'The Flash' Pilot Review: The CW Scores With A Breezy 'Arrow' Spin-Off [Comic Con 2014]

The CW's pilot for The Flash roars to life in a way that announces a show that has found its feet even before airing. Perhaps that's because this is a spin-off from the increasingly popular Arrow, and The Flash inherits some of Arrow's sensibility and DNA, despite being clearly intended as a brighter and more easy-going companion to that show.

This is a series that can experiment with all the overly "comic book" elements that have been part of Flash stories: the concept of super-speed; bad guys with names like Weather Wizard and Mirror Master; and time travel. As seen in this pilot, The Flash is a breezy bit of fun packed with indications that writer/producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns aren't going to avoid the weirder bits of Flash history.

Grant Gustin is Barry Allen, a perpetually late young guy working as an assistant crime scene investigator. The cop he works with is Det. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), who raised Allen after his mother was killed and his father jailed for the murder. We'll get to more of the mom stuff in a minute.

Gustin is boyish and charming enough, and his exuberance when realizing the extent of his new powers is infectious. Barry is in love with West's daughter Iris (Candice Patton), but their own history — they're essentially surrogate siblings — is a roadblock that stymies his affections. And cute cop Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) who competes for Iris' attentions.

Barry Allen gets his super-speed from a strange accident that takes place when a particle accelerator newly activated by STAR Labs goes haywire. Nine months later, Allen is in a coma and STAR is all but defunct. Only its founder, Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and a two-person team carry on the work. Allen wakes from his coma, discovers his super-speed, and the remaining STAR Labs folk go to work testing him, and eventually working with him as a hero support team.

So there's a blithe bit of team-building, a dark motivating event in Allen's past, and a frustrated romance. Yeah, the pilot misses no opportunity to underline and highlight each point, often in triplicate. But it's a CW show, and a CW show about a guy with super-speed who wears a red suit. At this point there should be no surprises with respect to what that means. Subtlety isn't in the repertoire, but the tone of the pilot is consistent and it works.

Clearly, a bit of money was thrown at the pilot, and most of the effects work well. Head-on shots of Barry "inside" his little super-speed bubble have to go, though. They don't fit with the rest of the show's aesthetic, and they're shot in a way that has Barry looking like he's just going for a casual jog, when clearly he's moving at blazing speed.

It's the way the story looks forward that provides the most promising aspect of the show. Flashbacks to the murder of Barry Allen's mother suggest that we'll see the involvement of Reverse Flash (aka Professor Zoom), and Gorilla Grodd is explicitly teased. There's a tease of some travel and espionage going forward and back time, and even a link to one of DC's biggest and most Earth-shaking storyline, though the way that will echo in the Flash series is probably not quite what fans have in mind.

And I'll say this for the pilot: it sets up one of the classic Flash villains, the Weather Wizard, in a way that isn't ridiculous. He's never called the Weather Wizard, so that makes it easier for casual viewers to accept the character. This character's response to gaining powers is to think of himself something far greater than human, and not quite in the old "super-villain" manner. He's one more element that keeps The Flash big and broad, but just on the right side of the line between strange and silly.

Even for those who can't get into Arrow (such as myself) The Flash seems like a good revival of some of the wild comic book concepts that have gone by the wayside as comic adaptations get more serious and grim.