“My name is Barry Allen and I’m the fastest man alive.”
If anyone is wondering, this is how you start a series.
Ever since ‘Arrow’ introduced Barry Allen in last season’s 8th episode (“The Scientist”), us genre/comic geeks have been waiting for ‘The Flash’. Those nine months were well worth the wait.
One of the strongest parts of ‘The Flash’ is Barry’s origin story. Sure, many familiar with the character knows how a freak lightning strike imbues Barry with the powers to move at incredible speeds. But there is a deeper, more soul-scarring side to him. In two minutes time, we’re given the backstory of his mother’s murder, his father’s conviction of the crime, and Barry’s eternal belief that he saw something that night, something that no one else believes.
From there, things move pretty quickly. Iris West is Barry’s best friend and the woman he has interests beyond friendship with. She’s such a good friend that the two go to the Star Labs Particle Accelerator event together, though when Iris has her laptop stolen, it puts a damper on their night. Iris’s father is Detective Joe West, a principled man who acts as Barry’s guardian, carrying a soft-spot for our out-of-place hero since Barry was a kid. Early on we see just how good Barry is at his job as a Crime Scene Investigator. It’s with his help that Detective West and his partner track down two bank robbers, Clyde Mardon and his brother, to an old abandoned farm.
And this is when the magic happens.
As the Particle Accelerator is fired up, things are looking pretty good at first until it explodes. The shockwave created destroys Mardon’s escape plane, seconds after he kills Detective West’s partner but, more to the point, it creates an electrical event, one that strikes Barry inside his lab. He’s rushed to the hospital, his body in cardiac arrest when Iris arrives, anguish in her face and then…
Nine months laterWells, Caitlin, and Cisco prep to test Barry’s new found abilities.
Barry wakes up in Star Labs surrounded by Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon, associates of Harrison Wells, the pioneer beyond the Accelerator. The two give him the lowdown on his physical transformation (his body in a chronic state of regeneration) whereas Wells, who’s now wheelchair bound, explains a bit about the anomaly which caused the explosion. Despite all this and Wells informing Barry of his heart beating so fast machines couldn’t detect it, the formerly comatose Allen has somewhere to be. He surprises Iris at the coffee shop where she’s working and immediately realizes something is wrong when everything around him slows to a crawl.
After visiting Detective West and his new partner, Eddie Thawne, at the police station, Barry gets another jolt of just how different he is now. He takes an afternoon stroll at high speeds and realizes he needs to get a bit more testing done on his new state of being. The speed-run is conducted on some abandoned grounds and Barry’s clocking 300+ MPH when he recalls his mother’s death and the image of a man inside the yellow streak of light. It causes him to lose control and he breaks his arm in the ensuing crash. No worries though, as it heals in hours. He tells Wells about the ball of light but Wells assures Barry that he’s one of a kind.
When Barry leaves Wells and the others, he visits Iris and finds out the hard way that she and Thawne are an item. It’s not the news he wanted but when he sees Clyde Mardon speeding away from pursuing cops and then his subsequent demonstration of weather-related powers, he tells Detective West. Upset about Iris being at the scene, West loses it, ripping into Barry about seeing things that aren’t there just because he wants to believe it. By the time Thawne gives West the witness sketch of the previous bank robbery, Barry’s gone.
Still chaffed at West not believing in him, Barry storms into Star Labs, demanding answers on how Mardon is still alive. Wells admits that others were most likely affected and they are doing what they can to track down these ‘meta-humans’. Barry wants to do something but Wells is fixated on Barry and what the storm raging inside his body could mean for people around the world. He further crushes Barry’s hope of doing something when he says “You’re not a hero. You’re just a young man that was struck by lightning.”
Unable to take the lack of support from two of his idols, Barry tries running from his problems and the horrible memories of his mother’s death and finds himself in Starling City. “All my life I’ve wanted to do more; be more,” he confesses to the Arrow. “I don’t think that bolt of lightning struck you, Barry,” the vigilante-turned-hero says, “I think it chose you.” Oliver sees what Barry can bring to Central City. Barry has the ability to “inspire people, in a way [he] never could.” The words are exactly what he needed to hear and, with a stronger sense of purpose, Barry returns to his city and sets his mind to finding Mardon.
Of course Detective West, despite watching Mardon’s plane go down 9 months ago, pays a visit to the Mardon hideout with Thawne in tow. They come across the very much aliveBarry’s first adventure as the Flash
Mardon who, imbued with the power to control the weather, believes his is God. He admits to thinking too small and decides its now about going big. He starts to create a massive tornado to rip through the city but Barry—resplendent in his new suit—arrives just in time. Using his newfound abilities (and unexpected support from Wells), he unravels Mardon’s tornado before it can get off the ground.
Though he’s able to stop Mardon’s plan, the stress has left him exhausted and unmasked. Mardon gets ready to finish the job but West steps in and saves Barry. He apologizes to Barry but asks him never to tell Iris; it’s a father wanting to keep his daughter safe. Speaking of the parent relationship, Barry visits his father, still locked up after all these years. Though he tells Henry Allen he may have a way to find Nora Allen’s killer, Henry wants Barry to live his own life. “It’s time to let it go and stop worrying about me.”
And so it ends, on a note of hope as Barry runs through the city, using his powers for good. “My name is Barry Allen. I am the fastest man alive,” a voice over says, repeating the first lines in the show. “A friend recently gave me the idea for a new name. And something tells me…it’s gonna catch on.”
But it doesn’t end there. We’re taken back to Star Labs where Harrison Wells is not as wheelchair bound as we first believed. Not only that but he enters a secret room and looks at a holographic image of a paper dated 2024. The headline? ‘Flash Missing: Vanishes in Crisis.’
Business, as they say, is about to pick up.
- There are several factors that determine the success of a super hero show, chief among them is the main character. He or she is an embodiment of their fictional counterpart. Even when taking into account the Marvel Cinematic Universe explosion, Grant Gustin is as likeable an actor as I’ve seen in any comic book/genre program. He conveys a sense of hope the Flash will stand for as he traverses the streets of Central City. In one episode he’s solidified himself as the one and only person I want to see done the red tights and lightning bolt of the fastest man alive.
- For the uninitiated, ‘meta-humans’ is DC’s explanation of any super-powered beings. The dimensional rift created by the Star Labs explosion and its subsequent effects on humans creates a virtual cornucopia of villains for the Flash to battle. It’s a wonderful, if not convenient, first step.
- Though watching Harrison Wells rise from his wheelchair to look at a futuristic headline raises all sorts of delicious questions, I do believe it would have been best to keep such a reveal under wraps for a few episodes, quite possibly letting this cat out of the bag during the winter finale. But as with many first episodes, they are tasked with making sure you tune in the next week and sometimes get ahead of themselves when it comes to letting a story develop organically. Though not a huge misstep, it’s the one thing I would have changed.
- The primary purpose of a show is to entertain and ‘The Flash’ does that in spades. It is fun, exciting, heartbreaking and, above everything else, hopeful. That recipe blends in a way that makes ‘The Flash’ one of the most enjoyable series premieres I’ve ever seen. I am looking forward to more of Barry Allen and is escapades in Central City for the foreseeable future. After all, I do believe in the impossible.