By Matthew Soall
(Writer’s Note: Hopefully I won’t get too spoiler-ish in this review, but just in case: read at your own peril.)
The first season of The Flash was everything I hoped for, and more. For a show to be so campy and with some many comic book characters and references, it shouldn’t have the quality of viewing that it does. That being said, it’s a fantastic series and it had me hooked from episode one.
The series picks up with Barry Allan (played by Grant Gustin), the young CSI who was introduced in season 2 of Arrow. In the end of his appearance of Arrow, Barry witnesses a city-wide explosion/shockwave and it causes an extreme electrical event which blasts Barry with a lightning bolt into a shelf filled with chemicals. 6 months later, we have instant superhero (Editor’s note: Please don’t try that at home, as it may not give you superpowers).
We are then quickly introduced to the supporting cast of the series. The Star Labs crew consists of tech guru Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Dr Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), Head of Star Labs. Our other supporting characters come from Barry’s personal life: his adopted sister Iris West (Candice Patton), his adopted Farther Joe West (Jessie L. Martin) and romantic rival Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett).
So your probably wondering, “Why the need for all the supporting characters?” Well, Flash follows the team Arrow formula, a core group of characters helping in his adventures and a personal group who add to the drama. Was it necessary for a character like the Flash to need team support? Personally, I don’t think so, but this isn’t a detriment to the series.
Acting and characterisation is fairly decent throughout the series. Joe and Barry have some great father-son moments, where they bond and continue to do the best they can for each other. Jessie L. Martin puts a lot of emotion into these moments and it pays off, sometimes causing some tears to well.
Cisco and Caitlin are really good sidekicks for Barry, whereas Diggle and Felicity can be far too serious and whiny respectively. Cisco is a great comic foil with lots of comedic moments. Later on in the series, he gets some heavy emotional moments, and you get to some real acting chops from Valdes.
Caitlin is like the mother of the group, and the doctor. She keeps Barry moving, heals his wounds and offers emotion support for the Flash. There are some really sweet moments where Caitlin pulls through for the rest of the group. Danielle Panabaker has a natural aptitude for showing the warmth and compassion in her character.
Tom Cavanagh’s Wells is an intriguing character. Throughout the series, you never feel like he’s on any one side. Even when it’s revealed that he is the thing that the whole team fears, he still doesn’t come across as completely one-sided. Cavanagh’s skill as an actor is on full show in all of his scenes. He has to convince the characters and the audience that he is on the side of the angels. His ambiguous motives are always pulling the audience in different directions, which will help to keep you engaged in his storyline and his interactions with Barry.
Thawne is your typical romantic rival. He’s tall and handsome, and has the complete devotion of the main character’s love interest. Throughout the series, Eddie never really has any standout moments. But the finale did redeem the character in my eyes, and that was enough for me. Talking about the acting here is kind of pointless, as he’s a stereotype. Most actors can portray that competently, and Cosnett does.
Candice Patton was initially pretty ok to start with, but I got really sick of her pissed face as the story progressed. I can’t understand why characters like Iris and Felicity have only two emotions: selfishly pissed off, or weepy. It’s the same crap here. In comics, female love interests are genuinely supportive of their heroes and heroines. Lois Lane helps give Superman emotional strength to continue to fight for humanity. Barbra Gordon shares a life with Dick Grayson so they can continue on in the vigilante life that was thrust upon them. Even Catwoman is around for Batman when he needs her.
But not in TV, no, no, can’t have that. We need the same goddamn “Why did you keep this from me? I thought you trusted me!” speech. As a counter point, I would suggest the “Holy Shit, you’re a hero, that’s amazing! You save people! Wow, let’s go have a coffee, you amazing person and tell me about all your amazing adventures!”
So Patton’s pissy routine gets really old, really quick. I think she is capable of more range, but I’m yet to see it. Maybe she needs to have a chat with the writers?
Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen is fantastic. He embodies the hero well with great character arcs that drives Gustin’s acting to deliver really emotionally powerful moments with the entire cast. The Flash does have an enjoyable sense of humour. That could probably be exploited a little more than what’s in the series. Every now and then, Gustin goes a little too dark, similar to Amell’s Arrow. This detracts for me, and I look forward to when he brightens up again. Gustin brings the feelings to the Flash, and he should make you tear up a few times and cheer him on throughout the series.
The villains that had a few episodes, like Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold, were really enjoyable. Miller’s portrayal is so campy and it works really well. He’s moving onto Legends of Tomorrow, which is really cool, because the more we see of him, the better.
The look of the series is fantastic. The Flash outfit is true to comic book form and improves a little more as the episodes go on. Grodd was teased fairly early on, and I really was excited to see him in the flesh – so to speak. He did get the CGI treatment and he was confined to the shadows, but this made him a much more striking figure and very believable, considering it was made for TV.
The technology bandied around throughout was pretty cool as well. I really dug Heatwave and Captain Cold’s weaponry. Captain Boomerang and Queen Bee also had some cool CGI moments when the boomerangs were spinning and Killer Robot Bees where biting.
Flash gets to show off most of his powers from the comics, vibrating to obscure himself, time travel, creating whirlwinds. I think all of Barry’s powers were depicted throughout the series. The CGI is more hit than miss; especially good was the spectacle at the end of the series.
We also got to see Firestorm make his first live action appearance. Once he “flamed on,” I was impressed. He does keep to the comics fairly well, but it’s still a bit too street-fashioned for my liking. The flame effects are really good, though, and the Flash and Firestorm get some cool moments together to show off their powers.
The writing on the show is really tight, giving the actors clear directions to go in. My only complaint is that we are still seeing stereotypical crap in an otherwise-well-written show. I would be happy to give it a 10/10, if not for some really soap opera-ish moments that diminish the series for me.
NO MORE WEEPY LOVE INTERESTS IN SUPERHERO TV SHOWS!
Otherwise the writing is witty and intelligent, which makes great use of the cast talent.
Some other moments I really enjoyed from the series came from the Arrow/Flash crossover moments. Barry’s interactions with his father, played by OG Flash actor John Wesley Shipp, and the triumphant return of Mark Hamill’s Trickster.
Flash Season One was enjoyable for multiple reasons. It embraced the campy when required, didn’t shy away from the comic book lore it’s based on and recruited some amazingly talented actors to bring it all together.