When last year’s TV season began, The Flash was one of the most highly anticipated shows amongst the geek crowd. When we looked at it here during the beginning of the season it was certainly living up to that buzz, but did it maintain that level?
Well yes, actually it did; no need to beat around the bush on that. But let’s look at how it managed that.
The one thing the Flash had going for it, from the start, was that it embraced its comic roots without shame. It also went against the grain for just about every other DC live action property by not going the grime and gritty route, instead choosing to have an optimistic hero who acted as a symbol of hope.
CW already had the required grim hero in the Arrow. One observation of the two shows is that in the CW DC universe, Superman’s role is covered by the Flash and Batman’s by the Arrow. One episode highlights is when Barry tries to emulate the Arrow’s grimmer way of handling things, only to have it blow up in his face.
One of the factors that influenced the story more than any other was the time travel aspect. Time travel was always a part of the Flash in the comics and the show did not shy away from this in the least. Like any show involving time travel there were questions about what the consequences of changing the past would be, and the creation of a plot hole or two. However, the overall execution was well handled.
So how did the characters evolve over the course of the first season?
Of course, as the main character Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) had the most growth. Starting out as enthusiastic but unsure of himself, Barry grew into a responsible hero who (when it came down to it) would make the choice of serving the greater good. Gustin nailed the character from the start.
If the show rested on Gustin’s shoulders, then his best support came from Tom Cavanagh. As Harrison Wells, Cavanagh portrayed a wonderfully complex character. As Wells, he was Barry’s mentor and a surrogate father figure, but in his true identity of Eobard Thawne (aka The Reverse Flash) he was Barry’s worst enemy who wanted nothing more than to destroy him. Cavanagh was able to portray Wells as both affectionate to Barry and the rest of the S.T.A.R. Labs crew, while at the same time being a threat to them.
While Wells’ goal was to push Barry’s powers to greater heights, Barry’s foster father Joe West (Jessie L Martin) guided him on the path of the kind of hero he wanted to be. The father/son bond between Joe and Barry was easily the series emotional core. Joe cared so much for Barry that he was willing to have their relationship erased from history, if it meant that Barry could get his mother back.
Of Barry’s colleges It was interesting to watch Cisco Ramon’s (Carlos Valdes) arc over the season. Cisco had fanboy glee over Barry’s powers and being part of a team fighting supervillains. It was also interesting watching his bonds with Barry’s father figures. He worshipped Wells and took his betrayal hard. Conversely. over the season. Cisco had a growing working relationship with Joe, being his secret partner in investigating the truth behind the death of Barry’s mother. The revelation that he can subconsciously remember timelines that time travel erased directly opened a door to his (eventually taken on) identity of Vibe from the comics.
On the flip side you have Catlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) whom, thanks to a glimpse of the future, we got to see as her villainous alter ego of Killer Frost. While she continued her role as caregiver to Barry when injured, the show steered away from having her fall for him, instead bring in her supposedly dead fiancé Ronnie (Robbie Amell), who was still alive, as his comic book alter ego Firestorm. She was also the most resistant of the S.T.A.R. Labs team to the idea that Wells was really the Reverse Flash.
Iris West (Candice Patton) suffered most of the season from being more of a plot motivation, for Barry, than an actual character. For the first two thirds of the season, she was defined by her relationships with Barry, her father Joe, and her boyfriend Eddie. It was only towards the end of the season, when she learned that Barry is the Flash, that she started coming out of that and showing signs of being an actual character. Hopefully in the next season they can build on that and give her some more defining characteristics.
Speaking of Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), for starting out as a bit of a cliché (romantic rival for Barry) he turned out to have an interesting arc. Half way through the season Barry and Joe let him in on Barry’s secret so that he could help with the investigation of Wells. Eddie was not happy that they insisted on keeping it from Iris. But he turned out to be a stanch ally and a tragic hero when he learned that he was the Reverse Flash’s ancestor, and that his romance with Iris was doomed to fail. His arc ended in a heroic manner and I, for one, am disappointed we will not be seeing more of him in season 2.
There were some notable guest and reoccurring characters that warrant mentioning.
Besides Ronnie, you had Professor Stein (Victor Garber) the other half of Firestorm. Garber is a great actor and brought both fun and gravitas to Stein. I look forward to seeing more of him both on the Flash, and in the mid-season spin off Legends of Tomorrow.
John Wesley Shipp, as Barry’s father Henry, was also a great part of the show. Although initially just a bit of stunt casting (Shipp played Barry in the 90’s Flash series), he did an excellent portrayal of a man accepting the bad hand he was dealt and just being happy his son was doing well. He made the pride Henry felt upon realizing that Barry was the Flash radiate.
And of course there was the other great nod to the old series of having Mark Hamill as the Trickster (the character he played on the 90s series, as well as doing the voice on the Justice League cartoon). Hamill is a fantastic actor and I hope we get more of him in the future.
In the end, I give the first season of the Flash an A+. It is the best comic book series ever and we can only hope that others learn from its example.
Fanboy News Network Episode 27
discussion on recent conventions
Recent changes at Marvel Studios
DC’s 2 million dollar shortfall and what they are doing about it
Marvel is the wake of Secret Wars
Daniel talks about books
With the second season premiere of Gotham just around the corner, I want to take this time to do my season wrap up review of the first season. If you want to check out my review of the first few episodes of the season you can go here.
So did the season improve as it went along?
Well, yes and no.
The problem that plagued Gotham (from the beginning) was its uneven mix of good, passible, and bad elements. As the season progressed the good elements got better, the passible elements improved, and the bad parts generally got worse.
Last time I started with the good, so this time lets lead with the bad.
From the beginning, Gotham’s biggest problem was that it did not know what to do with its female characters. None fared worse than Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith); as an original character, Fish had no predestined arc. This would not have been a problem, but most of her story was always a tonal shift from the rest of the show and would bring everything to a screeching halt. It got worse as the season went on, with a truly awful arc that took her out of Gotham and had nothing to do with the rest of the show. It was literally a waste of screen time. In the final episode of the season she met up with Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and made the young girl part of her new gang. Since Fish was played like a version of Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman, if she had been played as a mentor to Selina early on, that would have made sense, be here it was too little too late. Fortunately, Fish was killed off in the finale, which can only help the next season.
The only complete waste of potential was Gordon’s fiancée Barbara Keen (Erin Richards). At first Barbara was just a bland girlfriend for Gordon, with the only tension that she had previously dated Rene Montoya (Victoria Cartagena), who wanted her back, causing friction between Montoya and Gordon. After that was resolved, Barbara left Gotham after getting caught in the crossfire of Gordon’s crusade against the corruption in Gotham. After a bad visit with her parents, she came home, took in Selina (and her friend Ivy), and generally showed signs of not being all that stable. Her season story ends with her actually going insane and becoming a murderer. I don’t mind that they are departing from her comic book depiction, I mind that her arc was so badly written.
As for Montoya, right after Barbara leaves town we never see her or her partner, Crispus Allen, (Andrew Stewart-Jones) again.
On the plus side, the show added Firefly vet Morena Baccarin as Dr. Leslie Thompkins. In the comics, Leslie was a college friend of Thomas Wayne and one of the few people to know Bruce Wayne is Batman as she was the closest thing he had to a maternal figure in his life. Here she is introduced as Jim Gordon’s new girlfriend and the new city corner, after a bad stint on the Arkham Asylum staff. While she doesn’t have a great arc of her own yet, she makes a good compliment to Gordon as she actively wants to help Gordon and understands what he is fighting for.
One character I did not really touch on the first time was Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), the future Riddler. At that time he was a walk-on character who provided exposition and would insist on making it a riddle to remind us how he ends up. His character ended up getting more of an arc when they had him develop a crush on a fellow staff member at the GCPD and kill her abusive cop boyfriend. The problem is that his parts of the story feel shoehorned in.
Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) had his arc improve as the season went on. A lot of that was thanks to having Bruce and Selina meet, as she was the only witness to his parents’ murder. This actually helped both characters as it gave both important interactions and set a lot of foreshadowing to their future selves. It also had romantic tension, which was handled well considering we are talking about two fourteen year olds. Bruce’s scenes were also helped by the presence of Sean Pertwee as Alfred. Pertwee continues to be one of the best things about the show and is arguably the best on-screen Alfred ever.
One of the best interactions that Alfred had were scenes with Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock. Not surprising, as Logue is another of the big reasons to keep watching the show. Harvey’s arc the entire season has been one of the corrupt cop having his former idealism reawakened. Logue plays the conflict perfectly and is always a treat when he is on-screen.
Since we are talking about the best things on the show, we might as well talk about Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor). The Penguin’s story was easily the most engaging as he was always actively working towards something. In this case that something was taking out all the Gotham city mob bosses and leaving himself on top. Taylor did an amazing job with the role, which was also the best written of the whole cast.
And that takes us to our star Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie). I will say this, since I wrote the first review Gordon became less passive and started to truly drive for change in how the GCPD operated. So he is definitely more interesting now, especially with his relationship with Thompkins. Sadly he is stuck with a characterization that is just going to pale in comparison to the presence of Bullock, Penguin, and Alfred.
In the end, I am giving the full first season of Gotham a C+. As I said the first time, it is going to drive the long time Batman fans up the wall with its handling of the characters and story arcs. It probably does better with non-comic fans who are not as invested in the mythos, but even they still have to deal with the uneven mix of good and bad performances, writing, and characters.
First the microphone I have used since the beginning did not get along with my system after updating to Windows 10. So when Daniel and I got together to record we couldn’t get anything done.
Ok, so I got a new Snowball mic. It worked fine and in fact had better sound quality. Daniel and I got together again and this time recorded.
The next problem was that the labor day weekend got busy and I did not get a chance to edit. No problem, I would upload the recording to the cloud and edit on my lunch break at work. Sadly I made an error in that upload and corrupted the file beyond repair.
So no new episode this week.
I’ll have a new article up on Monday, and then after that Daniel and I will try take 3 on getting episode 27 done.
If fate allows.
Back in March I announced that I was putting the articles on hiatus while I worked on my script.
Well I have finished that script, so now it’s time to bring the articles back.
What you can expect is a return to the weekly alternation between articles and the podcast. All new content will still go up on Mondays.
So next week will be a new episode of the Podcast and then after that will be the first new article.
As for the script, I am getting it ready to be sent out to other people involved in the project, with the goal of getting feedback in by early October and then hopefully we can figure out how we are going to produce it. For those of you interested in follow that projects progress I will be sending out periodic updates on my Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/fanboy-news-network
Jeff starts out with an announcement about upcoming updates to the site.
Discussion on the fall out of Fantastic Four flopping.
R.I.P. Yvonne Craig
R.I.P. Rowdy Roddy Piper
Jeff talks about his love of wrestling, the history of wrestler Stardust and the upcoming match with Arrow star Stephen Amell.
The announcements out of D23 expo, including Marvel, Star Wars, Jungle Cruise, Pirate of the Caribbean and more.
Recent events in comics.
The difference between comics that have clear endings, ongoings with status quo and ongoings that evolve.
Fanboy News Network Episode 25
“When Conventions implode”
Jeff and Daniel talk about Galacticon IV and how spectacularly it fell apart.
Discussion about The Women in Comics panel at Gen Con and how Bill Willingham turned it into clinic on Mansplaining.
The controversy surrounding the ENnies award.
Daniel finally finishes Daredevil.
The success of the Ant-Man Film
The failure of the Fantastic Four and Pixels
“This is why we can’t have nice things”
Daniel returns just in time to discuss the following:
Round three of convention staffs behaving badly.
More concerns about San Diego Comic Con
Why Daniel thinks Jurassic World is a comedy
The uproar over the Mad Max prequel comics
The current state of Marvel and DC comics
Why Jeff thinks Daniel should get Marvel Unlimited.
Fight Club II