Thursday, October 23, 2014

TV’s Flash: The Hero We Need and Deserve

“Flash > Gotham. Discuss. Show your work.”

I posted that thought to Facebook last week, not sure whether I was being crazy or not, but, thankfully, my friends, a League of Extraordinary Gentlenerds to be sure, backed me up. In fact, amid our discussion, Matt gave me the title for this column.

A couple weeks back, we wrote about
the premieres of Gotham and Agents of SHIELD, but we skipped the debut of The Flash two weeks later.

Then last week, I found myself watching the fourth episode of Gotham and being self-conscious of how much I was frowning. Something was bothering me, but I wasn't quite ready to articulate it.

Then I watched the second episode of The Flash the following night, and I figured it out:

I'm enjoying The Flash A) much more than I thought I would, and B) more than Gotham.

I did not see that coming.

In fact, were it up to me, I wouldn't have watched Flash at all. My wife (@HillaryGrote) threw it on the DVR on a whim. I had no interest, as I'm not a DC guy and I already wasn't watching Arrow, though it’s on my list of things to eventually get around to on Netflix.

But I'm not here to tear down Gotham. That's not what this blog is for. That's what comment sections are for!

Instead, let's talk about what The Flash is doing right. (Warning: I am NOT a Flash expert, so I’m writing solely within the context of the TV show.)

-They have fun with his powers. Having super speed allows Barry to heal quickly. In the second episode, Flash has fainting problems, not because some unseen enemy is sapping his powers, but because he needs more food to sustain his rapid metabolism. In the third episode, a suited-up Flash confronts the Mist at Iron Heights Prison and blurs his face so his dad can’t see him.

-The show isn't afraid to do cheesy villains, like a live-action Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Flash is known for his rogues’ gallery, a colorful assortment of villains with less than fear-inducing names. Just in the first episode, we got the Weather Wizard, Reverse Flash and a hint that Gorilla Grodd may feature in a future episode. Episode four introduces Captain Cold, played by Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller. It’s nice to see some new comic book villains get the live-action treatment, because honestly, how many more live-action Catwomen or Green Goblins do we need?

-The relationship between Barry and Detective West gives me the warm fuzzies, and yeah, that’s probably partly because my dad was a police officer for 27 years. There really isn’t a father figure-son relationship this healthy in any of the movie/TV superhero joints I’ve seen this side of Uncle Ben. It helps that Jesse L. Martin is no stranger to playing a cop, having spent about a decade on Law & Order.

-The low-hanging-but-still-brilliant casting fruit that is John Wesley Shipp as Barry's dad, Henry Allen. Shipp played the Flash on CBS for 22 episodes from 1990-91, and he played Dawson's dad on the late-’90s teen drama Dawson’s Creek, back when the CW was still the WB and its mascot was a singing frog.

-Tom Cavanaugh (Ed, the Mike and Tom Eat Snacks podcast) makes a great big bad as Harrison Wells, the scientist who mentors the Flash but manipulates events behind the scenes to fulfill Barry’s destiny and fakes being in a wheelchair like a true goldbricker (seriously, where’s Walter Sobchak when you need him?). There's a long-game here that's more than just “eventually Batman will show up.” Setting up STAR Labs as a metahuman prison in the third episode is a nice escalation of Wells’ arc, creating a Central City Arkham that will clearly suffer a breakout at some point, probably around the end of the season. That said, did anybody else think the hallway leading to the particle accelerator beneath STAR Labs looked a little too much like the hallway leading to Cerebro in the X-movies?

-A superhero in a red costume making jokes, enjoying his powers and fighting colorful villains? If I close my eyes tight enough, it's like Spider-Man got a TV series. Grant Gustin certainly looks like an American Andrew Garfield. He’s even got the notorious Parker Luck: The woman he loves (Iris West, with whom he grew up after his mom was murdered, so OK, maybe that’s kinda creepy) loves someone else, he’s chronically late to crime scenes despite his super speed, and for all his power he can’t bust his dad out of prison. Yet despite all that, the show never feels like it exists in the same dark universe as David S. Goyer. This is the DC
I want my son to see when he's ready for the live-action stuff.

-Superhero team-ups. The premiere gave us a scene with Green Arrow (Stephen Amell), tying Flash into that other CW DC hero. The third episode introduced, via flashbacks, Robbie Amell (yes, relation) as Ronnie Raymond, the original Firestorm, who apparently was “killed” in the same STAR Labs accident that gave Barry his powers. Looking forward to the network digging up another Amell to play Red Tornado in a future episode.

For more on the Flash in general, read Matt’s write-up on
Mark Waid’s defining run
on the book during the Wally West years. Waid is currently doing gangbusters on another red-suited hero, Daredevil. 

Dan Grote has been a Matt Signal contributor since 2014 and friends with Matt since there were four Supermen and two Psylockes. His two novels, My Evil Twin and I and Of Robots, God and Government, are available on Amazon.

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