If you’re a fan of the CW’s superhero show “Arrow,” then you probably already have a good idea of what to expect from the latest release from Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti: DC Comics’ “The Flash.”
When viewers were introduced to Grant Gustin (“Glee”) as Barry Allen in an “Arrow” crossover episode, it became exceptionally clear that this character was going to incite some interest. A brilliant but hopelessly immature crime scene investigator, the eponymous Allen reminds us of all the things we love about Peter Parker as a character, and Gustin brings it all to the table.
The pilot aired last week and stirred up mixed feelings, particularly about the casting. Like most other CW shows, “Arrow” chiefly among them, “The Flash” features an incredibly weak ensemble cast that relies heavily on poorly-developed tropes and obvious segues for tragic backstories. For those unfamiliar with the series, Barry Allen’s childhood is characterized by a seemingly perpetual flight from bullies whose terroristic propensities our hapless young hero-to-be simply could not abide. Oh, and his mother is killed in an as-of-yet unexplained freak occurrence, the blame for which falls on Barry’s presumably innocent father, who is imprisoned for the foreseeable future, and whose only advocate is his son.
Even Barry’s foster father, Detective Joe West, remains convinced of his father’s guilt, which, in conjunction with his, poorly exposed, tendency to stifle his daughter’s opinions, portrays him as stereotypically stubborn, short-sighted and ignorant as any other morally elitist comic book cop – which brings us to the daughter.
Allen’s close friend since childhood, Iris West, is a former wannabe cop and current PhD. candidate, as well as the reason Allen went into her father’s custody. Although obviously intelligent and morally grounded, her submissive relationship with her father and specific instances of male reliance (at one point in the episode, a purse-snatcher grabs her computer bag and, instead of reflexively pursuing the villain, frantically alerts Barry to the event so that he may do so in her stead) reveal her to be a singularly weak character with very little agency of her own.
Her significance lies solely in the fact that Barry is attracted to her which is also indicative of the show-runners’ fascination with kind-of-but-not-really-incestuous relationships, but that’s a different, more “Arrow”-oriented matter and can be emotionally manipulated accordingly. It would be wise not to expect much more than a series of kidnappings and damsel-in-distress situations from this character’s future.
If you were expecting any more depth from Barry’s partners in crime-fighting, you’d be disappointed. The scientific duo responsible for monitoring the comatose, post-accident Barry provides nothing more to the series than a half-baked Fitzsimmons (if you’re not watching ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, you’re doing yourself a disservice as a comic fan), and the team is headed by a character not completely lacking in potential but suffering from a rigid performance by Tom Cavanagh who you might recognize as J.D.’s brother from “Scrubs.”
That being said, this is a pilot we’re talking about and, as such, deserves a certain degree of leniency in its criticism. No show ever really hits its stride in the first episode or even its first few episodes. If this project turns out to be anything like “Arrow,” fans can definitely expect some improvements, but the show-runners are going to need to make some serious changes if “The Flash” is expected to live up to its potential.