So there I was, reviewing Arrow, when I thought, “Eh, I might as well cover the rest of the Arrowverse at some point, too.” In which case, I might as well do them in order.
The Flash follows its titular hero, Barry Allen, after he’s struck by a special kind of lightning which gives him the power of super speed. He’s one of the world’s first super-people, or “metahumans,” and he dedicates his life to protecting others, most especially from the rampage of villainous metahumans. Aiding him in his quest are his friends at Star Labs, including Dr. Wells, Francisco Ramone, and Caitlyn Snow, as well as his adopted family, the Wests. The Wests took him in after his father was jailed for his mother’s murder, but Barry saw who really did it: a blur, a man surrounded by lightning. What Barry does not suspect is how close his true enemy really is to him.
As Arrow‘s little sibling, Flash is what turned one show into universe, and one can argue for and against the merits of that change till they’re blue in the face. The point is, it’s very difficult to discuss one show independently of the other, partially because they’ve always relied on each other so much, too much. Flash, however, has largely prospered from the connection, having never been anything else, while we saw what Arrow was before the rest of the Arrowverse came along. Flash has never stood alone. Which is unfortunate, because when it’s not interacting with Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, The Flash actually does fairly well on its own.
Yes, there are some legitimate flaws. Three seasons in a row, the overarching villain has been 1) a speedster faster than him and 2) someone surprisingly close to Barry. Three seasons in a row, Barry did something stupid that managed to transport them from one mess to another, and he’s beaten himself up about it and been made to face his demons. Three seasons in a row, most major decisions come from Barry’s encounter with the episode’s villain. Three seasons in a row, it’s been all about Barry and Iris getting together in spite of whatever other couplings and obstacles are in the way.
I mentioned how Arrow is too distracted by the spin-offs that comprise the Arrowverse, and The Flash is largely the source of that. The two shows were very different in the beginning, but Arrow became like its little sibling, and while The Flash was lighter and more fun, it imported the theme of heroes being consumed with guilt over their failings, their mistakes, and their inability to save everyone. Basically, the two shows became virtually identical mirror images of each other. And, of course, the endless crossovers don’t really do either show any favors.
The show is, quite simply, not perfect.
But it’s still plenty good.
People, including myself, are generally willing to forgive a lot if we actually like the characters. And we definitely like these characters. They can be idiots at times, but what really sells it, I think, is the emotional depth. Our heroes care very much for each other and the people around them, and they’re genuine friends to the end. That camaraderie opens the way for a very human connection of feeling with the audience. This last season, the third, was easily the best yet, because the story was pushing our heroes to the limit, straining the bonds between them that they fought to preserve, and the audience was right there with them.
Also concerning the characters is the continuing depths the show explores. Perhaps the best example of this is Harrison Wells, who is actually several people instead of just one, the explanation of which involves both time travel and alternate dimensions, but which comes out to there being several versions of one person, and Tom Cavanagh plays all of them brilliantly. In fact, the show is pretty adept at changing the characters, adding to them, developing them, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but always in a way that, within the rules of the Arrowverse, makes sense. Not least of these is how they react as several of them develop superpowers.
Speaking of which, it’s ironic how Arrow has the characters who don’t have superpowers, and lately they’ve just been bulldozing their way through their enemies, while The Flash has so many people with superpowers, yet they think and “mad science” their way out of trouble more often than not. The best fights, I’ve found, aren’t just just an exchange of blows, but a contest of cunning as well. In that, Barry and his team are surprisingly capable. Mind you, their mad science is more like magic than the superpowers are, but the point still stands.
Basically, for all its flaws, I find The Flash to be an entertaining story of lovable characters facing terrible tragedies together and thinking their way towards determined triumph. Oh, and for all the tragedy and heartbreak, the heroes are still plenty bright and funny.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.