Who Knew Lightning Could Be So Predictable?
by Colleen Young
The CW’s latest comic-book-turned-television series The Flash, based on the DC Comic of the same name, premiered last week with much excitement, given the recent spate of successful big and small screen comic book adaptations. With the CW’s Arrow still drawing a decent audience, the hope is that The Flash, building off story tie-ins with Arrow last season(as well as this episode), will be able to piggyback off its success.
In the premiere of The Flash, we’re introduced to Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), a young boy, reeling from the mysterious death of his mother and the ensuing wrongful arrest of his father. Fast-forwarding to the present, we meet a young, slightly awkward but talented forensic scientist, raised by and working alongside Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), who also happens to be the father of Barry’s true love, Iris (Candace Patton). After attending the activation of Star Labs’ particle accelerator, which of course goes awry, Barry is struck by lightning created by the subsequent explosion. Nine months later, Barry awakens from a coma to find himself in the care of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), director of STAR Labs, and the lucky recipient of the newfound ability of lightning speed.
After screening “City of Heroes,” I’d give it a solid…meh. While it’s definitely entertaining, I found the whole thing to be entirely too predictable. For some viewers, that’s all they’re looking for and this episode, no doubt, delivered. For those of us with only slightly higher expectations, it sank beneath them.
First, we’re asked to believe that a kid who looks roughly 12-years-old has graduated College and seems to possess a brilliant talent for eyeballing a crime scene and deducing exactly what happened without ever opening his forensic toolkit. It’s nice that they’re borrowing visual thoughts from a far superior show like Sherlock, but I actually mistook it for another super ability. Second, while the pacing of the show was lightning fast indeed, the story itself needs to slow down a little and develop in a way that television audiences can relate to. Yes, we have to swallow whole the premise that the particle accelerator explosion caused his lightning fast ability (well, that and being struck by lightning), but we don’t have to buy the fact that it takes him five minutes to be totally okay with his new gift and another five minutes to use it to his advantage. These kinds of illogical leaps alienate the viewers who have never cracked open the comic book and who are viewing it through a “real world” lens (instead of the comic book world it’s set in). Third, there are too many predictable clichés—Barry pining after a girl who has to be legally blind not to notice his puppy dog eyes; the dead/jailed parent, the wacky, overeager know-it-all scientist/friend; the bad guy concealed as the good guy—but then, sadly, those are to be expected in by-the-book adaptations such as this, though it doesn’t make them any less tired.
It’s entirely possible that, given some time, The Flash may improve or expectations will settle and it’ll become a guilty pleasure simply because it doesn’t ask you to think. Having eyeballed the second episode (“Fastest Man Alive”) it seems to, rather predictably, be hurtling towards the latter.