Monday, October 26, 2015

The Flash - Season One

I watch this show every week with Apprentice Who and it has become much more than a show I watch because one of the kids is interested. I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised - even more than that, I've been amazed. That doesn't happen a ton when it comes to TV anymore. I was cautiously optimistic a year ago. That proved to be worth it as the first season of this show is really really good. That is, if you like comic book superheroes adapted to a live action TV series. Sure, we've had the movies for over a decade now, and we've had some quality animated series, but it's been a long time since we've had a decent live action superhero show, and this one really makes me happy.

Why is this a surprise? Well ...

  • I've never been a huge Flash fan. I've always thought of him as a nice supporting player in the Justice League but I've never cared enough to read his solo comic books. I've become more and more aware over the decades that he has been a fairly big player in the history of superheroes. It still wasn't enough for me to care a whole lot outside of his team appearances.
  • I've always been more of a Marvel guy than  DC guy. I don't hate DC or anything, but I've spent more time digging into Marvel characters than DC characters. A DC live action show of all things turning out well is a nice surprise. Given the history, maybe I shouldn't be. It's generally upbeat most of the time. It doesn't use a washed out color palette. Flash is young but it's not a show about teenage angst. They're doing a bunch of stuff right that movie DC still hasn't figured out.
  • I've usually thought of super speed as kind of a boring power. Sure, you're fast, but other than mobility and defense what do you have? This show has helped dispatch that notion for me, and the power does fit really well into an ongoing series. Plus they made it look visually interesting, which I thought was tough to do.
  • They made Captain Cold interesting! CAPTAIN COLD! The guy whose whole schtick is a parka and a freezing gun, the most mundane combination of supervillain looks and power sets in comicdom, is maybe the most interesting villain on the show! That's not a disparaging comment, it's just some combination of the actor's choices and the writing has combined to make him an interesting character.  
  • Overall, it doesn't feel like there have been a bunch of compromises made to get this show on TV and that's so rare when it comes to putting superheroes on TV. It's rare in putting a lot of things on TV. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones - those are other examples where it feels like there is not a lot of compromising being done. This show might not be quite at those levels in terms of drama - we're not exactly dealing with realistic life problems here - but in terms of being well-done it is right there with them. 
Another interesting note is that it generally seems to be well-liked among both marginal and more dedicated super-fan-types. That's an achievement that rarely happens. The only real criticism I've heard is that the actor who plays Barry is too young. I get that. I can understand it, especially coming from the long term hardcore Flash fans, where it seems to mostly originate. Barry is the more seasoned character, and Wally West is the young whippersnapper. It's easy for me to overlook it, shrug, and say that we're watching "Flash: Year One" and that he should be young. I understand those who have a harder time doing it though. I just worry that you're missing a really good show over an issue that may not be as important in the long run as the weight you're giving it. 

The first season gives us a quick origin, the supporting cast, a significant chunk of his rogue's gallery, several plot twists and turns, crossovers with several other heroes (Green Arrow, Firestorm, and The Atom), and the resolution of most of the major story arcs introduced along the way. 

Season 2 just kicked off this month and has already introduced Professor Zoom, Jay Garrick, Earth 2, and the 52 universes! Not only did this show start strong - it's getting better!

Another plus: There's no reset button. From 50's Superman to Batman 66 to most versions of Star Trek that's been a regrettably common element in telling out-there stories. This show is a serial. Like a comic book. Remarkable, eh?

Now it isn't perfect but the list of possible improvements in my head is limited.
  • I thought the whole keeping-the-bad-guys-in-the-basement thing was a little too "silver age convenient" for a modern TV show. By the end of the season, they fixed it! Nicely too!
  • I do still wonder if an HBO or Netflix approach with 12 or 13 episodes in a season wouldn't make it stronger. I didn't feel like there was a ton of filler in season one (unlike, say Agents of Shield) but filling up 20+ episodes every year can be tricky. The possibility of halving that number makes me wonder how it would be in the long run.
  • Just the chance of doing "too much" - from Cisco's naming of bad guys to references to other DC universe cities and companies to crossovers to new villains to new supporting characters there is a lot going on and a lot of windows being opened. Maybe that's the key to making those 20+ episodes interesting but there is a chance of spreading things too thin and only touching on things that might deserve more attention. I haven't seen it yet - it's just a concern for the future.  
That's about as strong a recommendation as I can give. It's worth your time if you like the kinds of things I talk about on this blog. Enjoy!

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