SDCC: THE FLASH Pilot Review

The first episode of The CW's Barry Allen show is pretty great.

Last night in Hall H, DC TV held a presentation for The Flash, Gotham, Constantine and Arrow, hosted by Arrow's Stephen Amell and with The Flash's Grant Gustin, Gotham's Ben Mckenzie and Constantine's Matt Ryan in attendance. We didn't see nearly enough Constantine footage for me to get any sort of real impression of the show (it was just a minute or two of fast, creepy images), and I've already written up the Arrow footage here and here from yesterday's panel. The real draw was that we got to see the pilots for both The CW's The Flash and FOX's Gotham.

First, The Flash.

I liked it!

There's no denying that this is a CW show, and I know there are some of you who can't abide the teen-friendly CW style. But The Flash has a warmth and a joy to it so often missing from the modern, grim superhero landscape. It's bright and beautiful, and Grant Gustin plays Barry Allen with a wide-eyed enthusiasm that is impossible to dislike. With the warm colors, wholesome energy, Glen Winter cinematography, David Nutter direction and Geoff Johns writing, it's no surprise that I was put strongly in mind of Smallville while watching it. Keep in mind that's a compliment from me - and if you weren't a fan of Smallville, I still hope you'll give The Flash a shot.

Without giving too much away, the pilot is very much Barry's origin story, with the particle accelerator of S.T.A.R. Labs malfunctioning, resulting in Barry's incredible speed, strength and healing (after a nine-month coma). Much like the meteor shower of Smallville, the same event that establishes Barry's heroism also creates a bunch of villains for him to fight - in this case, "meta-humans" instead of "krypto-freaks." Barry is aided by three former S.T.A.R. Labs employees who have since been disgraced after the particle accelerator explosion: CEO/mastermind Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), gadget guy Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and tech person Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker). He also has a support system in his surrogate father Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), and West's daughter Iris (Candice Patton), with whom Barry is in love, though she seems to see him more as a younger brother. She's currently dating Detective West's partner, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), to Barry's dismay. Adding to Barry's troubles, his father (John Wesley Shipp) is in prison after the mysterious death of his mother, and Barry is committed to learning what really happened and freeing his dad. And we meet our first meta-human, Clyde Mardon, who is the Weather Wizard (though not in name). Barry discovers his true purpose in protecting Central City from these recently created villains, and he tests his newfound abilities to do so.

The episode has a lot of information, a lot of exposition, but it's deftly delivered, never overwhelming the viewer. The action scenes are great - particularly when Barry unravels a tornado by running around it in the opposite direction at 700mph - and there's some very meaty character stuff, plenty of compelling motivations for these characters and intriguing dynamics among them. We get our first Oliver Queen cameo in the very first episode, and I think the crossover stuff has the potential to be great, expanding both universes in a way that still feels focused. And the episode ends with a hell of a twist, one that I can't wait to investigate further.

But what I loved best about the episode, what struck me much deeper than the mysteries and the effects and the love triangle, is simply the way it feels. It feels warm. It feels fun. It feels bright and quick and lighthearted. It feels like The Flash, who's never really been a brooding, self-serious hero. It's the right show for this character, and I suspect it's the right show for me, too.


A couple of possibly spoilery reveals from the intro, for those of you who want them:

Robbie Amell (Stephen's cousin!) will play Firestorm in a future episode. Wentworth Miller will show up later as rogue Leonard Snart/Captain Cold. And we should "be ready for Reverse-Flash."

The Flash premieres on October 7 on The CW. And I will be there.