The Flash Pilot Review - We Need To Talk About Harrison Wells
Last night, DC Comics and Warner Bros. looked to build on the success of CW's Arrow with The Flash. Grant Gustin stars as Barry Allen with Candice Patton, Jesse L. Martin and Tom Cavanagh leading the support group. While this may well be considered a spin-off from Arrow, which coincidentally premieres season 3 tonight, labelling it as such is wrong. Sure, the the two shows live very much in the same universe, but placed side by side, they couldn't be more different.
Spoilers for the season premiere from here on:
Opening with a young Barry Allen struggling to run away from problems at school, things get decidedly worse for the 11 year old when his mother is killed by a bizarre electrical storm. Flash forward (urgh, puns) a few years and Barry Allen has become a bright, if not slightly clumsy CSI operative with a keen eye for detail. The opening sequence of grown-up Barry Allen 'on the job' provided a few cringe-worthy moments when the show opted to mimic Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock to demonstrate Allen's analytical prowess. Luckily this wasn't played upon too much and the show quickly settled into a steady pace laced with enjoyable banter, which all served to draw attention to Gustin's already-likeable portrayal of the titular hero.
With the back-drop of S.T.A.R Labs' unveiling of a new particle accelerator (which is somewhat mystifyingly placed in the downtown center of a large city), the pilot wastes no time on generating the storm which brings Allen his special gifts. Though this felt a tiny bit rushed, there's no sense in hanging around when it comes to a character like The Flash, and the pay-off was that the audience is instantly gripped by the knowledge that this storm - much like the Kryptonite in Smallville - would provide the show with a seemingly endless list of villains.
Allen wakes up surrounded by the overly-cheerful remnants of a S.T.A.R. Labs team headed up by the physicist Harrison Wells who is now wheelchair-bound after being caught up in the explosion that triggered the particle storm. It's clear that Wells and his two fresh-faced colleagues (played by Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes) will form the buddy element of this show, and Allen himself even refers to them as his new friends. Much like Fitz and Simmons from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., these folks will provide plenty of geeky comic relief, but it is Allen who brings the most smiles. Whether it's the intentionally atrocious attempts to ask out his best friend, Iris, or the the overkill on puppy dog eyes when he discovers she's dating that asshole cop, Gustin provides us with a character that is almost wholly likeable from the get go.
The likeability of Gustin wasn't much of a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was just how intriguing this show became over the course of its debut episode. Unlike Arrow's quest to clean up Starling City, The Flash has a far more focused objective. With a lack of evidence to the contrary, Allen's father (played by 1990's Flash, John Wesley Shipp) is charged with the murder of his mother, but Allen knows what he saw all those years ago. As he begins to embrace his newfound powers, Allen starts to realize that this could be his chance to find out who or what killed his mother and subsequently clear his father's name.
(Credit: DC Comics)
But the intrigue didn't end there. In true comic book adaptation style, the pilot ends with two HUGE teasers. Firstly, it is revealed that Harrison Wells is not as bound to his wheelchair as he would have us expect. Secondly, he is seen reading a digital newspaper from 10 years into the future, the front page of which contained a story that made me gasp with a geekish glee I didn't even know I was capable of. "Flash Missing: Vanishes in Crisis," reads the headline, but further down there's a headline stating "Wayne Tech/Queen Inc. Merger Complete" and "Red Skies Vanish." This line may well just be a playful Easter Egg but even so, it was a really nice touch. The term red skies often refers to a teased crossover in comic book canon. The term was coined during DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths series which served as a watershed moment in the publisher's continuity. During that series, just about every character within the DC universe appeared, albeit in a limited capacity. But one thing fans will remember is that during this series, the Barry Allen iteration of The Flash was killed off....And now you realize why this show is so damned intriguing!