The success of Arrow didn't just give Green Arrow life on the small screen - it's helped usher in the first live-action take on The Flash in years. Now that the DC Comics speedster has had his first outing shown at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, fans have a better sense of how faithful, how promising, and how problematic aspects of the mythology may prove to be.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, we can give our opinions on the best or most surprising parts of the first episode, the parts that the showrunners will need to address in the future, and which aspects are downright disappointing. We'll hold off on SPOILERS and easter eggs until the public has had the chance to see it - but for now, fans certainly have something to look forward to.
It was clear that The CW had cast their Barry Allen wisely when Grant Gustin first appeared in the role on a crossover story with Arrow. He may not have been every comic fan's ideal Allen, but had an easy demeanor that captured the spirit of the lovable loser-turned-superhero. In the pilot episode of his standalone series, the showrunners have kept the momentum going. But depicting Barry as somewhat of an underdog isn't a massive challenge - and what fans will love is the priority given to Barry's origin story.
Fans of the hero know that Barry's path to crime-fighting began with the death of his mother, and The Flash keeps the foundation alive. In a pleasant surprise, the decision to cast former TV Flash John Wesley Shipp as his father pays massive dividends. Although his father - convicted of the murder of his wife - is largely absent from the comic series, the chemistry between Shipp and Gustin will open the door for the show's writers to not only do justice to the tortured past of The Flash, but expand upon it.
Human drama aside, the first mention of adapting The Flash to live-action led to questions centering on one issue: how to depict super-speed. Fortunately, the showrunners have decided to forego the Smallville approach of depicting heightened perception or simple motion blur. The extended trailer for the series showed that Barry's powers granted him the chance to essentially slow time, but the gimmick is used sparingly. What viewers get instead is essentially taken right from the comics: The Flash is little more than a red blur (accented by lightning), with occasional close-ups on Barry's face - avoiding the problem of showing him pumping arms and legs out of sync with his surroundings.
The effects are still not exactly above criticism, but by drawing inspiration from the source material, The CW has guaranteed that at least die-hard fans will be pleased (or relieved). Arrow fans will also be happy - provided they're in the mood for a lighter side of The CW's TV universe. It's been revealed that Stephen Amell's 'Arrow' has a brief cameo in the series' pilot episode - and while it may not solve the problem of linking the two shows' universes together (one dark and grim, the other more lighter and optimistic), it does show that Gustin's Flash may just be able to bring out Oliver Queen's softer side.
To make things clear: the wealth of secondary characters could turn out to be one of The Flash's strengths. But from the first episode, the showrunners have bitten off a serious chunk of character development and secondary arcs. The most promising of the group falls on the superhero side of Barry's dual identity: the team of S.T.A.R. Labs scientists consisting of Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), and Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh).
It speaks to DC Comics' Geoff Johns claim that The Flash would be the "most faithful DC adaptation yet" that these characters are all implied to be far more than background filler. A simple online search reveals that fact, but within the first episode, each of their potential arcs is established quite clearly; unfortunately, the delivery is not exactly graceful, with each fitting neatly into the 'emotionally distant scientist' or 'fun-loving goofball.' There is potential to grow, but fleshing these characters into more than stereotypes (while also explaining their connection to the likes of Firestorm) will be a tall order. Especially in a show that must also develop a superhero.
It's clear just how safe the show's writers have played it when it comes to the other side of Barry's life: his adopted family of Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his daughter, Iris (Candice Patton). The Law & Order alum returns to the role of detective as if he never left, but with Iris, the writers had a chance to play with audience expectations (since the comic books make the fate of their relationship quite clear). What the first episode delivers instead is a love interest who will be a little too blind to Barry's feelings for some, and lays the foundation for a familiar dose of twenty-something romantic angst.
Hopefully the writers have a plan for making more out of the love triangle seen in the pilot, but with the confirmed appearance of an Arrow cast member potentially adding another love triangle to the mix, it would seem the romance angle of the show may not be its brightest spot.
The low point of The Flash pilot is without a doubt the villain: a slightly re-imagined incarnation of comic book rogue 'Weather Wizard.' All the writers really needed was an antagonist possessing metahuman powers (delivered in the same event that grants Barry super-speed), and in the end, the audience isn't treated to much more. Fans shouldn't place too much significance on the character (this is a pilot episode, after all) but it shows that The Flash would be unwise to follow the same 'monster of the week' structure as Smallville.
Although the first episode sets the stage for such an approach, there are significant hints that Barry will be facing far larger threats than Central City's new army of metahumans. The surprising lack of any real effort to ground the villain or his powers will turn off some viewers, but with Geoff Johns promising the show to be "the most faithful DC adapatation yet," and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) set to usher in the Rogues, there is reason to believe the villains will receive more time in the spotlight going forward.
We'll bring you more information and an official review of The Flash pilot as it becomes available to the public - but for now, what aspects of the show are you most excited for? Is there a part of our summary that has you worried? Stay tuned for more details, and share your thoughts in the comments.
The Flash premieres Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 @8pm on The CW.
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