Last night saw the debut of the latest superhero television series to hit the CW, the flash. Based on the long-standing DC comics character, this marks the second live-action outing for the character in over 20 years (The first one being the the 1990 television series starring John Wesley Shipp). If the pilot is any indication, The flash could very well be on his way to claiming his spot alongside Batman and Superman in the pop-cultural lexicon (and wonder woman, come 2016).
Grant Gustin delivers a tremendously likable and relatable performance as Barry Alan, the awkward but affable forensic scientist who after receiving Superspeed from a freak lightning strike (incurred by a particle Excelerator explosion) begins moonlighting as the flash: The fastest man alive. Gustin’s performance here is very evocative of Andrew Garfield in the latest string of Spiderman movies (The shy, lanky but quickwitted Everyman/ nerd wish fulfillment archetype). The supporting cast does a serviceable job. Candace Patton plays obligatory love interest/childhood best friend Iris West (One episode in and there’s already a love triangle in motion, I don’t know why studios think people like this got old 10 years ago). While suitably convincing in the role of ” concerned female friend” her character has yet to make much of an impression, however it is only the pilot episode leaving room for improvement. Jesse L. Martin plays her father, police captain and Surrogate father to Barry Allen, Who brings both charm and wisdom to the role of mentor to Barry Allen.
Tom Cavanaugh, Danielle Pennebaker and Carlos Valdes Play the group of scientists from star labs who help The flash in his quest to better understand his abilities, fight the oncoming storm of meta humans like himself and clear his father’s name of the murder of his mother. Cavanagh brings a surprising bitterness to the role that suits the character (or just what the character presents himself as, and end of episode stinger implies a much larger secret behind him). Danielle Pennebaker comes off a little stiff but her character is very coarse as a result of her grieving a deceased husband,so I imagine she’ll be feeling more comfortable in the character as the series progresses. Valdes’s character could potentially prove to be quite annoying, being the nerdy goofball who makes bad jokes (he’s a nerd so he wears a Bazinga T-shirt, get it?) finally there is the antagonist of the episode, known in the comics as weather Wizard, A bank robber who receives Weather controlling abilities during the particle Excelerator explosion, and promptly develops a God complex. He is played by Chad Rook with ample sleaze and smirk, giving sufficient personality to a one off character (Spoiler alert: He is shot dead at the end). In a fun bit of casting, previous Helmer of the Of the Flash moniker, John Wesley Shipp plays Barry Allen’s jailed father, in an almost passing of the torch fashion.
The plot runs at a brisk pace, which I suppose fits the nature of the character. It’s very simple and straightforward: we are introduced to Barry Allen, he gets powers, bad guy emerges, he stops bad guy, accepts his role as superhero. However the show has ample heart to it with a likable lead and some impressive special effects for television budget. All in all the pilot is fun, if a little familiar (but not so devoid of personality that it appears tired or derivative). For example, there is a creative externalization of Barry Allan’s intellect during his investigations of crime scenes that are very evocative of the BBC show Sherlock and films like stranger than fiction that I hope to see more of as the series goes on. In retrospect that seems to be the defining characteristic of the pilot, some good ideas with room for improvement: let’s hope they keep the momentum going.