Now THAT’s what I’m talking about.
The premiere episode of the CW’s new FLASH television series was a prime example of how to do everything right when you’re adapting a long-running (no pun intended) classic comics character to TV. Sure, you can change a lot of the details, modernize things, add a little more darkness and depth, but if you’re keep the tone right and are true to what your character has always been about, you’ve got a winner. And it was clear to me that they were on the right track with the first words you hear:
“My name is Barry Allen, and I’m the fastest man alive.”
I liked the show almost immediately from the very beginning, when we see Barry Allen working as a forensic specialist for the police, and graphics appeared on screen explaining the science behind Barry’s observations of the evidence. All it needed was one of those captions from the old Infantino comics that began with “Flash Fact!”
Combining elements from most of the Flash’s fifty-plus-year history, but with an emphasis on the most recent Geoff Johns-penned reboot, the series kicked off with the Flash’s origin, with the familiar scene of the lightning bolt striking Barry in his lab. There’s more to it here, tying in to STAR Labs’ implementation of a particle accelerator, the series’ excuse for the onslaught of super-powered villains we’ll be seeing bedeviling the Flash every week, but that’s okay – it works fine and doesn’t detract from the classic iconography of the original Silver Age Flash origin.
There’s so much FLASH lore packed into this episode, it’s hard to say which are just tips of the hat and which are genuine seeds to future storylines. Frankly, I hope they all are – if we could get a live-action Gorilla Grodd on screen, massive and menacing and ingenious and scary as hell? Wow.
Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen with just the right level of charm and sincerity, and the scene where he meets up with Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow for a little advice about getting into the hero business was excellent, ending with Amell swinging off the rooftops like Spider-Man in a scene more full of fun and derring-do than anything I’ve seen on ARROW. Hopefully they keep the crossovers between the two series coming, as the two characters really complement each other.
The acting is great across the board, with Jesse L. Martin (bringing a little LAW & ORDER gravitas to his role) as Barry’s police mentor Joe West, Tom Cavanagh as STAR Labs founder Harrison Wells and Danielle Panabaker as STAR Labs scientist (and future Killer Frost?) Caitlin Snow all being particular standouts.
The new darker backstory from the recent Johns reboot is here as well, the whole business about Barry Allen’s father being framed for the murder of his mother, and while I’m not a fan of that particular story, the presence of the immensely likable John Wesley Shipp (The 1980s TV Flash, for those unaware) as Barry’s father makes it work out here extremely well.
But most important of all, even though we have a Barry Allen with a grittier backstory and a dead mother to avenge, that’s not why he wants to be the Flash. He wants to help people, because he can. Because it’s the right thing to do.
That’s a Flash Fact.