The CW’s new “The Flash” embodies the same cheerful spirit of the best comic book adaptations, where the hero is strictly a good guy, albeit a tad hapless, and the villains appear to be lining up for some good old fashioned skull-cracking.
The pilot, which recently found its way online, is an entertaining world-building hour of introductions, mysteries, and Easter eggs that lay the foundation for what to expect once the series hits the ground running this October. The cast is by and large strong, though Grant Gustin is thoroughly charming as Barry Allen, even if he doesn’t totally remind comic book fans of his DC Comics counterpart. Gustin is likable and amusing in his portrayal of the perpetually late forensics scientist who is granted the ability to race at impossible speeds as the costumed hero the Flash. Gustin also makes a believable transition to superhero in the episode’s climactic scene.
The series opens on the day Central City is rocked by a massive particle accelerator explosion which happens to create a bolt of lightning that strikes Barry, leaving him comatose for months. When he awakens he is in S.T.A.R. Labs and quickly discovers that he has super powers. According to Dr. Harison Wells (played by Tom Cavanagh), the explosion emitted “unknown energies” which are the source of Barry’s powers and also may have granted many other Rogues, uh, citizens with meta-human abilities.
Simultaneously, a thought-to-be-dead criminal named Clyde Mardon has resurfaced and is responsible for a rash of bank robberies involving mysterious weather anomalies. Barry continues to pine away for longtime crush Irish West, who is dating Detective Eddie Thawne (played by Rick Cosnett). Add to the mix a decades old mystery involving the death of Barry’s mother and the wrongful incarceration of Barry’s father. Fans of the Geoff Johns second run on “The Flash” will recognize which villain is being foreshadowed in this sequence. The story becomes over-filled pretty quickly, and the bad guy (played by Chad Rook) is just on hand to give something for Barry to do as the Flash. Not to take much away from the pilot, because it is a great deal of fun, but a little too much plotting is being juggled within its brief 46 minutes.
As Iris West, Candice Patton doesn’t command the same attention as Gustin. Perhaps because she isn’t given much more to do than play the requisite pretty girl who’s clueless that she is being yearned for by her closest friend. Jesse L. Martin as her father, Detective Joe West, is more engaging as the somewhat gruff cop who has taken a paternal role in Barry’s life after the death of Nora Allen. There’s an amusing moment between the two in which Joe attempts to cover for Barry who has arrived at a crime scene late, to the consternation of Detective Singh (played by Patrick Sabongui). Given Martin’s long television resume and Gustin’s natural likability, expect the relationship between Joe and Barry to be one of the most authentic traits of the series.
Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes, as Caitlin Snow and Ramon Cisco Ramon respectively, feel almost like Fitz and Simmons from “Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.” when they make their first appearance in the episode, but Panabaker is allowed to show more depth over the course of the story. Valdes is cheerful almost to the point of being distracting in all of his scenes. As Dr. Wells, Cavanagh appears to have good intentions, and he’s perfect at articulating motivational dialogue that doesn’t come off as the slightest bit cornball, but he never plays it so wholesome that it would be surprise if said intentions were significantly more sinister.
The special effects are sharp for a television program and the FX team has employed cool techniques to demonstrate Barry’s fantastic powers, whether we see a blur whiz by or everything moves incredibly slow while Barry moves at a normal speed. Flash’s abilities make for spectacular action set pieces and visuals, so it will be exciting to see what else the filmmakers have in store to make us believe the Scarlet Speedster can do what he does. The costume looks great on film, fitting more like a uniform than the skintight outfit from the comic books.
“The Flash” pilot succeeds because the writing team of Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Johns have impressed a great deal of enthusiasm to bring something to the screen that speaks to comic book fans. Director David Nutter has a strong sense of action and he finds a near perfect tone for this new action-adventure series. The show is good natured, the hero is the aspirational type, and there’s a genuine sense of fun. For goodness sake, in an early scene there’s a giant empty mangled cage that has a sign with the word “GRODD” hanging loosely from its mangled bars. Based on this opener, the series promises to deliver bigger comic book fun than television audiences have ever had in a live-action comic book series.
The Flash (Pilot)
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Cast: Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/Flash), Candice Patton (Iris West), Rick Cosnett (Eddie Thawne), Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon) Tom Cavanagh (Harison Wells) Jesse L. Martin (Detective Joe West) John Wesley Shipp, (Henry Allen) Stephen Amell (Arrow), Michelle Harrison (Nora Allen), Patrick Sabongui (David Singh)