The Flash: Setting the Standard for Superhero Storytelling

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DC’s The Flash, 2014, CW

James Brown


Superheroes are big business. This much is evident due to the sheer number of movies and tv shows which have been made and which have been planned for the foreseeable future. There were superhero movies before Marvel started their own studio which came up with a formula that other studios and indeed studios making movies in other genres who are rushing to copy.


They have made a lot of money and due to their popularity they have top class actors lining up to star in them, with massive budgets available for salaries, effects, sets and marketing. With the recent release of Batman V Superman, DC finally kick-started their own shared movie universe, introducing Batman into the world, first seen in Man of Steel along with our first glimpse at some other members of the Justice League. Unlike Marvel who include their tv shows in their shared cinematic universe, DC have decided to keep their shows separate.


The Flash is one such show. It follows forensic scientist Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin, who is first introduced in a two-part episode of Arrow in which he gained his powers. The show summarises itself the best in the opening monologue that starts off most episodes; “My name is Barry Allen and I am the fastest man alive. When I was a child I saw my mother killed by something impossible. My father went to prison for her murder. Then an accident made me the impossible. To the outside world, I’m an ordinary forensic scientist, but secretly I use my speed to fight crime and find others like me. And one day, I’ll find who killed my mother and get justice for my father. I am the Flash.” If that doesn’t make you interested then I can’t help you.


It does not have the budget of its movie counterparts and cannot have been helped by Warner Brothers making the announcement that Ezra Miller would be playing a different big screen version of The Flash, a mere day after the second episode of the tv show airing. However this doesn’t seem to have affected the quality of the show.


Despite the wealth of comic book shows and movies currently being made, it manages to stand out. This is due to a number of reasons: its cast, its ambition, its action, its use of the many years of source material and its tone. It seems to be a problem with superhero movies and television shows that they can’t find a balanced tone; it’s either too light, or too serious. The Flash manages to walk the line well, it manages to be fun and inspiring, yet, it isn’t afraid to appear dark or serious and the storylines do have consequences.


The casting director of The Flash definitely deserves praise for his work, even in the Second Season, when two new characters integral to the story have managed to be introduced almost seamlessly and have risen to the standard set by the cast in Season One. Grant Gustin of course has possibly the toughtest job of portraying Barry Allen/The Flash, one that he certainly accomplishes well. He is heroic, likeable and inspiring; there are shades of Peter Parker in his performance and he can be a bit of a dork at times. A perfect hero would be boring, of course, but this Barry Allen definitely has his flaws, sometimes letting his emotions get the best of him, but this makes it even easier for us to emphasise with him.


As for the rest of the main cast you have a diverse range with Joe, Barry’s adoptive father who is a detective (Jesse L. Martin) along with his own daughter Iris (Candice Patton) who is very close to Barry. Barry is assisted by his mentor Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) along with two members of his team Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramone (Carlos Valdes). Actors from the original Flash TV show appear with John Wesley Snipp who played Barry Allen/The Flash now playing Barry’s dad. Mark Hamill also reprises his role as The Trickster from the original show. If that wasn’t enough, you have Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) reuniting to ham it up as Captain Cold and Heatwave respectively, which proves to be a lot of fun.


It does have flaws, such as mediocre CGI on occasion, playing fast and loose with physics and falling into old cliché traps namely along the lines of annoying female characters and love triangles, but in the end it is easy to overlook all of these minor flaws.


Overall The Flash sets the standard for superhero shows and movies. Its cast, their chemistry, the story arcs, the hero, the villains, the twists, the turns, the action, the acting, the music, even the costumes (namely The Flash suit) all deserve praise. It all adds up to something that works really well. It may not be high art, but as superhero escapism it ticks all the boxes. I look forward to watching the most every week.

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