“My name is Barry Allen, and I am the FASTEST man alive.” The CW’s The Flash is off to a running start with its pilot episode, and this fangirl is breathless in the wake of its momentum (Sorry about the running puns). This show had a brilliant first episode, full of heart, bursting with comic book Easter eggs, and superbly rendered special effects. The Flash promises to be a fast fan favorite.
Grant Gustin stars as Barry Allen, a Central City Police Forensic Scientist, who has had a rough go of it in life, but has not become jaded. The CW’s Arrow, introduced Barry and his “accident” to us in season 2 (episodes 8 and 9) and we have been restless ever since, waiting for the “Scarlet Speedster’s” own show to be up and running. (I can’t help it!)
The pilot episode of The Flash begins in true comic book form, with Barry introducing himself to the viewer and telling us his story. Fourteen years earlier, Barry is a kind-hearted and smart young boy, who doesn’t like to see others get picked on; a combination for being the recipient of childhood bullying if there ever was one. Barry’s parents are loving and supportive of Barry, and encourage him to keep fighting the good fight. Sadly, we see Barry’s mother killed in a ball of yellow and red lightning, while Barry and his father are helpless to stop it. Later in the episode, we discover Barry’s father was convicted of his wife’s murder, as there was no evidence of Barry’s claim of a “lightning storm” or the man he claimed to see in the midst of it.
Fast forward to the present, and we see Barry running (literally) late for work and upon arriving, he does some Sherlock-esque deducing at the scene of a bank robbery. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), the father of his best friend, Iris, is the detective on site investigating the scene with his partner. Martin’s role is highly reminiscent of his time on Law & Order. As Barry tests the evidence recovered, we meet the lovely, Iris West (Candice Patton), daughter of Detective West and best friend of Barry, who clearly has deeper feelings for her. Iris, however, is either oblivious or in denial. Barry and Iris visit Star Labs as Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) stands before the crowd and tells them about the impressive future of physics the particle accelerator will provide. After an altercation with a purse snatcher, which Barry loses, he heads back to his lab where we see a board filled with newspaper clippings and his personal investigation into his mother’s death. The accident which transforms Barry into the Flash is recreated from Arrow and we see Barry struck by lightning which was caused by the exploding Star Labs particle accelerator, and thrown into a shelf of chemicals. As Barry lies unconscious, red electrical currents surge underneath his skin and Barry ends up in a coma for nine months. When he wakes up, he finds out he has changed and he is not the only one.
A criminal thought to be killed in the particle accelerator explosion shows up and wreaks a whirlwind of havoc. Barry receives information that a lot of weird has been going on in the months he’s been out, and thanks to the explosion releasing a ton of before hypothetical, now all too real, dark energy, anti-matter, and all kinds of metahuman miracle grow, there are a lot of soft cases that need solving. Barry enlists the help of his new friends at Star Labs and encounters plenty of opposition along the way. He receives a very cool suit, and when Barry turns to a friend and shares a very touching moment with his father, we see his intentions to help those in need reinforced.
There is A LOT going on this episode. There are so many DC shout outs and nods I would have to write another article entirely just to list them all. So with the foundation laid above, and not wanting to spoil any big plot points, I will simply share what I did and did not like.
- Like: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen. Barry Allen is arguably the most likable character in the DC Universe. Not just by fans, but by other heroes as well. He is so full of heart and so optimistic a character, without being sickeningly sweet, you would be hard pressed to find a human being who didn’t like him. Gustin portrays that likability with intention and spirit. His quirks are endearing and his sense of right and wrong comes across as real with no affectation.
- Like: Name dropping and nods to comic book lore. I was excited to have caught so much on my own and yet still be surprised when I read about more Easter eggs online! I have heard it said they crammed too much into the episode, but I thought it was the perfect long-time fan pandering to new fan wooing ratio. And a major cameo is worth the price of admission.
- Like: The special effects are good, if a little obvious and campy at times. Considering it’s a CW television budget though, I think they held up nicely.
- Like: Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) are an awesome inclusion. DC comic book fans will recognize their names, the rest of you… Just. You. Wait.
- Like: The prospect of an entire season, including some Arrow crossover action!!!
- Dislike: How harsh, and down right nasty some of the other characters speak to Barry about his convictions, his curiosity, and his desire to help others. It is a more than a little off-putting when a character who cares about Barry shouts at and scolds Barry for believing in his father’s innocence.
- Dislike: Pacing on the villain’s story. It was a little too quick, and a major rogue was given only a tiny bit of character development and story time. Bummer.
- Dislike: Not all acting chops are on the same par, but I have hopes they will get there. Some characters will need much more work than others, before they end up classified as utterly annoying.
- Dislike: Too many people in the very first episode know Barry has powers and/or is The Flash. I can’t stand when they do that right out the gate.
This show is great. “Flash-tastic” as my daughter said after watching it. The first episode proves to the viewer that not all heroes have to be dark and broody thanks to unfortunate, and often unthinkable, circumstances in their lives. Barry Allen is an overcomer and a beacon of light in an otherwise dark universe. I believe he has what it takes to be the balance DC desperately needs right now. I believe in the impossible.
The Flash airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on the CW. The pilot is available at CWTV.com and Hulu Plus.
Sierra O’Loughlin =]