Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Flash

Forgive me, Marvel, for I have sinned.  After faithfully watching your movies and TV shows, writing Captain America fanfiction, and reading your comics for the past five years, I succumbed to the temptation of your bitterest rival, DC.  I enjoyed your work so much, I wondered if I could have that same experience if I were to watch The Flash.  Would I find the same superhero action, would I find well-rounded characters, would I find new thrilling plot lines?  I liked all of those things so much in your franchise, I got greedy and sought them elsewhere.  I know what you're wondering: was DC as good as me?

Oh, Marvel, will you really make me answer this?

The Flash revolves around a crime-scene investigator named Barry Allen who, thanks to an exploding particle accelerator and a lightning bolt, becomes a super-speeding "metahuman" vigilante.  He is assisted by Dr. Harrison Wells, the inventor of the accelerator, and Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon (shout-out to the Hispanic character, woot woot!).  As the group deals with rogue "metahumans" and the impact on their personal lives that have resulted from the accelerator explosion, a strong family dynamic blossoms between them.  I liked seeing how they not only worked well together to figure out how to stop the bad guys episode after episode, but also genuinely cared about each other.  Barry's friendship with Caitlin was especially important for me because of how rarely I see a platonic relationship between a major male and female character in media.

That said, the show does have the classic trope of guy-girl best friends being in love, at least on one end.  Iris West, having no idea how Barry feels about her, is dating Eddie Thawne, a police guy that I surprisingly ended up liking quite a bit.  Meanwhile, Barry is being told by literally everyone how he wouldn't be in this mess if he'd gone for it while he had the chance. (I had a problem with that attitude, because even if he had confessed from the beginning, it did NOT guarantee she would return his feelings; her calling him a brother in the pilot didn't look like a promising sign to me).  Their will-they-won't-they relationship, as well as the fact that Barry keeps his superhero identity a secret, becomes a strong source of frustration, but in a good way!  You gotta have that unresolved sexual tension, yo.

The most important relationship, however, has to be the one between Barry and Iris' father Joe.  Joe took Barry in after he witnessed his mother being murdered (by a super-speeder, as he later realizes) fifteen years ago and his father was sent to jail.  Joe is also one of the first people to know that Barry is the Flash; upon this revelation, he shows obvious tenderness and concern for Barry, but he still always has his back.  Every time Barry has a moment of crisis, Joe reminds him what his values are and who he is.  Despite Barry's passion to investigate his mother's murder and prove his real father innocent, he always comes back to the fact that as far as fathers go, Joe is freaking awesome.

I can't end my review without talking about Harrison Wells.  From episode one, you know that the guy is as sketchy as a New York alleyway.  He cares about Caitlin and Cisco like they're his children, but he has a secret room where he creepily stares at a newspaper headline from 2025 about the Flash.  He serves as a mentor and friend for Barry, but he lacks Barry's compassion for other people, seeing them as dispensable pawns rather than human beings.  For the whole season, I didn't know where he came from or how to feel about him.  If I stayed up late thinking about the Flash, it was most likely because I was trying to figure this character out.

Now, back to your original question, Marvel.  Is your rival as good as you?  It's hard to definitively answer, because this has been my only exposure to DC.  I know that's probably not what you wanted to hear, but between the daring-do, the complex relationships, and the unraveling mysteries, The Flash makes for excellent entertainment.  You will always be my first love, but I have to say that DC is on the up and up for me.

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