Television Review: The Flash, Season 1

Flash

Image courtesy of The CW.

I was delighted that the first season of The Flash dropped on Stan late last year, especially after the positive reviews I heard at the end of the season. However the end of the television season in Australia was really busy, so I saved it for my Christmas catchup. I began watching at some point in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve and finished last Tuesday. I didn’t watch every day, and some days I watched up to five episodes (it’s too hot to go outside, okay?) A week ago I watched up to episode 21, and then decided to save the two part finale for the next day. The Flash is yet another example of how the CW is on fire with its original programming so far. I don’t watch all of their shows and I’m at various points for each of them, but The Flash, iZombie and Jane the Virgin all premiered in the same season of television, and all of those first seasons were great. The Flash was well written, well acted and really well structured. It also helped that the season was a lot of fun, unlike its companion Arrow, which gets a bit too grim sometimes. The season wasn’t perfect, but it’s the most fun I’ve had watching a television show in a long time, and I’m eager to get to the Season 2 episodes I’ve recorded. There are

The first season of The Flash is very good, and the major reason for that (aside from the way the season was structured) is that every action that Barry, Joe, Caitlin and Cisco made were rooted in character. For those of us who watched the second season of Arrow, we knew Barry’s origin story (and were introduced to Caitlin and Cisco in the season finale), but the pilot shows us why Barry Allen is the way he is. The trauma he suffered when he was a child changed his life, and has informed ever decision he’s made in his life, like becoming a scientist and working for Central City Police. When Barry becomes The Flash, it’s proof that what he saw when he was young wasn’t impossible, and it gave him renewed hope to get his father out of prison. The discovery that he can travel in time makes it possible to save his mother, and that he chose not to ins the season finale was heartbreaking, because the writers and Grant Gustin had shown the audience that what he wanted more than anything else in the world was for his family to be together. I can’t remember the last time I cried so much in an episode of television, and The Flash earned those tears.

The acting was as strong (and sometimes stronger) as the writing on The Flash, which was exemplified in the relationship between Barry and Joe. Jesse L Martin is an absolute treasure, and Grant Gustin proved himself more than capable of carrying the show’s emotional beats. On her podcast with Ryan McGee, Mo Ryan said that not many shows would cast Grant Gustin, who isn’t a particularly macho guy, but his depth as an actor made him more suited to the part whereas Stephen Amell makes a great Oliver Queen. The Barry and Joe relationship was the best developed relationship in the season, and was the source for probably 90% of my tears, with Barry’s father accounting for the other 9% (the final 1% goes to the scene where Barry gets to say goodbye to his mum). There was tension in the relationship as Barry rejects Joe as a father figure, if not outright father at the beginning of the season (and much of their time living together), which changed and strengthened as the season continued. The point at which Barry moved back in with Joe was great, as was the discovery that Barry and Joe had movie night together (I mean, they already live and work together, it means a lot that they still want to hang out), but the moment that had me bawling was when Barry called Joe ‘dad’. It was a well constructed arc, but it wouldn’t have worked as well if it hadn’t been for Grant Gustin and Jesse L Martin.

There were so many good things about this season of The Flash, but the one problem I had with the show related to Iris’ character development, or lack thereof. Candice Patton acts the hell out of the material she’s given, which I can equate to Adrienne Palicki in the first two seasons of Friday Night Lights. On New Year’s Eve I accidentally found myself communicating on Twitter with some Barry/Iris shippers, because I tweeted that I found Iris boring and that Barry was better matched with Felicity or Caitlin – Grant Gustin and Candice Patton had chemistry, but as characters I felt that Barry had more with both Felicity and Caitlin because they were aware of his secret identity and fellow scientists. I want Iris to be awesome, but all she does for the first half of the season is get saved by The Flash. Then, after blogging about The Flash for maybe two or three months, she gets offered a job at the newspaper. I understand that there is source material for this show, and they want to get to the point at which these characters have taken on their roles from the comics, but that irked me. It’s a staple of these shows (particularly in the DC Universe) for characters who are or close to superheroes to be working at newspapers, but this felt egregious to me, especially since she wasn’t too keen on her journalism subject at the beginning of the season. Then by the end of the season she actually begins to investigate things, but the show hasn’t done a very good job of establishing Iris as an investigative journalist. I’m yet to start season two, but I think the show will work better now that Iris is in on the secret, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the character changes.

Aside from Iris issues, nearly everything about the first season of The Flash worked, including Team Flash. Unlike Team Arrow, when Oliver had to convince Diggle that he was doing the right thing and only let Felicity know anything once he really needed her, Team Flash was there from the beginning, and it worked. Caitlin, Cisco, Wells and Barry all have science backgrounds (or futures), and it was great that they could bond over the science of Barry’s powers as well as fighting crime. The show kicked into another gear when Felicity made her first visit to Central City, as she was given more to do than moon over Oliver and do the IT stuff (I do love that Oliver’s IT person is a girl). She was with her peers, and was allowed to be in her element, which was a welcome change. The best example of the differences between The Flash and Arrow was when Oliver offered to help Barry with the bad guy, and this happens:

Barry: They’re called metahumans.

Oliver: I’m not calling them that.

 

Finally, the season-long arc of The Flash is one of the best I’ve seen in a broadcast network-length season. As I stated earlier, it was all about the characters, and also there was time travel, has been one of my favourite science fiction tropes ever since I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when I was nine. The first time Barry travels through time, he saves Joe and Cisco, but he only went back a day. If he saved his mum, he never would have become The Flash. Meanwhile, Eobard Thawne/The Reverse Flash went back in time to kill Barry, but needed to create The Flash in order to get back to his own time. I love the complications associated with time travel, and the first season of The Flash always made sure to highlight the intricacies of time travel while going back to character, which is what made it great. I hear that the second season of The Flash suffered a bit from having to introduce Legends of Tomorrow, but I’m very much looking forward to watching.

Other thoughts:

  • Oh, the bad guys were also great, particularly Wentworth Miller who seemed to be having the time of his life as Captain Cold.
  • And of course Tom Cavanaugh was fantastic as Dr Wells/Eobard Thawne
  • I’m pretty excited for Legends of Tomorrow.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s