Lightning may not have given him abs, but Kevin is here to talk about his new favorite show. Strap yourselves into your Cosmic Treadmills, ’cause we’re taking a look at CW’s The Flash.
I’ll start out by saying that I don’t really keep up with Arrow. I had seen a couple episodes before this, and I’ve gone back and watched the Flash crossover episodes (and then I went back to some of the rest on Netflix afterwards), but I have trouble really getting into it. It’s dark and melodramatic and I’m sure it’s very good, but it hasn’t been holding my interest nearly as much as it could be.
(I’ll probably watch it anyway, though. At some point.)
I also do not really read that many comics, not like some of the ladies here1 do. All I know about the Flash comes from the animated Bruce Timmverse (which is Wally West), Young Justice2 (which has all four Flashes at one point), the 1990 series that I used to watch with my mom, and a couple of friends who are really into speedsters so I’ve picked some stuff up from proximity.
(I also am caught up with the series, as well – as of this writing, the most recent episode was 2×23, “The Race of His Life”, so until my writing catches up with the airing, this is a rewatch, rather than a first-watch review.)
But! Anyway. Let’s talk about a show that’s been on for two years, but I’m only now3 starting to get into it. Let’s talk The Flash.
The episode may be old, but spoiler warnings are still in full effect after the cut.
Legacy. What is a legacy?4
This is a question that is asked repeatedly over the course of the first season. Legacies passed from fathers to children, from heroes to those they inspire, from friends across city limits and network time-slots, even from alternate television shows airing nearly twenty-five years apart – the power of Legacy is the driving force.
And it all starts here. In a house in Central City, where young Barry Allen lives with his kind-hearted mother Nora and cheerful, square-jawed father Henry. Barry’s parents comfort him after he gets into a fight at school, but when he’s in bed later that night, Nora is surrounded by a swirl of red and yellow lightning. Barry tries to reach her, Henry pulls him back, and the yellow lightning breaks off and deposits Barry outside, down the street.
(Speaking of legacy, perfect casting for Henry Allen here. John Wesley Shipp has not only been the 1990 television Flash, but also voiced Professor Zoom on Batman: The Brave and the Bold)
Flash-forward (har) to the present day, where Barry works as a CSI for the Central City Police Department. His bosses are always on his case5 about being late, but he certainly gets results – Barry is practically a walking forensics encyclopedia.
While Barry’s adoptive father Joe West and his partner go investigate the bank robbers, Barry and Gal Pal Iris West head to the S.T.A.R. Labs building to watch them turn on the Extra-Large Hadron Collider. We’re treated to a recap of Barry’s last-season cameo on Arrow and some classic CW Feelings Jams, before a random purse-snatcher nabs Iris’s laptop. Barry takes off after him, but as we’ve established already, he just can’t run fast enough. The thief sets up an ambush for him and quickly gets the upper hand, but Hotshot Detective Eddie Thawne shows up to save the day.
With a bruised ego and face, Barry heads back to the forensics lab in the attic of the police station so that he can at least watch the particle accelerator on the news. The storm is getting worse, and he updates his not-very-well-hidden Conspiracy Board to the backdrop of ominous thunder and depressing background music.
While Barry messes around in his lab, Joe and his partner track down the Mardon brothers at their farmhouse hideout. The criminals kill Joe’s partner and hop a plane, and that’s when everything changes.
S.T.A.R. Labs explodes, sending a shockwave across the entire city. This shockwave will be the root cause of everything happening the entire season7, with lasting repercussions that we’re still finding even most of the way through Season 2. Most directly, it appears to kill the fleeing criminals and sends a bolt of lightning right through the skylight of the lab, striking Barry and sending him flying through a shelf full of chemicals.
We cut to nine months later, and Barry finally wakes up from his coma. We’re treated to a rapid-fire series of establishing character conversations and exposition: Cisco Ramon is a huge dork! Caitlin Snow is a Serious Doctor! Harrison Wells is blunt and somewhat strange! S.T.A.R. Labs is mostly abandoned and ostracized! All of this leads to Barry freaking out and heading for home, searching for some sense of normalcy… which he doesn’t exactly find, as life has moved on without him. Joe has a new partner, Iris is dating Detective Thawne, and Barry has discovered that he can move and react at extreme speeds.
Barry discovering and learning to use his new powers is just absolutely delightful. Once he gets over the initial weirdness of it, he fully embraces the pure joy of running faster than the eye can see. But he also plays it smart and goes back to S.T.A.R. and has them try to figure out what’s going on with him. We get another rapid-fire round of exposition and characterization, learning that Caitlin is so unhappy because the accident killed her fiancé, as well as Cisco explaining what everyone’s fields of study truly are:
CISCO: “Dr. Wells will be monitoring your energy output, and Caitlin, your vitals.”
BARRY: “And what do you do?”
CISCO: “I make the toys, man.”
Though the initial tests are successful, Barry’s new powers remind him of his mother’s murder, and not even his increased regeneration can mend the turmoil in his mind. He tries to talk to Iris, but finds out that she’s got her own relationship issues, and Barry is once again reminded that the world moved on without him.
It’s not long until we find out that Clyde Mardon is still alive, and can suddenly control the weather. Barry tries looking for answers, but nobody wants to accept what he feels to be true. Joe says that he’s living in a fantasy world and he needs to give up the idea that his father is innocent. Harrison Wells says that he’s not special, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So Barry heads out of the city in search of the one man he knows who understands what it’s like to want to set things right, despite what the rest of the world thinks. Someone who has seen a lot of weird stuff and can relate, even if only a little bit, to what Barry is going through.
Ollie gives Barry the pep talk he needs, to remind him that it doesn’t matter what other people think of his choices as long as he’s happy with them, and if he thinks he can do actual good with these powers, then he absolutely should8. Barry takes this advice to heart and heads back, where he asks Caitlin and Cisco to help him find stop all the new metahuman criminals that have started popping up since the explosion.
Of course, Cisco has something that will help. Because Cisco always has something that will help.
(Why Cisco has a high-tech fire-resistant suit with lightning-bolt accents exactly in Barry’s size, I’ll never know. But we ignore these things because they’re cool.)
Joe and Eddie find out the hard way that Barry was telling the truth about Mardon’s weather powers, and Joe’s not having any of it.
MARDON: “When I saw what I could do, I understood. I am God.”
JOE: “Shut the hell up!”
MARDON: “Do you think your guns can stop God?”
JOE: “Why in the hell would God need to rob banks?”
MARDON: “You’re right. I’ve been thinking too small.”
With a swell of heroic trumpets, Barry shows up to save the day! He can’t reach Mardon while he’s in the center of a tornado, but he comes up with a brilliant idea – run the opposite direction and cancel out the winds. It’s hard and he still doesn’t have a proper handle on his speed, but with a bit of resolve – bolstered by Dr. Wells coming on and saying that he believes in Barry after all – he unwinds the storm.
It’s important here that after saving Joe, Joe comes back and saves Barry. Their dynamic is one of the driving forces of the season, and it’s incredibly refreshing to see that he learns the secret right away, instead of Barry constantly having to dance around a secret. Instead, he has unflinching and unconditional support from the man who raised him for the last decade, and that kind of support is extremely good to see right off the bat. Barry has two father figures, in Joe and Dr. Wells, who work with him in different ways in his journey to become a superhero.
…until they take the “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” approach by agreeing to Never Tell Legal Adult Iris in order to Protect Her From Things That Are Obviously Going To Affect Her Anyway And The Ignorance Of Which Will Put Her At Even Greater Risk.
But the father figures don’t end there. Like a Steven Inverse, Barry has a multitude of dads, though Science Dad and Police Dad take a backseat to Biological Dad, as Barry heads to the prison to reassure Henry Allen that he’s always believed in him. To tell him that the legacy of Henry Allen lives on in Barry.
Because what is a legacy? It’s what you leave behind for others. To inspire, and guide, when you’re not there.
The legacy of one man can change people in ways that they may never know. It can provide a guiding light, or usher in a new wave of darkness the likes of which the world has never seen.
And the main thing? You might not know exactly how far your legacy can reach.
This show is a gift. This first episode is a bit halting, suffering from forced dialogue in places and they haven’t yet locked down the speedmo effects, but it’s a solid start to an impressive season. The casting is stellar, the characters are phenomenal, the music is perfect, and I’ll talk about them more in future posts.
Until next time.
Kevin O’Shea is a writer and founding member of the Made of Fail Productions Justice League. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or lurking in secret chambers underneath your nearest particle accelerator.
- Comics are for girls.
- Young Justice Barry Allen has a St. Louis, Missouri accent, which I thought was a fantastic touch since Central City is supposed to be ~vaguely St. Louis~ the same way Metropolis is supposed to be ~vaguely New York~. I have family in St. Louis and I recognized the accent.
- ElfGrove, this is your fault. Dayna also has some blame to share but it’s mostly you.
- It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see / Central City, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me!
- To his credit, he never cops an attitude when he’s caught in a lie.6
- Finding the right excuse is a bit of trial and error sometimes.
- The Hellmouth of Central City, basically.
- He’s not tied down with all the melodramatic baggage that the Arrow is, after all.