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Flash and Substance: DC's new TV series will reinforce its small-screen dominance

By: Siddhartha Sarma


Last Updated: May 20, 2014, 11:13 IST

Flash and Substance: DC's new TV series will reinforce its small-screen dominance

New TV series 'The Flash' is one of the most highly anticipated small-screen event of the year.

New Delhi: The most highly anticipated small-screen event of the year is now well on course, with the trailer for TV series 'The Flash' airing recently. The series on the frontline DC superhero is expected to be groundbreaking in several ways.

For the past several years, as we mentioned in our Justice League movie story, DC has focused on very well-made animated movies which were released direct-to-video but got universally excellent reviews, and also TV series. 'Smallville' on the CW Network was a runaway success and there was serious speculation among fans that Tom Welling, who plays Clark Kent, would be cast as Superman in Man of Steel. That it didn't happen only because Welling did not have a 'big-screen personality' does not take away from his effectiveness as Superman (although for most of the TV series he doesn't wear the iconic costume).

Next came 'Arrow', from 2012 onwards and also on The CW, and it has rapidly become one of the most popular series currently running on TV. Based on the superhero Green Arrow, the series is a relatively easier one to translate on the small screen, because the character and most of his villains are not super-powered. Also, vigilante justice has always been a TV staple as far back as we remember. Stephen Amell has made Oliver Queen's character as much his own as Welling took on Clark Kent and the storyline has been written well.

'The Flash' trailer which aired last week and has gone viral is along the same lines, with Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, who gets superpowers through a freak weather/extra-dimensional event and becomes fast. Extremely fast. It should be mentioned here that several men have been Flash down its long comic book history from its 1956 debut. Of these Barry Allen was the second and the best known, so the series creators decided to go with this alter ego.

The Flash of the comic books is a frontline hero and founder member of the Justice League. Endowed with access to a parallel dimension called Speed Force, he can accelerate to faster-than-lightspeed. This creates a nearly unlimited possibility in terms of superpowers. He can stop criminals before they literally have a chance to blink, and with a little creativity can do other amazing things, such as vibrate at superspeed to phase through matter, heal himself almost instantaneously, and be everywhere in his hometown, Keystone City.

It has been mentioned, semi-jokingly, in several crossovers and Justice League storylines, that if the Flash was even half as intelligent as Batman, he would be the world's greatest superhero bar none. And of course it is because of his speed that he discovered parallel universes in the iconic 1961 story 'Flash of Two Worlds', which gave rise to the concept of the Multiverse. This, incidentally, was at a time when the idea of parallel universes was just beginning to be speculated on by real-world physicists.

The trailer reveals Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin, witnessing a spectral creature attacking his parents. Cue several years later, and Allen works as crime scene investigator who gets hit by a freak weather anomaly/explosion in Star Labs and gets superspeed. The five-minute trailer also shows him getting a cool costume and run-ins with what looks to be the principal bad guy in the first season, a version of the Weather Wizard. Other villains we can expect include Professor Zoom, though he hasn't turned up in the trailer.

The icing on the cake is the cameo of Stephen Amell as Arrow, not surprising since the series have been created by Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, who also created 'Arrow'. Gustin's Barry Allen also appeared in two 'Arrow' episodes and gets along well with the archer. So we are seeing a very tight and inter-connected universe being built which remains faithful to DC canon.

Unlike 'Arrow', a series based on the Flash has to have major special effects, including superspeed, light shifts, slow motions and so on, and if the trailer is anything to go by, the effects here are movie-level. Indeed, they are miles better than the earlier Flash TV series of 1990-91, from a time when CGI wasn't quite advanced, although that series had been well received as well, after a fashion.

This one, though, looks well on its way to be iconic, and if Gustin becomes as big a fan favourite as Amell or Welling, there will be strong grounds to have him make a big screen debut in Zack Snyder's announced Justice League movie. After all, what is the JL without the Flash? We await the series debut later this year with even more expectations than earlier.

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    A caveat or two for those who have seen the trailer: there seems to be some criticism that too many characters are seen being privy to the superhero's secret identity, but they are based on his actual friends in the canon.

    Second, there's been some talk about Gustin's lean physique, substantially different from most superheroes. Thing is, the character has an extremely fast metabolism as explained in canon, and you can't have a MMA-esque physique if you are a runner. Besides, the Flash never needs muscles to take down a villain. All he needs is to be fast. And boy, does he do that.

    first published:May 20, 2014, 11:13 IST
    last updated:May 20, 2014, 11:13 IST