I saw the pilot for the Flash shortly after it aired on Hulu. To rewatch with a more critical eye I purchased it on Amazon Prime. Retrospectively the pilot was good enough to continue watching another fifteen or so episodes.
The Flash: “Pilot”, teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
The pilot of the Flash introduces a solid comic book world where a somewhat stereotypical young hero gains powers that allow him to fight crime with a lab of support scientists (think Q of James Bond fame but in multiple with a Professor X style untrustworthy mad genius thrown in). There’s even a handy mentoring cross-over moment with the Arrow to skip over some of the deeper questions of heroism.
The geeks are well played, the science believable enough, the optimism palpable. Villains arising from the same incident that created heroes, the quasi-partnership with the police, the complex family history smacking of unresolved issues mixed with death of a parent. Narrated comic book tropes all wrapped up with BBC quality special effects to make any nerd happy.
And I am a nerd. I am happy. This is a soothing re-enactment of the things loved and believed in when the word “fair” still had a simple definition.
It is definitely a well done show, fulfilling everything it promises, but that’s part of what makes it a little too simple, a little too comfortable, a little too predictable. It’s chicken and green beans with mashed potatoes on a Sunday while listening to Elvis. Beautiful for the nostalgia but not really encouraging any brain activity at all besides the hum of contentment.
That actually leads to an interesting thought regarding science fiction. What if really good science fiction is supposed to make my brain feel a little stretchy? Supposed to make me look at something differently, ask a question that’s new, wonder what I would do if I was dying at 90 years old and given the chance to be transplanted into a newer, younger, faster body but only if I became a soldier and kill others?
Maybe the reason old space operas were called “operas” was because they had that familiar plot, the libretto, the story old as time, that gets wrapped up with new music like a new outfit on a very old time traveler.
To me, though, science fiction is the marvel of the new, of the possible. It’s not just a new fashion it’s a new way of thinking, of imagining. And if the core plot is unimaginative then how is it science fiction? Which leads down the path of seeing the Flash as a work of fantasy.
Alright, the Flash is a fantasy where-in the boy-hero who loves the unattainable girl gets super powers during an event that also makes super villains and proceeds to fight crime while struggling with his personal demons around having been (half) orphaned. And it’s a well done fantasy and within the different expectations of that context I give it a lot more applause than I originally intended.
It easily beats out Grimm simply for being cohesive and providing solid character motivation for all characters introduced. Though is Grimm simply a little worse because it is doing something so new? The new roughness of Grimm vs the old shiny of the Flash. Thank goodness for Orphan Black which is clearly better on both marks.