“The Flash” has gotten off to a fast start in more ways than one, but in hindsight, that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. After all, those responsible for the show were able to devise their comics-to-screen formula working on “Arrow,” the sister DC/CW/Warner Bros. property used to launch the franchise, and they have managed to replicate that in most respects, with a lighter tone and (in Grant Gustin) an extremely appealing and likable lead.
As a result, the inevitable “Flash”-“Arrow” crossover – airing on consecutive nights, Dec. 2 and 3 – does a nifty job of bringing the two series together, although probably not in a manner likely to boost the shared audience between them much more than already exists.
Give considerable credit to producer/showrunners Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, who have grappled with the always challenging task of introducing a hero with genuine super powers – not just Arrow’s cool weapons and elaborate backstory – without eliciting giggles in the wrong places.
Part of that has to do with the vulnerability Gustin exhibits as Barry Allen, the young (too young, but let’s get over that) CSI blessed with incredible speed through an experiment gone wrong, one that also birthed an assortment of “meta-humans” with their own strange gifts, thus giving him – in much the way “Smallville” relied on the after-effects of the meteor shower that brought Clark Kent to Earth – a stable of worthy adversaries.
The producers have also done an admirable job of incorporating facsimiles of the DC villains without costumes or funky nicknames (the latter has become a running joke) that might stop the uninitiated in their tracks. So Captain Cold can make his presence felt, and now – in the crossover – Captain Boomerang, while still maintaining a menacing posture.
To a degree, “The Flash” is more naturally suited to the CW-friendly conventions the producers have imposed – including the “It takes a village to manage a superhero” approach, with a team of people who not only know the hero’s secret identity but assist him in his exploits. In that regard, the casting of Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin has lent gravity to “The Flash” to augment the customary longing glances and unrequited romances that go with the youth-oriented territory.
Finally, the series has avoided some of the missteps that seemed possible after the first-rate pilot, with the visual effects remaining solid – and not dwindling as production schedules tightened – and the mythology involving the murder of Barry’s mother being teased out in appropriate fashion. The relationship between Barry/the Flash and his longtime crush Iris (Candice Patton) has also developed along familiar but still satisfying Clark/Superman-Lois Lane lines.
Warner Bros. Television, meanwhile, should be feeling pretty good about this season’s two major bets on DC properties, with the hard-to-get-right prequel “Gotham” having held up solidly ratings-wise through its rookie season and “The Flash” emerging as a bright spot for CW. The success of both shows speaks not only to a growing audience for such material (and DC can thank Marvel in part for that) but also a lowered bar in terms of ratings expectations – certainly from the days of CBS’ ill-fated “Flash” adaptation a generation ago.
So while a new series is never entirely out of the woods, the timing of the “Flash”-“Arrow” stunt – which creates a nice excuse for the two heroes to fight, as their various sidekicks amusingly debate who’s likely to win – feels like an appropriate moment for everyone concerned to take a short but well-deserved victory lap. And since CW’s latest hero specializes in getting from one place to another at incredible speed, who knows? If you blink, they might even take two.