The pilot for the new Flash TV show was leaked on line, possibly by the CW as a way of promoting the latest DC comics TV show, or maybe just by some employee who really wants to know what its like to get the life sued out of them. If it’s the former, than as a self respecting nerd, it’s my duty to watch and comment on the pilot. If it’s the latter, well I could be super lame and ignore it and just wait for the show to premier in a few months from now (or weeks or years, I honestly have no idea when it comes out). I couldn’t resist the temptation to sate my recent cravings for comic book related enjoyment, so I decided to ignore the morally ambiguous dilemma and downloaded the pilot.
Further down below I will do a “live blog” style review as I over analyze each scene, but here is my general feelings on the pilot: It was good, and seems to show that these DC TV shows are trending in the right direction. This direction I’m speaking of is the progression from Smallville, to Arrow, and now into The Flash.
One of the major problems with Smallville (which I only watched the first couple and then last couple of seasons along with a handful of random episodes in the middle thrown in as well), was that it seemed almost embarrassed by the source material. There was a well known standing rule by DC that the show couldn’t have tights or flights. Basically DC was afraid that if they showed someone on Smallville flying around in blue and red spandex with an S on their chest/Kryptonian symbol for hope, that audiences would be confused whenever they got around to releasing a movie that featured a slightly older guy flying around in blue and red spandex with an S on their chest/Kryptonian symbol for hope. That was fine for the first couple seasons but as the show went on (for 10 fucking years) it got kind of ridiculous when someone like Dr. Fate shows up in the full on Dr. Fate uniform but Clark is still wearing jeans and a t-shirt to fight crime.
When Arrow came out it was nice to see that they didn’t mind embracing more of the comic book nature of source material, albeit with an almost plagiaristic Dark Knight feel, but they really went hot an heavy with a lot of the CW young adult relationship angst drama BS that I also hated about Smallville. Yes, I understand why that has to be in the show to 1. appeal to a larger audience, and 2. to soak up low cost budget time so that the show isn’t just an expensive 20 min show of Ollie punching bad guys. Even with that understanding, I still felt a lot of the relationship stuff could have been focused a little better and done in a way that you didn’t feel like you were at times watching to completely different shows.
The pilot of The Flash gives the impression that it will have no problem using the source material, and may not spend a ton of time on relationship woes, and even when it does, may keep it focused on just one character desperately trying to get out of the friend zone. Something else I like about the pilot is the special effects. This obviously could change as the show moves away from the pilot and the purse strings start to tighten, but this first episode showed a lot of promise in the actual super hero fight aspect of the show.
My overall grade for the pilot is 4 out of 5 cosmic treadmills.
Now lets get to the play by play. Warning Spoilers below.. obviously.
The show opens with an Amazing Spidermanesq title character voice over that felt awkward as hell. I guess it’s because he used the term blur almost immediately and that brought back feelings of Smallville calling Clark the blur since they couldn’t call him Super Man. Also he talks about how his “whole life I’ve been running” and how he guesses he wasn’t fast enough when some bullies beat him up. I know bullies are a major problem for a lot of kids, but it’s almost a cliché at this point, and I’m not sure if it really had anything to do with the rest of the pilot.
This transitions into a scene where we are introduced to Barry Allen’s parents who are so perfect that they even keep the house lighted all golden hour style when having heart to heart conversations. This all felt very Smallville to me, and I wasn’t digging it since I was afraid they were going to already retcon the origin story that they had shown in Arrow this season. Luckily we quickly move on into some action where we see Barry’s mom being circled by some yellow and red lightning, which I’m guessing is actually the Flash and the Reverse Flash traveling back in time and fighting each other.
I’ll be honest I never read DC comics as a kid and most of my Flash knowledge comes from the Justice Legaue cartoon show and some of the DC animated movies. I know that there is a dude just like the flash who wears predominantly yellow with red accents and has battled The regular Flash in some time traveling adventures, but I have no idea if this stuff is cannon. So Barry somehow gets transported away and his mom dies, and the dad is blamed and imprisoned for the murder. Tough break kid, I’m sure the bullies will leave you alone now that you have suffered such heart break, kids are nice like that.
Oh did I mention that at one point his dad tells him to pull a Forrest Gump and “run barry run”. Seriously no one writing the show thought, “maybe we can just have him say something like ‘get out of here’ or ‘stay back’ instead of saying something that will only remind people of a Robert Zemeckis movie.” Oh, and this isn’t the only time in the pilot a character will tell Barry to pull a Gump either.
Back in the present day we see Barry is late getting to a crime scene since he is a CSI guy, the captain or sergeant or cop in charge whatever asks the other detectives where Allen is and that since he’s not there he will have to take over the investigation. When Barry has finished plowing through people on the streets with his rugged CSI briefcase, presumably full of lab equipment, the cop in charge asks him if he’s late because he forgot to set his alarm clock and over slept. I honestly am not sure if this line was meant as a joke by the cop, or are the writers implying that in this city crimes like murder are scheduled to take place as to fit a normal 8 to 5 work day. I’ve watched this scene a couple times and I’m honestly not sure.
What happens next doesn’t really instill faith in the writers of the show. First Barry stares at some tread marks and small smosh of brown stuff and we see all of these DaVinci Code the movie style lettering/animation over what Barry is looking at which measures and details the clue for the audience. I’m not sure why they thought this was necessary. He has a big briefcase full of lab stuff, I’m sure he has a ruler in there. Why not just have him measure it instead of not very scientifically sizing it up with his eyes. He tells the detectives, one of which is that Rent actor from Law and order who I like, but not enough to look him up on IMDB, that the tire had to come from a Shelby Mustang. I have no idea if what he said is true/possible/knowable but I’ll go along with it since it is keeping me from thinking that maybe the magic measurements and words he saw floating around the clue wasn’t just him having a weird acid trip, and that maybe the entire show is just him having acid trips while everyone else around him just plays along. “No Barry, you are totally running super fast and not just high as fuck and jogging in place”
I honestly like this show even though I’m kind of nit picking some weird shit in the beginning, and a lot of this enjoyment comes from the light humor and the actors, but remember how I mentioned that Barry has all the CSI stuff with him, since he is a Crime Scene Investigator, who presumably knows proper evidence handling procedures. So he takes a pen out of Detective Replacable’s breast pocket and uses it to scoop up some of the smooshed brown stuff that was in the tire tread. It turns out that the smooshed stuff is “fecal excrement” which I’m not sure if that is or isn’t a redundant term, and Barry places the pen and excrement in one of those CSI baggies. The Detective who I’m sure will have a long and healthy career, says “My dad gave me that pen… before he died.” It was a funny line and you can tell the Detective is annoyed but also likes Barry in that “he’s a screw up, but he’s my screw up” kind of way.
Just to clear up a few points, there’s three cops there, 1 is the law and order guy, 2. is the detective with the dead dad who’s pen has now been covered in cow poop, and 3 is the cop in charge who thought that if a crime scene guy is late, the regular cops and detectives could just start processing evidence them selves since that could never lead to a mistrial down the road.
Once again, I liked the show and even with these things that annoy me, I liked the beginning of the episode cause each of these stupid things said/done by the characters made them likeable or made me smile or laugh. I don’t know if I could deal with a whole season of characters doing stuff like this though, but for just one episode I’m ok with it.
Next scene we see Barry at his lab analyzing the poop covered family heirloom. I honestly don’t’ know if this is Barry’s apartment/loft where he does lab work out of as some kind of contractor for the police department, or if this is a part of the police building that is isolated with a really cool view of the city and some old timey Frankenstien style roof chain pulley things. A cute love interest walks into Barry’s lab/possible apartment, and we find out that she is Detective Law and Order’s daughter and that she and Barry grew up together. Also we get some fore shadowing about the particle accelerator that is going to play the same role that the kryptonite comet played in Smallville.
One complaint is that the love interest says she is working on a dissertation and then seconds later doesn’t understand what Barry is saying when he says the work being done on the particle accelerator is light years ahead of what is being done at CERN. That’s almost exactly what he said, and she says “your doing that thing where you not speaking English” and then moments later mentions twerking. So they are making her sound kind of dumb, but she is working on a dissertation, maybe she doesn’t actually know what a dissertation is and thinks it’s a kind of dessert they are serving at the bakery she works at.
Anyways, kind of annoying stuff, but still fun and light hearted characters blah blah blah, next scene Barry gets friendzoned so hard I thought they were going to rename his character Mike Johnson. Moments latter at a crowded event to celebrate the launch of the particle accelerator some random criminial steals Love Interest’s lap top bag. Barry chases after the guy and gets punched to the ground, but luckily Love Interests future love interest shows up to arrest the would be thief. I really should learn some of the supporting character’s names. Maybe when the show actually comes out I’ll do it.
The cops follow Barry’s lead and find the bank robber and a shoot out starts. The non Law and Order Cop gets shot in the neck and dies. Bad week for him, first his dad’s pen, now this. Back at the lab/apartment (which on second viewing I’m sure isn’t his apartment) Barry gets struck by lightning after the partical accelerator blows up while trying to do… something? with that pulley chain thing I mentioned earlier. Barry wakes up 9 months later in Star labs where guest stars from this season of Arrow are monitoring Barry and playing lady gaga songs.
Lots of exposistion goes on where we learn that the Star Labs people are basically going to be Barry’s super hero support group just like Ollie has on Arrow. Barry, having just woken up from a 9 month commas 5 min ago, straight up leaves Star Labs as they put up virtually no resistance to him leaving AMA. Barry goes right to see Iris (the detective’s daughter who’s name I just learned) and we get the first glimps of his super power. Iris and her dad’s partner who saved her lap top bag earlier are shown to clearly be dating. Barry does some more “holy shit I have super powers” stuff, and we move into act II.
I like that Barry didn’t take forever to accept his powers and is already working with his support team, one of which was on Justified this season and is adorable even though she is super closed off and almost bitchy on this show. This all flies in the face of Smallville and to a lesser extent Arrow where the support team aspect was developed more slowly. I like this. It’s a super hero show, lets get into the super hero stuff, we don’t’ need a whole bunch of episodes of origin/year one stuff. This pilot gets most of that stuff out of the way so you can get to the good stuff.
Some dude who can control the weather robs a bank and the cops are on the trail. Once again, the special effects are good, not out of this world amazing, but they don’t detract from the show. Barry finds out that Iris is dating Eddie, so his friendzone status has hit a new high. Thankfully the CW patented relationship drama doesn’t take up too much screen time before we segue into some super powered action scenes where Barry has already embraced his new powers and are using them for good, or at least trying to. Turns out the bank robber with the weather powers is the same robber from 9 months ago that killed that detective with the poop pen.
Dad cop and Barry hash out some stuff about dad cop watching over Barry after his dad murdered his mom, and how Barry needs to accept what really happened that night. Then a scene later Barry is yelling at the particle accelerator doctor about what really happened that night when the CERN knock off blew up. The doctor then does a weird Walken/Shattner paced dialog explaining that other meta humans were created by the explosion. Seriously, I have no idea what was happening with the dialog there. The actor is fine in virtually every other scene he’s in but it honestly sounded like he had never read those lines before that take.
CAMEO ALERT!!!! Barry visits Oliver Queen who is of course standing on a roof top in Green Arrow gear. Barry is upset cause some dude died and he doesn’t think he can be a hero, especially after the wheel chair doctor told him he wasn’t a hero and is just some kid who got struck by lightning. Arrow restores his faith in a conversation that is really good if you have been watching Arrow. It really shows the difference between the two characters and what the two shows can be. Plus it was nice to see the Oliver character talk to someone in a more honest and equal way. Kind of like what I imagine batman would say to newly minted super man.
Actually, lets just get right to it, Arrow is basically the CWs attempt to make batman, and the Flash will probably be a more Superman like character. There’s parallels all over the place, many of them painfully obvious, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I do think that Arrow is less dark than Batman and the the Flash will be less Boy Scoutish than super man. I don’t envision there being a lot of cross over between these two shows but I’m sure there will be some here and there that hopefully won’t be too awkward.
Act III starts with the show fully embracing the character by him donning the flash suit and working with his team to take down a super villain. I’m not sure who this super villain is in the DC universe but he has a god complex. Bad guy makes a tornado, and Barry runs fast in the opposite direction. At first he’s not fast enough and the cute lab chick doubts his body can handle running fast enough, but then Dr. Wheel Chair gets on the intercom and gives Barry a Forest Gump “Run Barry Run” pep talk, and Barry is able to run super fast and stop the tornado. The Dad Detective shoots the bad guy and finds out that Barry is the flash. This detective is way better than detective Lance on Arrow who somehow still has no idea Ollie is the Arrow.
Barry visits his dad in jail and does the obligatory hand on the window thing that everyone in prison does when they aren’t yelling “WHERE THE FUCK IS WALLACE?” It looks like they are trying to set up a story arc with the dad detective and Barry trying to get Barry’s dad freed from prison. These side stories can be a good ongoing narrative to help keep the show from just being a bad guy of the week show, or it could distract from whatever big bad is the focus of each season. I’m hoping for the former obviously, but speaking of ongoing story lines, there is a stinger at the end of the episode involving Dr. Doesn’t Actually Need a Wheel Chair.
We see him go into a secret brail decorated room at Star Labs where he WALKS (ZOMG!!!) to a podium and places his hand over one of those round push light things you see advertised on TV, and floating newspaper from the future holograms to life. On the front page you see the head line “FLASH MISSING, VANISHES IN CRISIS” with a date of April 25 2024. Obviously this is foreshadowing… something. Infinity Crisis? Crisis on Two Earths? Darkest Night, Flash point… ummm, like I said I never read DC comic books, but I know they like the word Crisis. I did watch the one DC animated movie involving the Flash where he is erased from time or someone changes time and everything is different, so maybe it has something to do with that. Either way it was a cool as hell teaser for whatever is coming down the line and leaves you not sure if the Dr. is a good guy or a bad guy, or just a morally ambiguous guy.
As I said before, I really like the pilot and hope that the few negatives don’t start to dominate the show as time goes on. From what I could read online it looks like the show is going to premier in about 4 months. My guess is the pilot will end up being slightly different from what I’ve seen, but not majorly.