Why I love… The Flash
No, not that one, this one:
The Flash as a TV show has just begun its second season in the US, but what I really want to talk about here is its debut season last year.
The first season of The Flash, starring Gustin Grant as the titular character was in my opinion very probably the best debut season of any TV show I’ve ever had the fortune to watch.
But let’s start with the set up.
Barry Allen is a forensic scientist working for the Central City Police Department, when an explosion at the local particle accelerator (what, there’s not one in your city?) causes him to be struck by a bolt of golden lightning while working late one night in his lab.
This had the effect of putting him into a coma for 9 months, but when he awoke he found he wasn’t quite the same man as he was beforehand. The explosion caused a wave of “dark matter” (buzzword du jour alert) to instantly sweep over the city, causing some of the residents to change in unpredictable ways.
In Barry’s case, he found he could run faster than a speeding bullet, and that as usual, with great power…well you know that old chestnut already.
With the series premise set-up, the first half of the first season concentrated on his harnessing of his new-found abilities, as well as building Barry’s back story; That his father was put in jail for the murder of his mother 15 years ago when Barry was a 10 year old boy, and that something weird happened that very night that he has never been able to explain…
Jump back 15 years to after his lab accident, and Barry is being helped to harness his powers with his new found friends at Star Labs, led by Barry’s hero: Dr Harrison Wells, a brilliant physicist who was also paralysed from the waist down in the same accident that caused Barry’s coma.
Also on the team are the lovable Cisco Ramon and the brilliant Dr Caitlyn Snow, both geniuses in their own fields. Cisco with a penchant for technology and coming up with comic-book nicknames for the bad guys, whilst Caitlyn looks after the team on a biological level.
Barry and his team work on honing Barry’s abilities in order to help fight the new wave of meta-humans (DCU’s version of super-humans) who are causing crime and chaos throughout the city. And yes, while the first season features your typical criminal of the week motif whilst finding its feet, there is a grander story arc at play, all tied into the death of Barry’s mother all those years ago.
In fact Barry keeps getting flashbacks of another speedster, but where Barry’s suit is scarlet, this one is all in yellow. In fact some might say he’s dressed like the reverse of Barry’s Flash…
As the season draws towards its mid-season finale, Barry not only starts to vividly remember what happened that night, that this Reverse Flash was actually the one that killed his mother, but he starts to see him. On distant rooftops at first, but then he begins to run into him in person.
And then things really start to get interesting.
It was at this point in the season that I really became a fan of the show. The mythos it was building week to week was gripping, the characters were likeable and fascinating in equal measure, and with only a few exceptions, I never felt cheated when screen time was devoted to any of them, regardless of our main characters.
Never was I so frustrated to get to the end of those 42 minutes every week, and never had I been so engrossed in a series since Babylon 5, 20 years ago! And don’t you believe Sheldon, that was one hell of a series. Well until the networks fucked up and screwed the pacing for the final 2 season, but I digress…
The pacing and plotting throughout that built to the big reveal at the end of the first half of the season was judged perfectly by the writers.
In the closing scene of the first half of the season, before it went on a cruel 6 week hiatus over Christmas & New Year, we saw Dr Wells entering a secret room in Star Labs, speaking to a very futuristic AI, and literally pulling back the curtain to reveal…the Reverse Flash’s suit.
Boom! Mic Drop! Goodnight Seattle!
Viewers then spent the next 6 weeks wondering what level of mind-fuck we’d just witnessed, and if this was in fact true. Was Dr Well’s this great nemesis from Barry’s past? Was this mentor, this hero to Barry in fact the man that killed his mother? Was this a different suit he had gotten from somewhere? If he was the Reverse Flash then why was he helping Barry now, rather than trying to kill him, as it turned out he had tried to do originally all those years ago?
Well as it turns out, the Reverse Flash, just like Barry, can run so fast he can tear a hole in the space time continuum and as a result can travel back and forwards in time itself.
The Reverse Flash is actually Eobard Thawne born in the year 2151, and his family have had a long running grudge with the Allen family, which all began with Barry Allen. So he came back in time to kill young Barry to stop it all before it began.
However Barry eventually realised he could travel back in time himself, doing it accidentally one week whilst chasing a bad guy. He then decides to travel back to try to save his mother but ultimately fails. The Reverse Flash, foiled by Barry Allen once again, vents his frustration at his failure on Barry’s mother.
It’s after this that he realises that in travelling back so far in time he has drained himself of his ability to access the so-called Speed Force, the source from which all speedsters in the DC universe gain their power and ability to run as fast as they can. And yes, there’s more speedsters than just the Flash & Reverse Flash, as we find out in Season 2.
The remainder of the season is occupied with Harrison Well’s intentions and his true identity being slowly realised by the team at Star Labs.
The Reverse Flash intends to use Barry’s speed to open a wormhole to allow him to travel back to his own time period, but that goes as well as you’d expect.
The season ends with the defeat of the Reverse Flash, at a great cost however that leads directly into the second season. But we’ll come back to that at a later date 😉
Overall I enjoyed the first season of the Flash immensely. Much more than any other series currently on television.
The writing, the plotting and pacing, the characterisation, the humour, the actors, the effects, the main villain and Tom Cavanagh’s pitch perfect tightrope portrayal of him. All of it tied together damned near perfectly, and it is firmly right at the top of my to-watch list every week, just sneaking ahead of Agents of Shield, Arrow, iZombie, Walking Dead etc etc.
The Flash is now firmly into its second season, and it’s beginning to pick up the pace heading towards its own mid-season finale, and again the writing and plotting are looking to be coming together once again to ensure that this series is definitely going to remain top of my weekly viewing list.
The challenge here is to see if it will it maintain its pace and momentum from here on in as well as its debut season…
Gotta love Mark Hamill in that title photo though…