In the realm of movies based upon DC Comics properties, it seems that there is a dark cloud on the horizon. Man of Steel, which presented a dour and dark view of Superman, was the warning shot. The trailers have rolled out for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the aesthetic that they look to be going for is dark and gritty. In fact, it seems as if they may be trying to plaster this same style over their whole DC Cinematic Universe, which they’re trying to quickly build up since Marvel had successfully made their own. To me, it suggests that some of the higher-ups may have seen how Christopher Nolan’s Batman series were a success and leapt to the conclusion that they were a success because they were dark. However, not all adaptations of DC Comics properties look to be stuck in the same “grimdark” fate. Their live-action TV programming on the CW looks to be doing a better job of allowing characters to have shows that fit their style. For example, while Arrow does have some darkness to it, the darker tone fits more of the spirit of Green Arrow, who has frequently dealt with more brutal villains in his comics. In the case of today’s post, the CW also offers a more optimistic series in the form of The Flash.
Ever since his mother was murdered and his father was sent to prison when he was still a child, Barry Allen sought to prove that his father was not the killer. This thought comes to guide him through his life, as he pursues a career as a forensics scientist and becomes a member of the Central City Police Department. Though he is brilliant, his obsession with this case leads him to investigate all sorts of cold cases and paranormal reports in truth of some glimmer of truth. One night, as he is reviewing some possible leads in his lab, a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs explodes, releasing a new form of radiation within a thunderstorm. Barry is struck by a lightning bolt from that storm, sending him flying into a rack of chemicals. The result is a nine-month coma and, after Barry awakens, he finds that he has gained the ability to move at superhuman speed. Thanks to information provided by Harrison Wells, the disgraced scientist who had made the particle accelerator, Barry finds that his powers emerged from the particle accelerator and that he is not the only one to become a metahuman (a person who has gained super powers). Realizing the potential of a criminal wielding such powers, Barry vows to use his newfound gifts as the Flash to stop such criminals and maybe even find the truth behind his mother’s murder.
This series has been a strong watch. Now currently in its second season, the show pretty much hit the ground running. It has had good writing that delivers on the fun of superheroics along with the drama, along with moving quickly through plot problems that would get dragged out on other shows. Performances have been strong, from its lead stars like Grant Gustin to even side characters or guest appearances. What has been most striking is how willing it is to embrace its source material. I do not only mean how the show carries a hopeful and optimistic spirit in its core, in a way presenting the Flash as the “Superman” to Green Arrow’s “Batman”. Rather, I speak of how the show has been willing to embrace the more ridiculous elements and capture them in sincerity. For example, most of the villains who appear in Arrow are psychopaths or killers, most of whom are only armed with weapons and deadly skills. The Flash, meanwhile, runs with a colorful collection of villains. Not only are most of them metahumans with a variety of different powers, but even the non-powered villains utilize fantastic tech such as cold guns or robotic bees. To me, this willingness to embrace such out-there elements is best summed up with the fact that Gorilla Grodd ends up appearing on the show.
For those unfamiliar with Gorilla Grodd, he is a classic Flash villain. In this case, he is a gorilla with psychic powers and a major hatred for humans. Now, most shows would probably back away from featuring such a villain. Besides the potential logistics on how you feature a psychic gorilla on a TV show and make it look good, some might consider the idea of a psychic gorilla ridiculous for a live-action TV show and not feature him. The Flash, however, not only uses him but even does so effectively. They capture the impact of his psychic powers and his rage at humanity for experimenting on him. More than that, they bring the character to the screen with a good dose of CG that allows the character to feel natural within a live-action show format. The fact that they are willing to not only feature Gorilla Grodd, but actually capture the proper threat of the character, suggests to me of how willing they are to embrace the source material and spirit of the comics. They’re not just trying to slap on the same style that they seem to be using for their films. They’re willing to craft not only a well-done series of the Flash, but craft one that captures the right tone for the character and runs with all that goes with it.
The Flash airs on the CW, showing at 8 PM EST on Tuesdays. It is available on both Netflix and Hulu, with Hulu being up to date on current episodes.