“The Flash” on The CW
Like some kind of post-Korean War armistice, comic book companies Marvel and DC appear to have carved up America’s entertainment industry, with Marvel laying indisputable claim to movie theaters (thanks to The Avengers et al.) and DC sweeping through television land (courtesy of “Arrow,” “Gotham” and upcoming additions including “Constantine” and “iZombie”). Etching another line in the sand is DC’s “The Flash,” which has already hit the ground running over on The CW.
Thanks to the popularity of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, DC has damn near issued a corporate decree mandating every live-action superhero be dark and gritty. Thankfully, “The Flash” bucks that trend, offering up a guileless young hero in the form of assistant forensic examiner Barry Allen (nice guy Grant Gustin, late of “Glee”). Allen follows the current TV fashion of giving every detective miraculous, Sherlock Holmes-like powers of deduction (see for reference: ABC’s “Forever”). The joke here being that he’s only a lowly assistant, and nobody listens to him. Our crime-fighter acquires real-deal super powers, though, when lightning strikes an experimental particle accelerator, granting him super-duper speed.
The effects sequences—The Flash’s high-speed powers, in particular—are zippy, energetic and loads of fun. (Hopefully the budget will keep up with them as the season goes on.)
“The Flash” displays some nice moments of wit. “Lightning gave me abs?” asks an incredulous, post-accident Allen. It’s refreshing to see an optimistic, non-cynical superhero for a change. (Heck, even DC’s recent Man of Steel flick was thick with brooding and non-primary colors.) Unlike other comic book series (like the first half-season of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), this show doesn’t shy away from comic book conventions. Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) drops by to advise Allen to “wear a mask,” and we get a super-powered villain in the very first episode. (Comic book lovers can expect appearances by the likes of Captain Cold and Firestorm in future episodes.) The effects sequences—The Flash’s high-speed powers, in particular—are zippy, energetic and loads of fun. (Hopefully the budget will keep up with them as the season goes on.) The show also shows off a welcome sense of nostalgia. The part of Barry’s father (stuck in jail and framed for his wife’s murder—a subplot that motivates a young Mr. Allen’s crime-fighting career) is played by John Wesley Shipp. Longtime superhero fans will recognize Shipp as the star of CBS’ short-lived 1990 version of “The Flash.” That’s what we call “fan service.”
CW’s take on “The Flash” is hardly groundbreaking. It doesn’t rewrite the rules of superheroes on TV, sticking closely to the template DC laid out in the long-running “Smallville” series. Nevertheless, it’s a comfortable addition to today’s superhero landscape—what with its old-fashioned crime-fighting scenario, its likable star and its wide-open universe of action and adventure.