What’s Next for The Flash? Nearly 9 Episodes in Retrospect

10 Dec

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

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CW Network’s The Flash is perhaps the best adaptation of a comic book hero for television. The series has a heart because it delves into a narrative style more reminiscent of a Marvel Comics character. That is, audiences are witnessing a hero in the making; Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) takes after Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) more so than any other character, brooding or not. Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne sometimes come from the same mold, and fortunately one is far more optimistic about how to save his city from corruption. Angst has yet to plague the young Wayne in Fox TV’s Gotham. There’s hope for one man, and it’s shared when The Flash goes to meet Arrow in the pilot episode. Oliver (Green Arrow) simply states to Barry that, “you can inspire people in a way that I never could … watching your city like a guardian angel, making a difference, saving people.”

The series is just as invigorating in how the writers define Allen’s coming of age tale. Viewers will find that this kid has a heart of gold. He already has a strength created not by a super serum but with the feelings of hope he has for people in need. For his superheroic origin moment, he did crash into a rack of chemicals after being struck by lightning formed from a particle accelerator explosion. This scene is wonderfully constructed because it brings a bit of Frankenstein’s mad science into Allen’s metamorphosis. His rebirth is not without issues, especially when part of his character development involves rediscovering himself.

Interestingly, he was more self-assured and confident during his time in Arrow. The plan to make a spin-off series was not necessarily in motion. When his trip to Starling City and subsequent quick return (detailed in “The Scientist” Dec 4 and “The Three Ghosts” Dec 11, 2013) gave him enough time to ask Felicity out on a date should “things change.” This was before he hopped a train home in order to rush to a crime scene afterwards. Later, he met up with a long time friend Iris (Candice Patton) so they can together attend S.T.A.R. Labs public announcement (that got broadsided when a thief stole Iris’ laptop) about a nuclear accelerator they want to turn on in the premiere episode, which finally aired Oct 7, 2014.

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Continuity was probably not a concern since the series was not green lit just yet. The construction of Allen’s ongoing infatuation with Iris is dumbed down to such a level that she’s totally oblivious to his feelings while everyone else, including the viewer, is not. And to make the pilot episode, the writers forgot more than a few details concerning just how much can be done in a few hours than a day. It’s like Allen did not sleep when he returned.

Fortunately, after “The Things You Can’t Outrun,” this series develops its own personality for some quirky natured fun. Carlos Valdes is hilarious as the nerdish Cisco Ramon, a bright engineer who has a penchant to name every bad guy with mutant ability that Allen has to face as The Flash. Danielle Panabaker has a similar charm as Felicity Smoak from Arrow as Flash’s Doctor Caitlin Snow. Both are geniuses in their respective field of computer science and bioengineering.

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The emphasis is more about Barry learning about how to reach his greatest potential as a hero. Part of that involves overcoming psychological barriers which Wells postulates in “Power Outage.”

The subplot about him uncovering who his mother’s killer is feels secondary when a greater mystery is in how Doctor Harrison Wells plays into the overall series story arc. Nearly every episode reveals his interest in helping to create a hero, but at what cost? The episode “Fastest Man Alive” shows that he will kill to protect his future interests. He’s also obsessive over a newspaper headline saying The Flash has vanished during a crisis. Long time comic book readers may well wonder if this thread is a tie in to the Crisis of Infinite Earths (or its sequels) comic book saga where Allen’s role is pivitol to saving the multiverse.  The sheer mention that ‘Red Skies Vanish’ or ‘Threaten’ the planet Earth (if not Central City) suggests that all the articles featured on the cover page relate to what this series will eventually build up to. From medical discoveries to repairimg DNA from radioactive damage to mergers in the works, there is a bigger picture being made.

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Although the comic book series is meant to consolidate a convoluted multiverse of alternate timelines into one, just what the TV series’ producers are planning may not be necessarily be the same thing. They could be working on bringing Smallville to this shared universe, where there already is a Justice League and different actors playing Arrow and Flash. To allow for Tom Welling to return as Superman will be awesome. Since John Wesley Shipp, Amanda Pays and Mark Hamill are slated to return, then to bring other members of this DC universe back can be fantastic. That includes voice actors who made their presence known. Michael Rosenbaum made the Flash from the DC Animated Universe fun! Hints of this direction was revealed in “Flash vs. Arrow,” where another hero in the making is lurking in the shadows.

But if there’s going to be a Brave and the Bold or any team-ups to happen, Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) will have to get his act together. He’s a Firestorm needing rescue as the mid-season finale, “Man in a Yellow Suit” shows. He’s not stable. He looks like an individual suffering from bipolar disorder. Hopefully more partnerships will form that will lead to whatever this Crisis is about.

If the episode “Plastique” is any indication, Gorilla Grodd will eventually appear. This episode lays the foundation that there’s more than just a few secrets being kept dark. Even the shady behaviour that audiences see Dr. Harrison Wells engaging in is not without a lot of questions. The mid-season finale suggests that he is the “Man in the Yellow Suit,” but that reveal feels too obvious. When considering Wells is in one place and the Yellow Suit bad-guy is at another, just who is wearing it? Perhaps he’s a projection. Wells could perhaps be a time traveller. As for what role he plays into the evolution of what the Flash will become will require audiences to wait until January 20, 2015.

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