The Scarlet Speedster made his triumphant return to the small screen this week in the new CW series The Flash. Spun out of their hit series Arrow, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg aim to expand their established universe with the reintroduction of Barry Allen. The show doesn’t have the same dark tone as Arrow, but there is still plenty to enjoy for fans of that series and newcomers alike.
The episode does a quick rehash of the accident that gives Barry Allen his ability to run at super speeds. He is struck by a lightning bolt the night of a particle accelerator accident and wakes up from a coma nine months later with powers. It’s a refreshing take on an origin story as it doesn’t last an entire episode or season. It gives viewers the basic story without any hand holding and boldly moves on. From here we see Barry discovering his powers and learning to control them. He goes through an accelerated arc of development here, which works for what the show is trying to do. By the time Flash has his showdown with the Weather Wizard, we know who this character is and what he’s about. The plot arc of the episode is more akin to a movie rather than a TV episode, but it works well.
From the outset it’s obvious that this show is a more light-hearted series than its predecessor. Grant Gustin plays Barry as a loveable nerd who just wants to do the right thing. I wasn’t sure about the casting choice when it was first announced, but Gustin commands the role and makes it his own. He’s charming, but unsure of himself. It’s this humbleness that helps capture the spirit of the character. Gustin’s supporting cast are generally good throughout the episode. Jesse L. Martin plays Detective Joe West, a sort of father figure as well as Barry’s boss. The two have some good chemistry that helps this relationship feel genuine. Candice Patton plays Iris West, Barry’s best friend and the detective’s daughter. We’ve seen the detective’s daughter scenario on Arrow before, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out differently. Also, I personally enjoyed seeing John Wesley Shipp, the first actor to portray Barry Allen on television, given a small role in the episode as Barry’s father.
The tone of the episode is one of its biggest strengths. There’s a trend in comic-related media since The Dark Knight to keep the mood somber and the story darker. This works in some cases, but Flash is a fun character. He runs around at incredible speed in a bright red suit fighting a brightly colored rogues gallery. I’m glad that the creators allowed some of that fun into their series. When Barry whoops with joy as he speeds down the street, it gives viewers something to cheer about. The Flash will have dark moments, but in contrast to the current tone they’ll be all the more effective.
One weakness of the episode is the throw-away villain of the week. The Weather Wizard just isn’t given enough time to be an interesting villain. He goes from bank robber to self-proclaimed god in the span of a day or two. There’s no substance to the character and that makes the final battle fall a little flat. I’m hoping that in future episodes we’ll see more developed antagonists. The same particle accelerator accident that gave Barry his powers seemed to hit a lot of people in the city. There might be a temptation to churn out a different villain every week, but I hope that the series creators give the antagonists the attention they deserve.
All in all, I’m very pleased with the pilot. I think that the show does a great job in setting itself apart in tone from Arrow and giving viewers something to get excited about. Gustin is turning out to be a great pick for the lead role and his supporting cast are all well chosen. As long as the villains are given more depth in future episodes, The Flash will offer plenty to keep fans new and old satisfied.