Can you feel the electricity in the air? One week from today, The Flash debuts on the CW. After a few very successful appearances on Arrow last season, Grant Gustin stars in the new series as Barry Allen, aka The Flash, one of the most iconic heroes in all of comics. The early buzz for the show is positive, and coupled with the near-universal love Arrow got last season, the odds are that The Flash is going to be given every chance to succeed. If the producers follow these five suggestions, the show will have an even greater shot at sticking around for the long haul.
1. Learn From The Flash (1990)
I don’t know how many readers watched the John Wesley Shipp vehicle The Flash in the 1990/91 TV season, but I certainly did. I was eight years old, and it was, to my young eyes, awesome – mainly due to the running special effects and the costume. Having revisited a number of episodes as an adult, the show is a little less awesome (especially the running special effects and the costume), but still impressive on a few counts that I feel could really influence this second Flash series positively.
The main lesson is relatively obvious, but bears saying: the show worked best when it involved Barry’s police work. Part of what makes Barry Barry is how he tries to solve the crime with his mind before resorting to using his powers. The ’90 show made Barry a proud member of the crime lab – the pride he took in his work was infectious. Unlike Ollie on Arrow, Barry Allen is satisfied being Barry Allen. The “real” him isn’t the Flash, the way that the real Ollie most certainly is Green Arrow. A good cop, comfortable in his own skin is essential to the long-term success of the show. This is all a way of saying…
2. Keep Barry Likable
When Barry showed up on Arrow, he was charming and instantly likable. Sure, he has his demons, but the character just radiated kindness and stability. Gustin did a remarkable job establishing a character that has a clear arc without being unnecessarily brooding or tortured. Aside from Fitz and Simmons, literally every main character on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brooded on that unreasonably dark airplane for half of a season – you never get that vibe from Gustin.
Sure, you can give him struggles, but that kid yelling “wahoo!” after catching an arrow – that is who we are tuning in to see. In his first five minutes on camera, he managed to charm Felicity – and if he’s good enough for Felicity, he’s good enough for me. Keep that guy coming.
3. Don’t Dismiss What Arrow Did
Arrow, in two seasons, built up a world that is replete with everything from authentic DC locations to major hints at big players to small time super-villains. That show laid the groundwork for The Flash to build on – so build on it. Because most watchers have at least a passing familiarity with the world of Arrow, don’t spend too much time re-establishing what we already know. The world of Arrow is one that follows a certain internal logic; everyone is better looking than they should be and have access to seamstresses/tailors who can make baller costumes and accessories really quickly. Just insert Barry and Central City into that pre-existing framework, and you’ve already won half the battle.
4. True superpowers with a clear origin
One of the lesser parts of Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Gotham is the need to show the origin of every single character, and spend half of each episode attempting to parse said origin. Why did Villain X turn bad? Why is Agent Y the quirky and droll S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that she is?Continued below
Here’s the good news: we’ve seen Barry’s origin last season on Arrow, and I’m sure we’ll get that again on Tuesday. But there isn’t much more to figure out – Barry isn’t trying to harness his anger into archery, or steal a cure for his sick daughter – he’s a dude hit by lightning that is now super fast – done. Simple origin, done and done. No need for mystery about how he became the Flash (why might be a fair question, especially if “The Flash: Rebirth” and its Zoom-indebted origin is part of this canon).
In addition, this appears to be one of the truest super powers on all of TV – and that works to its advantage. I can explain who Barry is to my mom in 2 sentences – and that is the recipe for successful TV.
5. Literally Everyone Wants His Powers
This morning, I got to work 5 minutes later than I wanted to, and didn’t get half of my to-do-list checked off. Later, my daughter was jumping on the bed in plain sight when she fell off and bumped her head. Just now, my eyelids drooped and my body begged me for sleep. All of us wish we could move as fast as we could think – Barry can do that. He is a character that has what we all want, and that makes him someone we want to watch. Sure, it is fun to play with time travel, or vibrating through walls, but at the heart of the Flash is the man who has time, theoretically, for everything. Let the audience dream on that for a bit, and you’ll find that everyone out there would let themselves be struck by lightning to have a fraction of what Barry has.
Check back in next week for a full review of The Flash, Episode 1!