Warning: Spoiler Alert
We are in an era of Super Heroes and Fantasy. I for one, could not be happier about that. I am not the historian on The Flash or Barry Allen as I’d like to be going into this premiere. If this were a Batman, Superman, Hulk, Ironman, Captain America or even Green Lantern show, I could boast a certain familiarity. However, I absolutely fell in love with the character in 1990 with the last live action Flash television show. While I am genuinely excited for this, I hold no preconceived expectations for this one. However, I did see the Arrow crossover episode and was significantly intrigued.
However, I am a little skeptical because it’s a CW product. Now don’t read anything into that. Supernatural is an exquisite show that I hope stays on the air for 10 more seasons. Arrow has its good parts and is wildly successful. I did a quick tally. Currently, the CW has 3 shows (including The Flash) that I see as can’t miss shows. 3 Shows that I tried to watch and erased from my DVR by the end of the first episode. And 17 shows I would never consider watching. And that’s the rub. For every Supernatural, there are at least 5 Vampire Diaries type shows that really should only appeal to teenaged girls. The CW undoubtedly has a “look”. The CW seems to operate under the premise that everyone in all of their shows must be young and pretty people. Which detracts from the realism of a show. Maybe that’s what their market research tells them is necessary to compete. Just once I’d like to see them run a show that doesn’t feel like they are only concerned with males and females between 14-26.
The premiere begins with a couple of flashbacks to when Barry was a child. There is even a quick nod the classic interpretation of Barry Allen the person when his mother says, “having a good heart is more important than having fast legs”. And even going as far back as the crossover Arrow episode we get the impression of the person Barry Allen is going to be. Let me just add that amidst writing about characters like Ichabod, D’Artagnan, etc it is refreshing to repeatedly type “Barry”.
The first glimpse of Barry as a CSI is interesting. Not the polished Superhero we may remember from the comics, but I think it’s better this way. We need to see Barry as the man before we can accept him as the hero. At the same time we can appreciate seeing him in his element as a forensics expert. They also broke out a device I was not expecting. I love anytime a show employs visual aids to help the audience to connect to what the character sees. The BBC’s Sherlock does this brilliantly. Barry is able deduce that the getaway car is a Shelby Mustang GT500, due to a rear tire whose dimensions are specific to that model.
We are introduced to Iris earlier than I expected. Playing the ever popular, “best friend that really wants her (male) friend to find the right woman” even if she is the right woman. While in the office Barry and Iris chat about the Star Labs unveiling. Barry immediately jumps right into how incredible this particle accelerator is for the future of everything. There does need to be a little semblance of intrigue toward the scientific and nerdy.
In the middle of this presentation at Star Labs, someone steals Iris’ laptop bag. Curious. Why would a person who is not the excited one bring a laptop she has no intention of using to a public venue? So naturally, it gets snatched. And while the question around ‘why’ bring a laptop is floating around, the answer to the question of ‘why’ was it put there in place is obvious and well-meaning. We need to see Barry Allen chase down a purse snatcher so that we can see Barry Allen as just Barry Allen, a young CSI with tardiness issues and a hard time confessing his feelings to the woman he’s closest to. We also need to see him slow.
Detective West and his partner run down Barry’s checklist of possible farms where the bad guys from the day’s previous murder may be hiding. Nothing until the last location on the list. Inside the barn is a car with a cover over it. Even money says it’s a Shelby Mustang GT500. And it is. A gun fight ensues as the assailant gets away by jumping into a moving single prop plane. But before he does, the gunman hit’s West’s partner.
At Barry’s loft style office, he is alone listening to a news report about the weather. He approaches his large evidence board and pulls down on a map of the city. It retracts revealing a massive evidence spread, complete with pins and string tying pictures and newspaper clippings to each other. Some of the evidence shown illustrates a negative tone associated with the deaths of Nora Allen. Just as we get involved in the story line of what has happened to Barry’s mother and father, the news report turns urgent. The storm is too much and Star Labs needs to be evacuated.
There is an incredible explosion and following shock-wave that reaches far enough that it destroys the single prop getaway plane in mid-flight. In Barry’s office, everything not nailed down starts misbehaving. Barry looks up through a skylight just as lightning strikes, shattering the glass and throwing Barry into a shelving unit that coincidentally happened to have a number of chemicals in open containers on it. While Barry is unconscious, there is visible evidence that something is coursing through him.
Barry gets rushed to the hospital for an apparent lightning strike. The ER doctors and nurses to their thing getting him from point A to point B on a gurney. They simple haven’t noticed the reddish thing coursing through him from feet to face.
Nine months later, Star Labs is shut down and Barry has been in a coma. Despite the signage outside, Barry is apparently inside Star Labs and it looks to be anything but shut down. This seems to be a typical go to move for the CW. There was a similar approach to Oliver Queen’s ‘lair’ in Arrow. And just like that, he lunges awake. There is a frantic (while not Flash like frantic) compulsion to do a number of things fast.
Cisco: Relax everything’s alright. You’re at Star Labs.
Barry: Who are you? I’m Cisco Ramon. She’s Caitlin…Doctor Snow.
Caitlin: I need you to urinate in this.
Cisco: (takes the sample cup) Not right now…
Barry: What is happening? What is going on?
Cisco: You were struck by lightning dude.
Barry: (looks to a monitor showing his torso) Lightning gave me abs?
Caitlin: Your muscles should be atrophied but instead they’re in a chronic and unexplained state of cellular regeneration.
Cisco: You’ve been in a coma.
Barry: For how long?
Harrison Wells: For nine months. Welcome back Mr. Allen. We have a lot to discuss.
What follows is a lovely section of dialogue that essentially catches up the viewer to real-time. The long and short of it minus the technical terminology is that something bad happened to the particle accelerator. It shot stuff into the sky which in turn creating a lightning bolt that struck Barry. Where it gets interesting is in the hospital. They had power outages every time Barry would fall into cardiac arrest. But he wasn’t experiencing cardiac arrest. The EKG machines just couldn’t keep up. His heartbeat was so fast that the machines couldn’t read it. Then despite Wells strong objection, Barry up and leaves the facility.
Barry goes straight to the coffee shop that Iris apparently works at. There is an embrace, he says he’s fine and Iris just goes to grab her stuff to leave. Sidebar question. In what reality would a coffee shop waitress be able to just grab her stuff and leave? Anyway, before Iris leaves to get her stuff, another waitress spills her tray. Which Barry sees in super slow motion. Elsewhere at a bank, a man presents a bank teller with a deposit slip that reads “This is a robbery”. And apparently, this bank robber can manipulate the air.
At the station a few things to notice. 1) Detective West seems REALLY happy that Barry is up. Even a little more than you’d expect. 2) The ‘pretty’ new guy that Iris noticed after the attempted laptop theft is West’s new partner. 3) The Pretty detective tries to say something to Iris and she immediately thwarts his advances.
Barry stands alone in the middle of the precinct as two cops bring in a perp off the street. Barry sees him go to grab one of the cop’s gun. What happens next is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. In quite literally the blink of an eye (in assumed real-time) Barry is able to run over, slam the perp’s head and run back to where he was standing before anyone notices. He abruptly leaves the station while Iris looks on worried. Outside, Barry’s hand is vibrating violently.
What follows is something some of us refer to as the Spider-man Discovery Montage. It’s quick. It’s not like the Rocky Training Montage or the Pretty Woman Shopping Montage, but you see Barry go from concerned to impressed when he realizes how fast he can move.
Please allow me the indulgence to nerd out here for a moment. Two words. “Ferris” and “Air”. For those who can’t place that, Ferris Air is the company that employed Hal Jordan as a test pilot. Hal Jordan eventually becomes the first human Green Lantern.
At Ferris Air, there is a Star Labs van parked on a runway. Wells, has set up some tech and Caitlin says, “you don’t actually think he’s going to run that fast, do you?” We are about to see the suit, I can feel it. Or you know, at least a suit. OK, not THE suit. Spandex and various testing equipment. Even in his silly spandex and bicycle helmet get up, he is able to, well, get up…and go. During this blazing fast test run, Barry falls into a flashback. And just before Barry crashes into a barricade of water filled barrels, you can hear his mother say, “don’t let him touch you”. Then he broke his wrist.
Back at Star Labs, Caitlin explains to Barry that he broke his wrist, past tense. And now it’s perfectly healed. In three hours. But this does give us an opportunity to delve further into the back story of Nora Allen’s death. Which Barry does a nice job of recapping without any unnecessary details.
I knew this was coming, and I still don’t like it. Iris and Thawne (Pretty Detective) are a thing. And Barry just saw evidence of it. I have made no attempts to hide my bias that I am a ‘shipper’. It means I am inclined to root for two characters ending up together, especially if I know it’s supposed to happen. And while I know they did this on purpose, I still don’t have to like it.
Just then police cars come barreling down the street. Barry takes Iris to safety (quickly) and then pursues the man in the black Mustang on foot. In a quick motion I didn’t see coming, Barry goes from running beside the car to smashing into the car. The man goes for his gun and Barry yanks on the wheel causing the car to flip. The driver walks away. Barry gets out and calls him by name, Clyde Mardon. It’s the guy from the single prop plane. It may have been destroyed but he wasn’t.
When West shows up to the scene, what follows is not what I expected and is what I expected at the same time. Barry tries to tell West that not only was it Mardon but that the other robberies are as well. West fires into a tirade about what is real and what is not. Even going into Barry’s father killing Barry’s mother. I kind of expected that. With improved actors comes improved acting. Jesse L. Martin (West) whom you may know from Law and Order and Rent (both cinema and stage) brings something to this show and this moment. Barry then simply walks away. Just missing out on Thawne presenting to West the sketch from the bank robbery eye-witness. Looks just like Mardon.
Barry storms into Wells’ lab and demands to know what really happened. We discover the rabbit hole goes a little deeper. The explosion sent particles, anti-matter, and a number of other theoretical elements into ‘our world’. Which leaves the door open for any number of conflicts and story lines in the future. Wells sees Barry as a living Petri dish of potential new answers to current medical issues. Namely, the fact that Wells is in a wheel chair makes preserving Barry in one piece priority number one. If that wasn’t enough we get to witness the first big speed bump.
Barry: I have to do something.
Wells: What’s important is you. Not me. I lost everything. I lost my company. I lost my reputation. I lost my freedom. Then you broke your arm. And it healed in three hours. Inside your body. It could be a map to a whole new world, genetic therapy, vaccines, medicines, treasures buried deep within your cells and we cannot risk losing everything because you want to go out and play hero. You’re not a hero. You’re just a kid who was struck by lightning.
Having heard enough, Barry takes off running. Running and more running. He eventually stops, hundreds of miles away and with his jacket almost on fire. He looks up at a road sign that reads “Starling City 5 miles”. You have one guess and 5 seconds to predict what’s next. It should be exceedingly obvious.
The CW is not hesitating to flirt with creating a workable ‘universe’. Barry, The Flash ran hundreds of miles to consult with a friend and soon to be colleague, Arrow (Oliver Queen).
Back at Star Labs, Barry appeals to Cisco and Caitlin in the typical ‘create the support structure’ team members. Cisco has been working on a suit prior to Barry’s powers. Which as expected work out beautifully for these purposes. Very similar to the Dark Knight using a suit designed for military use and modifying it.
Detective West and Thawne go back to the Marden farm, where he happens to be. A little banter, the villain referring to himself as God. Not a God or God-like, but the God. Then Marden levitates, lands outside right as Barry shows up. Utilizing a Superman story line (or maybe an old Flash story line) Barry runs really fast in the opposite direction around Marden’s tornado.
Wells: You can do this Barry. You were right. I am responsible for all of this. So many people have been hurt because of me. When I looked at you, all I saw was another potential victim of my hubris. Yes, I created this madness, but you Barry…you can stop it. You can do this. Now run Barry RUN
I’m sure you can imagine what happens next. “I didn’t know there was anyone else like me”-Marden”. Then West shoots him. Following that commercial break, West has an abrupt no questions asked moment coming to grips with what Barry has been saying the entire time. And that would be great, but then they fall back into the Spider-man thing again. Now as I mentioned in the first part of this recap, I am not a Flash historian. So maybe this is true to the story. But in a landscape where there have been 10 times as many Spider-man versions as Flash versions, maybe the Officer Stacey line we could do without. West wants Barry to keep as much of this (powers and whatnot) away from Iris, to keep her safe.
There is a short scene with Barry and his father (in prison), the subject of which is essential but not earth shattering. Barry believes in his dad and that’s all his dad needs. What’s DRAMATICALLY more important than that is who plays Barry’s dad. This will date me to the younger crowd but it’s The Flash talking to the Flash. Barry’s dad is played by John Wesley Shipp. Who played the Barry Allen/The Flash title character in the 1990-91 live action television drama “The Flash”. Lovely nod to the previous version.
The big ‘reveal’ happens just before the credits. Wells rolls into a secret room. Places his hand against the wall and the wall peels back like a pixellated facade. Which opens to some sort of brail room. Then, this — (trying to keep it family friendly) stands up. HE STANDS UP! Walks over to a lone console. Places his hand on it. Then the console projects a hologram of a future newspaper. The headline reads: “Flash Missing Vanishes in Crisis”. Date: April 25, 2024. What’s more is the smaller headline below it. “Wayne Tech/Queen Inc merger complete”. So, first off, Harrison Wells is the big bad guy parading around in sheep’s clothing. And the second big thing (don’t quote me on this), the Wayne-Queen merger seems to be a nod to the Crisis on Infinite Earths story line actually used by DC in the comic books.