Over the past decade or so, we have seen an undeniable surge in comic book films, which has given us adaptations ranging from just about every possible Marvel superhero (“Thor,” “Captain America,” “Iron Man,” etc.) out there to the continuation of certain DC comics properties, such as Christopher Nolan’s masterful reboot of “Batman.” However, while it may be the films that get most of the attention, fans of the genre will have also taken note of the sudden increase in comic book television shows as well, including “Arrow,” “Daredevil,” “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and one of the latest and greatest of the batch, “The Flash.”
Now I have to admit that I’ve never read a single comic book about “The Flash,” so my knowledge of the character prior to watching the show consisted of very few facts: His true identity is Barry Allen, he can run really fast, and he wears a red costume with a lightning bolt on it. With only this general info in mind, like me you’d probably be asking yourself just how exciting such a show could possibly be. As it turns out, it holds a few more surprises than you might think.
As the show begins, we meet our main protagonist, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), a forensics scientist whose mother was mysteriously murdered when he was 11 and whose father was accused of and imprisoned for the crime. With no parents to take care of him, he ended up being raised by a friend of his father’s, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), whose daughter, Iris (Candice Patton), he has had a crush on his whole life, but has been afraid to pursue his feelings. In the present day, a scientist by the name of Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) activates a particle accelerator, which he has claimed will help make leaps and bounds in other areas of research, only to have it go terribly wrong, unleashing strange energy all over Central City. It also happens to cause Barry to get struck by lightning, placing him in a coma for nine months.
When he finally awakens, he discovers that he now has the ability to run super-fast, a power that Dr. Wells wants to help him harness and use for the common good. Along with assistance from a couple of Wells’ employees, Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes), he learns to run faster and faster, stopping crime whenever he can, including those that are committed by people who were also given superpowers from the outburst of energy. As he proceeds, he slowly begins to unravel the mystery of what happened to his mother that fateful night 15 years ago, finding new evidence that brings the events into focus and discovering that one of his colleagues might not exactly be who he claims to be.
As mentioned, I have never read anything about The Flash, so I can’t tell you if any of this is official canon or not, but what I can tell you is that this is one of the most entertaining shows that I’ve seen in the past few years. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed almost all of the big-budget Marvel superhero movies that have been flooding cinemas over the past several years, but what always seems to stop them from being great is the deluge of action that always punctuates the conclusion of each film, which gets a little monotonous as it goes on and on. However, the films do have limitations, with one of the biggest being their comparatively brief runtime of around two hours. Perhaps this is why the comic book television shows of late have felt more satisfying, for with several episodes to work with per season, there’s far more time to spread out the action, develop the characters, and expand upon a rich and captivating storyline, all elements which “The Flash” has excelled at during its first season on the air.
From its very first episode, it lays the groundwork for a fascinating mystery that permeates each subsequent episode of the season, unfolding each layer of the puzzle as Barry and his friends work to find out what’s really going on/what happened all those years ago. On top of this, we are given characters who are layered themselves, with each episode allowing us to get to know them a little better as the season goes on, which just goes to show how extremely important character development is and how it can make all the difference, even in a show that has as ridiculous a premise as “The Flash.”
Even with all of that going on, its blending of various elements isn’t quite finished. There are several shows that try to be a loose collection of adventures, basically giving you a “villain of the week” that the hero has to take down, and then there are shows that want to feature a continuous arc in which each episode moves the story forward. What’s so amazing about “The Flash” is that it somehow manages to do both, giving you a wide variety of antagonists that Barry has to fight (“Captain Cold,” “The Trickster,” “Reverse Flash,” “The Mist,” etc.), while also keeping the characters and storyline in full focus as more and more is revealed about both. This isn’t even to mention the excitement of watching Barry try to take down each of these maniacs, particularly those that have powers to rival his own.
When it comes right down to it, “The Flash” has just about everything you could want from a comic book television show: intriguing characters, a spellbinding plot with a variety of engaging subplots, and plenty of excitement to keep the action junkies happy. Finding these qualities in any regular drama would be impressive, but the very fact that we can also find them in a show about a man who can run really fast is even more so. “The Flash” is a great accomplishment, one that will no doubt continue its “streak” of greatness as it heads into what is sure to be another thrilling season that will keep us on the edge of our seats.
“The Flash: The Complete First Season” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly excellent quality. There are times when some blurriness is noticeable on the screen, giving an indication that it needed to be sharpened up a little more, but for the most part, it’s a very watchable picture that does the job just fine. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is all-around outstanding, giving you all dialogue, music, and sound effects in crystal-clear quality. Overall, while not perfect, the treatment the show has received is more than adequate for viewers to have a great experience.
The Fastest Man Alive (30 Minutes): An excellent featurette that explores bringing The Flash back to life for television, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
Creating the Blur (26 Minutes): A fascinating look at the show’s incredible special effects, which includes the planning process of storyboards, pre-viz, and animatics.
The Chemistry of Emily and Grant (4 Minutes): A brief look at Grant Gustin’s screentest for the role of Barry Allen/The Flash, and a short explanation as to why he was chosen.
DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014 – Presenting Gotham, The Flash, Constantine, and Arrow (30 Minutes): A Comic-Con panel that features several cast and crew members from these four shows. It’s not particularly in-depth, but it is interesting to hear everyone’s quick thoughts on their roles in bringing these shows to life. (Same as on last week’s release of “Gotham”)
Gag Reel (8 Minutes): A rather amusing set of bloopers.
Pilot Commentary: An informative track featuring Executive Producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, as well as DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.
Behind the Story – The Trickster Returns (8 Minutes): An interesting exploration of the character of “The Trickster,” featuring interviews with Mark Hamill (who reprised the role from the previous “The Flash” series) and John Wesley Shipp (who played The Flash on the original show).
Deleted Scenes: A smattering of cut material spread across all four discs.
Utilizing multi-layered characters and plotlines, in addition to plenty of exciting action sequences, “The Flash” marks a high point for comic book adaptations, going to show that, even though some are made for the small screen, they can easily outshine the multi-million dollar blockbusters in the areas that really count. Fans will agree (and apparently they have, based on its reception), this is a comic book show done right, throttling forward at full speed, but taking its time to cover what truly matters, making this a great drama/mystery/actioner not to be missed.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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