The Flash: The Complete First Season is a welcome addition to the library of TV and movie superhero adventures. The (not surprisingly) fast-paced series was well received by critics, fanboys/girls and the general audience with equal enthusiasm.
The DVD/Blu-Ray sets provide a lovely package combining the show’s first 22 episodes and over three hours of special features.
The first season of The Flash came as a result of an experiment when Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), the man who would become the Flash appeared in episodes eight and nine of the third season of The CW series Arrow. The plan was introduce the character’s origin later in the season but the fan reaction to the two episodes prompted the network to go straight to a full pilot to see what a Flash series would look like. The pilot sold the series and season one premiered on October 14th, 2014 to nearly universal acclaim and some of the network’s best ratings.
Then the show went on to have a nearly perfect season, mixing humor, drama, strong characters and a wealth of details that mirrored the DC Comics original and fit nicely into the expanding universe that also included Arrow.
The pilot detailed how Barry was a bullied kid who saw his mother murdered by a yellow blur before being carried away from his home and deposited in a nearby street. When he got home, he saw his father (John Wesley Ship, star of the first Flash series in 1990) being arrested.
He was taken in by Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), father of his best friend, Iris, and grew up to become a member of the Central City CSI. His search for the truth about who killed his mother made him somewhat unreliable, time-wise (a nice twist on the comics’ Barry being notoriously for every appointment and date).
In the comics, police scientist Barry Allen becomes the Flash after a bolt of lightning strikes him and knocks him to an array of chemicals. On TV, the bolt of lightning is generated by the failure and explosion of the Star Labs particle accelerator and is only one of several that wind up creating a host of what will become known as metahumans.
Following being struck by the lightning bolt, Barry spent nine months in a coma under the care of Drs. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). When he awoke he discovered he had a new ability – he was really, really fast.
He put his speed to use stopping another super-powered man who was using his ability to create and control the weather for criminal ends and The Flash was born.
The pilot also introduced the now grown Iris (Candice Patton), Joe’s partner Eddie Thawn (Rick Cosnett) and the concept of the team at Star Labs helping Barry to learn to master his new powers. It also gave us the show’s first big twist – in a tag following the credits, we learned that Harrison Wells was not quite who/what he appeared to be.
Season one of The Flash didn’t take long to introduce the TV versions of some of the Flash’s array of villains (colloquially dubbed the Rogues Gallery): the Weather Wizard (one of two – being twins), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell), Golden Glider (Peyton List), The Mist (Anthony Carrigan) and more – leading up to two that made the serious fanboys/girls day, not one but two Tricksters – bringing in Mark Hamill (who played the Trickster on the 1990 series) and a younger version and the one, the only psionically gifted gorilla, Grodd (voiced by David Sobolov).
There was even a crossover (or two) with Arrow, bringing Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) to Central City, and introducing DC superhero Firestorm into the mix (a ploy that gave Rob Amell and Victor Garber some interesting material to work with).
With all the superheroics going on, it would have been easy to just make the show about that, but creators Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns wanted the show to work as a drama without the powers thing, too, so they developed the characters – giving depths to Caitlin and Cisco that presaged their directions in the comics; playing Joe more as a father figure than just another detective; showing Iris to be driven by curiosity, and tying Wells into both a classic Flash character and a father figure/mentor to Barry.
And then there was Eobard Thawne…
Possibly the most surprising aspect of The Flash wasn’t that it was a character driven show – Greg Berlanti is known for that – but that the CG and visual effects were more than up to the task of displaying the variety of powers (and their consequences) that such an ambitious superhero show would make on a weekly basis.
From the Flash’s blur to the Mist’s dissipation, from some heavy duty weather effects to a completely believable CG gorilla, the effects on The Flash are pretty fine.
In terms of writing, I can’t honestly say that there was one episode that struck me as being below average – and The Flash’s average is a pretty high bar.
Audio Commentary: Pilot by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns. There are, basically, three kinds of commentary: nuts & bolts (this is what we did and how we did it); anecdotal cast (cast members talking about the experience of making the show and relating stories from the set) and why we did this. This commentary is, essentially, the third – the story of why the show came to be and how it was developed.
Featurettes: The Fastest Man Alive – half-hour documentary on The Flash and how he is a direct descendant of the sci-fi generation of the 1950s; Creating The Blur: The VFX of The Flash – Learn how the series’ effects artists create state-of-the-art visual wonders; Screen Test: The Chemistry of Grant and Emily; DC Comics’ Night at Comic-Con 2014: Presenting Gotham, The Flash, Constantine and Arrow; Gag Reel; Deleted Scenes
Grade: The Flash: The Complete First Season – A
Grade: Features: A
Final Grade: A