The CW are killing it when to comes to comic book programming for the small screen. The success of Arrow paved the way for spin-off The Flash, a retelling of the classic story of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), a crime scene investigator working for the police who is struck by lightening and upon recovery discovers that he can run at super speeds. As he learns to harness his new power, Barry is taken under the wing of Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and the team at S.T.A.R. Labs including scientist Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and tech wizard Cisco (Carlos Valdes). Barry has to keep his secret from his surrogate father Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his love interest / best friend Iris (Candice Patton) who happens to be Joe’s daughter.
The Flash: The Complete First Season was both critically-acclaimed and record breaking in terms of its ratings when it first aired. It built an audience ahead of its launch by planting Barry in the second season of Arrow and supported the first season of the show with multiple crossovers. In part The Flash is a case-of-the-week superhero drama with Barry and the team tackling a different enemy. There is an over-arching storyline though that centres on the murder of Barry’s mother and the imprisonment of his father Henry (John Wesley Shipp).
Throughout its first season The Flash expertly combines fast-paced action with heart and plenty of humour. The show is a little more Smallville in parts taking on a lighter tone than Arrow. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its darker moments and the series definitely builds up to an epic conclusion of the likes we’ve never seen on the small screen before. Some of Barry’s enemys aka metahumans recur during the season including Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold and Dominic Purcell’s Heat Wave.
At the heart of The Flash is Grant Gustin’s performance as Barry Allen. We’ll admit we were sceptical when we heard about his casting but he’s actually the runaway star of the show. He brings a vulnerability and naivety to the role that makes you truly believe in Barry and the things he does. When he gets carried away by his new power you can’t help but understand him, and when the season progresses and gets a little weightier, Gustin really pulls it out of the bag.
He’s supported by a superb cast including the excellent Tom Cavanagh as the mysterious Dr. Wells, Carlos Valdes as the nerdy but loveable Cisco, and Danielle Panabaker finally gets a role she can shine in as the straight-laced Dr. Caitlin Snow. Mention should also go to Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton as father-daughter duo Joe and Iris. Both are excellent in their roles and bring a lot of heart to the series. Rick Cosnett, who plays Joe’s sidekick Eddie Thawne, also shines brightly stealing some scenes in the latter half of the season.
Extras on the boxset include a variety of behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, an audio commentary and a gag reel.
The Flash: The Complete First Season is one of those rare examples of a series that has a near flawless debut run. The bar has been set so high that all eyes will be on season 2 when it arrives this autumn. The Flash finds the perfect balance early on in the season and runs with it (no pun intended). The crossovers with Arrow work well and never feel forced or unnecessary. Superhero fun doesn’t get much better than this.