Wow. Although The Flash spun off from Arrow, with Barry Allen debuting in the latter’s second season, it quickly dethroned Arrow as the superhero show to beat. True to the titular hero’s powers, The Flash hit the ground running (you’ll see that phrase used a lot for this show) and only gained speed as it went on. And best of all? It was fun!
What’s so great about this series is how much it stayed true to the comic book Flash mythology, even though that contains some of the most fantastical elements comics have to offer. Hyper-intelligent telepathic gorillas, weather wizards, sonic boom punches, running on water and up buildings, time travel, and the ever-mystifying Speed Force—they were all there, not as loose interpretations, but as images ripped straight out of the comics. And most importantly, they were done well. It’s true that The Flash was tasked with introducing superpowers to what used to just be the Arrow universe, but I never expected it to go so big, let alone in its first season! The concept of Firestorm alone—two men combining to form one flying, flamethrowing body—would not have even been conceivable two years ago, when Arrow was meant to have a grounded, realistic tone. The Flash went all out, and it was exhilarating.
Geeking out aside, there was a confidence that shone and a clear sense of direction throughout the season. Sure, the format was villain-of-the-week, and we took a few enjoyable detours along the way, but they were all kept relevant while the overarching story flowed through, gaining traction as the season built up to an incredible finale. It certainly helped that unlike most shows that need time to get into a good rhythm, The Flash found its footing right out of the gate. But then again, the writers had enough practice thanks to Arrow.
Another aspect the show nailed early on was the refreshing, lighthearted tone. This did not clash with Arrow‘s sombreness, but rather complemented it, and both shows still felt like they coexisted in the same world. In fact, the kind and endearing Barry Allen was a great counterpoint to Arrow‘s stoic Oliver Queen, offering us a cheery, good at heart, honest-to-God hero, different from Arrow‘s troubled, brooding vigilante. This contrast is something the highly entertaining ‘Flash vs. Arrow’ crossover event has over the upcoming Batman v Superman film in my eyes.
Additionally, The Flash is built on what all good shows need: a strong cast of likable characters. Grant Gustin quickly became the definitive Barry Allen, shattering any doubts people may have had. Aside from him, the ones that stood out the most were Barry’s three father figures, Henry Allen, Joe West, and Harrison Wells, all played to perfection by John Wesley Shipp, Jesse L. Martin, and Tom Cavanagh, respectively. The S.T.A.R. Labs duo, Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow, were also enjoyable to watch as they had great chemistry with each other and the rest of ‘Team Flash’. That the geeky and excitable Cisco was often used as an audience stand-in made him all the more lovable. And though many of the weekly villains were disposable, a few left their mark, including Wentworth Miller as delightfully campy Captain Cold and an over-the-top, scenery-chewing Mark Hamill back as the Trickster. Even the romantic rival, Eddie Thawne, was just too nice a guy to root against. However, I would like to see Iris West get fleshed out in the future so that she could grow to become more than just the love interest.
All of this contributed to a masterpiece of a finale, one that paid off on two fronts: the buildup of the events that led to it, including both the story and the continuing expansion of this universe’s mythology, and, more importantly, the instant and growing emotional connection the viewers had developed with these characters. The hero vs. villain fight, often the centerpiece of season finales, was secondary to the emotional catharsis that left us with more than a bit of dust in our eyes. In the end, The Flash was an utter delight, and I can’t wait for more.