The Flash Roars Out of the Starting Gate
Main Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Tom Cavanagh
Creator: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Barry: “I’m just not sure I’m like you, Oliver. I don’t know if I can be some vigilante.”
Green Arrow: “You can be better. Because you can inspire people in a way that I never could. Watching over your city like a guardian angel, making a difference, saving people in a flash. Take your own advice. Wear a mask.” – “Pilot” (Season 1, episode 1)
The Flash is the first spinoff from the hit show Arrow. It introduces superpowers into The Arrowverse, the CW’s franchise of superhero shows that includes Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. The Flash introduces several characters who star in Legends of Tomorrow and helps bridge the gap between newcomer Supergirl and the others. But is The Flash good? Let’s find out.
Barry: [answers cell phone] “Hello.”
Cisco Ramon: “Code 237 on Way Boulevard.”
Barry: “Public indecency?”
Cisco: “Wait, I think I meant a 239.”
Barry: “Dog leash violation?”
Caitlin Snow: “Bad man, with a gun, in a getaway car. Go!” – “Things You Can’t Outrun” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen in the hit show Arrow and was hired to play Flash in the spinoff. He plays the role as a brilliant but goofy superhero searching for his mother’s murderer. Gustin’s light touch on the role is likely the result of his work in theater (West Side Story) and as part of a love triangle on Glee.
Flash wouldn’t be as effective without his friends and family. After his father was framed for his mother’s murder, Barry Allen moved in with the West Family. Joe West (Law and Order star Jesse L. Martin) is Barry’s adoptive father and a police detective who knows his secret identity. Iris West (Candice Patton) is a reporter and Barry’s love interest, which must make for awkward dinner conversations.
Super speed may be useful, but Flash also has help from S.T.A.R. Labs. First up is Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), an engineer who devises traps to capture supervillains. He’s also the one who nicknames the villains. Caitlin Snow (Glee’s Danielle Panabaker) is the team’s doctor. She studies the meta-humans that Flash fights and patches him up.
Rounding out the cast is Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). He created a particle accelerator that accidentally caused people to develop superpowers. He is Flash’s mentor and has a deep understanding of how Barry’s powers work.
Iris: “I’ve been trying to get answers from him. Where does he come from? How does he do what he does? But he dodges everything. Literally, with this super-speed power. When he moves, Barry, you don’t even see him. He comes and goes in the blink of an eye, in a…”
Iris: “In a flash. Yeah.” – “The Flash is Born” (Season 1, episode 6)
Being able to move at superhuman speed is just as powerful as it sounds, but The Flash episodes interesting. For every group of thugs that can be taken down with a quick punch, there’s a metahuman who can’t be touched.
Sometimes Flash fights a supervillain who can turn himself into poison gas or a crook who sets up a disaster so he can escape. And all the super speed in the world isn’t much good against a psychic gorilla.
The Flash also does well showing stranger powers from phasing through objects to running on water. At one point Flash even learns how to time travel by running stupidly fast.
Rogues in Reverse
Oliver: “Last month you took on a man named Leonard Snart.”
Barry: “We call him Captain Cold.”
Oliver: “We can talk about you giving your enemies silly code names later.”
Barry: “You mean like over coffee with Deathstroke and The Huntress?” – ”Flash vs Arrow” (Season 1, Episode 8)
The Flash has some of the best supervillains on television, from the megalomaniacal Weather Wizard and egotistical Pied Piper to a realistic Gorilla Grodd. You know, the psychic one. Mark Hamill reprises his role as The Trickster from the 90’s series The Flash.
Three villains stand head and shoulders above the rest. Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) is a cunning thief with a freeze ray designed to stop Flash cold. He discovers Barry’s secret identity and becomes a recurring foe.
The Captain recruits Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), a gruff arsonist with a high tech flamethrower. The actors work well because of their experience together as the stars of Prison Break. Heatwave and Captain Cold eventually leave The Flash to become main characters in Legends of Tomorrow.
The final standout and Barry’s arch enemy is The Reverse-Flash, an enigmatic speedster who murdered Barry’s mother. Reverse-Flash is faster than Flash and repeatedly shows how deadly super speed can be. But who is he and why is he obsessed with Flash? You need to watch because I ain’t spoiling that secret.
Killer Frost: “Well, I guess keeping secrets always was our thing.” – “The Once and Future Flash” (Season 3, episode 19)
Many shows create melodrama to enhance a plot. The Flash forces conflict by having characters keep secrets that are discovered within a few scenes of the same episode. Where did Captain Cold get his freeze ray? Cisco made it in case Flash turned evil. Caitlin learns her super powered fiance is sick? Keep it from the team until he’s about to go nuclear.
The trope is repetitive, but it’s part of the show’s culture.
Let’s do the Time Warp Again!
Jay: “The question you need to ask yourself is… what kinda hero are you gonna be? Are you just gonna take a do-over every time you make a mistake, or will you live with them … and move forward?” – “Paradox” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Flash eventually learns how to travel through time. And by learning that skill, any semblance of a consequence stopped applying. An important character dies? The city gets destroyed? The universe explodes!? Doesn’t matter, run into the past and stop whatever causes the problem.
There are consequences to time travel though. Every time Flash stops a problem by time traveling, a new threat develops to balance the universe. Flash isn’t the only time traveler. The show uses time travel as a last resort because it is a deus ex machina that could remove any semblance of suspense.
The Flash‘s first season is an excellent superhero story and one of the better science fiction shows on television. The cast is colorful, the fights are memorable, and the villains are vicious. Time travel threatens to ruin the tension, but is used sparingly. All in all, Flash is an excellent show that is worth your time.