October 15, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “The Flash”


THE FLASH:  Tuesday 8PM on CW

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on THE FLASH:  Mild-mannered civilian police investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) comes out of an encounter with a particle accelerator and a freak storm, and finds himself gifted with super-speed.  Other “metahumans,” though, are less heroic, and before long, Barry has donned a suit and become a superhero crimefighter, with a team that includes Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes), under the direction of Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh), inventor of the particle accelerator.  Back on the police force, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) is Barry’s mentor, as well as being the father of aspiring journalist Iris (Candice Patton), for whom Barry pines but who’s involved with the ambiguous cop Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett).  Continuing mysteries include who killed Barry’s mother, a crime for which his father (John Wesley Shipp, who played The Flash in his last TV incarnation 20 years ago) is in jail, and what’s going on with Dr. Wells, who’s only pretending to be paraplegic and who has access to news from the future.

Episode 2:  With The Flash‘s mythology established in the pilot, the show’s second episode was a brisk if conventional hour, written by series co-creators Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns (from a story by Kreisberg and the other co-creator, Greg Berlanti), and directed by David Nutter, who’d directed the pilot (which clearly had a more generous special effects budget).  The metahuman of the week had the very Matrix-y ability to instantaneously clone himself into an army, and Barry vanquished him while learning about the amount of calories he’d need to take in to keep up his super-speed without passing out, and getting Joe’s blessing for his new life as a crimefighter.

The Flash exists in Arrow‘s universe, but it has a much more earnest, straightforward tone (no one in Central City worries very much about Barry being a “vigilante”), and one’s taste for it will vary depending on how much one enjoys that more old-fashioned comic-book style.  So far, its main weakness is that apart from Cavanaugh’s is-he-really-a-good-guy? team leader (in the tag to tonight’s episode, he murdered the evil industrialist who had employed the clone-man, supposedly to protect Barry, although one imagines nefarious ends will be involved), the supporting players are quite bland.  By the episode’s end, Joe was firmly on Barry’s team, while the two scientists make the members of the squad on Agents of SHIELD look fabulously complex, and Iris is no more than a girl labeled Romantic Interest.  Gustin himself is an appealing hero, all can-do spirit and self-deprecation, but apart from his crush on Iris, he’s not terribly interesting as a character.

At least in the short term, all of this is working beautifully from CW’s point of view.  The Flash premiered to the biggest ratings that network has seen since the launch of The Vampire Diaries 5 years ago, and held extremely well in last night’s ratings.  Even if Flash continues to drop moderately over time, it would still be a huge hit for CW.  (Expect a full-season pick-up momentarily.)  Amidst the darker comic book fantasies of Arrow, Gotham and the upcoming Constantine (and increasingly Agents of SHIELD), Flash is distinctive by virtue of its being more straightforward and lighter in spirit. It’s a formula designed to appeal to broad audiences, and it’s reached its destination with fitting speed.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Comic-Book Fun Without the Complications–Or the Ambitions


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."