By Mina Haq
The CW’s highly anticipated “Arrow” spinoff finally premiered on Oct. 7, and it did not disappoint. Comic book-based television shows are slowly gaining more steam, with shows like “Arrow”, “Gotham”, and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” proving that superheroes can successfully exist on the small screen. “The Flash” pilot was rare in the way that it was immediately captivating and laid a good foundation for the rest of the season.
We’re first introduced to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) as a young boy who’s constantly running away from bullies. Despite his knack for getting into trouble, he seems to at least have a loving family. But no good superhero story can succeed without the necessary amount of angst, so all of this obviously changes. Barry’s mother is murdered in the middle of the night by a mysterious ball of lightning, and Barry’s father is accused of killing her and is immediately arrested.
Flash forward (pun definitely intended) to present day, and Barry is working as a forensic assistant for the Central City Police Department with Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), who has acted as a father figure to him since the death of his parents and is the actual father of Barry’s childhood best friend Iris West (Candice Patton). Barry’s relationship with Iris is the classic unrequited I’m-in-love-with-my-best-friend situation we’ve all seen before, but Grant Gustin’s performance manages to make it fresh and endearing instead of overdone and cliché.
There’s a very well-rounded cast of supporting characters as well, most of whom are fellow scientists or police officers. There’s Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Detective West’s new “pretty boy” partner and Iris’ secret boyfriend; Cisco and Caitlin (Carlos Valdes and Danielle Panabaker), the two Star Labs scientists who bring Barry back from his coma; and Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), the scientific genius responsible for creating the particle accelerator.
For those who’ve never seen “Arrow,” that’s the machine that put Barry into a coma for nine months and gave him his super speed. Wells deals with the ramifications of his faulty creation every day, as the explosion and lightning storm it caused killed 17 people, permanently injured many others (himself included) and created an unknown amount of what Star Labs calls “meta-humans”.
When Barry wakes up from his coma, super speed isn’t the only thing he has to deal with. An identity crisis and a bank robber who can control the weather are also immediate problems for him. Barry hasn’t forgotten about his parents, either, and is constantly investigating what actually happened to his mother so that he can free his father from Iron Heights Prison, where he’s been since.
After realizing that the meta-humans created by the particle accelerator aren’t all working for the city’s best interests, Barry makes it his mission to find Clyde Mardon (Chad Rook), the bank robbing weather master. He reaches a roadblock when no one at the police station believes him (not uncommon for Barry) and Wells refuses to help because he’d rather run tests on Barry than allow Barry to “play the hero”.
So, clearly in desperate need of support and guidance, Barry goes to the only person who might understand: “Arrow’s” Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell)! Oliver tells Barry that the bolt of lightning chose him for a reason and that it’s his job to inspire and watch over the people of Central City, all before he dramatically leaps off a building. Amell’s cameo was a nice way of crossing over the two shows right away while still letting “The Flash” stand on its own two feet.
When Barry gets back to Central City he teams up with Star Labs to defeat Mardon and regains the trust of Detective West, who apologizes for doubting him but makes him promise to not tell Iris about his abilities in order to keep her safe. As if the win wasn’t good enough, Cisco also gives Barry a flashy (the puns are too easy) new suit that can withstand high speeds and keep Barry in control.
Thanks to the strong pilot, the rest of the season has a lot of potential and will probably focus on the long-term mystery of what happened to Barry’s mother as well as episode-to-episode problems with other meta-humans. I’m also excited to learn more about Caitlin, Cisco and Wells (that final scene with the newspaper is making it difficult for me to trust him). “The Flash” is only going to get better from here.