The first season of the CW’s, ‘The Flash’, finished last week with a mind-bending, paradox-laden season finale cliffhanger. It was an episode that put the cherry on top of a blast of a television entrance for this DC Comics superhero, and a truly welcome one at that. Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen/Flash is a likable hero, a young man with flaws, but unlike many dour versions of DC heroes, embraces his awesome powers and has a blast using them to save others.
To this point, DC Comics and parent company Warner Bros. has introduced versions of its’ characters in movies and TV that skew dark and gritty. In some cases, like Batman, this makes sense, but in others like the ‘Man of Steel’ Superman and television’s ‘Arrow,’ the expected balance of light and dark with these particular characters is not present. While it is interesting to present Superman as having difficulty reconciling his god-like powers, the Christopher Reeve–era hero at least balanced this with moments of welcomed levity. The same goes for ‘Arrow’ (more on the decent 3rd season in another post to come), while anchored well by star Stephen Amell, could use a lighter touch at times – interestingly enough, he and the show play well in the Flash/Arrow crossovers, proving that this tempering works well for both the actors and characters. In fact, when Barry does try to emulate Oliver’s gray ethics, it backfires badly for him (re: episode “Rogues Train” in which he mistakenly partners up with nemesis and scene-stealing recurring villain, Captain Cold (Wentworth Millar, clearly having dastardly fun)).
‘The Flash’ works both in its’ overarching storyline involving arch-nemesis Reverse Flash and its’ meta-human-of-the-week tales, introducing various baddies from the comics in satisfying ways most of the time (the initial introduction of Weather Wizard was weak, something showrunners Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg recognized and corrected with the ‘reintroduction’ of the real villain, his brother – they excel at recognizing what works and what doesn’t on these series and adjusting accordingly). Gustin’s fellow supporting cast members are the secret weapons of the show, with standouts Jesse L. Martin (of L&O fame) as Joe West, and Tom Cavanagh, as mentor Dr. Harrison Wells, both men competing as father figures for the young hero. At first, it was somewhat jarring to have so many members of the ‘Flash support team’ at STAR Labs, but each actor/character has infused his/her part with an extra-dimension, and the writers always find a way for each member to contribute and/or complicate every situation.
The style and FX on the series are surprisingly top-notch for a television series (the only real letdown is the rendering of Gorilla Grodd) and it is safe to assume that the CGI will only improve with the ratings and cash infusion. The real draw are the scenes of the Flash running at ever-increasing high speeds, thrilling moments, often done in super slow-motion to reflect his perspective of the world at an elevated rate – these sequences are highly effective, on a true cinematic level. It is perplexing trying to understand why DC/Warner is committed to re-introducing this character on film for the inevitable ‘Justice League’ – why not feature Gustin as Barry as he already has this character down solid, creating entertainment that is in essence entertaining . . .