The CW, 7 October 2014 (advance review)
An accident involving an experimental particle accelerator and a random lightning strike gives Barry Allen the power of super speed, but also unleashes a host of other super-powered ‘meta-humans’ upon Central City…
A spin off from The CW’s successful superhero series Arrow (two seasons and counting), this revival of The Flash (last on television in 1990) hijacks the youthful exuberance of the current Andrew Garfield-starring Spider-Man movie series and steals its best moves from the decade-long run of Smallville, the ‘teen’ Superman show. It is, however, an efficient and likeable first episode that sets up the series’ basics very well.
Grant Gustin (already seen in a couple of Arrow instalments, and wearing Garfield’s big hair) is a CSI specialist who (irony alert) is always late for work. Romantically frustrated and pining for his childhood friend (and daughter of his police officer boss) Iris West, Gustin’s Allen is set up as a likeable loser, with the added tragic back story of having lost his mother in a bizarre incident (which opens the show), a killing his father was locked up for (a neat cameo, and recurring role, played by the 1990 television Flash, John Wesley Shipp).
The Flash‘s opening instalment moves at a cracking pace (hardly surprising), quickly establishing characters and back story. After the accident, Allen goes through the Spider-Man-like experience of exploring his new powers (and incurring a few injuries on the way). He’s co-opted by STARLabs, headed by Dr Harrison Wells, who was himself put in a wheelchair thanks to his exploding particle accelerator. Two science geeks—Snow and Ramon—support Allen’s abilities and supply him with the heat-resistant suit and tech gear needed for super-speedy travel.
Allen’s realisation that the explosion and storm created other ‘meta-humans’, some criminally inclined, provides the series’ on-going narrative: he and his team are committed to cleaning up the mess the explosion has left behind in Central City. The episodic ‘case of the week’ structure is obvious. There’s also his own history to be explored—there’s clearly more to the death of his mother (flashbacks show a Flash-like super-speeding figure was involved), while his father is an innocent man currently behind bars. Additionally, a coda to the episode suggests Dr Wells may have a hidden agenda and access to information from the future.
Much of this closely follows the Smallville model: hardly surprising, as that has been the most successful superhero television show in recent times, while showrunner and DC writer Geoff Johns was also involved in the earlier show. As long as The Flash can resist becoming too much of a Smallville clone, with the ‘meta-humans’ standing in for the meteor ‘freak of the week’, The Flash could have a bright future ahead of it. We’ll find out in October…
Verdict: Colourful, fast, and packed with decent effects and characters with potential, The Flash should be a hit, 7/10
Brian J. Robb