As The Flash wraps up it’s debut season, it’s time to look back at how it went. And, in a sentence – while it had some ropey moments – overall the show was very strong.
Those aforementioned ‘ropey’ moments fall into two areas. There were some minor growing pains early on, as the first few rogues each seemed to exist to reveal a new aspect of Barry Allen’s powers. However, this villain of the week formula actually paid off later in the season in the episode ‘Rogue Air’, as those imprisoned had to be transported.
Secondly, the show couldn’t always avoid the ‘CW’ (the US channel behind the show) factor. Elements from the channel’s other original shows – the slightly soapy nature of relationship drama seen in the likes of The Vampire Diaries and Beauty and the Beast – inevitably seeped into the series. Again, the show handled this pretty well in the long run, working such relationships into key moments (Eddie’s sacrifice for one).
With those small complaints out the way, we can discuss the myriad elements that the show got right. Top of the list for me was the way it made use of time travel and alternate universe theory. As a plot device, it’s very easy for such hard science fiction to engulf a show, but it fit in perfectly on The Flash. We still don’t know quite how the events at the end of the finale – from Eddie erasing Thawne from the timeline, to Barry’s time travel – will effect the show’s timeline (type ‘Jay Garrick’ into Google and suddenly the helmet that was Thawne’s ‘cue’ might seem that bit more exciting and important).
Just the fact that there are so many possibilities, none of which would break the show, is a sign that the writers got it right. And when I say many possibilities, just about any part of the DC comic lore that isn’t tied down by Batman or Superman copyrights is up for grabs. We already saw how cleverly the show utilized it midway through the season, with Barry’s looping over the course of a mere day or two having huge consequences, so it’s a safe bet to assume the writers have good plans going forward for altering the show’s universe, or even introducing others, something particularly prominent in the comics.
The series also excelled in being just the right degree of an adaptation. It carried over a lot of the comic back-story and made use of a number of similar plotlines, but also knew when to subvert and diverge from the source material; the presence of Geoff Johns on the development team meant the show stayed anchored. The use of the Rebirth origin also played well with the series, giving Barry a good motivation behind his actions.
It’s rare to see a show get the big moments so right. The premiere took the Barry Allen we’d been introduced to in Arrow and had him become The Flash immediately, yet it never felt too rushed. Equally, the finale managed to tie up a few plotlines – Barry getting to say goodbye to his mother stands out – while avoiding too much of a resolution, leaving us wanting more for next year. It’s here that comparing the show to Arrow feels unavoidable – where the latter tied things up a little too neatly, the former managed the balance between resolution and continuation perfectly, though it should be said that so did the first season of Arrow, so perhaps comparisons should be left for The Flash’s season two finale.
The villains, the effects, the performances…it’s hard not to just list everything that was great about this show’s first season, but it’s easier to say that this is now the bar for superhero television. Outside of that bubble, it’s obviously not quite as strong, given the genre’s rather marmite status, but there’s still enough to entertain less hardened fans. The only question now is what should we expect when The Flash returns in September?