thoughts on the Flash

I was waiting to see Barry Allen's appearances in Arrow Season 2 before sitting down to watch The Flash pilot episode, which explains why I'm a little late to the party. I liked the show, generally, and hope to explore Central City a lot more over the coming years. Here are some things that crossed my mind while watching:

1. Between Arrow, Gotham and the Flash, DC-live action has found a winning formula, I think. Offering long-running soap/mystery arcs, strong stunts and action, and loads of Easter eggs for comic book fans in a slick, pretty people package. The trick now is to make each one distinguishable from the other, lest they become the CSI/NCIS/Law & Order of the superhero set. If Gotham went darker and more violent than Arrow, Flash goes the other way, with a lovable loser as protagonist, more Peter Parker than Oliver Queen or Bruce Wayne, and a focus on super-powers rather than street justice.

2. I could have done without the "murder of Ma Allen" element, but given Geoff Johns' involvement, this was inevitable. Because the fans know who the Reverse-Flash is supposed to be, the show counters with two characters who could turn out to be Professor Zoom. This gives Barry a long-term goal, more to free his unjustly-convicted father (played by the 1990 TV Flash, John Wesley Shipp, cool!) than to get revenge. More interesting is the shared origin of all the powers. Smallville initially tried something like this with the stupid Kryptonite poisoning angle, but here, the explosion of an experimental particle accelerator works quite well. The Flash's original stories were about science, with villains representing forces of nature/physics just as much as the Flash was. The explosion gives the show license to create all the Rogues, but also characters like Firestorm (announced), Killer Frost (in play) and Vibe (him too).

3. While I waited for Barry to finish his run in Arrow, you don't really need to. The pilot works without it, and it's even strange to think Barry takes off for Starling City somewhere in there, near the beginning. It's not mentioned. And poor Felicity Smoak, how can you carry on a relationship with the Fastest Man Alive if he's got a massive crush on Iris West on his own show?

4. The costume's fine, and I don't have a problem with it, but I'm not enamored of some of the effects in running scenes. When he moves faster than we can follow, it's cool. When the camera stays on him and the background speeds by, it looks a little cheesy and green screeny. I'm sure these issues will sort themselves out over time.

5. They didn't wait before giving Barry a support system of people who know his secret identity. As with the 1990 show, there's a whole science team helping him learn to use his powers, just like Tina McGee did back in the day (I hear Amanda Pays is set to appear some time, perhaps as the same character?), and Captain West, Iris' dad and Barry's de factor father figure, is already on his side. They slowly brought people in on the secret on Arrow, so there's no reason to repeat the whole cycle. Let's just set up the board and go from there.

6. For a simple "assistant", Barry is a really brilliant CSI (he's his own Felicity), with Sherlock-like graphics appearing as he analyzes clues. Well hey, it's a fun device, even if it's derivative at this point. On the whole police/detective front, I could do with a busier police station, but did smile at the Weather Wizard's crime - just bank robbery. That's the kind of crime the Flash should be dealing with.

7. Some people have complained there were too many night scenes, making the action dark and murky. I don't think it was too bad, but since the show is filmed in Vancouver just like Arrow, I'd like them to keep the two worlds distinct by making Starling Vancouver at night, and Central Vancouver during in daylight.

8. I say Central City, but an aerial view and references to Keystone City - the Golden Age Flash's city and later, Wally West's - is right there across the river. So there are Twin Cities to explore, and they hopefully each have their own character.

9. If Arrow is cool by virtue of all the DC characters showing up or getting referenced, The Flash goes into overdrive with the Easter eggs. Is it too much? Not for a pilot, because a lot of it is seeding future events. Grodd's open cage. The aforementioned Reverse-Flash. All the name characters that, as was done with Arrow, are destined to become metahumans. And that squee-inducing (and much-spoiled) reference to Crisis, an event that will forever be connected to the Flash and that also hints at Barry perhaps one day breaking the time barrier. Throw in Linda Park, am Arrow cameo, company names from the DCU, a magazine called Science SHOWCASE, winks to the 1956 Flash origin and classic Flash stunts, and you've got a lot of fun stuff for the fans that won't have wider audiences scratching their heads.

While none of the DC-related shows on the air fill me with passion, all of them are fairly solid action thrillers coated in comic book candy. I don't consider any of them revelations or must-see TV (which is why I DVD-wait Arrow), but they entertain me, feature mostly likeable actors/characters (Flash doesn't have a "Laurel" at least), and keep my interest. I can probably be counted on to watch the first few episodes at least, and to buy the DVD next year if I don't get very far.


Anonymous said...

The biggest complaint I have with "The Flash" is that they really haven't given me a reason to care about any of the characters yet, but after a single episode I shouldn't necessarily expect it. Give them time to explore the characters and see what works, that's cool.

Turning Iris into Barry's sister, effectively, is a BAD move if Barry is to keep pursuing her.

After watching too many episodes of the "X-Men" cartoon with Storm's "elevated" speaking voice, I was endlessly pleased to hear a storm-controlling character with a redneck accent.

I'm going to contrast with "Gotham", which gave us two unexpectedly interesting characters right out of the gate: Oswald Cobblepot, and Bruce Wayne. David Mazouz is amazing as a kid who is clearly wounded but is doing his damnedest to rebuild himself -- every episode we see him getting a little worse (thanks Alfred!) but we also see him trying to build himself into a man who can carry the weight of the world on his shoulder. And Oswald ... ? All the little touches Robin Taylor Lord adds to his performance (I laughed at his little hand gesture with the canolis, "oh no I couldn't") and his schemingness make him a riveting character. The main thrust of the show -- Jim Gordon being a good cop and slowly pulling a corner of Gotham back just by virtue of refusing to be corrupted -- would be enough to make me watch all on its own, but it's Bruce and Oswald who get me to wake up early just to catch it. I am hoping "The Flash" will produce some element or other that is a similar hook.

Siskoid said...

At this point, Flash is definitely more "four-color" than Gotham. How do you rate Arrow?

Anonymous said...

What has two thumbs and sucks because he hasn't seen even a single episode of "Arrow"? *This guy!*

I got turned off immediately from the premise, that sometimes a hero's gotta cross the line. I don't know where the show is at this point, but that's what they were selling early on, and that's an immediate turn-off for me, especially where Oliver Queen is concerned. I never got over the post-Crisis whiplash where Ollie went from complete reverence to human life, to Mike Grell's "eh, dirtbag had it coming" late 80s morality. "My" Ollie uses trick arrows because they are nonlethal and don't even cause permanent injury; no other Ollie will do.

Siskoid said...

This Olie was definitely in a Year Zero state, called "the vigilante" throughout and learning through his experiences that killing was not the way. By Season 2, he is no longer a killer.

Bill said...

Since I watch very few TV shows in the first place, and can't stand any 'reality' shows, I'm just glad that I have a few scripted shows that are fun and that I can watch with my wife. We've dropped Gotham as the tone is too dark and uneven and we find the writing to be sub-par for a show of it's type, but we both love to watch Arrow and Flash.
Arrow has come a long way in figuring out what it wants to be and what it does well, and The Flash benefits from that experience immediately, which is great.

Andrew said...

Two episodes in, and I am completely hooked--though I'm sure it helps that the Flashes are among my favorite superheroes.

I watched the 1990 show again over the summer, and it's interesting to compare the two pilots. Similar lightning strikes, STAR Labs playing a central role, the test track scene and a speed-resistant excuse for the suit. But the new show isn't nearly as dark as the old one was, and even though both episodes have the death of a member of the Allen family, it doesn't drive Barry's origin now the way it did back then.

Also? Regardless of whatever else he may become, Cisco Ramone is totally the Earth-2 Julio Mendez.

Roger Nowhere said...

Well, personaly I'm really enjoying the Flash. While Gotham episodes seems a little repetitive, Flash is making the characters growing. And I love the continued references to DC Universe: from Blackhawk security company, to Khandaq's diamond, to Rita Farr zombie film!



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