Superhero TV shows can be a prickly pear of sorts. Not only do you need to make an engaging, quality show — a thing that is already quite difficult on its own — but you also have to make sure you don’t piss off all those throngs of often rabid fanboys. Okay, perhaps there is never any way to keep all those fanboys happy, but if you can manage to combine quality drama, intense action, fun thrills, a bit of snarky comedy AND keep the fandom satiated, then you might actually have yourself a superhero hit. A few weeks before The Flash made its long anticipated debut on the CW network, Fox debuted its equally long-awaited Batman prequel series, Gotham. According to most viewers, this one included, the Fox series is how one does not make a superhero hit. The Flash on the other hand, is exactly how you make one.
Now granted, Gotham is supposed to be more of a police drama; a TV thriller that will eventually, in theory, spawn into a superhero series. Nonetheless, just three episodes in, and already this critic (and noted fanboy himself) is ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. After just one episode of The Flash, I’m already chomping at the bit for more more more. Ironically, new episodes cannot come fast enough for this guy. But enough of this (possibly inevitable) comparison to the seemingly hapless Gotham. Instead, let’s quickly compare it to the (possibly even more inevitable) Arrow, from which it can be seen as a back door spin-off of sorts. Barry Allen, the man who would become the Flash (for all those non-fanboys out there) appeared in two episodes of Arrow‘s season two, as a precursor for this new series.
Whereas Arrow, based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow character (again, for all you non-fanboys out there), acts as a shadowy vigilante show, complete with a brooding hero who does what he does more out of obligation than anything else (though Ollie Queen is still a hero, through and through), The Flash is more of a “fun time to be had” kinda show. But no matter where your personal preference happens to lie, be it the hooded, dark stylings of a show like Arrow, or the flashier (yeah, I went there) presence of the pilot episode of The Flash, you cannot deny how good of a debut this new show happens to be. Okay, I’m sure some will deny it, but they would be wrong, so no need to dwell on them and their obvious lack of faith and/or taste. That last sentence was meant as a snarky riposte to all those (possibly just as inevitable as everything else) haters out there, but I do really mean what I said. But enough of all this comparison. Just how well does The Flash stand on its own?
I can’t say what will come with future episodes, but in this pilot episode, right out of the gate, The Flash had me hooked. I would even go out on that proverbial limb and call it the best superhero TV debut since…well, possibly since ever. I know this is bold talk and all, but I stand by that bold statement. Like I said, I can’t say what this series will evolve into, but if this first episode is any indication, we are in for a fun time. What we get with The Flash, is a DC Comics show where its hero is actually having fun doing what he’s doing. The show stars Grant Gustin, last seen in the silly confines of shows like Glee and the retreaded 90210, as the fastest man alive, and he does a fine job in the position. It’s a different kind of presence, but Gustin still has just as strong a presence as Stephen Amell in Arrow. His personality seems to fit with the fun-loving do-gooder personality of Barry Allen’s iconic comic book superhero – and that works for me.
The series also shows promise in what is to come. We get flashes (yeah, I went there again) of the hero’s eventual arch-nemesis, as well as other well-loved characters from the Flash’s long, rich history. Heck, we even get John Wesley Shipp, the Flash from the 1990-91 CBS series (a series better than its one season and done record would have you believe) as Barry’s father. Granted, the show did have its faults as well. I’m not totally without criticism, after all. But really, the only foible I can find is the brief cameo appearance by Arrow himself, Stephen Amell. This brief scene rather smacked of silly product placing, of sorts. There’s even a moment where Amell is posed on the side of a building as if he is Spider-Man. And don’t even get me started on the painfully contrived emotional scene between Barry and his dad. But hey, these are just a couple of silly cases in a whole show, otherwise full of fun. Like I keep saying, I have no idea what the future may bring for this show (Arrow started off strong and just got better over time) but right now, the show plays out as a great first date. Now I only hope we can get past the typical rose-tinted first date bloom, and get down to a solid rest of the season that is as good as this first episode was.