When I first heard that Arrow, one of the The CW’s most popular shows, was having a spin off called The Flash, I was skeptical. Arrow was one of my favorite shows, even with its many problems, but spin offs rarely lived up to the original shows in my experience.
I was even more doubtful when I found out that the lead was going to be Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin. From his appearance on Arrow, I liked the character. He was dorky in an endearing way, and seemed to be basically a less interesting, male version of Felicity Smoak, my favorite character on Arrow. But in no way did his short stint on Arrow suggest that he was leading man material, and I was afraid The Flash wouldn’t be very exciting due to that.
I didn’t go in with high hopes, but the show far exceeded those expectations. The pilot episode brought in 4.83 million viewers, one of The CW’s absolute highest rated premieres, and for good reason. The writers managed to turn Barry from a mediocre character whose most noticeable quality was that he babbled a lot into a three-dimensional one with layers and a troubled past.
Ever since he was a young boy, Barry wanted to fly. In a flashback, he’s shown running from bullies on the streets of Central City, trying to run fast enough to escape them, but falling short and getting beat up as a result.
Not long after, Barry’s mother is murdered. Barry witnesses her murder, but he can’t make sense of what he sees—a man moving at lightning speed surrounding his mother and killing her. His father is sent to prison for her murder instead of the true culprit, and Barry is told again and again that what he saw wasn’t real but only a figment of his imagination.
His mother’s murder drives much of the plot and serves as a mystery that needs to be solved during the course of the season.
Moving onto present day, after a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs explodes and causes a thunderstorm, Barry is struck by lightning and put into a coma. When he wakes up, he is under the care of Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon, who work with the brilliant scientist who created the accelerator in the first place, Dr. Harrison Wells.
Soon afterwards, Barry discovers the lightning strike had a curious effect on him: not only did he not die as he should have, but he now has super speed. Barry always wanted to fly, and now he practically can.
Working with the Caitlin, Cisco, and Dr. Wells, Barry tries to figure out his new power, find others like him, called metahumans, with their own unique powers, and help as many people as he can with his superpower.
The episode sets up a lot in terms of the plot, at times the action being overwhelming. A lot of the scenes can be campy and melodramatic, and the metahuman antagonists could have been set up stronger. This villain motif has been pulled from older comics in the same vein as this spinoff superhero show, such as Firestorm.
In addition to the plot, however, there are many great characters and dynamics introduced as well. Perhaps the two most important are Iris West, played by Candice Patton, and Joe West, played by Jesse L. Martin.
When Barry isn’t under his secret identity as The Flash, he is just a forensic crime scene assistant for the police department, working under Joe, who had taken him in and raised him after his mother’s death.
Iris, Joe’s daughter, is Barry’s best friend who he also happens to be in love with. The dynamic between Barry, Joe, and Iris is my favorite thus far, truly resembling one of a close family who would do anything for each other. Barry and Joe act almost like father and son, and Joe’s concern for Barry permeates their every interaction.
Barry and Iris’s best friend relationship is a convincing set up for their possible upcoming romance. They banter with the ease of best friends who have known each other forever, but Barry’s feelings for her are apparent, and his attempts at revealing them to her are in vain.
Joe and Iris aren’t just interesting for their relationship with Barry; however, they are great stand-alone characters with a lot of potential for future development.
Joe can seem strict and harsh, but his caring nature is clear in his relationship with Barry and his daughter.
Iris is strong-willed, ambitious, and fiercely loyal, and though she doesn’t yet discover Barry’s secret identity like her father does by the end of the episode, she isn’t easily fooled and is determined to find out what Barry is hiding.
The team of Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco is also an interesting dynamic, and very reminiscent of Team Arrow on Arrow. Caitlin is played by Danielle Panabaker, who is perhaps best known for her roles in Disney Channel movies such as Stuck in the Suburbs, Sky High, and Read it and Weep.
The character comes off as uptight and reserved, but she’s also highly intelligent and dealing with the loss of her fiancé. Cisco, played by Carlos Valdes, though he starts off as almost a comic relief character, is also very loyal to Barry and the team. Dr. Wells seems trustworthy at first, but the end of the episode reveals he has a lot to hide.
Representation-wise, the show is pretty good, with three out of the four main characters—Iris, Joe, and Cisco—being characters of color, and Iris and Caitlin being promising as female leads.
The pilot has a decent blend of action, character development, and relationship building, though it could go lighter on the action part. It sets up many plot points—from the mystery of Barry’s mother’s murder, to Barry’s new superpower, to the conflict of the various other metahumans, to Barry and Iris’s budding romance, to the secret Dr. Wells is hiding, so the coming season definitely won’t lack in material to build on.
For Arrow fans, it’s a must, and even for those who haven’t seen Arrow, The Flash is a highly promising show with a lot of potential and the ability to keep you guessing.