Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "The Flash" (The CW)
The Pitch: "It's like 'Arrow,' for people who wish 'Arrow' wasn't so darned gloomy."
Quick Response: "Arrow" did a terrific job of introducing Grant Gustin's Barry Allen in a couple episodes last fall and then The CW did a very good job of giving The Flash his own spinoff pilot here. The first thing the "The Flash" does right is Gustin, who "Arrow" fans already know is amply likable and a much lighter screen presence than Stephen Amell, which doesn't take anything away from Amell's scruffy, growly Oliver Queen, but just means that just as "Arrow" takes on the mien of its leading man, "The Flash" does the same. Even if the pilot somewhat overplays the intentionally cartoonish "slowness" of the pre-accident Barry, a lot of the bumbling nerdiness from the "Arrow" introduction is smoothed out. He's nerdy, but he's primarily just a smart, slightly introverted guy. Yes, Barry Allen has a tragic backstory that was already introduced on "Arrow" and is reintroduced here, but once Barry gets his powers, he seems amused and excited about the possibility of saving his urban area, a pleasing contrast to Arrow's "The only thing more oppressive than having to save Starling City is whatever awful thing happened to me on The Island" approach to life. As good as Gustin is and as pleasing as he makes Allen, the MVP here is pilot director David Nutter, who immediately nails the required tonal balance, sets a visual template (and a special effects precedent for speed effects that make their inherent cheesiness and asset, not a deficit) that seems repeatable on a series. And as this particular show would seem to require, establishes a pace that positively zips by. Unlike "Gotham" and "Constantine," where I can't say that I know what Episode 10 looks like, "The Flash" pilot sets an immediate blueprint for the week-to-week story, even if the structure seems to borrow a wee bit too heavily from "The Misfits" (not the worst structure to work from). Gustin has some solid veteran support from Jesse L. Martin, John Wesley Ship and, particularly, Tom Cavanagh. While their roles are less developed, I'm feeling tentatively positive about Danielle Panabaker and Carlos Valdes, but tentatively worried about Candice Patton's Iris West, who gets off to a very poorly written start with trying-too-hard references to twerking and muffin-tops in her first scene. For me, the worst scene in the pilot is the scene that was probably most necessary for The CW's promotional department, the brief and clunky interaction between Grant and Arrow. I'd prefer they keep all "Flash"/"Arrow" crossovers to the occasional guest appearance by Emily Bett Rickards (Ballicity > Olicity) or a May sweeps team-up if there's a shared DC Comics villain who might bring Flash and Arrow together.
Desire To Watch Again: High. Very. "The Flash" does what you want a pilot to do, setting up a fun story in an entertaining way and giving that story plentiful avenues to travel going forward.