TV REVIEW: ‘The Flash’ S01E01 Pilot

'The Flash' CW
'The Flash' CW 2014 TV Series Logo
'The Flash' CW
‘The Flash’ CW 2014 TV Series Logo
  • Written by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kriesberg & Geoff Johns
  • Directed by David Nutter

‘The Flash’ premieres October 7th 2014 on The CW network.

‘Arrow’ has done amazing things for the comic genre on TV, there’s no denying it. Where ‘Smallville’ had a small niche of die-hard fans and a wealth of critics ‘Arrow’ has a massive fan base who would class themselves as die-hard and the critics have lauded the show as the leader of the pack in genre television.

So it was only natural that Warner Bros. TV and The CW were going to look for a way to expand this universe into new areas. I don’t want to touch too much on the rapid expansion of the DC universe as we speed towards the inevitable ‘Justice League’ movie.

I don’t think that fans of ‘Arrow’ would have immediately pointed towards a character like Flash as a place to spin-off this universe given the original premise that the show would stay away from superpowers. Season 1 of ‘Arrow’ was very much grounded in the reality of the DC universe and not only did it work but it worked really well.

Then season 2 came along and news of the spin-off began to circulate and was shortly followed by the announcement of Grant Gustin (Glee) being cast in the role of Barry Allen. After some initial apprehension from viewers as to how powers would be handled the writers of ‘Arrow’ adapted that no-powers mission statement of the show in a manner so organic that it couldn’t help but feel right. By the time the scene featuring Barry’s transformation from CSI to meta-human takes place it just feels like another edge-of-your-seat moment like ‘Arrow’ delivers each week.

The pilot of ‘The Flash’ picks up with a fairly generic pilot mission statement setting/flashback scene to bring those not in the know about comics up to speed (first accidental Flash pun) with who Barry Allen is. The dialogue is a little wooden here which is a shame because the reveal of 90s Flash John Wesley Shipp as Barry’s dad is a little ruined but do not underestimate this casting coup.

The high point for comics fans of this whole sequence is the death of Nora Allen (Michelle Harrison), fans who have kept an eye on trailers and preview clips will notice a small sequence from this scene missing but fear not it is dropped in to the pilot later on. Whilst not giving away any spoilers this scene is a massive nod to a potential future storyline on the series which could become so big – like ‘Justice League’ big – that I highly recommend you go watch ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ (reviewed here) for pointers.

The pilot is good overall with a few flashes (second unintended pun) of greatness but I also get the sense that certain aspects of the show are being held back. There are a few moments which feel forced here and most of those are tied to the fact that the writers are assuming a certain cross-section of the audience will not have watched the season 2 episodes of ‘Arrow’ in which Barry head appeared. With that in mind we’re forced to re-learn about his career and his obsession with vigilantes and heroes.

Barry’s time in Starling City is mentioned but there’s surprisingly no appearance by Felicity Smoak in this episode almost writing over their blossoming relationship.

Thankfully all of the story points relating to Barry’s time prior to his accident take up only the first twelve minutes of this – possibly not final – cut of the pilot.

As always with pilots there’s quite a lot of information to be crammed in to the running time and here it feels like there may have been too much. There’s a feeling that some information has been omitted to allow all of the important information to make it in to the cut.

This isn’t a carbon copy of ‘Arrow’ with a different hero but there are similarities. There’s Iris West (Candice Patton) the love interest who happens to be the daughter of Jesse L. Martin’s Detective Joe West, the lead cop on the show. Of course you can’t blame the writers for this as it is based on the comic.

Where ‘Flash’ differs from ‘Arrow’ is to immediately surround Barry with a crew. Fans of ‘Arrow’ have loved the development of Team-Arrow over the last two seasons but here Team-Flash are together almost as soon as Barry discovers his powers.

Dr Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdez) are both good casting choices and great character choices. For new viewers without the comic knowledge they appear straight away a fully formed characters with histories and motivations but for comics fans there are the inevitable transformations to Killer Frost and Vibe constantly in the back of your mind. These two were again introduced in ‘Arrow’ but I still would have liked to see some development along the lines of that we’ve seen with Diggle and Felicity.

Then there’s Tom Cavanagh’s Dr Harrison Wells, keep your eyes peeled on him throughout the episode as there’s clearly something (after the credits) going on with him. There’s an almost Oracle feel to his character throughout much of the episode and not just because he is confined to a wheelchair.

These characters are more like early season squints from ‘Bones’ than Team-Arrow soldiers but there’s the basics of some strong relationships and more than enough history/destiny to feed the series going forwards.

The villain in this episode, at least the main villain, is Clyde Mardon played by Chad Rook. He is an updated version of the Flash comics villain Weather Wizard. Here the character gets caught up in the same accident that created The Flash and find himself able to control the weather. His appearance in the episode is almost secondary to everything else that’s going on and it makes him a little weak. Although his powers are strong his overall impact on the episode is weak.

Weaknesses aside this pilot does have it all and it succeeds in grounding all the elements in can in to reality to ensure the show doesn’t leap out as full on sci-fi fare. The suit has genuine real life applications and the accident that causes all of this even manages to find a perfect setting within reality. The problems come in balancing all of those elements out whilst trying to entice viewers to watch the continuing adventures of this hero.

Flash himself isn’t given a huge amount of screen time in costume and outside of an impressive demonstration of his powers he hasn’t been given a chance to prove himself yet… but as I keep saying this is a pilot.

The writing is good, the dialogue becomes more flowing as the episode continues and the special effects are of the right level to carry off this type of show. Hopefully the production team can balance out the practical and special effects throughout the season to keep the show from beginning to appear cheap.

All of the main actors are good and I have no doubt that Gustin will succeed in carrying the show to great success.

It’s a good start to a new comic related show but it’s not a great start.

3 stars

3 stars

About Neil Vagg 846 Articles

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember.

Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men

Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice

Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG