THE FLASH Series Premiere Recap: “City of Heroes”

     October 7, 2014


The excellent premiere of The Flash deserves better than speed puns, so let me just say it plainly: This show is really, really good.  And not just The CW good, but good across the board.  “City of Heroes” nails its comicbook source material, brings home the dramatic feels, and freshens up the action scenes in a fun new way.  So what’s the downside?  The premiere was so strong that it has set an incredibly high bar for the rest of the series’ episodes going forward. That not only puts the pressure on the network’s brother-show Arrow, but other small-screen ventures into the world of superheroes.  This is the way you kick off a signature series.

The Flash recap follows after the jump.

the-flash-city-of-heroesBefore we get into the actual plot of the episode itself, let’s get one thing out of the way.  The Flash easily could have been a copy of the template used for Arrow, but the writers and producers chose to forge a different path instead.  While the identity of Arrow‘s title vigilante is kept secret from most folks for a time, The Flash is a bit too, well, flashy to stay under the radar for long.  His confidants are established in the first hour, and rather than act as a team leader trying to keep his cohorts in line like Arrow, he plays the star athlete who’s trying to win the day with the help of his behind-the-scenes partners.  Perhaps the sharpest contrast between the DC heroes is how their origin stories play out: Oliver Queen’s transformation is almost entirely brought upon himself due to his arrogance, while Barry Allen’s tragic past and body-altering accident were guided by the hand of fate through no fault of his own.  The two couldn’t be more different, which is why they’ll get along so well in the same world (with plenty of cross-over appeal).

Now, what The Flash did borrow from Arrow was a dose of storytelling structure.  The premiere opens with Grant Gustin’s narration asking the audience to suspend their disbelief for an hour to better enjoy his tale.  I love the effect of The Flash running through the streets, along with the fun-loving nature of Gustin’s performance; it reminded me of Tobey Maguire’s first attempts at web-swinging in Sam Raimi’s early Spider-Man films.  And also, like Arrow, we’re soon treated to a … FLASHback! (I’ll try to come up with a different term since they use this tactic quite a bit.)

the-flash-city-of-heroes-grant-gustinIt’s here we see a young Barry Allen, defender of the innocent and the youngest member of a wholesome American family.  That perfect picture is ruined when a freak lightning storm bursts into the Allens’ home and kills Barry’s mother, an event which landed his father in jail for life.  Both traumatic events caused Barry to pursue a career in crime-fighting and bolstered his unwavering support for his father (played quite well by the former Flash himself, John Wesley Shipp).

While Barry’s gig as a CSI forensics tech is a great cover for his eventual crimefighting ways, it also serves to show off just how smart the kid is without his heightened powers.  It also connects us to his father figure Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his daughter/Barry’s childhood best friend, Iris (Candice Patton).  Patton and Gustin have great on-screen chemistry, so fans will likely be feeling sympathy for Barry and his unrequited love interest for quite some time to come.

Before Barry experiences his transformative accident (as a result of the STAR Labs particle accelerator exploding), a rash of bank robberies had been committed by the Mardon Brothers.  That should tip off DC Comics fans, but barely register for casual new audience members. (I love the Easter eggs dropped into The Flash, but we’ll save those for the end.)  Suffice it to say that the same event that gives Barry his powers also created plenty of other meta-humans in the tri-county area, which just so happens to include one of the Mardon boys (aka Weather Wizard).  His newfound abilities come in handy when continuing his favorite hobby: bank robbing.

the-flash-city-of-heroes-tom-cavanagh-danielle-panabakerMeanwhile, Barry is trying to get a handle on his new powers after waking from a nine-month coma, and STAR Labs’ employees Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) are there to help!  Well, while they do assist Barry in testing his speed limits, it becomes obvious that Wells only wants to use him as a guinea pig that will hopefully generate some lucrative patent work.  What’s not so obvious is that Wells has an ulterior motive; more on that in a bit.

Even though this first hour has a ton of setup and exposition, it’s delivered in such a fun way that the show never drags for even a fraction of a second.  It’s not long at all before Barry is testing his speed in the city’s streets and figuring out how to control his powers so that he can protect the innocent.  By combining his forensics expertise and his new superspeed, he inevitably winds up confronting Mardon, who’s now a self-proclaimed God at the center of an F5 tornado.  While I really like this first look at Barry’s speed in action and his manner of defeating the Weather Wizard, I have my fingers crossed that the writers have lot of cool tricks in store for the future that go beyond “running really fast.”

In addition to the amazing production quality of this first hour, the casting is spot on. The supporting cast is outstanding.  If Arrow is any indication, they’ll all get plenty of opportunity to develop along the way.  Another thing I look forward to seeing is a bit more of Gustin’s personality coming through in Barry/Flash, now that his quest to find his mother’s killer (and clear his father’s name) has been laid out.  Gustin did a great job at introducing audiences to Barry Allen, cemented by his tearful reunion with his incarcerated father.  Now I want to see The Flash make more of an impact.

Rating: A

the-flash-city-of-heroes-flashSpeeding Bullet Points:

  • Let’s talk about that final scene!  Wells is not only not disabled, but is either a time traveler or has access to future news articles!  Before you get all crazed and think that DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” is coming to The CW, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.  Elements of the arc, maybe, but probably not verbatim.
  • Headline: “Flash Disappears: Vanishes into Thin Air; Wayne/Queen Merger Complete”
  • Easter eggs you may have missed: Ferris Air symbol at the airfield testing site, Reverse Flash seen in Barry’s flashbacks (oy), and Gorilla Grodd apparently escaped his STAR Labs cage!
  • Wells: “Trust me, that future will be here faster than you think.”
  • Allen: “Lightning … gave me abs?”
  • Arrow: “I don’t think that bolt of lightning struck you, Barry. I think it chose you.”
  • How bout that Arrow cameo? This is my favorite bromance on TV.
  • Detective West: “Why the hell would God need to rob banks?”
  • Snow: “Why is it shaped like a lightning bolt?” Ramon: “So it’s not boring.”

There was so much fantastic content in this first episode that I’m sure I missed some things. Be sure to share your reaction to the premiere and anything that we missed by posting in the comments below!


The Flash Series Premiere Review