The Flash Review: “City of Heroes”

I like that it focuses on the central character, and the actor’s good. The soap opera elements in Arrow get annoying. These are shows about demigods. Give us demigods.
–my wife, watching The Flash.

Barry Allen awakes from his coma and hits the ground running.

Title: “City of Heroes”

Directed by David Nutter

Written by Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg, with contributions from and characters created by Greg Berlanti, Gardner Fox, , Harry Lampert

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen / The Flash
Candice Patton Candice Patton as Iris West
Rick Cosnett as Eddie Thawne
Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow
Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon
Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells
Jesse L. Martin as Detective Joe West
Chad Rook as Clyde Mardon / Weather Wizard
John Wesley Shipp as Henry Allen
Michelle Harrison as Nora Allen
Patrick Sabongui as Captain David Singh
Al Sapienza as Detective Fred Chyre
Logan Williamsas Young Barry Allen
Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen / Arrow

Full cast and crew information may be found at the imdb


Barry Allen awakes from his coma and learns from his STAR-lab related support staff that he’s the fastest man alive. The same accident that created him has, however, created other meteor freaks metahumans, and they don’t necessarily share his altruism.

Allen also hopes to court Iris West and solve his mother’s murder. Iris has another suitor, however, while Allen has a deadly adversary, hiding in plain sight.

Low Point

Why did they have to graft parental-death angst and its related inspiration onto Barry Allen? He’s not Batman or Spider-man. He’s not even Green Arrow. Fortunately….

High Points

…the angsty additions haven’t overly harmed the fundamental character of Barry Allen. He remains, more or less, a good man who develops powers, and (1) uses them to fight crime, because he’s a good man, and not because of any vendetta or inner pain and (2) immediately embraces his powers, because they’re cool, and not a source of freakish self-pity. The scene with Oliver Queen in Starling City really emphasizes the fact: we have a show about a superhero, and not a grim vigilante.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 An adaptation can only be so original, and by now, every heroic fantasy series can’t help but recall others. This take on the Flash borrows elements from Arrow (the support staff), Spider-man (the opening scene and narration, parental death angst), Batman (parental death angst), Smallville (the hero’s arrival creates numerous potential villains) and Continuum (techie in regular contact through super-suit). The show also echoes a number of other pop culture narratives. I heard Obi-wan in an inspirational speech given to Barry (nicely undercut later, however) and Kirk in his question to the Weather Wizard: “Why would God need to rob banks?”

Effects: 5/6 Overall, the show has strong effects. A few elements seem artificial (the running streak, the secret lair at the end), but these might be viewed as comic-book stylizations.

Acting: 5/6 The show has a very strong lead, and the supporting actors, overall, do better than Arrow‘s cast.

Story: 5/6 The show succeeds here where Gotham thus far has failed. We have story arcs, subplots, and foreshadowing, but the episode retains a central focus. I hope they can maintain the approach.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The Flash has had the best debut of any of the recent superhero shows. First and foremost, it’s about an actual superhero.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 The pilot does a pretty good job of balancing the artificiality of superhero tropes with a semblance of reality.

In total, “City of Heroes” receives 33/42

Additional Thoughts

My other Low Point might have been a reflection on DC/Warner’s wasted opportunity. Imagine, if you will, that Warner and DC knew what they were doing in their attempts to duplicate Marvel’s success at creating a cinematic universe (Yeah, buy just go with it). They have a successful Arrow series. They have a Gotham series that really needs work, but in which anything that does work would work better if it were about, you know, Batman. They now have a credible series about The Flash, the character who inaugurated the Silver Age.

Suppose they had tied these into a really good version of the Man of Steel movie. They would have had their universe without throwing all their Easter Eggs into one Superman v. Batman basket. Have the movie Superman do a couple of guest spots. Shorten a season or two to give the TV actors time to do a Justice League movie. This could have worked, just differently than Marvel’s.

Well, I’d like to think so.

11 replies on “The Flash Review: “City of Heroes””

  1. I think you are giving Gotham a bad rap. I have enjoyed it so far. Fish Mooney aside, I like the characters. Gordan did not become comissioner for not being able to do his job. He is a good cop and can solve crimes and doesn’t need Batman, yet. Right now the bad guys in the show are your typical thug, mobster types. Your super villains have not showed their faces yet, or haven’t grown up yet. It is when the super villains start showing up that he finally needs help.

    This show is not about Bruce/Batman, it is about Gotham and what lead us to have the city, heroes and villains that we know and love.

    • I understand what the show is trying to be, and it has potential. But if DC is serious about a broader media DC-verse, I think that, as they have (for the time) exhausted movie Batman, a Batman show would have been a better bet.Let’s face it: they have made many missteps in their big screen efforts. I wish they had tied their larger cinema-verse into their shows, which have been more successful.

    • The trouble is that Gotham is Batman’s city and the whole premise of the series has a bit of a ‘waiting for Batman to grow up’ vibe to it, especially since they have a young Bruce Wayne who will eventually take over.

      Maybe they can pull it off and it might be interesting to see Gordon grapple with supervillians he’s obviously unequipped to deal with, but I think they have a tough task ahead of them.

  2. Somehow I managed to miss this last night. Both the wife and I thought it was set to record and it wasn’t. Going to try either watching it on the app or downloading it. Also missed Gotham this week, TiVo rebooted mid-show (gah) but that is rerun on Friday at least… We’ve really been looking forward to this show.

    • Got to watch it tonight, via the CW app on a tablet hooked up to my TV by HDMI. Worked quite well, aside from the absurd amount of commercials they put on it.

      I thought it was pretty strong overall. Definitely a good start, but there is room for improvement. Some of the effects worked, others were a little iffy (the lair at the end, especially). They probably have to work within a limited budget though, especially for a pilot, so I’m not dinging it much for that.

      And as an added bonus, no Fish Mooney or Fish Mooney-like characters, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

      • Oh no KIDDING about the App!
        WTF with the commercials.
        Fortunately, I can watch it directly on the website and my ad block removes the commercials!

  3. Isn’t his mother dying part of The Flash canon, at least in some incarnations? Maybe not murdered, but still… this sounded familiar.

    Did Anyone Else Notice that one guy wearing a lot of The Big Bang Theory T-Shirts?

    One thing that worries me is it’s REALLY HARD to do Speedsters without it being cheesy. At least we’re not in the ’70s where they portrayed super-speed by shooting it in slow-motion, but it’s still an obstacle. I hope they manage to pull it off.

    • “Barry is the kind of man that I would’ve hoped to become if my parents hadn’t been murdered.”–Batman

      This backstory is in canon, but added more recently (does someone have the reference on that? I think it was a Zero Hour addition) And the character has encountered a lot of tragedy, but that happens later, which is different than giving him a tragic inspiration for his actions.I grant the show is following the current version of Barry Allen. Um, I think. DC has revised itself so many times it’s difficult to know what is or isn’t in play.

  4. Smallville (the hero’s arrival creates numerous potential villains)

    I think this part was probably a good idea. They’re directly sharing a universe with Arrow and they need to explain why the Flash has to deal with superpowered Villains while the Arrow is generally only fighting expert martial artists.

    • Yeah. The DC Universe has this convention where villains generally operate in cities protected by heroes in the same weight-class. We can just go along with it (the same way we accept the convention of partial masks being an effective disguise), but it’s not a bad idea that they address it here.

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