The CW’s new Flash series is usually must see TV for me. I have not missed an episode outside of Plastique. But I got caught up at the library a month or so ago I’m good to go after the midseason finale. With The Flash continuing it’s Season 1 run I thought I’d write about what I liked and didn’t like about the series so far.
Story wise CW seems to be making their adaptation of The Flash a mix of DC’s The New 52 and Goeff John’s Flash: Rebirth. Neither is my favorite version of the character, but I did like what I saw with Barry’s origin sequence on Arrow and when I heard about the new series I decided to give it a chance, judging it as an adaptation of the comics where slight liberties can be taken here and there. So far this TV series has been making great efforts to try to fit some Pre-New 52 elements in its stories and when they do it works far better than the Nu N’ improved stuff.
CW’s The Flash picks up from TV Barry Allen’s appearance on last year’s Arrow and focuses on what happened a few months after Barry was hit by the lightning.
Since his recovery Barry has discovered new powers and has been taking on the bad guys with the help of his team including STAR Labs head scientist Professor Wells. There’s a big focus on a mystery of Barry trying to prove that his father did not kill his mother. Again, I truly hate that they the fact that Warner Brothers adapted the Rebirth storyline, because it SUCKS. While Barry tries to solve the case of his murdered mother, he dons an experimental firefighting suit and fights crime as The Flash. Unbeknownst to him his mentor Professor Wells is actually his nemesis The Reverse-Flash from the future and is secretly plotting against him. Maybe he’s even the one behind him becoming The Flash.
Like a Flash comic book the series is building into one big storyline about Barry trying to find the evidence to clear the name of his father who was framed for killing his mother. In each episode where he beats a bad guy the characters get closer and closer to solving the mystery even though we comic fans may have a hint on who dunnit. (Professor Zoom, duh.) Again, I’m not much a fan of the Professor Zoom going back in time story to kill Barry’s mom, I’d have much rather seen a buildup to a proper Rogues team-up for the finale like in Flash and Substance and save Zoom for Season 2. But Goeff Johns is one of the producers and a big wheel in Time Warner’s DC Comics Division. Hence such a focus on his storyline over other legendary Flash writers’ like Mark Waid or Bill Messner-Loebs.
There’s a lot I like about this series so far. The acting is solid and the visual effects are amazing. Most of the action sequences are on par with anything in a Marvel studios’ big-budget action picture like Iron man or The Avengers; it’s literally like a comic book come to life onscreen.
I like Flash’s team. It’s a nice contrast to team Arrow. Sisko is just…AWESOME. I kinda like how he names all the villains. In some was I’m not happy about Wells being the Reverse Flash, he has good chemistry with Barry and it’s kind of like the Bruce/Terry relationship in Batman Beyond. There’s something to build on there, but Detective Joe West wouldn’t have much to do if they built on the relationship.
And I like all the Easter eggs regarding the DC Universe Such as Ferris Aircraft, Cameron Scott (Captain Atom). The only Easter egg I take exception with is an adult Linda Park reporting the news in the first episode of Barry’s story. But this is adaptation, so I begrudgingly let that one slide.
The acting is very solid from the entire cast. But out of all the villains I enjoy watching Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold. I’d have to say he’s OWNS the role. In fact, he’s redefined the character. Miller makes the character his own and while keeping the spirit of the Captain from the comics alive.
The other Flash rogue I enjoyed seeing was Captain Boomerang- An absolute PERFECT adaptation of the character appeared on the Arrow part of the Flash/Arrow crossover. The right amount of Aussie cockiness and sleaze Digger Harkness is known for. I do like that they even put him in the Suicide Squad! I wonder if he’s going to get into it with Bronze Tiger like in the old post Crisis Suicide Squad comics.
A fun surprise was seeing Firestorm in this series. I’d have to say Firestorm’s adaptation from comic to screen has been done very well. Yeah it’s been modified from his comic origin, but the changes work onscreen. Ronnie’s been shown being a hero before getting his powers and that makes for great storytelling. I’d say the new origin stays true to the spirit of Ronnie Raymond’s origin and I’m liking all the scenes of him. The visual effects used to create The Nuclear Man were SPECTACULAR in the mid-season finale. I’m eager to see what kind of costume he’ll wear if he ever gets one. Now if they could find a way to fit in Professor Martin Stein I’d be happy. Everything regarding Ronnie could have been a pilot in and of itself for his own series.
*Unfortunately I just watched last night’s episode and I saw Jason Rusch.* Damn. Just Damn. Another DC Diversity hire shoehorned where he doesn’t belong overcomplicating things.
Detective Eddie Thawne- For all you old school Flash fans Eobard Thawne was the original Reverse Flash from the future. So the big mystery is if Wells is Professor Zoom or if Thawne is the descendant of the Reverse Flash. Or if Thawne himself is the Reverse Flash. I have a feeling there are some red herrings in these early episodes that will be revealed later on in May.
I also like how they fit the cast from the 1990’s TV show into the modern one. It was great to see John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays in roles on the new show. It shows the producers have great respect for the history of the character and the material. Now I wish they could find a role for Alex Dessert, (Joe’s brother would be nice) the entire cast would be back for a reunion.
The biggest positive I like about The Flash is that it looks like it’s part of a foundation for a larger DC live-action universe. In between Arrow and The Flash it looks like there’s a build to a pretty solid Justice League. We’ve got Firestorm on Flash and The Atom getting ready to debut on Arrow, along with Black Canary. And Most of the heroes on TV are more true to the spirit of their comic book counterparts than say those in DC’s the big budget movies like Man of Stool-I mean Man of Steel or Chris Nolan’s dull Dark Knight Trilogy (Just couldn’t get into it).
The way I see it if DC really wants to build to a Justice League theatrical movie, they need to do it on TV, not in theatres. The medium seems to work better for DC’s characters than the big screen movies. The creative team for DC’s TV shows seems to be MUCH better at adapting DC’s properties than the people working at their movie division. Now if Warner would just retool Gotham into a proper Batman: Year one series maybe there’s a chance to build to a GOOD Justice League theatrical movie in a few years.
Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin MUST to reprise their roles for the big screen; there’s no need to recast like Warner is planning for The Flash. Find a good actor to play Batman on TV for a retooled Gotham (Let’s face it, a live action Batman TV show would do better in the ratings than Gotham EVER would in its current state) and the Justice League is partially on its way to forming. Over the course of a season or two, Warner Brothers could build anticipation for a theatrical Justice League movie with hints left throughout the episodes of each TV show like Marvel Studios did with the Avengers.
Artistically, I like the style and tone of the Flash. It’s bright upbeat and fun. Sort of like DC’s version Sam Raimi’s 2002 version of Spider-Man. The world is realistic, but not super real like Man of Steel or Nolan’s Dull Knight Trilogy. The fantasy elements feel natural and organic like they belong there.
However, The writing is a little inconsistent. When the Flash is a straight action series it’s great. But the romance subplots just slows the series down. And not in a good way. Human elements are a great contrast to the superheroic action when they’re done well, and the whole Barry pining for Iris thing is just as grating as those meandering Arrow flashback sequences have become. Barry needs to be a good guy, not a “nice” guy. I just wish the producers of the show would tone down the angst because it falls into the Spider-Man 2 zone of lameness sometimes (man, I HATE that movie). This is supposed to be Barry Allen, not Peter Parker. Barry in the comics was never the Simp the way Barry is in the TV show over Iris. I just want to see him move on because the romance storylines in both The Flash and Arrow are just so forced. CW needs to find a writer who can keep them from being soapy or just tone them down.
The series works well when it stays sunny and straight laced like oldschool Barry, but in a few episodes it’s been trying to march into the “dark” Batman-esque territory like in the Blackout episode. I urge the creators to PLEASE stay on the light side. The Flash works best as a contrast to CW’s Arrow being the light to his dark and taking the moral high road over Arrow’s moral ambiguity. When the Flash ushered in the Silver Age he was the hero who clearly stayed in a Black and white world. Shades of gray do not work for him, and this is why his character has been creatively lost ever since Identity Crisis.
I do have my issues with the New 52-Flash Rebirth origin being the primary source material for The Flash. Yeah, I know this is a new TV series for the new millennium. But the definitive runs of Flash were the ones with Carmine Infantino’s art and Bill Loebs/Mark Waid/Greg Larocque/and the late Mike Winergo on the creative team for many comic fans including myself. And those stories should have been given a bit more priority by the creators in this adaptation. To me, Goeff Johns has been given way too much creative control over The Flash and his vision is starting to be the only one for the character.
Johns is to the Flash today what Chris Claremont was to the X-men in 1986. Yeah in 1975 Chris Claremont was a good thing on the X-men, especially when he had a good writer and artist like John Byrne to bounce ideas off of. But later on during Claremont’s solo run on the X-men without Byrne, his storytelling became a burden to read as the series got bogged down in unfinished plot threads, underdeveloped new characters and overdone crossover events like Inferno. Around the Mutant Massacre in 1986, Claremont had clearly run out of gas, and by the time the Reavers were about to take out the X-men in 1989 most comic fans like myself had grown tired of him. That’s how I’m feeling about Goeff Johns these days when it comes to comics and comic properties. Having him on this show as a writer and producer is a hindrance, not a help.
And I’m not a fan of the Flash’s New 52 styled costume. It looks a lot better in action on TV than I thought it would, but I still find it to be a bit busy and overstyled. I know things are adapted for real life and media, but I just don’t see The Flash when I see this costume. In most cases Marvel superhero costumes automatically tell you who the characters are in spite of the modifications. When you look at a picture Iron Man is still Iron man. Thor is still Thor. Captain America is still Captain America and Spider-man looks just like his comic book counterpart. It’s hard to look at this costume and say it’s the FLASH. With all the dull colors and piping it still looks like a fan cosplay, not a real costume. I’m hoping The CW fixes things for season 2. Barry needs a new suit ASAP. Something with cleaner lines and brighter colors. Something that more fits his bright personality.
I’m also not a fan of killing so many rogues early on in the series. Flash’s rogues are a core component of his series. And the unique relationship between him and his rogues is integral to his stories. So far Weather Wizard, Multiplex, Blackout, and Girder and have all wound up dead at the end of an episode of this series. The best part about bad guys are the follow-up stories; and sadly a lot of these bad guys won’t get a second chance to take on Barry, Ronnie Ollie or Ray in future seasons. As a lot of Flash fans know The Rogues have a very close relationship and a code of conduct about how they operate. It’s kind of hard for them to form that relationship with each other when everyone’s dead.
Then there’s the use of Firestorm’s rogues. The Flash has a rock-solid rogues gallery of at least a dozen characters. And the rogues adapted on this show have been strong. There’s no need to bring in Mulitiplex and Plastique or Killer Frost. If CW wants to build into a Firestorm series or Firestorm episodes who’s he gonna take on?
And I’m not a fan of Dr. Wells killing Simon Stagg at the end of the Multiplex episode. For all you oldschool DC fans like me, Simon Stagg was one of the bigger bads, THE corporate baddie before Lex went all corporate suit and tie in John Byrne’s Man of Steel. And he had a significant impact on the DC Universe, especially regarding the Justice League, the Metal men, and Batman and the Outsiders. With his death there can’t be any Metamorpho. Some may say I’m nitpicking, but y’know these are the kinds of obscure characters Marvel Studios uses to build larger storylines with in the future in their movies.
My biggest issue with The Flash is the casting of a Black Iris West. Yeah, I’m all for diversity. Except when it’s shoehorned into places where it doesn’t need to be. In the comics Iris West was a White woman. And I believe she should have remained a White woman. As a creator I believe in do unto other as they would do unto you. If a character was created to be a certain race or ethnicity, then that character should remain that way. No one producer has a right to change a character’s core elements if the original creator made them a certain way!
Like the Simon Stagg death, Black Iris West has a ripple effect on the adaptation of the DC Universe. Wally West was Iris’ nephew, and if Iris is Black, then Wally won’t be the redheaded kid from the Midwest everyone knows will grow up to become Kid Flash when he’s 10 years old, join the Teen Titans, and eventually take up the mantle of his uncle when he dies in the Crisis. If anything, we’re headed on a road to the Diff’rent Strokes version of Wally. And that would be the Jump the Shark for me. As a Wally West fan who saw him grow up in the New Teen Titans and grow through his grieving process after the Crisis in his own book in the1980s and 1990s, I won’t keep watching this series if I see WB butcher his character.
Overall I like CW’s The Flash. Half a season in it’s still got a long way to go, but it’s definitely on the right track. I feel the series could be a lot stronger if it incorporated more pre-52 elements into it and focused a little more on the stories of its past creators like Mark Waid and not just focused on just Goeff John’s vision of the character. Maybe with the second half of the season the series will start picking up on its momentum and take the storytelling into overdrive. The Flash has the promise to be a great series on the level of Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer. If the writers can just find their groove and really tell great stories this series can have one of the strongest runs for a TV superhero series.
Monday’s blog will be about why CW’s Arrow is starting to SUCK. I used to schedule my Wednesday nights around that show, but if Hell’s Kitchen were to start another season NOW I’d be watching that instead of finishing the season. Felicity/Ollie/Ray Palmer love triangle…NO…Just HELL NO!