The Flash: Pilot

flashI’ve been excited about the Flash show since I first heard about it.  I remember the first one, back in the 80′s.  It was a very enjoyable show, and it ended before its time, largely due to bad luck in scheduling.  After that, DC’s speedster only showed up in cartoons, getting a good amount of screen time in Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and later the sadly short-lived Young Justice.  Some odd combination of various DC comics speedsters showed up on Smallville, but he went by the most recent codename Impulse.

Then, Arrow debuted on the CW.  It wasn’t a completely faithful version of Green Arrow (obviously, look at the name), but it was really enjoyable, and it was a live action version of a second tier DC Comics hero.  It did so well, they started considering another show, and then, a police scientist named Barry Allen showed up in Starling City.  As any DC Comics fan can tell you, Barry Allen is the Flash.

They started appealing to comic fans from the very start.  Barry, played by Grant Gustin, narrates his story, including the phrase, “I am the fastest man alive,” which was a tag line used in many comic books.  That really set the tone, especially for long-time comic fans.

Overall, I loved this debut.  There were so many nice little touches along the way.  Barry’s father is played by John Wesley Shipp.  Shipp played Barry Allen in the earlier show I mentioned.  There are many familiar names thrown in during the show.  I won’t list them all, as I try not to be THAT guy, but let’s just say that even many of the minor characters have a history in the comics.

I will spend some time on the supporting characters.  The scientist running STAR Labs (another long-time DC institution) is Harrison Wells.  I wondered when he first showed up if his middle initial might be “G.”  From the surprise at the end, I might have been closer than I thought.

Wells’ two assistants are Cisco Ramone and Caitlin Snow.  I really have to believe they have plans down the road for these two lab-rats.  Cisco “Paco” Ramone is the real name of the superhero and former Justice Leaguer known as Vibe.  Caitlin Snow is one of several villains in the comics to use the name Killer Frost.  Frost is usually a Firestorm foe, and Robbie Amell, cousin of Steve (Arrow) Amell and formerly of the Tomorrow People, has been announced as playing Ronnie Raymond, AKA Firestorm the Nuclear Man.

One of the detectives we see a good bit of is Edward Thawne.  Again, in the comics, that name has significance.  Thawne comes from the future, and is the name of the Reverse Flash.  I wonder what they have planned for him.  He mentions that he’s read Barry’s blog, so he does seem to have a lot of interest in our Mr. Allen.

The West family has a complicated connection with the Flash legacy.  In the comics, Iris West eventually marries Barry Allen.  Her nephew, Wally, became Barry’s sidekick Kid-Flash, later replacing Barry as the Flash.  In the comics, the Wests were white until the reboot DC did a few years ago, a move that met with mixed reactions.

You can’t have a hero without a villain, and Barry, as he gets his origin told here, has his foe.  A crook named Maddon (Clyde on the show, Mark in the comics) gets weather related powers.  In the comics, Weather Wizard is one of Flash’s recurring villains, collectively known as the Rogues.  They make a choice at the end of the episode that a lot of TV shows and movies choose to, which I won’t spoil but disagree with.  I’ll put it this way: it’s hard to establish the traditional rivalries between some of these characters this way.

Another of Flash’s more savage foes is Grodd, a superpowerful and ruthless gorilla.  Yes it sounds goofy, but he’s actually a terrifying foe.  When Wells is escorting Barry through the ruins of STAR Labs, we see a broken cage labeled “Grodd.”  Foreshadowing, I suspect.  Wells also tests Barry’s powers at a place with a ruined Ferris Air sign.  Ferris is the company that Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan works at.

There was a lot I loved in this debut.  They followed Barry’s origin pretty closely.  They did a great job with the character.  Before he became a superhero, Barry Allen was a crime scene investigator, and a good one.  He contributes to a case with his brain and skills before the accident that gave him his powers.  Barry actually reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes, but in brilliance and social awkwardness.  Also, when Barry gets his powers, he shows an absolute joy in using them.  In the age of so many dark, gritty, anti-heroes, a bright, upbeat character is a very welcome change.

As much as I enjoyed it, I won’t say it was perfect.  One classic scene in Barry’s origin is him in a diner, watching a plate fall.  His powers kick in and he sees it slow and even stop.  In the comics, he catches it.  Here, he watches it fall.  Not a big deal, but I think every time you decide to change from your source material, there should be a reason.  I don’t see that the story was in any improved by that change.

In the comics, Barry Allen eventually killed his arch-nemesis Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash.  Barry went on trial for it, and a great source of strength for him was the support of his parents.  When Allen returned from the dead a few years ago, they rewrote his history.  Now, fitting the ever darker age of comics, his mother was murdered and his father blamed for it.  They went with this version on the show, which I find a bit sad.  Here his mother seems to have been killed by some version of Reverse Flash.

My few complaints to one side, I loved this show.  I was expecting to like it, and it was better than I hoped.  I love all the little touches they included, the way they handled Barry, and the hints at what’s to come.  Jesse Martin’s Joe West, a new character, I expected to be annoyed by, but Martin turned in a great performance, and he wasn’t the stereotype antagonist I expected.  They didn’t need to do the cameo by Arrow, but they handled it well.

I was very excited to watch this, and immensely enjoyed it.  I can’t wait to see what they do next, and who from Flash’s long history comes up next.

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