I’m honestly not sure why it has taken me so long to review CW’s The Flash, which the Mysterious Mr. C and I have been avidly watching since it premiered in October. I think part of it is because I wanted to give the show a full season to find its legs, like I did with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but even after I switched to the three-episode set-up like most professional television critics, The Flash never made the blog calendar. Well, that changes now!
For as long as I can remember, I have been aware of the Flash as a comic book character/superhero, but I didn’t know anything about his origin story or the world he lived in. (When it comes to DC Comics, I’m more versed in Batman lore.) C, however, remembers watching the television show that came out in the 1990s and has been following Arrow, also on the CW, so he was super excited for The Flash after Grant Gustin first appeared as Barry Allen (the Flash) next to Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen (the Arrow). And while we’ve both been enjoying the show, it struck me the other night that it seems to have followed a similar trajectory as the first season of S.H.I.E.L.D, when each episode focused on some new C-list villain instead of on building out the relationships on the team or making us care about the characters.
The essential premise of The Flash is that 14 years after Allen witnesses his mother’s murder at the hands of a supernatural creature – part man, part lightning – an advanced particle accelerator malfunctions and bathes his hometown with an unknown form of radiation. The explosion creates a severe thunderstorm, during which he is struck by lightning and doused with chemicals. He wakes from a coma nine months later to discover that he has the ability to move at superhuman speeds. Working with Dr. Harrison Wells, the disgraced designer of the accelerator, and his team, as well as the local cops (Allen is a crime scene investigator and was taken in by Detective Joe West after his father went to prison for his mother’s murder), Allen – as the Flash – looks for other “metahumans” who were affected by the radiation, as well as the speedster who killed his mom.
For the most part, the show is a supernatural crime procedural tied together by the overarching hunt for Nora Allen’s murderer. And while that set-up worked for a while, I eventually became bored with the “find another metahuman and put him in Wells’ cage” formula. I wanted to see some progress on the sub-plots we had been introduced to through the season, such as Iris West (Joe’s daughter) finding out that Barry was in love with her, and everyone realizing that something was not quite right about Wells.
However, things have begun to change on The Flash. The last few episodes in particular have focused on Barry’s growing disillusionment with Wells, and his suspicions that he is not all that he seems. We are also learning more about the Reverse Flash, the man who killed Allen’s mother. But for everything we learn, the show’s writers add another plot twist. Yet instead of making the story increasingly convoluted, these surprises provide the sort of cliffhanger endings that have me eagerly awaiting the next episode, not just watching it because C wants to.