Wednesday, November 5, 2014

First Impressions: The Flash

So following on from the start of Gotham a couple of weeks back, the wave of new comics-based shows continues with the start of The Flash. Unlike Gotham, however, The Flash shares a world with the already-successful Arrow, and Barry Allen even appeared for a couple of episodes to hang out in Starling City and flirt with Felicity, damn him. I was late to the party on how worthwhile Arrow was, so the spin off show, promising a lighter tone and yet still tied in, has been hotly anticipated in our house of four geeks of varying ages. Now we're two episodes in, and so I thought I'd share my opinion so far. 

So the Flash is another one of those characters who I've always liked as part of an ensemble. I think this is mostly because "move really quickly" can be a bit of a "one tool in the toolbox" sort of power, and but also because his villains roster isn't the strongest around. Both of these are opportunities, of course, as lesser villains are ripe for reinvention, and you can make great drama out of a powers limitations, as much as it's strengths. It's far too early to make any judgement on either of these, of course, as the first couple of episodes focus very much on setting up the early dynamic of Barry's life. 

Right away we have a setup for a couple of arc mysteries that are probably related; the "yellow lightning" that killed Barry's mother whatever the hell mysterious mentor Doctor is up to. Comics fans are almost certainly heavily into dot-joining, and to be honest I am hoping that there is something slightly cleverer on the way than it looks. But for non comics fans that aren't overly familiar with Flash lore its sitting there happily in the background waiting to be unraveled. In the meantime we have Barry's freinds and family - a couple sparky nerd-couple who at the moment feel like they've been copy/pasted from Agents of SHIELDs "Fitzsimmons", and a surrogate father and sister, the later of which suffers slightly from being "chosen love interest" and I hope she doesn't fall into the trap that Laurel has over in Arrow

In fairness to The Flash they've taken a great deal of care to avoid a lot of similarity to the setup of Arrow, making Barry a more open and easily likable character as a result. The scene at the end of the pilot sums it up - Barry is Superman, Oliver is Batman, and thats how it's going to be. So Barry gets the journalist girlfriend, protective adopted father and day job to juggle, and a sense that he's going to be a figure that the city embraces, rather than fears. It lets the shows co-exist without competing, and with the promise of cross-overs thats pretty cool. The tonal changes are also felt in the script, which are funnier, faster and feature a lot less shirtless brooding. 

After two episodes its hard to judge much more than tone and intent, and this point I'm pretty confident that The Flash is heading the right way. I have to agree with Z that the direction is a little odd at times, some cuts feel too aggressive between scenes, for instance, but that may just be the show trying to feel for a style it hasn't reached yet. "Fake Fitzsimmons" needs to do the same thing that the real pair did and define its characters better, and if I'm really honest there are a few peripheral characters in the cast it needs to do something with. But certainly better than the conflicted, uncertain start that Gotham has had, or the slightly underwhelming pre-ramp-up Agents of SHIELD