Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Flash Season 1 Review (SPOILERS)

If you've been following my blog this Summer, you'll know that I've been slowly (very slowly) unveiling my TV show reviews from this past season. Once they all ended in May, I initially meant to get all my reviews out right away, but that didn't happen. They ended up being spread out throughout the "offseason," which I actually decided that I kinda liked. You'll also notice if you've been following them that I've taken things from a slightly different angle this time around. Previously my target audience with these TV show reviews has been everyone, thus I wrote things as spoiler-free as possible. This year my target audience has been people who have already watched this season of whichever show I am reviewing because that has allowed me to give you all my thoughts from the past season. I think it's better that way because it's really hard to write a review of a whole season while dancing around spoilers and accurately portraying what you thought of it and why, especially as you go further into the show. As you can see from the title of this review, that's what I will again be doing here with The Flash. If you haven't seen The Flash, my recommendation for you is to stop reading this review right now and go watch it. It's really fantastic. In fact, it quickly rose to being my favorite current show on TV. If you've already seen the first season or you just don't care about it being spoiled, then let's continue and dive into the reasons why I loved this show so much.

First and foremost I think it's important to repeat that my experience with movies and TV shows are really different. I'll go see pretty much any movie that comes out, whether or not I'm excited for it. I won't do the same with TV shows. If I don't think a TV show looks interesting to me, I won't watch it. If it gets really great reviews from everyone and thus I am convinced that I might actually like it, I still might not watch it. Not right away anyways. And then there are TV shows that I want to watch that I just don't get around to watching. I've still only seen the pilot episodes of Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Agent Carter. I've also only seen half of Daredevil. I like these shows and I have plans to continue them, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I could say that I just don't have enough time to watch all of them because watching a TV show requires a much greater investment of time than a movie, but a more accurate answer is that watching TV shows a much smaller priority for me. Also, I do think it's fun to binge watch a TV show after it's been out for a few years, so that's another reason why I don't always feel obligated to watch every TV show from the pilot episode.

What's the point of all this as concerning The Flash? Here's the point. I've been watching The Flash from the very beginning. The week the pilot episode aired is the week that I started watching the show. That's impressive for me. What's more impressive, though, is that I've stuck with it. The other TV shows that I mentioned are TV shows where I watched the pilot episode on the day they came out, but for whatever reasons they didn't make it into my short list of TV shows that I dedicate myself to every week. The Flash did. Not counting sports and news related shows, there are four TV shows that I watch on a regular basis: Criminal Minds, Supernatural, Arrow, and The Flash. Bates Motel gets added to that when it shows up mid-season. That's it. The fact that The Flash is a part of that lineup should say something. But making that even better, after just two or three episodes in, this felt like a show that I had been watching for several years now. I was fully and completely invested in it. It was my show. Adding even more frosting to this right now, by the time we were halfway through, the show had become so good that this was the show that this was the show that I looked forward to every week. Yes, if you ask me what my current favorite TV show is, my answer for you is The Flash.

It's been over three months now since I watched the finale live on TV. In those months, I've pondered on what it is that makes this a great show and my conclusion is that this is exactly what a superhero TV should be like. Growing up I didn't really read comic books too much, but what I did do is watch a lot of the animated superhero TV shows that aired on Saturday mornings. They were a whole lot of fun for me as a kid. They were mainly light-hearted and fun instead of dark and scary. They had great heroes, great villains, great stories, great character development. They were perfect. When I watched The Flash this past year, it took me on a trip down memory lane because it was done in the exact same style as all of these excellent shows from my childhood. Arrow is a pretty dark show and I do like that for different reasons. But I really liked The Flash because of how light-hearted and fun it was. Our team of heroes were all very likable and had amazing chemistry. Much of the focus this season was a villain-of-the-week setup as they had to stop all the meta humans that showed up in the city. We had a lot of great villains and it was fun to watch our team try to figure out how to stop them. In between all that, we had an amazing story that continued to develop as the season went on that set-up our main villain and main conflict that really took off and became amazing in the second half of the season.

Let's talk more in depth about that story because the way they told that story was rather genius. First of all, it's pretty risky in my opinion to introduce the arch-rival right at the beginning of the show. Usually superhero movies or TV shows will wait until later to introduce the main villain. They'll build up their main character and the universe around them before they introduce the main villain. The Flash, on the other hand, cuts right to the chase. We start the show off with the Flash and the Reverse Flash in this duel at Barry's home when he's young. Then we jump to the present where Barry has been struck by lightning and becomes the Flash. His main mentor that helps him along is a man by the name of Harrison Wells, who we have suspicions right off the bat that there is more to this man than meets the eye. Shortly after meeting him, the show does something really interesting. Instead of keeping the audience in the dark about Harrison Wells, we get clues that Harrison Wells is in fact our main villain. We don't know everything about him, of course, but we know he is bad. Barry, on the other hand, doesn't know this. In fact, it takes almost the whole season for Barry to come to the point where he learns what we as an audience already knew about Harrison Wells from almost the very beginning. As more was revealed, I read a lot of comments where people were happy that they successfully predicted that Harrison Wells was in fact bad. Not to take that joy away from those people, but yeah. That was the point. We knew. Barry didn't.

It was very risky to do things this way. I often like to be in the shoes of the hero and not figure things out until he does. It helps build the suspense. If I know everything that happens before it happens, it often spoils the experience for me. But the fact that this worked so well made this season genius. But making this better was the fact that even though we knew Harrison Wells was going to be the villain, we didn't know his motivations behind everything. We didn't know his background. In fact, we really didn't know much about him at all outside the fact that he wasn't a friendly person like Barry thought for most of the season. This gave us enough of the element of surprise to satisfy my desire to not know everything going in. And man, when we found out what the deal was with Harrison Wells, those were some epic scenes. Harrison Wells was more than just your average comic book villain trying to take over the world or destroy our hero. He had some serious depth to him that made the conflict between him and Barry super interesting. This was made even better by the fact that both actors in this duel were fantastic. Grant Gustin is the perfect Flash, just like Stephen Amell is the perfect Green Arrow. Tom Cavanagh is also an excellent villain.

Outside this main conflict, this is also a very deep show story-wise. What I mean with that is that there are a lot of well-written side characters that all have interesting story arcs. Sometimes in a TV show all the side stories will feel like filler or fluff to get the show to 23 episodes. That's definitely not the case here. Caitlin and Cicso complete our main trio. They both work very well with Barry. You really buy the three of them as best friends. Cisco is possibly the most relatable character on the show. He's our super genius that comes up with all the ideas, but he's also the super nerdy character that fanboys out all the time. There's a moment in Arrow actually where he goes over and meets with Laurel Lance, aka the Black Canary and he just totally geeks out that he's meeting her. He asks for an autograph or a picture or something like that. It's fantastic. Caitlin is the gorgeous one. I'm a very big fan of Danielle Panabaker in many ways. But she's also more than just that. She's a very strong female lead with a lot of complexity to her. I don't know much about The Flash comic books, but I have a feeling that both Cisco and Caitlin are going to have even bigger roles as early as this upcoming season. I think they will both get powers just like Barry's powers instead of just being his team that helps him out behind the scenes. I don't know this for sure. It's just a theory, but I'm excited to see where they take both of their characters.

Relationships. This is a CW show, so we have to have relationship drama throughout. Unlike some of their other shows, though, the relationship drama in this is really interesting. Iris is Barry's love interest. The best friend growing up who is oblivious to Barry's strong attraction to her. Now I did say I like the relationship drama in the show. This is actually the one exception. I don't think Barry and Iris have good chemistry as a couple. I think they work better as friends. But the way they went about it, though, was interesting. I was nervous that it was just going to be forced, but it wasn't. Iris is actually dating Eddie the whole season. Thus we get our love triangle. I like Eddie and Iris a lot more as a couple. They were great. But you know that it's not going to end up that way, especially since Eddie kinda... uhhhh... died. That could change because of the whole time travel thing, but we'll see. To be honest, I did like Iris a lot more as the season went along, so perhaps I'll like what they do. Whatever that is. Personally, though, I was an unashamed Snowbarry. I'm talking about Caitlin and Barry with that. They had fantastic chemistry and would work better as a couple. Except for the fact that Caitlin kinda... uhhhh... got married in the finale. Which is cool with me because she married Robbie Amell. I like Robbie. The Amell cousins are just fantastic. But with this whole timeline thing, that could also change. So we'll see. Robbie, of course, plays Ronnie Raymond, half of Firestorm. Which, by the way, talk about a fantastic character. Ronnie having to learn to work with Dr. Stein to make that character work, because they are kinda the same person, is fantastic. I wanted more of them.

I could go on about all the fantastic characters in this season. There's Joe. There's Barry's dad. There's Captain Cold. There's more I could say about Firestorm and Eddie as well as all the meta humans and other villains. There's the Arrow crossovers. A lot of stuff here that could cause me to go on forever. But I think I hit enough of the highlights to give you a taste in how deep this season was in terms of story. Instead I want to talk a bit about the finale next. I said earlier that it was a bit risky that they used the first season to introduce the arch nemesis because the one question you get with that is this was done so well, where are they going to go next? Well, the finale opens the door to so much more interesting stuff that they could do. It gave me confidence that this will be a great show for many seasons to come. But the thing is I have no idea what direction they are planning on going because of the huge cliffhanger they left us on. It was one of those moments that left me screaming and fake crying for like five minutes after it ended. Right when it was about to end, I suddenly saw what they were doing with the end and I started panicking. Please don't end here. Please don't end here. Please no. Please no! No! No!! NO!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You get how that is. I don't like it because it means I have to wait four months on an awful cliffhanger to see what happens next. But I love it because that's what a finale is supposed to do. If the show doesn't have that experience at the end, I feel gypped.

The only red flag that goes up in my mind as I am thinking about this show is the timeline. We learn at the end that the whole season is based on the events of the Flash and the Reverse Flash coming back in time and changing the course of the future. If they run fast enough, they can do this by jumping back in time. This happens several times throughout the second half of the season mainly and so far they have done a great job with it. No complaints yet. But it is a red flag because time travel is a tricky subject to work with. There's some franchises like Back to the Future that execute this to perfection. When it's done right, it's one of my favorite subjects to dive into. But then you get other franchises that fall flat on their face because they didn't execute well. The Terminator franchise is a prime example of a franchise that did time travel so well when James Cameron was in charge during the first two movies, but got too carried away with the idea that the whole franchise is now one big, convoluted mess that makes no sense. Then you have some movies that don't do enough. Project Almanac is a great example of this. The kids there make a time machine and out of all places to go, they decide to go back in time and attend an Imagine Dragons concert? I mean, I love Imagine Dragons, but that was the big plan out of all the places and things they could've done. Really? So like I said, they are treading on thin ice here and I hope they succeed. They have so far. But they need to be careful is all I'm saying here.

So yes, there are so many things that make The Flash an interesting show. This is usually the point where I give out my recommendation as to whether or not you should see this movie or show, but if you haven't seen The Flash, I really hope you haven't made it this far because I spoiled a lot of elements of the show. Instead, you should now let me know your thoughts on The Flash. Did you love this season as much as I did? What are your theories for season 2 and beyond? Let me know in the comments below. Because I am super excited. Season 1 gave me everything that I wanted out of this show. It's a fun, light-hearted superhero TV show that I just had a blast with the entire time. It had a ton of great characters, major or minor, good or bad. All the story lines, big or small, were excellent. It was deep, it was fun, it was fascinating. No complaints on my end. I suppose it's unfair to compare season 1 of The Flash to season 3 of Arrow because they are on different parts of the show. But if I instead compare the first season of both shows, The Flash totally wins out. I don't have a rating system for TV shows, but if I did, this would get a very high rating, because like I said, this show has elevated itself to the point where it is my current favorite TV show. Out of everything I'm looking forward to this upcoming TV season, whether it be new shows or returning shows, I am most excited for season 2 of The Flash.

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