Friday, October 9, 2015

Review of The Flash: Season One

When I posted my review of the third season of Arrow, I ended with asking you readers to watch for my review of the first season of The Flash in the coming weeks. I apparently enjoy building suspense, as eighteen weeks (or about four months) have passed since then. In fact, the opening episode of The Flash's second season just aired earlier this week. I only hope my review has been worth the wait.

As with my reviews of Arrow, I may give some minor spoilers to several individual episodes, though I will avoid giving any major spoilers as to the overall story arcs of the season. And as The Flash is a spin-off of Arrow, I will reference several episodes of Arrow that set up or relate to what happens in The Flash. Though there may be spoilers for the individual episodes that I reference, if you have not yet seen the second or third seasons of Arrow, I will not give spoilers for the overall story arcs of each season. (though if you haven't watched Season Two or Three of Arrow, what are you waiting for? You should stop everything you're doing and get caught up!)

The logo for The Flash TV Series
The protagonist and title character of The Flash is Barry Allen. As with Arrow, there is an opening monologue for nearly every episode. Throughout most of the first season, each episode begins with a voice over from Barry:

My name is Barry Allen. And I am the fastest man alive. When I was a child I saw my mother killed by something impossible. My father went to prison for her murder. Then an accident made me the impossible. To the outside world I am an ordinary forensic scientist, but secretly I use my speed to fight crime and find others like me. And one day, I'll find who killed my mother and get justice for my father. I am the Flash.”

Barry Allen's first appearance in Arrow
Barry first appears in the Season Two episode of Arrow, “The Scientist,” when he travels to Starling City to investigate accounts of super-powered humans, hoping that it might bring him closer to finding his mother's killer. Over the course of this episode and the next, Barry learns the Arrow's identity and saves his life when he is poisoned. As he leaves Starling City, he gives the Arrow a dynamo mask to better conceal his identity. As he returns to Central City, we see him get struck by lightning in his lab. Over the course of the second half of the second season of Arrow, we learn that he spends months in a coma.

The Arrow wears the mask that Barry designed and made for him.
Though the producers of Arrow originally planned on using an episode of Arrow a backdoor pilot for The Flash, Barry's first appearance in Arrow turned out to be so popular that they decided to do a full fledged pilot for new the series instead.

The bolt of lightning that gave Barry his super speed
The Pilot episode of The Flash again portrays the accident that leads to Barry being struck by lightning, but elaborates on it. We learn that it happened as a result of the experimental particle accelerator being launched at STAR Labs exploding, that Barry spent nine months in a coma following the accident, and that when he wakes, he soon finds that he now has the ability to move at super human speeds.

The Flash, played by Grant Gustin
Barry Allen is played by Grant Gustin. Over the course of the season, Barry learns more about how to use his new powers, becomes faster and faster, and gets closer and closer to solving the mystery of his mother's murder.

Dr. Caitlin Snow, played by Danielle Panabaker, Dr. Harrison Wells, played by
Tom Cavanagh, and Cisco Ramon, played by Carlos Valdez
Barry is supported by the team at STAR Labs in Central City, which includes Dr. Harrison Wells (played by Tom Cavanagh), the Lab's director, who has been confined to a wheelchair since the explosion of the particle accelerator, and who hides a mysterious past; Dr. Caitlin Snow (played by Danielle Panabaker), who provided medical care for Barry while he was comatose, and whose fiance, Ronny Raymond, apparently died as a result of the particle accelerator explosion; and Cisco Ramon (played by Carlos Valdes), the team's engineer, who has a quick wit, gives many of the Flash's villains their nicknames, and creates incredible gadgets and weapons to assist the Flash.

Cisco designed the Flash's costume, among many other things
Also featuring in the series is Iris West (played by Candice Patton), with whom Barry was raised as a foster brother after his mother's death, and for whom Barry has romantic feelings; Joe West (played by Jesse L. Martin), who is Iris's father, Barry's foster father, and who is also a detective with the Central City Police Department, (where he also functions as Barry's supervisor); and Eddie Thawne (played by Rick Cosnett), who is also a detective with the Central City Police Department, Joe's partner, and Iris's boyfriend.

Eddie Thawne, played by Rick Cosnett, Iris West, played by
Candice Patton, and Joe West, played by Jesse L. Martin
In the pilot episode, Barry learns that he was not the only one who received powers from the particle accelerator explosion, and through the season finds that most of his fellow “meta-humans” (as Wells calls them) are not as benevolent as he is, and so he takes responsibility to use his new ability to stop those that use their powers to commit crimes and hurt others.

The first season of The Flash often used a “villain of the week” format, which worked well to show Barry learning knew ways of using his powers as he stopped the “bad guy,” while also progressing the season's story arc, which, as mentioned earlier, focuses on Barry working to solve the mystery of his mother's murder. We see great character development, not only in Barry, but in all of the other supporting characters as well.

Captain Cold, played by Wentworth Miller, and Heat Wave, played by
Dominic Purcell, are founding members of the Rogues
Early on, we start to see member's of “The Rogues,” a group of villains that are often pitted against the Flash, appear on the show. Captain Cold is the first to appear, and is a recurring character throughout the season. We also soon see Heat Wave, followed by the Golden Glider, the Weather Wizard and the Trickster. I've found them to be interesting foils to the Flash, and many of them, particularly Captain Cold, are very well characterized.

Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin, Felicity Smoak, played by
Emily Bett Rickards, and Ray Palmer, played by Brandon Routh
Characters from Arrow also appear in The Flash over the course of the season. Felicity Smoak, who was earlier introduced as a potential love interest for Barry, but now just a good friend, serves as a confidant of sorts for Barry when she's there, as she and Barry are a lot alike and they understand each other. Ray Palmer (a.k.a. “The Atom”) also appears, and they work together in a team-up episode. But the most interesting character we see is Oliver Queen, the Arrow himself, as he offers a contrast to Barry. Barry looks up to Oliver, and sees him as a mentor of sorts, but they also occasionally clash, as Oliver's methods tend to be much darker than Barry's, as he often blurs the line between right and wrong. But they also learn to work well together, and Barry is able to discover that the best way for him to be a hero is to be true to himself, rather than attempting to emulate Oliver in everything. In contrast, Oliver also looks up to Barry, and he admires the way that Barry is able to inspire others in a way that he cannot.

The Flash, played by Grant Gustin, the Arrow, played by
Stephen Amell, and Firestorm, played by Robby Amell
I do have several minor critiques for the first season of The Flash.

 I did not originally like the way that Iris was portrayed. She is introduced as a smart, independent woman, who is also Barry's best friend. Yet as long as she's known him, and as well as she knows him, she is completely oblivious to how Barry feels toward her, while it is very obvious to nearly everyone else. As time goes on, and Iris's character develops, I see that there is a possibility that she has been aware of Barry's feelings for her, even if not on a conscious level, but may be in denial about it (as well as about any feelings that she may have for him). Though this was likely intended to be played out subtly, I think it came across as too subtle, to the point that she appears to be extremely naive, particularly regarding Barry.

There are also several times in which the Flash is battling a villain or villains in which the obvious solution is ignored. At one point, the team at STAR Labs comes up with a dangerous and elaborate way for two of the rogues to use their weapons against one another, at great risk to Barry, when there is nothing to stop Barry from from using his super speed to remove the weapons from their hands instead. Though it made for a great action scene, it was really unnecessary.

A dangerous, complex solution to a very simple problem
Historically, time travel has also been common theme of the Flash (no pun intended; well, maybe intended after all), and this is explored in the TV series. Without giving specific examples and spoilers, I will say that I found the way it was used to often be confusing and inconsistent, and that it created more questions than it answered. It's possible that more of this will be explained and cleared up in the second season, though I'm doubtful that will happen, and it just seems be something that the writers hope that the viewers won't think too much about.

The Flash traveling through time
That aside, I very much enjoyed the first season of The Flash. I found so many of the characters (including several of the villains) to be very likable, and when harm came to one of them, it was a very emotional moment for me. The plot and the mystery kept me watching, and looking forward to each episode from one week to the next.

Fan art of the cast of the first season of The Flash
I have held off from watching the opening episode of the second season of The Flash, as I didn't want seeing it to influence my opinion for this review of the first season. But now that this review is done, I am very much looking forward to beginning the second season, and am eager to see what is yet to come for Barry and the rest of Season Two's lineup.

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