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The Flash #1.6 “The Flash Is Born” Recap & Review

A paper thin plot shows off how well this show still works even without the more in-depth workings of other serialized dramas.

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fla106b_0057bSummary: A paper thin plot shows off how well this show still works even without the more in-depth workings of other serialized dramas.

Recap

The Flash faces a new meta-human named Tony Woodward, who can turn himself into girded steel at will. Barry actually knew Tony in grade school and was bullied by him, frustrating and angering Barry now more than usual. While Dr. Wells and Caitlin are concerned about Barry’s safety, Cisco  comes up with a plan to take Tony down: if Barry runs at mach one speed at just the right angle, he can use a supersonic punch. Meanwhile, Joe asks Dr. Wells to help him solve Nora Allen’s murder, when in reality Joe suspects Dr. Wells. Wells catches on, and instructs Joe to look into Tess Morgan, she was Wells’s old lab partner who died just before Wells moved to Central City, giving him an alibi and explaining why he ended up here. Meanwhile, Iris’s blog on The Flash gets her into trouble when Tony, remembering her from school, decides to use her to find him Flash and finish him off. Flash manages to use his supersonic punch to defeat Tony, with help from Iris. Afterwards, Barry and Iris reconcile after last week’s fight, and Barry suggests a new name for The Streak: The Flash. Joe gets a visit by the yellow and red blur that killed Barry’s mother, stealing all his files and threatening Joe with a photo of Iris with a knife in it, “STOP OR ELSE” carved above.

Review

One of the joys of The Flash‘s premiere season has been seeing how it differentiates itself from Arrow, even while keeping in the same feasible universe. For example, “The Flash is Born” is sort of the antithesis to last week’s Arrow installment, “Guilty,” at least in a broad sense. That particular Arrow episode struggled to hammer in its themes and parallels to make sure we knew we were watching a structured story worth analyzing and picking apart. Arrow is normally better at presenting intersecting themes and parallels, but “Guilty” is a good example of what The Flash specifically hasn’t been doing — and yet has still managed to find success without. “The Flash is Born” is incredibly straightforward, telling little more than a story of Barry confronting a childhood bully and the chaos surrounding it.

To be honest, that The Flash doesn’t offer a whole lot in terms of more artful subtext could be an easy criticism, considering that’s become quite a given in serialized dramas. When we do get themes, they’re incredibly simple and spelled out right at the top. But The Flash very consciously avoids ambiguity or general writer-y techniques, and does so with a purpose. These are much more character-focused stories, in the sense that everyone is allowed to do their own thing, without the constraint of it tying into an overarching point. The way the characters have been set up in Barry Allen’s world is solid enough that this works, because everyone has rather clear roles, goals, and connections to the other characters. So something like “The Flash is Born” has room to breathe, with the characters not tied together by a poetic thread, but simply by the narrative that’s unfolding.

That simplicity is part of what makes The Flash successful; it’s very much a throwback to old fashioned comic books and superhero stories, often favoring flash (heh) over substance. The Flash treads a fine line between dialing up the camp and still keeping it grounded — in part because it does have its roots in Arrow — and that allows it to strike a balance between feeling too much like a children’s show and being too grim. It’s the closest thing we have to the tone of most Marvel movies on TV (yes, even counting Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) in that it captures the essence of fun, but doesn’t feel dumbed down to do it. All the characters are likeable, the actors are competent and charismatic, and the plots are flashy enough to keep us distracted when they don’t make a ton of sense.

FLA106b_0270bThis plot is even more simple than usual, and one that would be contrived if it wasn’t presented in this way. It was only a matter of time before we got a metahuman with a direct connection to Barry, and making him a bully allows the show to very easily recreate the dynamic presented in the flashbacks. Is this too easy of a set-up? Sure, but it allows a certain freedom for wish fulfillment. It turns out that every primary character under 30 was the subject of bullying for one reason or another, and we can take solace in seeing a victim finally getting back at the person that tormented him during their most awkward time. There’s absolutely no ambiguity or deeper reasoning behind Woodward’s villainy, it’s completely black and white. He’s a bully, bullies are mean, and our hero takes down the bully. It’s childishly simple, but it grants Barry and the viewers who relate a certain triumph when he’s beaten. It’s manufactured engagement, sure, making Woodward the most stereotypical and unambiguous of bullies. But does that really matter so much as long as we’re still engaged? It doesn’t give much to talk about critically, but The Flash has been clear that it isn’t yet the place to turn to for musings about morality or human nature. It’s about a hero beating the odds to take down the bad guy. The challenge of each episode is to make Barry’s inevitable win triumphant, and “The Flash Is Born” does that just fine.

This is reflected in Iris’s naivete in her coverage of The Streak The Flash, which consistently points out that he’s a hero that the city needs, etc. etc. It’s the same old superhero story, with the oft-tread rooftop conversations, and a constant awe to the proceedings. There’s nothing much below the surface here — she’s probably how most of us would react if a superpowered hero took genuine interest in us. She just thinks he’s cool. Other than Candice Patton’s charismatic performance, that’s what’s made Iris really work as a character so far, even when she doesn’t contribute much to the plot. Unlike Cisco’s indulgent fanboy qualities (which are spot-on this week, but have often been grating in the past), Iris is genuinely entranced with the overall wonder of Flash’s existence.

She also just-so-happens to be in a position where he’s also going to get close to her. That finally comes to a head this week, when her blog actually does get her in trouble like Joe worried she would be in weeks past. But even though she falls comfortably in the position of damsel, she’s still pretty smart; that fire alarm move might have worked if she wasn’t facing a super strong metal man, and she even gets to land the last blow at the end. It’s hard to make a non-superhero love interest not totally useless without shoehorning strength into the story, just because of the archetype, but so far Iris has worked. She feels like her own character, but not one that’s played up as too strong or capable. She’s just, you know, a person.

Her father gets a bit to do as well. Jesse L. Martin is always fun to watch, but it’s great to see him able to take on the main story arc’s reigns for a while while Barry is off saving the day. It’s actually a nice set-up, because it means we can have Barry following completely different story threads without it seeming like he’s ignoring the primary goal of uncovering his mother’s murder. With Joe on the case, there will always be plot momentum going on in the background, it will always give something else for Martin to do, and it won’t impede on any other plots unless it needs to. It’s a smart way to keep the serialized stuff while still keeping the aforementioned simplistic narrative.

fla106a_0108bIt’s especially great to see Martin having scenes and camaraderie Tom Cavanaugh, as both are easily the best and most distinguished actors in the cast. So far The Flash has given a wealth of material to its…erm…”old” characters, compared to standard CW shows, and as such, it’s a joy to see Joe and Dr. Wells furthering a relationship. That relationship might lead to some bad stuff down the line, of course, as Dr. Wells might be the factor that will eventually shake The Flash out of its lighter fare. This episode attempts to shoot down the common theory that Wells is the mysterious speedster from Barry’s origin, though it certainly doesn’t disprove it. If anything, it makes Wells even more of an enigma by giving him some semblance of a backstory. Wells is the secret weapon of the show, or perhaps a ticking time bomb, because with each episode it’s both easier and harder to tell if we’re supposed to think of him as more of an outright villain or a misunderstood sympathetic good guy.

As time goes on, the progression of Dr. Wells’s storyline will surely amp up the storytelling and create some meatier plots. The Flash could certainly be something more, and chances are it will become more daring and experimental with age. But right now, it’s fine doing what it does. “The Flash is Born” probably isn’t the best hour of the show, but it’s not bad or unentertaining in the least. It’s average at best, and five episodes in, The Flash‘s average is still damn enjoyable.

Odds & Ends

  • Iris’s voiceover isn’t bad, but I’m not sure Candice Patton’s reading really worked. Out of Stephen Amell, Grant Gustin, and Candice Patton’s respective voiceovers, Gustin is still the winner by a mile.
  • Even with some rubbery-looking CGI on Barry, for the most part the entire supersonic punch (including the city of broken windows) is nicely rendered.
  • Do Barry’s powers also give him a heightened awareness of how far he’s travelling? How is he able to tell when he’s run precisely 5.3 miles away? I mean, I can tell if I’ve walked a few feet, roughly, but nothing so specific.
  • Still not really worth talking about, but this is about the most we’ve seen of Eddie Thawne acting like a real person. He gets some good bits, actually; there are clearly gears turning when Eddie sees Barry show up after taking the “shortcut,” and Rick Cosnett is kind of adorable when he’s helping Barry with the punching bag. His deep voice still sounds like a villain whenever he talks, though.
  • I totally get the triumphant moment of the bullied kid telling off the bully, but I have to wonder how much Barry thought the “no secret identity” thing through. Then again, if I were in his shoes, I’d totally do it, too.
  • Do people even have follower counters like the one on Iris’s blog anymore? It looks like an old hit counter from a Geocities or Angelfire site.
  • “Interesting. A man of steel.” I didn’t want to chuckle, but I did anyway.
  • “I think I broke my hand.”
    “Me too.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rurudo

    November 21, 2014 at 9:35 am

    So far, I seem to be the only one to notice the sign in Keystone City that said “Garrick’s Warehouse,” or at least the only one to mention it. Did you guys catch that and just leave it out of the review, or is this something that you may have overlooked?

  2. Bill

    November 26, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I had misgivings about the show; the Flash is a long-time favorite. The trailers hooked me, and my wife was drawn in by Tom Cavanaugh – we both loved the show Ed.

    Anyway, the misgivings vanished with the pilot. Grant Gustin plays a great Barry Allen. The friendship between him and Candice Patton really works. Jesse Martin has the right touch of gravitas. But it’s Gustin’s Flash that makes the show. And the supersonic punch, and the moments leading up to it, were pitch perfect. As soon as he stopped running and started to brace himself for the run, I got goosebumps.

    What DC does right on the small screen is allowing the audience to care about the characters. They did it with Smallville and they’re doing it again here.

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Blu-ray Review: The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season

Review of The Flash Season 6 Blu-ray set from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

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The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, and we have been provided with a copy of the set to review on the site!

The set features all 19 episodes of The Flash Season 6 plus extras — the Blu-ray includes all of the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover!

Here’s what’s up:

Packaging & Design: Starting with this because it’s probably the first thing you’ll notice. The box art for this set has changed since the original press release — the fired Hartley Sawyer’s Ralph Dibny is no longer on the packaging. While I understand the show distancing themselves — Ralph was indeed an important part of Season 6, with his Sue Dearbon story, and I’m not 100% sure how I think they should have handled it. As it is, it looks odd with just the other four members of Team Flash on it. Though, to be fair, Nash Wells isn’t on the cover either.

With that said, The Flash sets usually have some of the best designed packaging and menu art and this set is no exception.

The Episodes: Also seems I am repeating myself but the Blu-ray presentation on The Flash is loads better than what we see on TV and is pretty cinematic. All 19 episodes of Season 6 are here, and — spoiler warning — because of COVID-19, they were cut off at 19 episodes, so that means some storylines aren’t completely wrapped. With that said, this season saw Eric Wallace taking over as showrunner, and with him came a new tactic that he referred to as “graphic novels.” The first “graphic novel” included the character Bloodwork (Sendhil Ramamurthy) as characters are facing death, and the second, after Crisis, dealt with a new “Mirror Master.”

I will say that The Flash under Eric Wallace has a great vision and I love his enthusiasm, which you can actually hear on the “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” commentary. He’s as big of a geek as we are, and I mean that in the absolute best way. The only thing I’d have to say negative about Season 6 is that the mirror storyline has gone on way too long — and I wonder, if they had known all along that we’d end with 19 episodes (an impossibility, because who would?), it might have been a bit shorter.

This “graphic novel” set-up, however, does offer the chance to binge the season in parts, which is pretty cool, and the Blu-ray bonus disc of all of Crisis on Infinite Earths is a good thing to throw in the middle to tee up Graphic Novel #2.

The other thing I will say about Season 6 is that I really liked some of the new characters that are set up. Chester P. Runk, Sue Dearbon, Kamilla, and Allegra — all fun characters that add to rather than detract from the series.

The Extras: The set includes a bonus black and white noir version of “Kiss Kiss Breach Breach” with commentary by Eric Wallace. Commentaries don’t happen too often these days, so I’m so glad they put something on this set. There is also a gag reel and deleted scenes. And, of course, all of Crisis which has a lot of great Flash content!

Is It Worth It? If you’re a Flash completist or want to see the most recent season in high definition, sure. You might want to start at the very beginning, though. Still, I think The Flash is on its way back to its former glory and Season 6 is the start of that journey. Can’t wait for Season 7, and for now, this set will be revisited often.

Get your copy of the Blu-ray from Amazon.com at a discounted price and support FlashTVNews!

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Blu-ray Review: The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season

Review of the Flash Season 5 Blu-ray set.

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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided FlashTVNews with a free copy of this set for review in this post. The opinions shared are my own.

The Flash: The Complete Fifth Season hits Blu-ray and DVD this week, containing all 22 episodes of Season 5 plus bonus episodes from the Elseworlds crossover. In addition to the entire season, there are few extra features for all to enjoy, though some are duplicated from other sets that were made available this year. Here’s the review.

The Episodes: As mentioned, all 22 episodes plus extras are on this set. And as I tend to write every year, the show isn’t quite at the high level it was in its first season, but there are definitely standouts in Season 5. A big theme for the season is family, and the conflicts between parents and their children. Caitlin and her parents are a part of that. The season’s villain is a part of that. And the biggest part of that is Nora West-Allen (Jessica Parker Kennedy), the daughter of Barry and Iris brought back from the future. Kennedy is fantastic in the role, though it is at times disappointing to see so much attention on a new character when we are here for the ones we’ve seen for 100+ episodes.

The Flash Season 5 contains the series’ 100th episode which is a great journey through the five years of the show. Sadly absent from Episode 100, though, is Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) who was recovering from an injury for a good part of the season. Martin’s presence was certainly missed though it is nice that the show upgraded Danielle Nicolet (Cecile) to series regular this year.

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t very invested in the Cicada story, at least not as much as I probably should have been. And I was even less into the latest Wells, “Sherloque,” which was a joke that stopped being funny within about 2 minutes, with no offense meant to the writers or Tom Cavanagh. It was nice to see the talented Cavanagh in another role, though part of me still is wondering why it was not Matt Letscher, though I’m forgiving that because, again, Tom Cavanagh.

I’m also not sure what to make of Vibe’s eventual fate, unless it is a way to make things less easy for next year’s crossover. In any event, watching these episodes still has me excited for Season 6, and The Flash is certainly a series that is worth the Blu-Ray upgrade.

The Extras: There’s a fantastic featurette about the origins of Killer Frost which is really well put together. I was, however, surprised that such attention wasn’t paid to XS/Nora as she was also a major arc for Season 5. Was there only room to cover one story? I’m also surprised there wasn’t some kind of 100th episode spotlight, especially since Warner Bros. did have press kit people on the line interviewing the cast.

There are Elseworlds, villains, and Comic-Con featurettes that you can find on the other DC TV shows this year, which I can only imagine is a cost-cutting measure to include them everywhere.

The set also has deleted scenes, with the most notable being Superman running with Oliver Queen from “Elseworlds Part 1.” It’s a shame that was cut. There was also a “My Name Is Barry Allen” from “Elseworlds” with Stephen Amell replacing Grant Gustin as Grant replaced him in the aired Part 2 — this was surely cut and unfinished so as to not blow the reveal that Oliver was Barry in Part 1. It’s still really cute and fun.

Finally, there’s a gag reel. While they are introduced with credits like The Office, they’re still a bit… meh.

Packaging and Design: Seeing Barry and Nora running side by side is the perfect way to sell this. Very nice looking.

Is It Worth It? I’ll always recommend picking up Flash Blu-Rays from the beginning, but this is certainly worthwhile, especially to prepare for Season 6 to premiere on October 8. You can purchase this set (and support this site!) here.

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Blu-ray Review: The Flash: The Complete Fourth Season

Review of the Blu-ray set for The Flash: The Complete Fourth Season

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The Complete Fourth Season of The Flash hits Blu-ray and DVD this week (Tuesday, August 28), and we’ve got our hands on a review copy!

Before we get to the review, here’s how the season is described:

In Season Four, the mission of Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Grant Gustin), is once more to protect Central City from metahuman threats. First, he’ll have to escape the Speed Force. With Barry trapped, the job of protecting Central City falls to his family – Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin); his fiancée, Iris West (Candice Patton); and Wally West/Kid Flash (Keiynan Lonsdale) – and the team at S.T.A.R. Labs – Dr. Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost (Danielle Panabaker), Cisco Ramon/Vibe (Carlos Valdes) and brilliant scientist Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). When a powerful villain threatens to level the city if The Flash doesn’t appear, Cisco risks everything to break Barry out of the Speed Force. But this is only the first move of a life-or-death chess game with Clifford DeVoe aka The Thinker (Neil Sandilands), a mastermind who’s always ten steps ahead of Barry, no matter how fast he’s running. Shocking surprises come fast and furious in all 23 action-packed adventures featuring The Fastest Man Alive.

So, how’s the set?

The Episodes: It’s going to be very hard to ever replicate the greatness that was the first season of The Flash. Unfortunately, one thing that The Flash Season 1 did so well that still didn’t connect for Season 4 is a strong villain. While I have more appreciation for The Thinker after rewatching some episodes and checking out the extra interview features on this set, I still don’t really feel that empathy and care for him that I had for, say, Eobard/Wells.

Season 4 also tried to course correct with more humor to varied success. Sometimes it worked; others the show was far too amused with itself. (I don’t need to see any more Wellses no matter how much I love Tom Cavanagh, for example, and “psychic pregnancy” will never not be too campy for me.)

There’s some good stuff, though. The best version of Barry’s suit so far premieres in Season 4, and Barry and Iris finally get married this year, even if every time they got married, they ended up interrupted. There are some episodes that worked to innovate, and there are also things like Barry in jail which seem to go on for too long. But at least with a DVD or Blu-ray you can fast forward, right?

Season 4 is also where we meet Ralph Dibny. He grows on you until you finally stretch your appreciation levels. By season’s end, you love Ralph as much as everyone else might.

The Extras: Of all the DC TV shows, The Flash usually gets the best treatment as far as extras go. We’ve got deleted scenes (including some WestAllen!), bloopers, and the all-encompassing Comic-Con video… and some other great extras, including Sterling Gates and Eric Wallace with Katee Sackhoff offering commentary on Amunet (who I do enjoy more after seeing Sackhoff speaking about her, but I still don’t understand why the silly accent was a thing). There’s also a really nice feature about the Elongated Man, and all four episodes of this year’s DC TV crossover are represented.

There’s also talk about The Thinker, and as I said, I appreciate the storyline more but I still didn’t have that emotional connection with the character that I feel I needed. The other bodies thing at midseason made that all even worse.

Packaging & Art: This is one of the best looking Flash Blu-ray sets so far. Dynamic design on the box art and on the discs. I like it.

Is It Worth It? As I said, nothing will be Season 1 again, but if you’re a fan of The Flash there are a lot of extras to make this worth it. Order yours from Amazon.com at a discounted rate and support this website!

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