The CW’s The Flash was one of the most anticipated Fall 2014 series going into its actual first episode airing on October 7, 2014 and, fortunately, the series premiere lived up to all the hype. The Flash is a refreshing addition to the primetime lineup, lighter in tone than Arrow and featuring a terrific cast led by Grant Gustin in the title role. The effects are top notch, the pacing of the first episode of season one was fast without feeling as though it was too crammed with information, and even people who aren’t into comics could easily find an entry into the story as the characters are a relatable bunch.
Episode one (“City of Heroes”) kicked off with a voice-over from Barry Allen/The Flash setting the story up. “To understand what I’m about to tell you, you have to believe in the impossible,” says Barry as he goes on to explain how as a kid he was always running, especially away from bullies. He also recalls how he woke up one night to discover his mother being murdered by a stranger inside a ball of lightning. His father (played by John Wesley Shipp who starred in the original short-lived Flash series years ago) is wrongfully accused and convicted of murder, but Barry doesn’t believe his dad actually killed his mom. He never wavers from his belief that a man entered their home, used incredible powers, and murdered her that night many years ago.
Flash forward to current day and Barry’s now a crime scene investigator for the Central City police department, working directly under his surrogate father, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). His BFF is Joe’s daughter Iris (Candice Patton) who views their relationship as brother and sister which means that even though it’s not what he wants, he’s forever relegated to the dreaded friend zone.
Barry’s sort of goofy, charming, and very good at his job. He’s also a science geek who can’t wait to check out S.T.A.R. Labs’ demonstration of its particle accelerator. Boss Joe allows him time off to go check it out with Iris only because Barry’s figured out that the guys who committed the crime they’re investigating – the Mardon Brothers – are hiding out at a local farm. Joe goes off to search the farm while Barry goes with Iris to watch Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) show off the particle accelerator. Unfortunately, Barry misses most of the demonstration because some random hoodlum steals Iris’ laptop with her dissertation on it and Barry tries to be a hero by chasing after him. He catches up to him but the guy hits him and takes off again. Fortunately for Iris, new cop in town Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) is on the scene and saves the day. Eddie’s a pretty boy who keeps a running score of his arrests and Barry immediately dislikes him, mostly because he helped out Iris when Barry was unable to do so.
Back at his lab after missing the demonstration, Barry’s once again looking into his mother’s death when all of a sudden the particle accelerator malfunctions and creates a huge, crazy storm. Barry’s struck by lightning and knocked into a coma where he remains for nine long months. Housed at S.T.A.R. Labs and watched over by Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), Barry suddenly wakes up one day showing no after effects from the coma. In fact, he’s actually grown muscle mass and is in great shape.
17 people died the night of the particle accelerator demonstration, with the accelerator online for just 45 minutes before there was an “anomaly”. Harrison wound up in a wheelchair and everyone thought Barry was flat-lining at the hospital but actually his heart was beating so fast it couldn’t be recorded.
Barry allows the S.T.A.R. Labs people to conduct tests on him after he wakes up. He’s the fastest man on the planet and can move so quickly that people can’t actually track him with their eyes, and Barry’s completely geeked out about his new talent – after a few missteps while trying to control it. The first real test of his new super-speed ends in a crash that breaks his arm because he lost focus and started thinking about his mom’s murder.
Away from the lab, Barry discovers Iris is dating Eddie the perfect cop now and is keeping the relationship a secret from everyone including her dad. As they discuss Iris’ love life, bank robber Clyde Mardon, who was thought to have died in a plane crash the night of the particle accelerator demonstration, zooms past them chased by cops. Barry pulls Iris out of the way of danger, chases down the car, and jumps into the passenger seat. Recognizing Clyde and seeing that he’s got a gun within reach, Barry deliberately crashes the car. Both Clyde and Barry survive the crash, but Clyde disappears in a fog bank he created to cover his escape. With Barry now sure that he’s not the only person affected by the accelerator, he confronts the S.T.A.R. Labs people and demands they confirm he wasn’t the only person changed that night. They admit it’s true and tell Barry they’re searching for other “metahumans.”
Confused, Barry goes to visit Arrow and tells him what’s happened. “Why come to me? Something tells me you didn’t just run 600 miles to say hi to a friend,” asks Arrow. Barry’s looking for guidance and Arrow tells him, “I don’t think that bolt of lightning struck you, Barry. I think it chose you.” He doesn’t know if he can be like Arrow but Arrow says he can inspire people, save people, and watch over the city. “Take your own advice: wear a mask.”
Barry heads back to Central City where the metahumans have been busy and there’s been a sharp uptake in unexplained deaths and missing people. Turning to Cisco and Caitlin for help in catching Martin, Cisco presents him with a specially designed costume that was meant to keep firefighters safe. It’s red, aerodynamic, and even has built in sensors.
Danielle tracks Clyde to a farm outside the city, which happens to be where Joe West and Eddie have also tracked him to. Martin knocks them out and creates a twister that he plans to use to devastate the city. Fortunately, Barry shows up as it’s becoming an F5 tornado and he suggests he run around it in the opposite direction to unravel the twister. He has to clock 700 mph in order to do it, and Harrison gives him a pep talk (“Run, Barry, run!”). Joe watches as Barry destroys the tornado and then saves Barry when Clyde whips out a gun and prepares to shoot him. Joe apologizes for not believing Barry and makes him promise he won’t tell Iris what he can do.
As the episode winds to a close, Barry visits his dad in prison and tells him he loves him and is proud to be his son. And then comes the big reveal…Harrison can actually stand and he can see the future!
The Flash‘s premiere was pretty much everything you could want from a superhero show. It was energetic, lively, and a solid hour of entertainment. Laying out the backstory without making the audience feel it was being force fed too many facts, The Flash didn’t just play to action fans. The series connected on an emotional level, adding in humor when it was appropriate without neglecting the moral issues addressed in the show.
It’s definitely not as dark as Arrow, but it’s every bit as enjoyable. The cameo by Stephen Amell was a cool touch, but Grant Gustin showed in the pilot episode that he’s capable of leading a series and not just playing a sidekick to a hero. The Flash episode one also demonstrated that it’s not going to be all sunshine and roses for Barry, and that it won’t be all about racing around and saving the day. He knows pain and loneliness, and he’s still searching for a way to clear his dad of a crime he didn’t commit.
Episode one accomplished everything it needed to do and proved that there is room for one more comic book-inspired series on primetime TV.
-By Rebecca Murray
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