I have no idea why this post has taken me so long to write, but it has. Seriously, a few sentences of this has been sitting in my drafts folder for about ten days now. Every time I go to work on it, I get distracted by something else. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM?
Despite my week of laziness, I have finally forced myself to sit down and get this out. Because soon it’s going to be sadly un-topical.
So here we go! A few weeks ago, I took some time to round up my feelings on the third season of Arrow, both the good and the not so good. Today we’re going to (finally) look at Arrow‘s little brother, The Flash.
Personally, I felt this was a pretty strong debut.
1. The Characters
I don’t think there is a single weak link in the main character cast. I will admit, I was a little wary of both Cisco and Eddie when the pilot aired – one I thought was going to be annoyingly corny and the other an arrogantly pretty face – but I was pleasantly surprised by both. Both of them showed some real growth and nuance within their characters over the season, and towards the end both of them gave some of the more achingly heartfelt performances. After Barry Allen himself, of course. I don’t think anyone can match him when it comes to heartbreaking, emotional performances. Seriously, when Barry Allen cries, I am WEEPING.
But as I was saying, every major character I am truly interested in and actively rooting for.
I appreciate Joe West taking on Barry Allen as an adopted son and the incredible relationship they’ve developed and its contrast to some of his more overbearing and overprotective dealings with his daughter Iris.
I feel for Caitlin Snow who mourned a fiancee who died in the explosion only to find out that instead of dead he was just changed. Their relationship this year has been quite the roller coaster for her; from grief to fear and confusion to hope and comfort to finally love and happiness as they were wedded in the season finale, Caitlin has felt it all, but was able to balance a truly unique love story with her work at a member of The Flash Team.
I love Iris West, especially towards the end of the season. When she discovered the truth, she stood her ground and demanded those people who kept secrets from her realize how wrong they were. And when it came to her relationship with Eddie, she wouldn’t be swayed by a madman’s vision of the future. She wouldn’t sit passively by and let the man she loved accept their doomed relationship. No, she would fight for that man and the life she deserved and the destiny that she would make for herself.
Even Eobard Thawne was someone who I could get behind. No, I wasn’t rooting for him, but I was intrigued by him. His relationship with Barry and his team was far from one note and even if he’s been erased, I hope we find a way to see him again.
And of course there’s the incomparable Barry Allen.
2. The Rogues
My introduction into comics and superheroes came about through the Adam West Batman show. When I was a kid I would watch reruns after school (sometimes followed by Wonder Woman and The Green Hornet) and “Holy guacamole!” was a big part of my vocabulary. So there’s something very nostalgic for me to see the start of a recurring rogues gallery. Captain Cold and Piper and the Weather Wizard aren’t just one and done villains. We’ve seen them each (and others) more than once, and we’re bound to see them again. They’re being given a chance to develop into fully realized people with more than just a single wish for destruction and revenge. They’ll cultivate a relationship with Barry and I’m excited to see more of each of them.
The Flash may be a spinoff of Arrow, but tonally they’re very different shows. Which personally, I appreciated. The Flash felt like what I think of when I think of comics (granted, I’m not a comic reader). It’s funny. It’s a little goofy. It’s heartfelt and heroic.
So often, Superheroes have to go through some sort of trauma in order to become a hero: Oliver Queen, for example, or Bruce Wayne or Matt Murdock (to a lesser extent). These people cling to trauma and grief and that is what fuels them on their quests for justice, but Barry is different. Yes, Barry’s mother was murdered and his father imprisoned, but Barry doesn’t hold onto that in the same way. He wants to clear his father’s name (and possibly save his mother’s life), but these are hardly the reasons he becomes a hero. He’s a hero because he can be. Oliver is the tragedy in his life. He is his father’s death and his mother’s murder and his own island imprisonment. But Barry is not. Barry is hope. Barry is optimism. Barry is light. Barry keeps moving forward.
4. Barry’s Fathers
I know that before people had even finished watching the pilot, they were already picking sides and drawing arms for the shipping wars. Who is better suited for Barry: Caitlin or Iris? Who deserves him more? But I gotta say, while I’m certainly invested in his relationships (romantically, familially, and platonically) with both of these women, I’m much more excited about delving more deeply into Barry’s relationships with his fathers.
Henry has been in prison since Barry was a child, which will have certainly put a strain on them. Has Barry ever felt abandoned by him, even though his imprisonment isn’t his fault? Is Henry perhaps more flawed then we’ve been allowed to see, but Barry can only hero worship the father who was stolen from him? Joe ended up being the man who raised Barry, and he clearly loves him and sees him as just as much of a father as Henry. But does Barry ever resent him for being the man to arrest his biological father? Does Barry feel guilty for loving Joe as much as he does? Does he ever feel like that love is a betrayal to Henry?
The romance is fine, but for me the most well defined and developed relationships so far are Barry and his fathers. So just give me all the father/son moments.
5. Barry’s Secret
We spent three whole seasons letting Oliver Queen’s identity as the Arrow slooooowly get leaked to more and more characters. First Diggle and Felicity and Tommy in Season One, then Laurel and Roy and Moira in Season Two, and finally Thea and Quentin in Season Three. And, honestly, I think it worked for them. I never got super annoyed at people for not knowing or for keeping the secret. I do think a lot of Season Three wouldn’t have happened if they’d been smart and shared some of their secrets with Thea, but that’s besides the point I guess.
Barry’s secret didn’t work out quite the same way. For one thing, almost every main character knew Barry’s identity by the end of the pilot: Joe, Wells, Caitlin, Cisco. Eddie found out half way through the season and that just left Iris. Who then figured it out on her own. Barry’s secret still isn’t out to the world, but it’s out to everyone who’s important to him (and in turn, important to us). And because everyone knows, everyone can now be fully involved and there’s no reason for anyone to be sidelined.
The Not So Good
1. The Pipeline
I know I’ve already written about this extensively, so I’m not going to make you read my rant about this again (though if you want to, you can here). Suffice it to say, the Pipeline is illegal and amoral as fuck and I’m against it. It needs to be rectified immediately.
2. All Barry All the Time
Barry is the main character. So obviously, his is the story we’re telling. But he’s not the only character. And I think the show got a little stuck on him. Not a single character had a real, recurring story line other than Barry (and I guess Caitlin’s relationship with Ronnie and Iris’ relationship with Eddie). There were a few fits and starts: Iris starting her reporter gig or Joe investigating Wells, but nothing really developed outside of a direct relation to Barry. The show was basically a rogue of the week plus Barry figuring out what happened to his mom. And that was a big reason Iris seemed a little flimsy during the first half of the season. She wasn’t in the know with regards to Barry’s secret, so she didn’t have very much to do.
Compare that to Season One of Arrow which saw Oliver’s main storyline of becoming the Arrow and taking on the Undertaking, Malcolm and Moira and the others creating the Undertaking, Laurel and Tommy’s relationship and their complications with Oliver and Malcolm, Laurel grieving and learning to forgive Oliver for cheating on her and causing her sister’s death, Quentin’s grief and vendetta against Oliver, Oliver’s island flashbacks, Felicity and Walter’s investigation, and Thea’s drug problem and blossoming romance with Roy. When held up side by side like that, The Flash maybe looks a little thin.
I’m not saying that I’m tired of Barry or the he’s a bad lead character, it’s just that other characters aren’t able to become whole if every single thing they do is centered on Barry Allen. It’s funny, I’ve just recently started re-watching Chuck and I truly think that should be the gold standard for secret identity shows. They did so well at creating a whole world outside of the spy ring. I was just as invested in who was going to become the next Assistant Manager of the Buy More as I was in whether or not Chuck would take down the latest terrorist threat. I want to know who’s threatening the lives of everyone in the US, but I also want to know who’s the one who stole Big Mike’s pet pig Kevin Bacon.
The Flash could really use a bit of development in the lives of its side characters. Maybe Iris has a co-worker she just can’t get along with. Maybe Caitlin makes some kind of scientific breakthrough that leads to a moral crisis. Maybe Cisco finds Jesus. Maybe Joe falls in love with his new partner.
Barry is the star. But the writers should try to remember that he’s not the sun.
3. Eddie Thawne turning into Tommy Merlyn
I already watch Arrow, a truth I think a lot of people who watch The Flash share. So I already saw Tommy come into Laurel’s life at a time of stress and grief and be a comfort to her which blossomed into love. I already saw Tommy and Laurel’s fathers disapprove. I already saw Tommy become jealous of Oliver. I already saw Laurel claim to not have feelings for Oliver even when she really did. I already saw Tommy get angry when he found out Oliver’s secret identity before Laurel did. I already saw Tommy break up with Laurel because he couldn’t compete with the inevitable. I already saw Laurel choose Tommy over Oliver. I already saw Tommy regret his breakup and choose to try. And I already saw Tommy sacrifice his life to save Laurel and become a hero.
So why the fuck did I have to watch Eddie and Iris do literally the exact same thing?
Hopes for Season Two
1. Develop a more humane way of imprisoning the criminal metas.
2. Letting Iris grieve – Iris made it very clear that while she did have feelings for Barry, she chose Eddie. She loved him and had cultivated a life with him and she chose him. And then he died to save her and to save Barry. That’s not something you get over so quickly, and that’s certainly not something that’s going to make it easy for her to just jump on the Barry Allen train. Iris needs to grieve and to heal.
3. More Barry-lite storylines. Let everyone come out to play!
4. A continuation of the revolving door of rogues. I want to see them all again.
5. More thorough exploration of time travel. There are some things I don’t quite understand. For example, if Eddie killed himself and erased Eobard Thawne from the future, how can all the things he’d done for the past fifteen years still be in tact? Or when one goes back in time and completely changes what’s been done, are you creating an alternate timeline or is it a simple erase and start again situation?
6. Vibe. He may be a dorky superhero, but let’s be for real so are basically all of the rogues and we’re doing them okay. We’ve already laid the foundation with Cisco’s ability to remember an erased time line. Let’s see what else he can do.
And I think that’s it. All in all, a solid start. It’s a good foundation and I think there’s lot of room to grow and grow well. September can’t come fast enough!