Fall 2014 TV: Flash

Genre: Superhero

Synopsis: A forensic scientist gets superpowers (speed), and uses them to combat supervillains. Meanwhile, the case of his mother’s murder in his past continues to haunt him.

Series: Season 1

I’ve Watched: Episodes 1-2

Verdict: Okay/Decent

Borrowed from docbrowntv.com

Some spoilers for the first two episodes. 

The first half of the pilot is really bad, and the second half is much better. How on earth this kind of dichotomy is possible in a single episode, I don’t know.

The beginning of this show wants Barry to simultaneously be the admirable guy everyone wants to be, strong and heroic, and the everyday normal guy, stereotypically nerdy and downtrodden. Barry is supposed to be both the audience stand-in and power fantasy at the same time. For obvious reasons, this doesn’t work.

In the opening, Barry as a little kid got beat up by bullies for sticking up for those others the bullies were picking on, “just cause they thought they weren’t cool”.  This is a cheap shot. It’s instantly trying to set up Barry as a victim and a hero for maximum sympathy and admiration, and it undercuts the real difficulties and emotions involved with sticking up for people–Barry doesn’t express any doubts, or fears, or even real anger. He just sits there all angelic-like. Putting yourself in danger to protect someone else is hard, and this show is presenting it as easy. They do better with this same theme later on, but this first scene drove me crazy.

That’s the one example, but I don’t have the energy to go into every little problem with the show’s beginning. Suffice to say, if I had made a drinking game out of every stereotype that appeared in the first half of this episode, I would be dead.

It got better after Barry got his powers. A lot better. There were a bunch of plot holes, but I can live with that. And Harrison Wells’ speech to Barry, about how trying to play hero is actually the selfish thing to do, was actually quite good. That entire scene was miles ahead of anything in the first half of the same episode. What happened? (Of course, the other guy’s pep talk in this episode kinda sucked, so it’s not all roses.)

By episode two, Barry’s flashbacks are portraying a much more realistic little boy than they did in the previous episode. And now that adult Barry’s not being pegged into either an angelic or nerdy stereotype and is being allowed to be an actual character, the show’s way more interesting. He’s doing normal things now, like hurting his father figure and disregarding good advice. It’s the flaws that make characters relatable, and that works as much for the selfless, compassionate characters as it does for the anti-heroes.

Borrowed from eonline.com

So it’s a decent show now, but still with issues. People change their stances at the drop of a hat. It’s making it hard to remember what everyone’s motivations are, because they keep saying contradictory things. Wells wants Barry to stay safe because he could be the key to developing new medical therapies, then he’s okay with Barry fighting meta-humans, then he wants Barry to take it easy until he learns his limits, then he wants Barry to push himself beyond his new-found limits. What do you want, dude?

Some of the character work makes sense, but some doesn’t. And some of the arguments that people make are good arguments, and some are pretty bad arguments. And both kinds are treated similarly by the show and it’s characters. Seriously, there is some crazy non-logic going on here.

For example, in episode two, the villain can make clones of himself that he mind controls. The strategy is to figure out who the real one is and take him down. And then people are suddenly arguing that Barry’s the only one who can handle this villain–how does super speed make him more likely to identify the real one and take him out? It doesn’t matter who IDs the guy, and the cops are fully capable of shooting him. Or just shooting down all of the clones, because the real one’s somewhere in the mix (presumably–but even if he wasn’t, Barry still wouldn’t be better for the job than an actual detective).

These clones are not super strong or super skilled or invincible. One good sniper might be able to end the whole thing, if the original is identified. What I’m saying is, there’s no reason Barry would be more qualified to do any of this than the cops. And yet this is portrayed as a strong, definitive argument by the show.

Stop making things up that don’t make sense and pretending that they do, show. Stop it.

Borrowed from cwtv.com

Still, Flash has that undefinable something that makes the show better than the sum of its parts. Even as I criticize it and get frustrated, I’m not tempted to drop it in the middle of an episode (anymore–the first half of the pilot was really, really bad). And anytime Joe gets all paternally happy and when the teamwork is on a roll, it tugs on my emotions. Barry’s fairly charismatic. And Caitlin is starting to stand out for me as well.

So I’ll keep watching for now, though it is up against stiff competition–I’ve got to drop some shows this season, because right now there’s something like twelve potential shows on my list. Even with half of them having shorter episodes, I don’t have time for all of them.

Favorite quotes:

“I have been wrong a lot this week. You’re going to have to be more specific.”

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