The premiere of the Flash television series debuts this week (on Tuesday, October 7), and several of us at Speed Force have written reviews of the pilot episode. There are some spoilers, of course, so you can decide if you’d rather read them before or after the episode airs.
Spoilers after the jump!
Ed Garrett’s thoughts:
“My name is Barry Allen, and I’m the fastest man alive!”
I love that line –- and for this old fan, the pilot episode for the new Flash series is a very welcome sight. I’ve followed the adventures of Barry Allen for fifty years –- literally fifty years –- and while there are minor quibbles here and there, I have to say they largely got this one right. Actor Grant Gustin has channeled the personality of the Barry Allen we know and love, with the right amount of nerdiness plus the basic goodness and integrity that makes Barry such a great character.
There is a mix of the various backstories for Barry in this episode, with a couple of slight twists for the show itself. We still have lightning hitting the lab, but it’s combined with STAR Labs’ particle accelerator accident to explain not only Barry but a likely onslaught of meta-powered bad guys as the series moves forward. And we get a somewhat modernized and darker version of the classic Flash uniform, used to reduce the impact of friction without needing to add an “aura” to his list of powers.
Ok, let’s talk about the new uniform. Yes, it’s different –- but I’m okay with it. The 1990s TV costume may have been closer to the comics’ version, but it too had a darker color palette with an even stranger explanation (a prototype deep-diving suit).
The main thing to me is not whether the costume is spot-on for the comic, but whether the character is recognizable and if the story can draw in both long-time fans like me and newer fans who aren’t as familiar with the Scarlet Speedster. On that scale, the episode delivers exceptionally well. This Barry Allen is easy to cheer for, even if you’ve never heard of him before watching the episode. And there are enough shout-outs to long-time Flash fans to keep everyone happy. We get HUGE hints for the future, from Grodd to the Crisis and more — letting us know that there’s some real respect being paid to the comics version of The Flash.
That’s one of the best things I can say –- that they aren’t shying away from this being a comics character. They aren’t afraid to have a Gorilla Grodd or a Weather Wizard or any of the other more fantastic elements from The Flash’s long history.
Final judgment? It’s hard to say based on one episode…but this pilot certainly gives me a lot of hope for what should be an excellent series. One thing’s for sure –- you can count on me being glued to the television each week for this series.
Lia Brown’s thoughts:
The episode is not without its flaws, but I really enjoyed it and am definitely hyped for the rest of the series.
Thanks to the pilot’s five-minute preview, everybody knew that Clyde Mardon would appear and have weather-controlling powers, but there are in fact two Mardon brothers — the other only appears in a photo, but is obviously Mark. Clyde is seemingly killed at the end of the episode, which paves the way for Mark to debut. Presumably the series creators wanted a super-powered ‘name’ character for the pilot but didn’t want to use up one of the major villains, and thus Clyde was drafted for the role.
Clyde has metahuman powers, having gotten them from the same particle accelerator accident which gave Barry his speed. I’m guessing Mark will be the same. And many of the Rogues will probably have meta powers (rather than technology) too, as the episode indicates there are likely other people out there with new abilities.
Gorilla Grodd does not appear but his existence is very strongly implied, and the showrunners have since confirmed that he will be in a later episode. There’s also a reference to Gambi (presumably Paul), which was already known because Geoff Johns had posted a photo on Twitter. And the Reverse Flash appears in the same flashback we saw in the five-minute series preview, so nothing’s new there.
The big reveal is Harrison Wells — he may be good and he may be bad, but is leaning towards bad and is definitely lying to everyone. He’s either from the future or has access to information from the future, which suggests he may actually be the Reverse Flash rather than Eddie Thawne. He has a newspaper from 2024 which states that the Flash disappeared during a “Crisis” and also mentions red skies, with some very obvious implications. A ‘Crisis’ is another plot point which has since been confirmed by the showrunners to play a role in the series, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out on television.
Cisco Ramon is far less annoying than he was in his appearances on Arrow, which is a relief because I couldn’t stand him on that show. So far I think Iris and Caitlin (the only female characters aside from Barry’s dead mother) are the weakest points of the episode, unfortunately. I don’t know whether the issue is the actors or the writing for the characters, but I hope they improve. Certainly it’s not unusual for early episodes to have kinks to work out and actors needing to grow into their roles, so they may well become better with time.
Thus far Joe West is one of my favourite characters (I’m a sucker for geeky Barry as well), and one of the strongest actors. And I think Grant Gustin is very good as Barry; he has the same awkward and nerdy enthusiasm which has always endeared comics Barry to me, and we get a sense that he’s genuinely a good person. Given his personality, it’s entirely believable that he becomes a lighter and more public hero than the Arrow, even though they exist in the same universe and are acquainted with each other.
Some pieces of dialogue were cringe-worthy every now and then (the line about twerking was particularly awful), and I hope the scriptwriters tighten it up a bit. But it often takes a while for a show to find its feet, and I actually thought this was better than most of the pilots I’ve watched.
Interestingly, the series doesn’t really try to hide its Vancouver shooting locale, which is funny. I’ve been to some of the places that are visible in the episode. Also, those mountains are not quite Kansas-Missouri — although maybe Central City is located elsewhere in the television series.
My final verdict: the pilot was very promising and I have great hopes for the rest of the series. I’m looking forward to more episodes in October!
Greg Elias’ thoughts:
Having been introduced to The Flash and DC Comics as a child when the 1990s television series was airing, the idea of a Flash TV show is a very exciting and loaded concept, even on a purely personal level.
The Flash, in all of the character’s incarnations, has always been one step beyond. One beyond the criminals of the 1940s, one beyond the space-age of the 1960s, and beyond the boundaries of our minds and the universe. Through all of this — plus a psychotic and psychedelic cadre of nemeses — he manages to be DC’s most relatable character. He is our scout into the unknown: be it the winds of time, the depths of space, or Gorilla City.
The pilot episode of CW’s new Flash series is one step beyond the tonal limitations seen in Green Lantern and Man of Steel, and even beyond the melodrama of its parent, Arrow. The self-awareness that voided the inherent fun and inspiration in Superman is gone, replaced by an excitement over a wealth of characters and ideas that fit extremely well into a modified Gem Cities. The glimpses of past and future in one episode give this Flash fan more to look forward to than the entire run of the 1990s series, which I believed at one point to be the last, best time we would see the Flash in costume on television.
Having grown up with the fantastic Justice League cartoons, as well as some enjoyable TV series like Lois and Clark and a wealth of older material to draw from, the comic book media crossovers of the last fifteen to twenty years have been both exciting and maddening. For every animated achievement or Dark Knight film or transcendent video game, there have been large-scale hype-hangovers like Green Lantern, a handful of truncated and broken cartoon adaptations, or a heartbreaking, world-failing Man of Steel. As a lifelong DC fan, it became easy to feel like the company was too chaotic or careless to deliver on their massive, built-in potential and would rather submit to a deadened, tone-deaf apocalypse of sub-realism.
I get the feeling that the showrunners have targeted the specific elements which make Flash unique, while not ruling out any options or hooks lying outside the realm of the comics. The promise of Grodd, the Reverse-Flash, and a hint of Crisis on Infinite Earths will keep me fixated on October 7th and beyond. This has the potential to define the Flash for a new generation, and a pilot that opens so many intriguing, mind-bending possibilities while reaching feature-film quality is a wonderful first step.
Devin Johnson’s thoughts:
Being nearly 30, I’m old enough to remember watching the first pilot for the first show back when I was a young lad with my dad. This is what endeared me to the character, long before I ever laid eyes on a Flash comic. John Wesley Shipp was really my first Flash and while the acting on the show was a little off and some of the episodes were a little cheesy, the show still holds a very special place in my heart. Fast forward more than twenty years later and The Flash has come full circle. He’s back on TV with a good actor in the role, and some interesting little twists.
I’m not going to spoil too much here, although I’m not sure what DC and the CW haven’t revealed to us. Personally I miss the good old days where we found out about a TV show as we watched it, but alas in this new world of social media and 24/7 news cycles everyone wants to know everything even before it happens. I’m not going to follow this trend too closely.
Having watched the newest pilot over thirty times I have to say that I love what Grant Gustin brings to the role of The Flash. Although I believe he has a Peter Parker-like vibe (especially as far as appearance) I still think he does a great job of bringing the best qualities of Barry Allen to the forefront; his excitable geeky nature, his awkwardness, and him genuinely being a good person. I have to admit that I wasn’t too thrilled with them keeping Barry’s revised comic book origins from The Flash: Rebirth but they pulled it off brilliantly. I really feel for Barry and his obsession with finding the truth about what happened to his mother and I can completely identify with his loss of a father figure and finding a new one in Detective Joe West. I also like that they showed him using the forensic portions of his character. Barry is intelligent and a bit of a detective in his own right both due to law enforcement training and also due to honing his skills while searching for clues about the mysterious person that murdered his mother and they’ve captured this aspect flawlessly. Completely unrelated, but I’m also happy that Barry doesn’t own a car (just like me) and they kept the recurring theme of him always being late.
Bravo on the casting of Jesse L. Martin in the role of Joe West. He definitely has the chops to bring some gravitas to the series. Especially considering that every other member of the cast is fairly young (with the exception of Tom Cavanagh). Joe grounds the series in a way that the other characters have yet to do and gives us a stark contrast to Barry. While Joe raised Barry after his mother was killed and his father was jailed he never really believed Barry’s fantastical story about “the man in the lightning”, and consequently tried fruitlessly to keep Barry anchored in reality over the years. Having watched him for years on Law & Order it is nice to see a familiar face. He also provides a nice alternative to the somewhat flighty (so far), Iris West (Candice Patton), his daughter and Barry’s adopted sister. Joe West starts out partnered with Fred Chyre (Al Sapienza), who long-time Flash readers will remember from Wally West’s supporting cast, but unfortunately that does not last long. Joe is later partnered with suspiciously named, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Thawne being the last name of Barry’s greatest enemy Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. It is later revealed he is dating Iris.
Iris West played by Candice Patton has the dubious pleasure of uttering the worst line of the whole pilot (something about twerking, ugh) but overall seems like a passable actress. It is easy to see that she is super-attractive but she doesn’t really seem like Barry’s type (which admittedly has always been the case, even in the comics). Going back to Barry’s appearance on Arrow, I have to wonder if Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) will take on the role of Patty Spivot from the comics, who seems to have a lot more in common (at least on the surface) with Barry than Iris. It is obvious that we won’t see a relationship between Barry and Iris develop until much later, but it is awesome that they actually ended up including her in the series on a regular basis as opposed to the original show that wrote her out after the first episode.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, S.T.A.R. Labs employees, Danielle Panabaker (Dr. Caitlin Snow), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), and the big mystery person of the series so far, Tom Cavanagh (Dr. Harrison Wells) all add a little bit of something interesting to the pilot. Cisco and Caitlin were first introduced to us during the Arrow backdoor pilot and are considerably less annoying than in their first appearance. I like that each character has a specialty that gives Barry some advantages. Cisco is the tech guy who designs and builds Flash’s suit and as comic book aficionados will note is the alter-ego of formerly deceased character, Vibe. Dr. Caitlin Snow specializes in bio-engineering and has a tragic past that we’ve already learned will play into the introduction of yet another comic character. Dr. Wells is definitely hiding something that I’m sure will be a major plot point throughout the series. I loved the call-back to the original series with the presence of S.T.A.R. Labs and even the recreation of the testing sequence on the track.
The more I see of the suit the more it grows on me. I still think it is a little too dark but for what it is they kept it somewhat faithful to the comic book costume. Not as faithful as the unnaturally bulky suit from the 90s show but considering all the directions they could have gone with it, not bad. The scene where they introduce the suit reminds of the scene from issue 50 of Wally West’s series where they introduce the shiny suit. The scientists use similar scientific terms like reinforced tripolymer, abrasive resistant, and so on to describe it. I really dig how they kept the real world explanation about the convenient presence of the suit. In the original series it was an experimental deep sea diving suit and in the new series is was originally designed to replace firefighter turnouts as a way to give back to the community, although that doesn’t explain how so much of it resembles a super-hero costume off the break. Maybe Cisco is a comic book nerd? The producers have also revealed that the suit is ever-evolving and we could possibly see something even closer to the original costume the further we get in the series. I wonder if the 90s show had lasted longer than a season if the suit would have had a similar evolution, especially as technology and special effects improved over the years? In any case, I’m super-excited to see where they go with it.
One of my least favorite parts of the show was the Weather Wizard (Chad Rook), or what we are supposed to think is the Weather Wizard, now renamed Clyde Mardon and a bank robber along with his brother, Mark. Clyde receives his powers in a freak lightning storm when the reactor blows in an accident that claims his brother Mark. Weather Wizard is my favorite Rogue from the comics and I can’t really say that I’m digging anything about him from this show. From the internalized powers and abilities to the random southern accent, everything about him just seems totally off. However, he did provide a great foil for our Scarlet Speedster and a credible threat to really show that The Flash can do a lot more than anyone thought he could. Also, are we sure this is who the Weather Wizard is going to end up being? Given certain events in the pilot, one can’t be too sure.
Overall, the show looks to be developing into something truly special. From the creators actually embracing the fantastical nature of The Flash’s universe, the fairly faithful adaptation of the costume and the spectacular special effects, the show really brings what is special about the Keystone Comet to life. I was already a huge fan of Arrow and now I have something else to actually look forward to on television. Although I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Gotham, and Constantine is also forthcoming. Wow, I never thought I would live in a world where four properties from DC Comics that I actually want to watch were on television simultaneously but here we are and I wouldn’t have it any other way.