It has now become practically a habit to sneer at any adaptation of a comic book series on the big screen. With few exceptions, most of their box office has made them critic proof, even when they are well made. To adapt them for television has always been a harder sell, and not necessarily one that has guaranteed success.
Unless you’re Greg Berlanti, of course. Ever since he has begun work at the CW, he has begun an elaborate adaptations of some of the less showy of the franchises within the DC universe. The origin story has become so expected in movies, it’s practically a joke: we are now approaching our third reboot of Spiderman in more than a decade. What Berlanti has done has made his series so enjoyable, a mistake that several franchises have made, is realizing that nobody, not even a superhero, is an island, and spends as much time building up the characters around the heroes as the lead themselves.
Never has this been so clear than it has with what has been to date his biggest success (so far), the CW’s ‘The Flash’. Ostensibly the story of Barry Allen (a wonderful Grant Gustin) a ordinary crime scene reporter who was at the center of the eruption of a reactor in Crescent City. Comatose for nine months, he awoke with the power to become ‘the fastest man alive’. Dealing with his origin was even more interesting than watching him master her powers, as he tried to solve who had murdered his mother and framed his father for it on the process and trying to find love with his best friend, reporter Iris West (Candace Patton) and eventually learning that the man who had been training him, Harrison Wells was in fact his reverse from the future. In typical Berlanti fashion, Barry was surrounded by fellow travelers, who were also science geeks, Dr. Caitlyn Snow (Danielle Panabaker), who was pining for a lost love and Cisco (Carlos Valdes), who gave most of the villains that Barry ended up fighting their names (which matched up to what they were called in DC canon)
Season 2 opened with the group recuperating from the last bit of evil the false Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh) did, creating a quantum singularity that threatened to destroy the city. The Flash stopped it, but has been reeling from it ever since, including the fact that the singularity seems to have opened a series of breaches between this universe and a parallel universe. One which a man named Jay Garrick (also another Flash in the DC-verse) came through to tell him of another threat, this time lead by a monster called Zoom (who we have yet to see in the flesh) Cisco is dealing with what may be a dormant superpower that he does not want to embrace. Iris has been dealing with the sudden reappearance of her mother after nearly twenty years, who she has recently found out is dying—- and has also given birth to another child. Her father, Joe (Jesse L. Martin) has been dealing with this, and the arrival of his new partner Patty Spivot, and the sudden arrival, at the end of last weeks episodes of Harrison Wells, this time, saving Barry’s life— or was he?
All of this would seem utterly incomprehensible to those who were not rabid DC comic fans. What makes this such a brilliant series to even the casual viewers is the fact that this is a series about human being first, and everything else seconds. It is also by far the lightest in tone of any of the Berlanti series on TV right now, and because of this, it plays like a romp, even when its dealing with the darkest of metahumans. And with some of the most wonderful guest cast on TV today (just this season, Victor Garber, Wentworth Miller, Michael Ironside and Amanda Pays have made appearances, and we haven’t even had the beginning of the Arrow crossovers yet), this is far and away one of the way, one of the most enjoyable series on the air, comic book based or not.
My score: 4.5 stars.