CW’s The Flash is now my favorite superhero show. Not too long ago, we didn’t have a choice; there might only be one such show on television. But Batman, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Smallville all made their marks. We are living in an unprecedented time when there are more than half a dozen comic-book inspired series on TV, with even more on the way, so competition is the name of the game.
I would have liked to put Gotham first, but the show’s gratuitous violence and sexual content holds me back. Agents of Shield is inconsistent and does not know how adequately to play to its strengths. Arrow also has incongruous violence and consistency issues. The other contender Agent Carter is too new to judge, though it holds promise.
There are others, but my vote is The Flash. It has hokey moments, but I am amazed Grant Gustin (as Barry Allen) is able to deliver them with enough charm that I let such lines pass. I think it is the worthy heir to Smallville–those worthwhile episodes featuring the dialogue between Tom Welling (Clark) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex). I still prefer the former, but I am being won over by Gustin’s interaction with Tom Cavanagh (Dr. Wells) and Jesse Martin (Det. West). The cast is also well-rounded with Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, and Carlos Valdes.
Law and Order veteran Jesse Martin adds gravitas to the family scenes, as he skillfully navigates emotional moments that skirt with the schmaltzy. He and Gustin have an infectious buddy relationship (despite the surrogate-father plotline). The writers wisely brought West quickly into the inner circle, those who know Barry’s secret. This relationship displays a side to Barry we see nowhere else, and Martin is just fun to watch.
On the other side, at Star Labs, Ed alumnus Tom Cavanagh has convincingly portrayed the complex manipulations of Dr. Wells, who wants to appear to be Barry’s friend, yet who may be Barry’s greatest nemesis. “The Sound and the Fury” effectively displays Cavanagh’s gifts and the intriguing chess-playing sides to his character.
The writers effectively address the Kleenex villain-of-the-week problem Lois and Clark fell into. Villains frequently have connections to Star Labs, or at least the failure of the Particle Accelerator (which functions like the Kryptonite meteorites did on Smallville), and such connections add depth to their individual motivations and contribute to the ongoing mystery surrounding Dr. Wells. The selection of Wentworth Miller was inspired, and I’m glad to see his recurring status, including the Prison Break reunions with Robert Knepper and Dominic Purcell.
I don’t like everything; there are some typical CW tropes, unfortunately mostly surrounding Iris. But as I said, if there is a cringe-worthy moment in the script, at least one of the actors usually finds a way to sell the scene. These are the gifts of a great ensemble cast, which matures with each episode. It’s been an enjoyable ride so far, and I’ve definitely appreciated that I can sit down and watch it with my kids, who love Flash too. Such is what a superhero show should be.