TV REVIEW: The Flash 1.01 “Pilot”

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MEET THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE – Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), a forensic crime scene assistant for the Central City Police Department, is struck by lightning during a storm created when a particle accelerator from S.T.A.R. Labs explodes. After being in a coma for nine months, Barry awakens in S.T.A.R. Labs in the care of scientist Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), along with his assistants, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). Barry learns that accident has given him the ability to move at extraordinary speeds, and that metahumans also created from the explosion are destroying his home city. Outfitted with advance from an old friend and a special suit designed to help him control his new powers, Barry begins his journey as the scarlet speedster known as The Flash.

After The CW pilot episode staring the crimson comet aired this week BTP’s Dane Davenport and Justin Partridge III sat down to discuss the exciting new show…

DANE DAVENPORT: Comic book based media has come far in recent years. The successes of movies based on popular comic book characters have gone from box office anomalies to pop culture staples. It seems audiences are devouring entire franchises faster than Hollywood can produce them. Now there have been dozens of superhero shows before but with seemingly a new show popping up every week it is impossible to deny that now find ourselves looking at a new era of comic book television. The latest hero here to help usher in that era is Barry Allen aka The Flash, the character known for bringing comic books into the silver age almost sixty years ago.

I found the most unique element about The CW’s The Flash is not the way it shamelessly embraces the joyful and campy sides of superherodom, the inclusion of and various nods to larger-than-life elements from it’s comic book counterpart, or even the use of an origin story that takes our protagonist from zero to hero in less than twenty minutes. The most unique thing about this show is that it is a spin-off. The Flash stars the charming Grant Gustin as the title character who first appeared on The CW’s Arrow (based on DC’s Green Arrow). That simple fact required some serious narrative gymnastics in order to seamlessly fit this show into the same established universe as Arrow. That isn’t an easy task when you consider that The Flash needed to establishing a completely different tone, in a show that plays by a completely different set of rules. All this had to be done while keeping in step with episodes of Arrow written a year ago without making new viewers just joining in feel like they are missing pieces from a puzzle. I can only speak for those who do watch Arrow but as far as I can tell The Flash stuck the landing beautifully.

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JUSTIN PARTRIDGE III: I won’t lie, I tried giving Arrow a chance for about twelve episodes and I just couldn’t get into it. The liberal, ball-busting wise ass Ollie that I knew and loved was absent from the show, despite the look being kept in tact. I’ve also had a fairly contentious when it came to DC TV adaptations having seen some of my favorite characters gutted by Smallville. These feelings were still fresh when I heard about The Flash coming to small screens. Now, The Flash, and more specifically Barry Allen, is one of the few DC characters that still illicits very, VERY strong emotions in me as a comic book fan. I know that I can’t hold a candle to you, Dane, as a DC fan, but I’m the guy that still feels his eyes sting with tears with I think about the “Four generations of Flash” moment from Final Crisis, so going into this pilot I had a hard heart and pretty lofty expectations for it.

Now, is this pilot perfect? Absolutely not. The script is a bit too tin eared for my taste and even though X-Files maestro David Nutter pulls off some pretty ginchy visuals, it still very much looks like a CW show, but even still, this pilot gave me something that I never expected to get from a DC adaptation; full tilt sincerity. In my Gotham pilot review, I mentioned that the show balanced its goofiness with a reverence to adaptations that came before it, but The Flash wears its heart on its sleeve from the very start, embodied by Grant Gustin, who makes a perfect Barry Allen despite not being blonde, which I will let slide for now.

But let’s get into the episode itself. As a guy who has been into the DC TV properties from the start, how does this one stack up in regards to your favorites? Plus, since it is obviously pulling elements from the Geoff Johns run of comics, do you think having a base of stories that are that solid works in its favor? Even though it seems that the showrunners have HUGE things in store for Barry going forward?

DANE: It’s true that I am not shy about my love for Smallville but even the most dedicated Smallville fan has a list of episodes that grind their gears. It’s a relationship that I think is best compared to comic books. When it’s bad it’s the worst thing ever, but when it works, it’s magic. Based on the pilot episode I expect similar things from The Flash. However it does have an advantage over shows like Smallville, Gotham, or even Arrow. This isn’t a show about someone becoming the character we know and love from the comics. No, we get The Flash in full superhero glory straight out of the gate.

Of course this approach comes with upsides and downsides. Having a wide base of material to draw from is a huge upside and already it is obvious the show runners will not be shying away from the wilder aspects of the comics. I predict it will be sooner not later that we will see members of the Flash Family, time travel, and the Speed Force being used on the show. It’s biggest weakness, at least in the pilot, is shared in the comics, the villain. The Flash’s rogues gallery is expansive but full of iconic characters who are short on actual character. There is strong material to draw from but the writers won’t have the luxury of using a big name villain to carry weak writing (e.g. The Amazing Spider-Man films).

I did have problems with the episode but honestly they hardly seem worth mentioning. Okay yes, they gave us way too much expositional dialogue but that can be forgiven in a pilot episode with a ton of narrative ground to cover. The pop music placements are odd and make it painfully obvious you are watching The CW. And some plot points don’t make a lot of sense, like why would a parkour purse snatcher be grabbing bags during a scientific press conference? But at the end of the episode I only cared about the moments that made me smile a big goofy grin. They nailed the tone so perfectly I was too busy having fun to be concerned about the missteps.

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JUSTIN: Exactly. For every fault the pilot displays, it makes up for it with wild ambition. I would also agree that even though we have to sit through another rushed origin story, complete with a villain introduced just to be defeated, The Flash feels like a show that already seems full realized. We really don’t even have to wait that long to see Barry in a costume. As for the larger aspects of the Flash mythos, I am giddy at the prospect of seeing a grizzled Jay Garrick or perhaps an idealistic young kid named Wally helping around the lab.

While I share your concerns about the Flash’s rogues being translated on screen, I am glad that the pilot makes a point to seed the appearances and powers of future antagonists by making them products of the same storm that made Barry. It is much cleaner than the clunky “Kyrpto-freaks” of Smallville, plus it is nice to finally get to hear the word “meta-human” after it being absent from DC shows for more than 10 years.

DANE: The ambition of the CW right now is impressive. With Ray Palmer being introduced on Arrow this season and Firestorm coming to The Flash we are going to see world building that goes beyond The Flash and Green Arrow comics and delves deep into the rest of the DCU. It seems people recognize that ambition, with over four and a half million people tuning in to The CW to watch the pilot episode. We’ll see how many viewers they retain after next week but with the great buzz surrounding the show it wouldn’t surprise me to find out The Flash is a bonafide hit for the network.

After only one episode anything could happen, but that open world of possibilities is the reason I’m so excited about this show.

Random Episode Flash Facts

• And we are off! Join Dane and Justin every week for more Flash reviews and speed puns galore. Join in the conversation by visiting our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages.

• Has S.H.A.D.E. been mentioned in the DC TV universe? If not, The Flash would be the perfect place to do it.

• Dane and Justin love Final Crisis so expect a weird weekly theory about Crisis related things going forward.

• Weird Weekly Crisis Theory: Welles is Metron.

• How great would a grizzled Jay Garrick be?

Next week: Barry vs. Multiplex. Watch the trailer below!

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