The Flash! A review of the CW TV show (part two)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Tuesday: the Flash

Part Two (here is part one)

It does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce this is my favorite of the DC/CW shows The Flash is light-hearted without being silly.

“Light-hearted?” you might say, “Worlds are imperiled; timelines are wiped and sometimes good people die!”

True, but by light-hearted I mean the show still keeps its sense of fun even at the darkest of times. You cheer on the good guys and boo the bad guys. You know things will turn out all right in the end, however tense it might be.

Watch Supergirl episode “World’s Finest” in which Flash appears. The scenes in which they appear together emits so much joy and sweetness it hits you from every angle. There is genuine chemistry between the actors. You don’t see this on TV very often. Good acting, good writing, good show!

Flash sticks to its comic book roots in the Silver Age and Bronze Age. There are lots of Easter eggs that make this old fan smile.

  • There are so many references to the Silver Age Green Lantern – Ferris Air and Coast City are mentioned frequently and we even see a flight jacket with a “Jordan” name patch – that I think an appearance by the ring slinger is inevitable in the years to come.
  • Even their casting harkens back to loyalty and tradition: Barry Allen’s father (John Wesley Shipp) played the scarlet speedster in the 1990 TV show. Great casting – when I first read that he was playing Barry’s father I was excited! When I heard that Jay Garrick would appear in season 2, I thought, “Too bad, Wesley Shipp would have made the perfect Jay Garrick!”
  • Even the villains give homage to the past: the Trickster is played by Mark Hamill (do I REALLY need to tell you about that OTHER role he played), who played the Trickster in the 1990 TV series. Watching him chew the scenery is a delight.

Jesse L. Martin, who plays Iris and Wally’s father (and Barry’s adoptive father) is always a highlight. His role as a policeman harkens back to his Law & Order days. But characterization was not L&O’s forte. What a treat to see him laugh heartily, mist up as he gives fatherly advice, etc. He is superb…

Grant Gustin is no slouch either. As Barry Allen and the Flash you can feel his joy in playing the character. “I love being a hero,” Flash often says. Through Grant’s acting, it shows.

I would be remiss not mentioning Carlos Valdes as Cisco. He plays the viewer’s role in the show: giving names to the heroes and villains, encouraging Flash to fight the good fight, creating the mcguffins that beat the bad guys. He is us.

Rounding out the crew of Flash’s allies are Danielle Panabaker as the beautiful uber-nerd Caitlin Snow. She started off as a cold fish but warmed up to the Flash (and us) pretty quickly. Her “date” with Barry in the karaoke scene is a must-watch. I hope her role in Season 3 is better than the love-sick hostage of Season 2, though. The character and the actress deserves better.

Candace Patton as Iris West is stunningly beautiful (just think if she were real: her dad’s a policeman, yeek!) and plays her up-and-down relationship with Barry well. Both Iris and Barry learn what we comic book fans have known for almost 50 years – they are destined to wed. But with all the time tinkering; will they?

The villains (super or otherwise) are also fun. One of the best part of the Silver/Bronze Age Flash comics was his Rogue’s Gallery. The fiends are second only to Batman’s slate of bad guys. The only one NOT to appear so far is Abra Kadabra; and with all the time-traveling taking place in the show this is surprising. I think even the Top showed up (I might be wrong, though). Mordant blue, even the TURTLE shows up!

The show has its flaws: most obvious is the character’s past. When Wally West shows up, we old comic fans have a fair idea where his character will eventually lead. Characters with familiar last names (Thawne) spoil any surprise to old readers of the comic. There is no Black-Canary-bait-and-switch ala Arrow, although with Edward Thawne, they try.

Binge watching reveals another flaw in the show: sometimes it tends to wallow in formula. Villain is introduced, Flash confronts villain and gets his ass handed to him, Flash’s back-up team propose a solution using Star Trek Next Generation-esque technobabble, they create a mcguffin to help Flash/use an everyday devise to help Flash, Flash confronts villain again and defeats him. Insert subplots at any point (Barry loves Iris, Iris loves someone else or visa versa/team member might be bad guy/bad guy might be good guy).

Maybe it is a problem inherent in the premise, but they use it too often. Supergirl and Arrow use that formula, too.

A final issue that gnaws at me (and not just Flash, but with all DC/CW and other programs as well), is the season-length storyline that concludes with the big season finale. A super-supervillain is hinted at from episode one and introduced about four or five shows in. Other plots and villains come and go, but the super-supervillain plot keeps seeping to the surface – usually given the main plot-point every few episodes. The last three or four shows of the season deal exclusively with defeating the BIG baddie.

This is tedious for the casual watcher and eyerolling for the loyal fan. It became something of a joke at one point in Arrow: “Some supervillain is threatening to destroy the entire city? Must be May!”

For Season One of Flash this was acceptable, as everything about the show is new. By the end of Season Two, a new viewer will be lost, or should I say Lost. If the “previously on…” segment takes more than twenty minutes, you’ve lost your audience. Flash is in danger of that.

I can’t even tell you the events of Season Three without giving spoilers for Season Two (although the ads are giving it all away – it HAS to, to be effective)! All I can say is Barry regrets what he did and is trying to change the people and things he has affected!

The show is also in danger of becoming one long storyline (ala Agents of Shield). Which is fine if you are fan of that, but the real danger comes as lack of story progression: no plot advancement with the good guys facing failed plans and disappointed goals for 20 episodes (ala Agents of Shield) leaving the viewers frustrated and looking elsewhere (ala Agents of Shield).

In other words, every show will become “Villain is introduced, Flash confronts villain and gets his ass handed to him, Flash’s back-up team propose a solution using Star Trek Next Generation-esque technobabble, they create a mcguffin to help Flash/use an everyday devise to help Flash, Flash is defeated anyway, repeat twenty times, Flash wins in episode 22, but it is revealed the enemy lives and will square off again next season. Repeat until cancelled.” (ala Agents of Shield).

See what I mean?

But let’s hope Flash doesn’t descend to that. There is too much love in the show, I think. And there is too much love OF the show to make me think otherwise!

 

Arrow is next…

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

 

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