Super-Fast Forward: The Flash

Grant Gustin stars as Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, in this excellent reboot of the franchise from The CW…


In 1990, the success of Tim Burton’s cinematic Batman, inspired CBS to bring the DC Universe’s Scarlet Speedster, Barry Allen to the small screen.

The first Flash series starred John Wesley Shipp, a big hefty guy tricked out in a bulky red suit which made him look like a gridiron linebacker.

Fast forward to 2014, and Shipp is back in a supporting role as Doctor Henry Allen, father of Barry, a crack police forensic scientist / crime scene tech, who looks about 12. Okay; maybe not that young. But Glee star Grant Gustin as Barry Allen is not what you’d expect.

And therein lies his strength.

Slender (more Kenyan long-distance runner than Ben Johnson-style sprinter), good-humoured, unassuming. Just a regular, decent guy. He looks vulnerable.

So, when he’s struck by a massive lightning bolt during the catastrophic failure of S.T.A.R. Labs’ particle accelerator on the outskirts of Central City and zapped into a coma, you feel for him.

Followers of The CW’s Smallville and Arrow (from which this show is a spin-off) will know S.T.A.R. Labs as the general repository for superhero and supervillain technology.

When Barry awakens after 9 months, he does so at S.T.A.R. Labs, attended by tech genius Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow (a.k.a. Killer Frost, in the comics), supervised by Tom Cavanaugh as S.T.A.R. Labs supremo Harrison Wells.

During his extended nap, Barry has developed an accelerated metabolism, improved physique, and the ability to move at hypersonic speed. The strain this puts on his clothes leads the support team to develop a reinforced (dark red, naturally) leather suit, adapted from a design for fire-fighters – along with wearable sensors and communications gear, tooled to look like lightning bolts. Just in time, too.

As if Barry didn’t have enough on his plate with the continued incarceration of his father (wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his wife in a bizarre incident involving a weird lightning bolt, when Barry was 11), his personal and professional life suffer.

Barry’s love for Iris West (actress Candice Patton) is more unrequited than ever, now that she’s hooked up secretly with the detective partner of her father Joe West (actor Jesse L. Martin). The cops now have to contend with a vicious bank robber who seems capable of controlling the weather.

Barry wasn’t the only one affected by the S.T.A.R. Labs disaster. In fact, given that the particle accelerator opened a rift to other dimensions, a new generation of super-powered villains (and the occasional hero) look to be on the horizon.

The Flash pilot drew huge audiences, and favourable reviews. Subsequent episodes have confirmed the trend.

The show is presented with a lighter touch than its parent, Arrow, much like its central figure: a kid (sorry; young man) who’s suddenly gifted with extraordinary powers. Sure, he’ll use them to save lives, right wrongs, and kick ass. But The Flash is going to have fun, doing it.

As will we, watching.

Here’s the CW’s extended trailer on YouTube:

It’s good stuff this, all set to run, and run.

Des Nnochiri