This episode shows us that the Flash has a Superman complex, and it's buried deep. A blockbuster of an episode, but one which leaves me with the possibly ironic question–can they keep the show going at this speed?
Barry Allen has a tragedy in his childhood that makes him both motivated to help others and uncertain of how. We met him in Season 2 of Arrow; as a forensic specialist, Allen did his best to help Oliver Queen. He even proposed the now-ubiquitous mask. When he develops powers after an accident at STAR Labs, he sees his chance to become the hero he wants to be. This episode set the bar pretty high for a series pilot, in terms of special effects and potential plot.
Along the way, we’re introduced to those who will be the lead personalities this season. Grant Gustin is doing a good job of showing us the gangly-teenager phase of Flash; I wonder how well he’ll grow into the role. Detective West (played by Jesse Martin) impressed me quickly with how much he revealed of his character. And while I was prepared to hate Barry Allen for dumping Felicity and moving on with someone else–even though I think it’s the best in the long run–his daughter Iris seems intelligent and opinionated enough to be worth our time. And Dr. Wells? We'll have to see how this complex, duplicitous character works out.
The idea of the STAR Labs accident causing various meta-humans to appear in the city should give us plenty of meat for Season One action, however. Mardon was a fascinating villain; his increasing powers meant he developed a God complex to perfectly match Allen’s inferiority complex. I think there’s an implicit warning in this episode. At the end of the pilot, it was established that Allen’s current speed is somewhere around the 700 mile per hour range. This seems really “low” considering that in the comics the legendary Flash can cross dimensions due to the power of the Speed Force.
This may be a writer or directorial decision, and if so I think it's a great one. Part of the success of Arrow has a lot to do with the character dealing with his own limitations. Oliver Queen isn’t Superman, and he had to learn how to be a hero without being Superman. The Flash is a lot closer to being überpowerful, but rather than having him be that powerful right off, they’re having him grow.
It’s inevitable Flash will be compared with Arrow, and it was great to see Oliver Queen appear on the pilot. What worked for Arrow was a focus not on the power or the superhero but on the man. The producers of Flash have everything set up for a potentially powerful first season; I’m hoping they focus on Barry Allen the man, and not so much on Barry Allen the superhero. Even in the comics, it’s Barry’s personality that really drove his series, and the more we explore superheroes in television and film, the more we see people prefer fully realized individuals, not caricatures.
Bits and pieces
The testing scene was kind of hot! I go for the swimmer/runner build, and both the spandex practice costume - and the eventual full leather regalia - scream sexy. I’m not too sure about the weird helmet though.
Loving the relationship with the surrogate father Detective West. The anger throughout on the Detective's part–first at Barry for what he thinks is a set of lies, then at himself for not paying attention–it spoke of a powerful relationship. I’m having trouble squaring this with the fact that Barry clearly has a good relationship set up with his existing father, who’s still alive.
For a moment I thought the Smoke Monster was now Mardon's accomplice!
Does it seem obvious to anyone else that young Barry Allen basically saw his future self? It did to ME… at least until the ending. In the "Secret Origins" comics, Barry actually goes back in time at the moment of his death and creates himself. The writers seem to be melding many storylines into one here.
Wells and his agenda… Wells and his agenda… I want to know.
Wells: You’re not a hero. You’re just a young man who was struck by lightning.
For a pilot, this was pretty awesome. Three and a half out of four heat-resistant costumes.