Thursday, January 22, 2015

Anyone else watching "The Flash" on CW?

After 10 years of Smallville and trying Arrow once or twice (I think because they were introducing Crazy Quilt or something.  I forget.), I was pretty skeptical about the CW's spin-off Arrow series, The Flash.

But, look.  I read some of the Wally West Flash comics a bit when I was a kid, and I like The Flash as a concept.  Truthfully, I am totally okay with any DC character who has had the name, from Jay to Bart.  Because of my comics habits of the time when it was going, I missed Waid's run (which is not collected in hardbacks, which kills me a little), but I got back into Flash during Geoff Johns' run and never really looked back.

Since then I've read all of the Flash stuff collected in Showcase Presents (I think.  I need to double-check), and these days, I'm a pretty solid fan of Barry Allen, especially those first few years when it really did feel like a different kind of book.  Look, no kidding.  Barry was so... nice, I guess, that the character gets a bad rap as being "boring", but I really don't find a whole lot of boring in those early Silver Age books.  Mostly, they were a sort of conceptual exercise to begin with as The Flash was largely about villains and the really pretty awesome things the writers came up with to do with superspeed.  And then...  They did something a little different in that Barry kind of knew his villains.  Maybe not best pals, but they were his, and he actually worked to rehabilitate a few of them (yes, Batman, I'm looking at you...).

I wasn't against Barry coming back to the DCU a few years ago, but I will admit to not keeping up with The Flash in the new 52.

Oh, and I actually watched The Flash (starring the terrific John Wesley Shipp) during it's run back when I was in high school.  The Flash and Amanda Pays on a single show?  Twist my arm.

What I considered, before setting the DVR, was: if Johns was working on the show - and he knows his Flash - how bad could it be?

I won't say I don't have my reservations about the show.  They've rejiggered an incredible amount about not just Barry-Allen-Flash, but the entire DCU, in order to make the show work, and it's not like it's all settled and completely proven this was the best angle.  But at it's core - the characters that are on screen don't feel like they're being handled badly or haphazardly.  It feels like someone cares and is making the characters work in a different context.  Barry Allen may be four or five years younger than I'd have figured he might be and a little lighter weight, but it works for the show.  Iris isn't a newspaper reporter, she's a barista who may or may not still be in school (who can say?).

Because it's TV, it isn't just Barry running around Central City on his lonesome, he's surrounded by a team of people - to give him people to talk to and to create dramatic tension here and there.  And we have a sensible origin for the first Flash suit (because, wow, does the one in the comics make no sense except to my 13-year-old brain that still demand that it's a great idea).   Heck, the changes to STAR Labs, the metahuman origin plot points... all different from the comics, but done so in a sensible way, at least from a CW TV standard.  Oh, and, yeah, the show has made me actually pay attention to and like Tom Cavanagh.  So, way to go, show.

And the villains.  Thanks to the improvements in FX technology and relative cost of the show, they're able to bring to life villains in a way that Smallville rarely, if ever, pulled off.  When they bring Captain Cold to the show, which they've done twice, that is absolutely Captain Cold, not some "we're sorry, we have a budget" version of the character that just makes you feel like nobody cared and nobody's really trying.  I'll go ahead and mention that Captain Cold is one of my favorite DC villains and I've been completely pleased with his portrayal, full stop.

So when Grodd eventually appears (and he will) - man, I will go bananas.  Pun intended.

I think, wisely, they've included a long game plot with Reverse Flash, leading up to what I considered to be a genuinely well-executed and frightening encounter with one of the scariest bad guys in the DCU.  All of this in just half a season of TV.

Seeing former-Flash, John Wesley Shipp, show up as Henry Allen has been a terrific bonus.  Throw in a brief appearance by the always-lovely Amanda Pays as Tina McGee (the same name of her character on the 1990 show), and it's been a treat.

So...  I'm just spitballing, but The Flash introduced the idea of Multiple Earths to DC Comics with "Flash of Two Worlds" way, way back at the start of the Silver Age.  With the casting of John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays as Tina McGee and a reference or two to red skies...  I keep wondering if this series will be the one to bring Multiple Earths to TV.  Especially as DC divides itself between a cinematic universe, the "Arrowverse" and whatever is going on as CBS brings Supergirl to the small screen.  Y'all put that in your pocket, and we'll see if it plays out in any way, shape or form.

just look at these telegenic people, all bein' on The Flash and making a good show

The Joe West/ Iris West/ Barry Allen combo is an interesting dynamic, if a little weird with Barry supposedly pining after someone people consider to be his sister.  But it also feels like the show has done a better-than-expected job of sorting that situation out.  And, man, if you don't like Joe West as a character, we are very different people.

The 1990 Flash show definitely could not handle Super Speed in the same way this version can. The visuals are light years ahead of what Smallville was doing, especially with the visual flourish of the lightning and trails left in Barry's wake.  The red streaks and whatnot were always really good for state-of-the-art 25 years ago when JWS was running around on TV, but it's been a real pleasure to see the thought and care put into how this Flash moves, and the ability to play with those same visuals in a way that CGI has placed seamless into the program.  And, by and large, I've felt like the villains have been given the same treatment.

Anyhow - sure it gets soapy and sappy at times.  That's the price you pay for watching a show aimed at a more diverse audience than the comics have been in the past.  And that's fine.

I have concerns about whether the show can make good on some of what they've set up with their villains' incarceration, and whether they have a real plan for Reverse Flash.  I'm even more concerned about the sheer number of characters who, by the show's design, all have familiar names longtime readers of DC Comics might already know.   It's a LOT of DCU really, really fast, and I'm concerned about both glut (who can keep track of all these characters?) and pacing (every week someone new seems like a lot).

But... so far, so good.

At the end of the day, the show is actually fun.  Sure, it has melodrama and angst and all that, but it has the same high-speed action and fun that I've enjoyed in Flash comics since the 1980's and have grown to love even more over the years.  What I didn't want was another brooding superhero, and I think DC actually didn't want to have one, either.  Someone at DC made the right call.

Anyhow, anyone else watching this thing?


J.S. said...

I haven't watched it yet, but I intend to at some point. i just gotta hope that it's unpopular enough to make it to Netflix streaming!

The League said...

It's on Hulu now, I think.