2015 Hugo Awards Best TV Show: Reviewing the Flash

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.

11 thoughts on “2015 Hugo Awards Best TV Show: Reviewing the Flash”

  1. According to wikipedia “The term has no relation to music but is instead a play on the term ‘soap opera’…The term…was coined in 1941 by fan writer (and later author) Wilson Tucker, in a fanzine article, as a pejorative term. At the time, serial radio dramas in the US had become popularly known as soap operas because many were sponsored by soap manufacturers. Tucker defined space opera as the SF equivalent: a ‘hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn’.”
    In that sense, you may be saying “The Flash” is a comic-adaptation opera, although I don’t think you’re quite as negative as the term originally implied. The term has been re-defined (or at least re-understood) by later generations of fans.

  2. Nooo! I’m here as a representative of the Sad Clones and I demand that you stop discriminating against ORPHAN BLACK, the true winner of the Hugo Awards Best TV Show.

    I know all about your insider SJW/invader MRA agenda and the Sad Clones will have no part in you destroying the Hugo Orphan Black Awards by attempting to award this prize to anyclone apart from Orphan Black.

    Fear us, I am not very anonymous, and I might be legion because, clones, y’know?

    1. Umm, as of this post I was all over the clone vote. I think you meant to post this on the Doctor Who review where I decided time lords beat clones. Unfortunately for my clone popularity (and I may lose clone creds over this) the current ranking from best to worst is: time lords, clones, dragons, science projects, fables.

      Of course there’s still time before I cast my final vote. Perhaps we could arrange having time lords, clones, dragons, science projects and fables meet in a thunderdome of some sort to battle out the Hugo Awards before the all powerful eye of Tina Turner like they did in the golden age?

      1. If the blonde clone turns up then it’s a fair fight (even given the competition). If the suburban housewife clone turns up, the others probably shouldn’t. She would be the only one walking out of there. :)

  3. This actually turned out to have the two best comic book episodes of the year! I was an Arrow fanboy, but they dropped the ball this season and Flash & Daredevil picked up the slack.

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