When the first images of Grant Gustin in the Flash's costume were released, some people thought it wasn't bright enough and were concerned the show would have a darker and more dramatic tone. Thankfully, that isn't the case -- not at all. Yes, there's obviously plenty of drama -- it's a mandatory element in most plots, people -- but, for the most part, The Flash has been uplifting and overwhelmingly fun. Sure, there's tragedy, death, and darkness spilling into Central City, but it isn't being handled in an overly dramatic way and it doesn't take away from the mostly optimistic atmosphere. Even when Barry Allen suffers defeat or fails to save someone, they still find a way to turn the story into a positive experience. He loves what he does and it doesn't feel like a burden. He's growing and leaning from his failures; they aren't ripping him apart on the inside and making him grim.
The emphasis on being inspiring is easily one of this show's strongest qualities. No matter how dire the situation may be, The Flash always finds room for levity and puts a more positive spin on many of the emotional developments. They won't throw comedy in at a completely inappropriate time, but they do put Grant Gustin's charming personality and likable characters like Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) to good use. For example, instead of having Barry mope and feel bleak about his situation with Iris West (Candice Patton), the writers use his powers or sprinkle easter eggs into the dialogue for more comedic beats.
The father-son dynamic in this show is doing a great job, too. Jesse L. Martin (Detective Joe West) has been giving a standout performance as a dad who simply wants to make sure his adopted son is safe. There's been so many times where the guy has held back tears it and just pulls every ounce of empathy from the viewer. It's powerful stuff. Barry's time with his actual father, Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) is equally moving. It seems like they find a way to have Barry visit his father in prison a lot, but considering everything that's going on, I'd say it makes sense. Barry's spent years trying to prove his father is innocent and now he finally thinks he has the means to do so. I'd say that warrants keeping him in the loop just a bit, don't you?
They've been doing a terrific job building interest in Harrison Wells' (Tom Cavanagh) story. They're giving us just enough foreshadowing to keep us invested in the arc and anxiously waiting to see what'll be revealed next. Cavanagh's performance is really selling just how two-faced and complex the character really is as well. For a little bit of time, it felt like there wasn't much depth with Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco, but "Things You Can't Outrun" proved there's so much more story to tell with those two. They may not have a hidden agenda like Wells, but the emotional connection was finally established and there's so much potential with these two as the narrative races forward. It doesn't hurt that we're all waiting to see whether they'll develop powers, too.
In addition to being a hero and tying to prove his father's innocent, Barry's a dude who's in love with a girl who happens to already be in a relationship. This wouldn't be a CW show if the two simply got together and were happy with one another, would it? Having Barry deal with his feelings for Iris is amusing enough, but sometimes the focus on Iris' relationship with Eddie Thawn (Rick Cosnett) feels a little forced. It was toned down in the latest episode, but before that one, it felt like they had one too many scenes to sell the obvious point that it sucks to be Barry in this situation and all is well between Iris and Eddie. With so much going on in the city, this dynamic feels like the show's weakest point.
Having Barry operate out of S.T.A.R. Labs opens the door to so many surreal elements and the show is definitely taking advantage of that. After the first two episodes, many of us were wondering how they'd handle conclusions with the villains. You can't just keep finding ways to kill off villains, after all -- especially when the hero is blatantly against killing. Luckily for us, the show's putting the genius cast to work and they've created a high-tech prison to contain these powerful foes. There's still a few questions about this facility (what if the power goes out? Is it really okay to contain these people in such a small space for an unspecified amount of time? Will they try to remove their powers?), but this means they can finally break the formula and have Barry save the day without the villain ending up six feet under. Plus, they really decided to switch things up by having Barry's latest villain take the edge and walk away; it was a refreshing change of pace. As if that wasn't enough, there was some major service as the character did a bit of recruiting. Needless to say, it's exciting to see where they'll go with this.
The handling of powers comes as a double-edged sword. Watching Barry Allen zip through Central City is so much fun and they regularly have him use his super speed to create funny moments. The latest episode, "Going Rogue," did a brilliant job showing off his abilities. The opening sequence of Barry attempting to stop some robbers -- which happened to include Leonard Snart -- was a brief but beautifully shot sequence. And the final scene with the train? Totally thrilling and captivating. Watching the Scarlet Speedster rush around is a blast and the CGI with the villains' abilities has been great looking, but when the episodes frequently show us how impressive Barry's speed is, you can't help but feel like there's a lot of moments where he's getting downplayed. Right before Flash failed to stop all of the robbers, we had an entertaining scene showing just how effective he is at multitasking. Yet minutes later when he's fighting bad guys, he was unable to stop them from getting away on motorcycles and rush a man to a hospital. Yes, he's still new to this and they attempted to justify this by having Barry want to help the injured man, but if he can race around someone and deliver a monologue without them even noticing, it's very tough to believe he couldn't knock the goons down and return to the injured man in a matter of seconds, at most. Later in the episode, it was a bit confusing to see Barry stand around and talk with Captain Cold instead of disarming the dude when he's just a few feet away and has his weapon down. You'd think all of the trouble in the museum would have made Barry want to get that gun out of Cold's hands right away, right?
Before "Going Rogue," The Flash was following the villain-of-the-week formula. These are totally fine if done well, but the fiends lacked depth. Instead of feeling like compelling and interesting bad guys, they felt more like they were there just so we could see some really cool CGI-heavy battles. Thankfully, "Going Rogue" broke that formula and introduced the show's first legitimately interesting foe: Leonardo Snart, a.k.a. Captain Cold (played by Wentworth Miller). As said above, it's a little tough to swallow a guy with a gun -- even if it is an awesome gun -- giving Flash trouble, but at least they focused on morals and showed the character isn't one-dimensional. This is the first villain we want to see more of, so it's excellent to see they've made huge improvements to one of the show's weak points.
The Flash may be a little heavy-handed with its handling of romantic drama and there's noticeable inconsistencies with Barry Allen using his powers, but the show still has a ton of promise and it's a whole lot of fun. It's full of gripping emotion, a refreshing amount of happiness, and legitimately exciting action. They're finally heading in the right direction with the villains (slow-burn with Harrison Wells aside) and Central City continues to grow. The Flash is a really, really good time and has the potential to turn into something truly great.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW. How do you feel about the show so far?