The Latest

5 Reasons “The Flash” Is The Best Superhero Series Ever

There are a lot of superhero comic book shows on TV now: Constantine will soon join Arrow,Gotham, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with Marvel’s Agent Carter, Powers, Daredevil, and three more new Marvel shows on the immediate horizon. But for those who have loved comics since they were children, we’re betting that none of them will succeed like The Flash. Here’s what the new CW drama got right that other series got wrong.

1. It Strikes the Perfect Tone

For years, superheroes on TV have been saddled with the campy memory of the ’60s Batmanseries. Its ironic, winking take and the silliness of people fighting each other in Spandex made it impossible to take comic book adaptations seriously.

Even Tim Burton’s 1989 film only partially dispelled the notion that masked crusaders weren’t solely for children. More recently, Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy have done a 180 and made superheroes grim and violent. And while Arrow — which follows in the footsteps of that darker fare — is excellent, it leaves little room for levity.

What The Flash does better than almost any other comic book movie or TV show is convey a childlike sense of wonder without descending into outright comedy. It makes superheroes fun — something that the long shadow of Batman has made many forget these shows could actually be.

Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen with a barely-suppressed glee that reminds people of the days when they wished they would get bitten by a radioactive spider and gain super strength. His support teams — Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), and Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) on the one hand, and Joe and Iris West (Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton) on the other — are both well-balanced mixes of skepticism and awe that ground his ebullience.

2. It Puts the “Super” in “Superhero”

There’s a new supervillain being introduced almost every episode: Captain Cold, The General, Girder, and Heat Wave are all confirmed characters in the series’ early going. One of the main criticisms of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a lack of superpowered anything. Viewers hoping for a glimpse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were left with only a couple of brief appearances in the first half of the season, and it felt more like a stumbling spy show than an action superhero series.The Flash appears prepared to give fans the explosive four-color brawls that thrilled them as kids — and to do it every week.

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and Candice Patton as Iris West

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen and Candice Patton as Iris West

3. The Origin Story Is Fun

Flash’s origin story has everything you would expect. Like Spider-Man, he’s an underdog; when we first see him, he’s being beat up by bullies. Also, like Spider-Man, he learns responsibility early. “It’s better to have a good heart than fast legs,” his mother tells him. Like Batman, he loses his parents: His mother is dead and his father is in jail.

Unlike Batman, though, his resulting obsession isn’t to crack every criminal skull he can find. Instead, it inspires him to search for the impossible, a goal that is inspirational in its impracticality. When he becomes the impossible, there’s no sense of the revenge that fuels Bruce Wayne orArrow‘s Oliver Queen.

The discovery of a superpower is something that most TV shows — who deal with humans who have trained themselves to be superhuman — lack. Allen goes from fear in the coffee shop, to confusion in the police station, to joy in the alleyway (even after crashing into a laundry truck), and it’s perfectly paced to take an audience on the journey with him.

4. Less Talking, More Running

One of the pitfalls for most pilots is exposition: Shows must introduce characters and relationships, create emotional stakes, and explain to viewers what they will be seeing if they come back every week. Often, this results in clunky dialogue and people asking a lot of annoying questions instead of doing or feeling anything interesting. Remarkably, The Flash has time to re-show the lightning strike that Arrow showed last season and still fit in everything else without missing a beat.

5. It’s Good Mythmaking

It’s not just comic book mythology that the show nails; there are more subtle references that would make Joseph Campbell smile. Water is a common symbol for rebirth, and we see it floating in mid-air during the opening scene, just before the trauma of Barry’s mother’s death, as well as the lightning bolt scene just before he acquires his powers. That his nine-month coma is the same length of time as it takes to bring a new life into this world is not a coincidence; this is the true birth of a new person.

Clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg says that superhero origins typically fall into one of three categories: traumatic, like Batman; accidental, like Spider-Man; and destined, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This Flash manages to combine all three. Allen’s early childhood trauma drives him to be inquisitive, an accident grants him his powers, and Oliver Queen suggests the possibility that there’s a greater plan. “I don’t think that bolt of lightning struck you, Barry. I think it chose you.”

Allen has come to him with his doubts that he can be a superhero, that he could ever match up to what Queen does for his city. Oliver counters, “You can be better because you can inspire people in a way that I never could, watching over your city like a guardian angel, making a difference, saving people… in a flash.”

It’s almost hard to believe that a show could believably take a character from frightened child to blundering goofball to tragic victim to noble protector in under an hour, but that’s what this pilot does. Like his father figure Joe West, Allen has convinced everyone that “you need to believe in the impossible.” And we do.

Of course, there’s plenty of room for the series to stumble after this stellar first outing. Bringing in a new villain every week will make for an enormous special-effects budget; those effects may grow sparser as the show continues. And it’s possible that the time-traveling storyline could collapse into nonsense halfway through the season.

But producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Geoff Johns have had plenty of experience working out the kinks on Arrow — which many believe is the best comic show currently on television — so the pedigree suggests the show will succeed.

“It’s time to think big,” says weather-wielding villain Clyde Marder. And after years of low-stakes comic book shows on TV, it looks like someone finally is.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

About sparxteam (2374 Articles)
Our mission is to provide you with a dynamic and integrity-driven outlet for entertainment in any aspect.
%d bloggers like this: