TV Review: “The Flash” – Slow Starter

Written by Reece Mawhinney August 11, 2015

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As we continue to bear witness to the conquest of mainstream media by comic book adaptations, CW’s “The Flash” is slow to start but at least knows it has little interest in treading the same gritty ground as its many recent predecessors. Rather, “The Flash” takes its main inspiration from the 1990 show and the New 52 comic incarnations. What does this mean? “The Flash” is light-hearted and cheesy but has the drive to tell a strong character-driven story and runs hard straight for the goal.

Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is a police forensic investigator with a keen interest in the unexplained after he witnesses “lightning” kill his mother with the crime put on his father (John Wesley Shipp). An accident at the renowned S.T.A.R. Labs gets Barry struck by lightning, forcing him into a nine-month coma but gives him superhuman speed…and abs. Barry quickly becomes the core of a team situated in Central City committed to keeping the city safe from the likes of an assassin who can turn himself into poisonous gas and a mysterious second speedster who Barry quickly comes to suspect to be his mother’s real killer.

“I’ve spent my whole life searching for the impossible, never imagining that I would become the impossible.”

“The Flash” blends incredibly well choreographed action seamlessly into a show which is clearly intended to be a character drama piece rather than a generic superhero show. “The Flash” spends a lot of time developing its fairly large cast of characters rather than sticking with its titular lead the whole way through and it is extremely appreciated because Grant definitely takes a while before he learns that there is more to drama than just being able to cry on cue. Jesse L. Martin playing Joe West, Barry’s adoptive father, is able to step up and bring a much needed grounding effect to the early episodes of the show, keeping them from getting too corny and delivering a complete knockout performance for the entire run. He’s the type of actor that makes others act better, by just being in a scene with them and by the halfway point of the season, the rest of the cast has caught up enough that they’re able to deliver great emotional performances of their own with credit to the scriptwriters for giving all the main cast a lot of great stuff to work with.

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The show tends to go for a “villain of the week” structure but the majority of the villains are also portrayed as sympathetic characters with extensive backstories and are rarely used as one note antagonists. Several villains appear multiple times to fulfill many different roles in the plot. It’s a nice touch that the villains in this show feel as integrated and important to the plot as the heroes do.

“So we’re just supposed to get used to working above a make-shift prison housing evil people with superpowers?”

The show has two major flaws to me. One is the way that the relationship is handled between Barry and his childhood crush Iris West (Candice Patton). It plays out to every cliché in the book. There is just no chemistry between the characters and it is definitely not from lack of trying because their relationship gets a lot of screen time. It doesn’t help that Iris is easily given the worst to work with. While she has her moments; in a cast of characters who are all either working towards a goal or running away from something, Iris’s normalcy and lack of any true emotional motivation makes her an extremely boring character in an otherwise spectacularly vibrant cast. Also, in an inadvertent attempt to make sure that we don’t see Barry’s rival in love, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) as an antagonist, the writers actually make his and Iris’s love story much more compelling than that which she has with our leading man, making it just irritating to see Iris be treated as Barry’s forbidden fruit for the majority of the show’s runtime.

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My other issue with “The Flash” is that there is just no suspense who the main bad guy behind this all is. From episode one we are told who it is, their motive and their means. That’s not necessarily a deal breaker but it’s the fact that this creates an annoying amount of dramatic irony. You spend the show waiting to see when the cast are going to figure it out and the show teases you about it the entire way to the extent where it’s practically treated as a running gag instead of a huge important plot point. In fairness, the characters aren’t written to be stupid about the whole thing which other writers would have certainly made them be and there is one secret about the main villain that is kept to the end of the show and the payoff for it is brilliant.

“The lightning didn’t just give me speed. It gave me friends”

Overall, “The Flash”‘s limitations are all clear from the first episode but only a couple actually stay with the show by the end of this season’s run. “The Flash” really comes into its own at the end and delivers a damn close to perfect finale which just makes me eagerly await its second season which will hopefully continue and improve upon the great standard that the show closed on.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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