The Flash (2014) – Season 1
Showrunner: Greg Berlanti
Spinning off a whole new series based on a few appearances on one successful show can be a risk, but one that has more than paid off this time for Greg Berlanti!
Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is a police forensic scientist in Central City, but when a particle accelerator explodes giving him super-speed, he teams with the scientists who created the accelerator, Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) to understand his new abilities and put them to use stopping criminal ‘meta-humans’ now appearing in the city.
Now I know I’m posting this a few months late with season 2 due to start in just a few days, but I think it’s worth looking at the first season as a bit of a reminder in preparation for the show returning especially as first and second seasons of shows can be vastly different in many ways.
The character of the Flash has been featured in a show back in 1990, but it only ran for one season, and with multiple characters taking on the name of ‘The Flash’ in the comics, this was an interesting prospect when announced as it could go in any number of ways. In the end, the resulting show has such a contrasting tone to ‘Arrow’ and features very distinctly different skills and villains which all help to set it apart. As ‘Arrow’ has been quite dark tonally, this immediately became some of the most fun a D.C. adaptation has put on screen in a while, even working in a few crossovers that were not too frequent and nicely naturally arising.
Rather than just remaking old Flash, this is right up to date while still paying homage in a number of ways to both the canon of comics and the preceding adaptation. The idea of using a particle accelerator as the cause of his powers is brilliant, really setting this fantastical story within real-world and contemporary technology. TO go along with that the sets are all excellent and detailed, Star Labs especially is modern, bright and spacious, visually quite a change from Oliver Queen’s lair, and even complex spaces such as the particle accelerator feel tactile rather than just being completely green-screened.
When it comes to casting I have no complaints at all, I like the whole ensemble cast. Grant Gustin (who I only knew previously from a few appearances in ‘Glee’) is very likeable in the title role, and a close friend of mine who hated his casting before the show premiered was won over by the end of the pilot episode. I also really like Danielle Panabaker (‘Sky High’) as scientist Caitlin Snow, in many ways she’s a stronger female support than Felicity Smoak and has fewer ‘annoying moments’. Without a doubt though, the best character is Cisco Ramon. Carlos Valdes is absolutely fantastic in the role, that of scientific wonder/geeking out superhero fanboy, and rather than that spoiling the show by undermining the suspension of disbelief, it enhances it as you can totally believe this guy loves all the changes that are going on. Rather than just going, ‘oh there are people with special abilities’ as a lot of these shows do, he often takes the moment and acknowledges how crazy it is and how amazing certain meta-abilities are. I find that infinitely more believable as a reaction than just going with it.
This first season has an un-ironically fast pace to it, the character establishment was partly done thanks to ‘Arrow’ and though it re-treads some events mostly it moves the narrative along right from the pilot and continues through the whole season. One episode felt like a season finale because it came to such a crescendo but was still a few episodes off the end, so I was a little worried at that point how they might build to end of the season effectively, but fear not, no episodes felt like total filler or wasted time.
I feel now like it’s a bit of a shame they’re making an unrelated Flash movie in a few years, especially given that it feels like there can’t be much they could possibly do that would be a whole lot better or more satisfying than this feels so far, though I’m sure the big-screen treatment will be a whole different entity completely. I look forward to seeing how this continues to work itself in with the D.C. televisual world, especially as they throw a clear ‘Green Lantern’ reference in the penultimate episode and a few smaller ones are dotted through the season, making you wonder just how much this set of interconnected shows may grow in the future.
Going from being the new kid, and a spin-off, at the start of the season, by the end it was helping to set up another spin-off ‘DC’s Legends of Tomorrow’. This upcoming third show is a strong testimony of how well this has been received. To say that this was a strong first season would be a bit of an understatement, I’d even say ‘The Flash’ has gained more fans than ‘Arrow’ as the tone seems to appeal to those getting fed up with dark and moody superheroes. In fact, the producer of ‘Arrow’ recently suggested that its next season would be taking a much lighter tone, undoubtedly lifting a page from Flash’s book. Next season will be an interesting one with the three Berlanti DC shows running side-by-side (not counting his involvement in ‘Supergirl’ which is on a different network), so expect frequent crossovers and incessant inter-series references, plus a much more enjoyable and fun-infused tone over them all.