The Flash Making His Debut – Slowly – on CW’s ‘Arrow’

The Flash Makes Debut on CW's

One of the more promising characters in DC's quiver will have to avoid familiar missteps

The Flash makes his debut on CW’s “Arrow” in the Dec. 4 episode, and don’t worry, because if you blink, you won’t miss him. That’s because the fleet-footed hero actually won’t have any powers – yet – as he’s introduced in the first of a two-part appearance on the show, in advance of what will, if all goes according to plan, turn into a regular-series gig next season.

In the good-news dept., Grant Gustin, perhaps best known for a recurring stint on “Glee,” seems like a savvy choice to play this youth-ified version of the DC Comics character, which not only dovetails with the CW’s overall profile but with the animated version of the Flash, who, as part of the Justice League, has occupied the role of youngish smartass.

Still, there’s something mildly ironic about the Flash – one of DC’s better-known second-tier players – potentially springing out of the rib of Green Arrow, who never really amounted to much until Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams made him socially relevant and angry in the 1970s. Since then, he has been portrayed  as sort of a poor man’s Batman (including a stint in “Smallville”) – another billionaire vigilante with plenty of high-tech toys.

The irony is Warner Bros. actually turned out a pretty good “The Flash” TV series back in 1990 – the year after Tim Burton’s “Batman” – with John Wesley Shipp in the title role as a more grownup version of Barry Allen. Alas, that was both an expensive proposition and ill-suited to CBS at that point, while lacking the intervening quarter-century of mainstreaming superheroes to get non-comic-book types past the very faithful red costume. (You can read a lengthy analysis of why it failed on comicbookmovie.com.)

Gustin’s Barry is still a science nerd, and also destined to be transformed by the always-superhero-friendly combination of chemicals and lightning. But after toying with launching him as part of “Arrow,” CW (perhaps wisely) decided to throw its resources into the pilot, which will give the producers more time (and presumably money) to invest in getting the formula right.

Based on a preview, Warner Bros. Television and CW have won part of the battle by finding the right leading man, but they still have to conjure enough super-speed action to satisfy the portion of the audience that – especially with a character like the Flash – will be disappointed if the show winds up being as soapy as “Arrow” normally is. (To be fair, this latest episode does feature a couple of solid action sequences, including a fight with a super-powered foe on a moving truck.)

This much seems pretty clear: If DC wants to regain some of the thunder that Marvel has stolen with its theatrical success, it’s going to need to take some swings with players beyond Superman and Batman. And after NBC passed on the Wonder Woman pilot and Green Lantern didn’t exactly light it up at the boxoffice, that leaves relatively few options, from obscure players like Hourman (actually an interesting proposition, if done right) and a desire to make Aquaman (also featured in a busted pilot) into a more seaworthy commodity.

If history is any guide, threading the needle with a character like the Flash, given TV’s budgetary constraints, won’t be easy. One need only witness the creative struggles on “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” to see that tension at work.

But with apologies to Arrow, looking around at DC’s available stable of heroes, if it can avoid the usual missteps, “The Flash” just might be the most promising weapon currently in its quiver.

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  1. Scott Summers says:

    If DC is using Arrow for their springboard into TV domination then they are on the right track. While Arrow is very soapy in the same way Smallville was, its not pulling any punches. Stephen Amell is great as the Green Arrow, he has the physique, brings a certain intensity to the character and seems to be really comfortable with that bow. Manu Bennett as Deathstroke is brilliant as he really is a badass (anyone who thinks this is a joke check out “Spartacus”) and after seeing him with the eyepatch in the midseason finale Im convinced he is going to be one of the most memorable villains. Other things like the mention of Ras Al Ghul, Solomon Grundy, Star Labs, and Gotham City let you know bigger things are in the works. The show has also proven its loyalty to source material with the last scene of the midseason finale with Barry Allens transformation into the Flash. Overall this show is giving fans what they want in a big way.

  2. Erik says:

    Look, Flash might help out arrow with the
    action scenes I agree the series right now on arrow is soapy as you say but, it all can’t be as shallow as a bad episode of wonder woman of the 70s. I don’t feel that cannon has to be important , to make the characters , but it helps the fans see their heroes grow with every episode

  3. DJ says:

    This just feels wrong to suddenly introduce superpowered characters on Arrow, which has been completely grounded in reality from the start. I can’t see how it won’t totally change the show’s landscape, and feel like a different show altogether.

  4. JoeR says:

    Flasj deserves a theatrical film. As does (most especially) Wonder Woman. The Gteen Lantern movie failed because of an incredibly bad script and poor take on the character (“I know…right?”). The fact is…it’s rather obvious that Warners had shown an obvious reluctance to be in the the super-hero movie business. Matvel has FOUR hero flicks coming out through 18 months…with more to come. Warners has…one. (SUPERMAN/BATMAN).

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