I have mentioned previously on this blog, and to friends, that the TV series The Flash (from CW) is a show I genuinely enjoy, but at the same time am regularly frustrated by the quality of some of the writing. To be fair, I get the pressure on writers that work on recurring TV series like this. Short turnaround times, high pressure to balance faithfulness to the source material, while still keeping fresh, creating overarching series plots, while also delivering regular 40 minute essentially self contained stories for each episode. This is not about bashing the writers. This is about deconstructing the reasons I can feel passionately in both positive and negative aspects for the same show.
So I will work through each episode, deconstructing and taking down commentary as I go. I will be dropping spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go watch it and then come back. If you don’t plan on watching it, then this will have no contextual relevance to you.
I did collect comics, including DC, when I was younger. So I am not completely ignorant of the Flash’s lore, while at the same time, most of my collection was during periods when Barry Allen was not The Flash.
And I will put this foreward at the beginning of the post for each episode, just like The Flash has that little introductory ‘My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive’ section at the beginning of each episode. Also, my text will be colour coded. Green for parts that I thought worked well. Pink for parts that bugged me. Red for parts that had me yelling at the screen in incredulity. And blue for parts that are neutral or just commentary, observations or speculation.
Season 1 Episode 1 – Pilot
Rushed set up regarding the death of his mother, but still executed okay. *** Not something I picked up on with the first viewing, but the lightning around Barry when he is whooshed from his parent’s house as a child during the attack – was yellow lightning.
Fastest man alive is always late to the crime scene trope. Pulls a Sherlock worthy instant analysis of almost nothing establishing him as both a bit flakey, but good enough at what he does that he mostly gets away with it.
Introducing Iris West. Racial recasting that, combined with her father, Joe, actually works pretty well for me overall. She is attractive, has a (mostly) believable personality (except when plot progression requires clumsy mechanic to keep things moving).
Barry’s character manages to establish him as someone relatively endearing, but still nerdy.
The talk between Barry and Iris where Barry is trying to tell his feelings. Blech. I do not buy that Barry’s build up would not be sending alarm bells up Iris’ spine. Even if she doesn’t feel the same, Barry is far from subtle and she should have noticed where he was going. Anyway – this ultimately is an example of a heavy handed approach to establishing the unrequitted dynamic between the pair.
Harrison Wells introduced. Interestingly, I know a few people who don’t like Wells. They find him offputting and can’t really understand his motives. Knowing how he fits into the comic mythos, I think he is generally done well. But I could see how without that paradoxical context how he would be a difficult character to warm up to. I will be interested to see how those people feel about him after completing the first season and getting a better sense of why Wells does the things he does.
Enter Eddie Thawne. Set up as a decoy for the fanboys who know that Eddie Thawne is also an alias used by Reverse Flash in the comics. Not my favourite character, but I will save discussion on that til we reach the episodes that drive those feelings.
Cops wander in to barn and find vaguely incriminating evidence . Don’t even try and tell me that they had a warrant for four random farms based on some cow poo. Meh – expedience for the sake of getting a lot of story into the limited time available.
I do like the way the baddies in the plane tie in to later episodes.
Like that they added the chest scar after he is hit by lightning, but it wouldn’t have taken much effort to Google what a lightning strike actually looks like and add the spider-vein pattern that it frequently leaves.
Enter the rest of the core ensemble. Cicso Ramone and Caitlin Snow.
First Cicso. Now, my initial reaction was, ‘Do people really name their kid after the Thong Song guy?’ Only when I saw it written did I click that is was a shortening for Francisco. I also assumed that he was a non-source material character like Chloe Sullivan in Smallville. Only when I looked deeper did I learn that Cicso has his own comic book destiny. I was vaguely familiar with his (I assume future) alter-ego, but not enough to make the connection with the name. He does get a little over the top geeky sometimes.
Points for sneaking that one up on me.
Caitlin Snow. That name definitely did not sneak past me. Firstly, spectacular casting. She fits the role both in terms of the current character and her eventual evolution.
“Lightning gave me abs?” – best line of the episode.
Lets take a moment to explain why someone in medical care isn’t in the hospital. Fair enough.
Wells moves his upper body too much while in the chair for someone without the use of their legs. There are times where it is more pronounced (not this episode – I only noticed because I was looking for it this time around). Perhaps you need to spend time around people in that situation to realise how out of place it is.
Robbing a bank with no gun and a note. So, are we trying to establish how dumb our robber is? Cos that is a pretty dumb move.
Cameo of Ronnie Raymond that means absolutely nothing yet. Another nice pickup only noticed on rewatching.
Barry’s take off on his initial run creates a shockwave. These shockwaves are applied too inconsistently throughout the series. He almost knocked people down. He hits 346 mph according to the speed gun reading. 340 metres per second is the speed of sound, so around half of the speed of sound on this first run. Barry gets faster and faster as the show progresses, so the shockwaves should have gotten bigger and bigger. Forgivable. Lets face it, the Speed Force physics at play are based in Comic Book physics.
Iris is dating Eddie. It fits despite me not liking Eddie. The deliberately over the top effort to make him a nice guy really just makes him feel phony. But since his main purpose is to leave people unsure as to who the Reverse Flash is, suspicious behaviour from Eddie kind of makes sense.
Barry speeds off from Iris when he was laying on the ground next to her. Whoosh – he’s gone. But its a sloppy play by Barry that Iris conveniently forgets when she later learns about The Streak. Not enough to annoy me at the time, but on rewatching, weaksauce.
The premise that all meta-powers stem from the same source. In this show its the reactor explosion. In Smallville, it was the meteor rock laying all over the place. This is another reason why I so desperately would like to see different shows considered related or at least alternate realities of the same multiverse. You wouldn’t be locked in to the proximal cause for your origin stories. You can just make a vague reference to a meteor shower on another show, or whatever other origin is needed.
Arrow cameo at the end. These two shows were already established as being in the same reality so reminding viewers of that is exciting. Crossovers! Building a world that extends beyond the single city one show is set in.
The I think you were chosen line was corny.
Baddy conveniently sitting and waiting for the cops in a barn? Well, clock was ticking.
Comic book physics – running backwards around a tornado to undo it. Well, he is a comic book hero after all. I’ll allow this one.
Barry lets his mask come off the first time he wears it after just getting the take your own advice, wear a mask pep talk from Arrow?
I do like that they gave Joe the reveal. It suits his character, and helped avoid some awful excuses for missing work with nobody to cover for him. Also provides opportunity to establish Joe’s protectiveness of Iris which is pretty central to his character.
Final scene establishes Wells as a liar with his own agenda. Establishes his relationship with time travel. Right here, if the idea of having Eddie around was to create a suspect not Wells that could be the Reverse-Flash, then this scene effectively undermined that completely. I’m okay with Wells as the villain. But if Eddie in line to be a villain, then his overly nice guy character screams disposable cast member. Not something that annoyed me. Just an observation that in hindsight could perhaps have been handled with more subtlety.