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iRewind | THE FLASH Revisiting the Pilot

Updated: Jan 7

Original Series Feature

Grant Gustin steps into the boots of one of DC’s most iconic heroes and explodes onto the scene in THE FLASH guaranteeing the success of an extended superhero primetime universe.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade this year since producer Greg Berlanti swooped into primetime and launched a live-action superhero renaissance. Along with Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, the group had a hit with Arrow starring Stephen Amell in the role of billionaire playboy Oliver Queen turned quiver-carrying vigilante. The series was based on the DC Comics hero Green Arrow, one of the pillars of the publishing imprint that had made his comic debut in 1941, before hitting his stride with edgier storylines in the 70s and into the 80s.

It was those narratives introduced by comic legends Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neil that Berlanti, Guggenheim, and Kreisberg coveted the most. The arsenal of trick arrows was cute, but an expert marksman taking on realistic urban street crime, corrupt local government, drug kingpins, and mob bosses while championing the disenfranchised and underprivileged had all the makings of elevating the heroic genre and telling new stories.

Capes and cowls had been very successful on television, Smallville retelling the origin story of the Man of Steel, Superman had just completed its run on The CW leaving the field wide open. With the success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy elevating the possibilities for superhero storytelling, Berlanti and his team used the success of Batman Begins as a way of changing up the game in an hour television format. Their decision to place their hero not at the height of his crime-fighting career, but navigating the heroic journey in the shadows before stepping into the spotlight, helped open the lens.

Amell’s Oliver Queen and his allies fought vigorously to clean up the streets and took an entire season before even properly touching upon any of Green Arrow’s more super-powered costumed super friends, but decidedly started in high gear right out the gate. In season two, Arrow introduced Barry Allen played by Grant Gustin a CSI investigator from nearby Central City. A curious scientist who is following up on a case at Queen Industries, who is also in search of answers, especially those tinged with elements of the “impossible”. Allen is immediately swept up into Queen’s world.

By the end of the episode, having helped solve the crime, the pair have struck up a friendship, and Barry appears on his way to meet with his fate. Back in Central City, scientists at STAR Labs are about to unveil a very controversial new energy source, a particle accelerator on a night of a violent lightning storm is approaching the city.

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, The Flash.
Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, The Flash.

Believe in the Impossible

Once again following their instincts, Berlanti and his team decidedly opened the backdoor to make their world better. On Arrow Oliver Queen and his team deal with hardened criminals and corruption, but the heroic age was just about to begin. Superstar comic book writer Geoff Johns had brought the Scarlet Speedster, The Flash back from the throws of death. The hero had been lost to the ages since his valiant sacrifice during the earth-shattering events of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” twelve-part miniseries.

Johns had reimagined Barry Allen’s origins and given the Silver Age hero an edgier more contemporary heroic journey, one that aligned with Berlanti’s vision in primetime. Along with Kreisberg, Guggenheim, and Johns, the producing team set out to introduce super-powered “metahumans” to the “Arrow-verse” and The Flash would pave the way. Grant Gustin would transition from guest star to leading man, bringing the new adventures of Central City’s Fastest Man Alive to run parallel to Oliver Queen’s Emerald Archer.

CSI investigator Barry Allen’s comic origins, struck by lightning and tossed into a shelf of chemicals, get dramatically heightened by the timing of the explosion of STAR Labs particle accelerator. The combination of mishaps (lightning, chemical bath, explosion) plunges our hero into a coma and for nine months, Barry is cared for by the team at STAR Labs, including Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and engineer Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and the watchful eye of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). When Barry wakes up, he discovers that he has gained super-human speed.

Determined to do something good with his newfound abilities, Barry assumes a costumed alter ego, The Flash, to help him fight crime and continue to solve the mystery of who murdered his mother. When he was a small boy, Barry witnessed his mother, Nora (Michelle Harrison) attacked by a “lightning storm”. His father, Henry Allen (played by John Wesley Shipp) is convicted of the crime, and Barry is cared for by Central City detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and raised alongside his daughter and childhood best friend, Iris (Candice Patton) whom Barry has long admired.

Now, Barry has become the impossible heralding a new age, with heroes and villains, some super-powered and all as extraordinary. He is The Flash!

Run This Race

The pilot episode of The Flash aired on October 7, 2014, and was directed by acclaimed award-winning director David Nutter (Game of Thrones). It premiered that summer at San Diego Comic-Con International to huge fan approval, and after it aired on the network to exceptional ratings and reviews, the second episode was premiered at New York Comic-Con on October 9, 2014, as a “thank you” for everyone who tuned in. The series remained one of The CW’s highest-rated action series and would spearhead additional spin-offs set in the expanded DC primetime universe over its 9 seasons.

The show’s success was dependent on its strong and cohesive cast of principles and dedicated writing team, especially in those very early seasons. The chemistry between Grant Gustin and co-star Candice Patton led to the onscreen nuptials of these two much-beloved characters from the DC Comics. In the beginning, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the casting of Patton as Barry Allen’s long-time love interest, Iris West, but it wouldn’t be long before Patton won her audience. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of the hero’s paramour, especially after much of Kiersey Clemons’ role was cut from the big screen version of The Flash which starred actor Ezra Miller as the hero.

Another bit of casting that endeared the series to fans was the inclusion of two-time Emmy-winning actor, John Wesley Shipp. The veteran actor originated the role of Barry Allen/The Flash in the 1990 version that ran on CBS and would reprise his role as that hero in several episodes during the new series but would be most appreciated for his portrayal of Henry Allen. Many of Shipp’s scenes were often played opposite Gustin’s and remain some of the most emotional touchstone moments of the entire series run. Shipp would also get back into another superhero to play the Golden Age version of The Flash, Jay Garrick — the first speedster to carry the name.

Throughout its nine seasons, The Flash would embody the heart of the DC primetime universe and would factor in critically for several of the crossover events that brought characters from the other DC shows into the single story narrative that was matched on the big screen by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The pilot for The Flash outmatched many expectations and would continue as one of The CW’s most highly rated and most watched shows. Inspired at its core by the comic books that first brought the hero’s adventures into the pop culture lexicon, the show was enhanced by its approach to telling grounded stories, from of heart and spectacle set in a world of superpowers.

If Richard Donner made us believe that a man could fly on the big screen in 1978 with Superman, The Movie, The Flash reminded us to believe in the impossible, with an open heart, and reimagine the spectacle -- that a cinematic sense to storytelling in the superhero genre wasn’t out of reach of the possible.

Courtesy of IGN get your #FansEyeView of the original trailer for The Flash starring Grant Gustin here:

DC’s’ THE FLASH Season 1 | starring Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, and Jesse L. Martin, is available to stream and on Blu-ray, and DVD.

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