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.
There’s a few days before the second season of The Flash premieres, so I’m glad I’ve caught up (pun intended) with this show. Ever since I saw Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) introduced in Arrow, I’ve been interested in seeing how Arrow’s sister show would turn out.
The Flash turned out to be an even more ambitious and emotionally resonant companion to Arrow. Whereas Arrow has parceled out its storytelling through two points in time (Oliver Queen’s current exploits in Starling City and the flashbacks of him slowly becoming the vigilante he is today), The Flash has stayed largely on the events of the current day, but mixes in time travel to literally open up new possible timelines.
The show’s ambition and the time travel conceit make for stunning plot twists. For example, the certain events that happen before a tsunami strikes Central City are rendered inert by Barry accidentally disrupting the space-time continuum and returning to a few days before. Time travel is a popular device in science fiction, and The Flash does not tinker too much with its mechanics.
I’ll be honest — I have not read the Flash comic books, and I am unaware of the mythology behind the characters. That was why I was just as amazed as anyone as the plot zigged and zagged. I’m not sure that Barry will actually alter his current timeline, given that he may end up irrevocably changing every character and event in that timeline, which is something the show’s writers cannot afford to lose after a season of development.
Aside from that time-travel, The Flash is built on a strong emotional core that Arrow lacks. Even though Barry and Oliver’s backstories are similar in how they suffered from the death of one of their parents, Barry Allen is simply a more empathetic individual than Oliver can ever be. One reason why this is so is because of the motivation of their characters: Barry wants to avenge his mother’s death and bring the killer to justice, while Oliver ends up with a broader, more generic goal of wanting to protect his city from destruction. In fact, Barry uses his super-speed to make up for and escape from his traumatic past, summed up by a phrase that recurs throughout, “Run, Barry, run!”
Of course, it’s perhaps unfair to compare The Flash with Arrow, as the former only premiered after two seasons of Arrow. The duo of Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg worked on Arrow before moving over to The Flash, and their experience certainly pays off, as The Flash has had a far better, more confident first season than Arrow had. There are several bits in The Flash that certainly can be improved on — Iris’s eventual discovery of The Flash’s identity was drawn-out and painful, for one — but the base has been set for a successful second season… and for a new show?
I’m referring to the ending of the first season, where Barry runs into a black hole that opens up above Central City, and the upcoming DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The Arrowverse is expanding, and I certainly enjoyed the crossovers between Arrow and The Flash, but I’m not sure how the third show won’t tread on familiar territory. I wrote about my fears about the comic-book superhero being overexposed previously, and seeing the similarities between Arrow and The Flash has not assuaged my doubts.
That’s a worry for a later time. For now, I’m content to celebrate the factors behind the success of The Flash: the welcome reunion of Prison Break brothers-in-arms Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, leading to a show-stealing performance from Miller, Barry’s two affable sidekicks at S.T.A.R. Labs in Cisco and Caitlyn, Grant Gustin’s great acting, and the show’s good-natured humour from time to time. Yes, he’s got criminals to fight, but he’s a guy in a red suit who can run really fast — shouldn’t it at least be fun?
I’ve said my piece — what do you think about The Flash? Or do you prefer Arrow instead?