‘The Flash’ Season 1 Recap, Episode 1: ‘Pilot’
To understand what I’m about to tell you, you need to do something first. You need to believe that I have merely a basic working knowledge of the character of the Flash, The Fastest Man Alive and the star of the CW’s latest small-screen superhero adaptation. But for some reason, when ComicsAlliance Editor In Chief Andy Khouri was looking for volunteers to recap The Flash, my hand shot up. Maybe it’s because I had a huge fondness for the 1990, John Wesley Shipp-fronted live action series. Maybe it’s because I just like the character of the Flash in the (realtively) few instances I’ve read his comics or seen him on the Justice League cartoons. Maybe it’s just because in every promo image of the lead character I’d seen, the dude was smiling. Maybe it’s all of those things. Maybe it’s some other reason entirely.
My name is Dylan Todd. I’m the Flashest Recapper Alive. Welcome to the inaugural installment of our weekly Flash recaps, titled Up To Speed. (Get it? Because he runs fast and also we catch you up on what happened in the show.) Here we’ll recap the episodes, dispense some Flash Facts and talk about what works, what doesn’t and where the series might be headed, as we try and keep up with the adventures of Central City’s finest hero, Barry Allen: The Flash.
FLASHBACK: What Happened This Week
The episode opens with a voiceover of Barry Allen introducing himself, and already the tone is set. It’s a fun, playful introduction, showing the Flash zooming thru the city at breakneck speeds. Also, he blows out the windows of some parked cars, which looks cool but is kind of a jerk move. I will sort of overlook this because when you’re committing to a TV show whose central premise revolves around a guy who (SPOILERS?) gets runs-fast powers from a bolt of science-lightning, maybe holding it up too closely to reality isn’t the best tack.
After the opening montage of the Flash flashing around town, we flashback to “fourteen years ago,” back when we were all so innocent and young. Remember the year 2000? JFK? The Space Race? Hula hoops? Drag racing for pink slips out on old Route 11? The fashions. The fun. The music, man; the music. [sigh] Those were the days.
We’re introduced to a young Barry Allen, who’s 11 years old. He’s getting beat up by some bullies because he tried to stop some other kids getting picked on because the bullies “thought they weren’t cool.” So be warned, everybody: Central City has some hipster-ass kids roaming the streets, checking your cred, Mike Skull-style, and if you ain’t cool enough, you’re gonna get a beating.
Because this is a Geoff Johns-written show, Barry has to hammer home the point that he wasn’t able to outrun the bullies because he wasn’t fast enough. Because Flash. Then Barry’s mom lets loose one of many weird idioms in this episode when she tells Barry that “sometimes it’s better to have a good heart than fast legs.” which is a really weird saying that I have never heard anybody say in my entire life. Barry’s dad, portrayed by old school Flash TV star John Wesley Shipp, comes home and gives him a typical TV dad pep talk. You know, tousling the hair, calling him “Slugger,” telling him not to fight. I assume that after the end of the scene, he could be found in a recliner listening to a baseball game on an old timey radio while he flipped through the paper.
Later that night (?), Barry wakes up to find the water in his aquarium floating in the air. (Subtext!) He heads downstairs and finds his mom trapped in a circle of red and yellow lights. His dad shows up, tells him to run, (GET IT?!) and a yellow blur drops him off a few streets over. Like, I’m no Flash expert, but that’s Professor Zoom, aka the Reverse-Flash, right? Right.
Flash forward to the present day, and we find Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) running (GET IT?!) through a crowd to get to a crime scene to collect evidence. He’s late, as usual, but Detectives Joe West (Law & Order’s Jesse L. Martin) and his partner, Something Crustycop (Al Sapienza, who looks familiar because he’s played a cop in everything), cover for him with the grouchy Captain Singh (Patrick Sabongui). There’s some funny bits with a chocolate bar and Barry’s terrible excuses and a poo-pen. Meanwhile, Barry BBC Sherlock’s the crime scene, pinpointing the make and model of the car, as well as a shockingly fresh animal turd that was on the tire.
Back at Barry’s lab, he’s looking up one of the perps, Clyde Mardon, who could not look more like a douche if he was trying. He’s like a walking Roofie. We’re introduced to Iris West (Candice Patton), Joe’s daughter and Barry’s mega-crush, and they both get to drop some exposition about the bank robbery and a CERN-style particle accelerator that’s about to get started up at S.T.A.R Labs.
Barry Nice-Guy’s it up with Iris, sighing wistfully from the Friend Zone as she asks him about Harrison Wells, the super genius behind S.T.A.R. Labs and inventor of the particle accelerator that Barry is super-stoked on. He mansplains some science stuff, saying that the particle accelerator will “change the way we think about everything.” Which I’m sure is hyperbole, because it’s not gonna change my thinking on soup, ie. that it is a bullshit meal.
Then Iris tells Barry he needs to get a girlfriend and he looks so crestfallen. It’s hilarious.
Detective West shows up right as Barry’s poo-analysis (poo-nalysis?) is complete and he tells him he can narrow the Mardon Brothers’ whereabouts to four farms in the area. West has this look on his face like “I get shot at on the reg trying to bring bad guys in and this dude just cracked this case with a turd on a tire SMDH.”
With Barry’s poonalysis work done, he and Iris head over to S.T.A.R. Labs where they discuss Barry’s recent appearance on Arrow, which I’m not convinced is a real television program, but rather a huge hoax perpetrated on the American people by some horrible pranksters. Barry does the Nice Guy routine again, and Iris sort of unwittingly shuts him down, pointing out that they’ve been friends since they were kids, grew up in the same house, and are basically brother and sister. Like, I know we’re supposed to root for them to hook up, but she is 100% right, it is more than a little bit creepy how into her she is. She’s not into you, bro. It’s fine. Respect that and move on instead of mooning over here every chance she turns her head.
After all this, Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh, Ed from the television program Ed) takes the stage, giving a speech about how great his particle accelerator is and, I’m just gonna call it here: I do not trust Ed. Maybe it’s because he’s rich and handsome and sort of smug, but every single thing he says is crafted in such a way that when his turn to evil happens, they can cut back to his lines and then we’ll be all, “Holy smokes, what he was actually saying was evil all along! I was a fool! A FOOL, I SAY!!!”
Anywho, some rando steals Iris’ laptop bag and Barry has to get it because it has her dissertation – that she handily mentioned when she was eating fries from Barry’s enormous container of fries earlier – on it. Barry chases after him, but he’s just not fast enough! In this case, Mrs. Allen (RIP) was dead wrong; strong legs would really come in handy here. IF ONLY BARRY COULD SOMEHOW BECOME A FASTER RUN-TYPE-GUY.
Chase-chase-chase, run-run-run, the rando almost gets away, but he’s stopped by some CW-general-issue hunk in a trenchcoat who says some line about how the rando needs to freeze or he’s gonna find out the wrong way that he’s not faster than a bullet. (GET IT?!)
Back at the police station, we’re introduced to Trenchcoat Hunk. Turns out he’s Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett, who’s also been on CW’s Vampire Diaries and is obviously not American, judging by his dodgy Yank accent), a recent transfer from Keystone. In the comics, Eddie Thawne is remarkably close to Eobard Thawne, aka Reverse-Flash, aka Professor Zoom, aka the Keystone Kobra, aka Grand Admiral Thawne, aka the Avenging Disco Godfather, aka the Old Dirty Bastard cuz there ain’t no father to his style. Whether this Thawne is actually that Thawne remains to be seen, but the connection’s definitely there, for whatever reason. Barry and Iris discuss how dreamy he is.
Meanwhile, Detectives West and McCrusty are checking out the last farm where the Mardon brothers might be hiding and Detective McCrusty drops the well-worn phrase the people say all the time when he tells West that “You said it yourself, sometimes [Barry] is chasing flying pigs.” SMDH. Cut to…
Barry, hanging out in his leaky-ass lab, chasing flying pigs with his officially licensed A Beautiful Mind Crazy Board with all the newspaper clippings and bits of string connecting stuff relating to his mother’s murder, including the clipping that lets us know that his dad was put in prison for her murder because the “My wife was killed by flashes of light,” defense just doesn’t work in America any more. (Thanks, Obama.) In the background, a news reporter does that thing in TV shows where they give reports that exist solely to deliver exposition. Seems like the particle accelerator is still gonna get turned on, torrential downpour or not.
At the hideout farm, West and McCrusty find the Mardon’s car, have a shootout with good ol’ Clyde who jumps onto some haybales and helpfully alerts them that he “has a plane to catch,” as a prop plane taxis by slow enough for him to jump in. The Detectives give chase, but McCrusty gets whacked (RIP, man; we literally hardly knew ye) and them dang ol’ Marden Boys fly off into the stormy night.
Back at the lab, Barry’s watching news coverage of the accelerator but (OH NO!) there’s been a malfunction and stuff – like the Marden Boys’ plane – is blowing up and the water’s floating in the air again and OOPS! he gets struck by super-lightning and then he dies. The end. Thanks for tuning in.
Oh wait, there’s more. My mistake. Please keep reading. We flash-forward nine months and S.T.A.R. Labs looks like that reactor in Godzilla that Hal from Breaking Bad was always trying to sneak into. We’re introduced to two doctors, the excitable Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdez) and the party-pooping Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker, who you may recognize as Penny on FX’s Justified). Flash fans will know that these are also the names of Justice League of America’s Vibe’s Vibe and Firestorm villain Killer Frost. Yay for Easter eggs, I guess?! Barry wakes up from his coma, talks about his abs and then who rolls in but Professor Ed, who I do not trust and neither should you.
Also, there’s this weird thing when certain people say “S.T.A.R. Labs,” where they put the emphasis on “Labs, and not “S.T.A.R.” and it really weirds me out. Cisco is one of these people.
Anyway, Professor Ed shows him around his wrecked lab and talks about science stuff. We’re treated to an empty cage with the nameplate “GRODD,” which means I’m already on board with this show. I’m a simple man, dangle a talking gorilla in front of me and I will follow. Professor Ed keeps talking, but TL/DR: the accelerator blew up and caused a buttload of damage, but Barry’s like, “See ya, suckers. I’m out and I’m taking this sweatshirt with me.”
Barry heads to Jitters or Central Perk or whatever the coffee shop Iris works at and they have a teary reunion. A waitress drops a tray (Come on, Tracy! Get it together!) and Barry sees it move in slow motion, which is weird, but he just stands there, watching Tracy pick up the broken crockery and stuff.
Meanwhile in a downtown bank, a guy who looks a lot like Clyde Marden shows up to rob the place, but he does it using rain powers. The guy is like some sort of Meteorological Magician, a veritable Weather Wizard, if you will. For a second, I got all excited because I thought that the actor who played Clyde was Damon Herriman, who played the incredibly dimwitted Dewey Crowe on Justified and then I just kept thinking about Dewey Crowe getting weather powers and now I want to watch that show. Where did I put that monkey paw?
At the police station, Barry finds Joe and they hug and stuff. Their reunion is cut short when a uniformed officer alerts West to the robbery we just saw and tells him to get a coat cuz it’s raining like crazy out there. As if a Climate Cleric were on the loose. Joe takes off only to be replaced by Officer Trenchcoat Hunkington, who Iris brushes off. Then they look at a picture of McCrusty, who is chasing flying pigs with the angels now. See you at the crossroads, McCrusty.
Barry sees a perp go for an officer’s gun at the fingerprinting counter, and before he knows it, he’s zipping over there, doing some speedy police brutality on the perp and then zipping back to stand by Iris. She’s all “Are you alright,” and Barry says he is, but then goes out back only to see his hand moving all fast like in that one Tool video. Then we get a “discovering his powers,” sequence like in the first Raimi Spider-Man movie, only this one involves destroying a police car, so … advantage Flash?
Out at Ferris Air Field (More fan service, Green Lantern kids!) Professor Ed and his two science buddies are gonna test out what Barry can do. They have him all hooked up to doohickeys, including an earpiece that is inexplicable lightning-bolt-shaped. We also get some backstory on Doctor Snow, who is all grumpy because her fianceé got killed in the accelerator explosion :(
Barry gets running but starts remembering his mom’s death and how there was a person moving super-fast in those light flashes. (You may also notice that there are two distinct colored lights moving around her: a red and a yellow, which suggests Barry traveling back in time to stop Zoom from killing his mom. Whether or not this is a good idea from a story standpoint will remain to be seen, but we’re definitely getting some time-travel in here, so get your bootstrap paradoxes ready.) He breaks concentration, he runs into some water barrels and his arm gets all broken.
Back at the police station, we get some details about the robbery. Seems like there’s been a rash of robberies where freaky weather has cropped up, almost as if a Storm Sorcerer was involved somehow. We also learn that Barry had/has a blog filled with weird cases, and that Detective Thawne is apparently a big fan of, and now I’m wondering what his blog is titled. (Tell you what, shoot a tweet at me with your suggestion for what barry’s blog is called and I’ll put the best ones in next week’s column.) West gets a plate number for Marden’s getaway car and they put out an A.P.B., which we all know stands for “Alright Police, Blast’em!”
At S.T.A.R. Labs, they’ve checked out Barry’s arm, but whaaaaaaaat?! It’s all healed! Wells gets all Obi Wan on Barry, asking him what made him break his concentration and oh boy, look at Ed’s face when Barry’s telling him about his mom dying.
Cut to Central Perk, and it comes out that Iris and Thawne are pretty hot and heavy, which we all saw coming a mile off, right? I mean, it’s classic Chekov’s Hunk: “If you show a hunk in a trenchcoat in the first chapter, in the second or third chapter somebody absolutely must be kissing them, preferably in a coffee shop. If nobody’s gonna be kissing hunks, you shouldn't be showing them.” Of course, Barry’s standing in the background, looking all mopey while Iris and Thawne smooch like it’s their job. Barry and Iris take a walk and Iris begs Barry not to tell her dad, and then Barry’s like, “Isn’t that against the rules?” like a detective dating an adult civilian is somehow less morally icky than lusting after your adopted sister, but whatever, dude.
Their chat is interrupted by a runaway cop car that’s chasing Marden. Barry manages to get Iris out of the way and takes off after Marden. Somehow that isn’t entirely clear, he jumps into the speeding car, Dukes of Hazzard-style, and attempts to vehicular manslaughter the hell out of Marden, but thankfully (?) he’s a super-dude just like Barry, so he survives and uses his weather powers to create a fog to beat feet and escape. Unfortunately for some sad sucker, the fog also obscured Marden’s now-overturned car, so a driver smashes into it, flips over and, straight-up dies while Barry catches his breath on a grassy knoll. It’s Tracy’s serving platter all over again.
Joe West shows up all worried and then says to Barry “What in the hell are you thinking, having her out here?” like Barry knew that a police chase was gonna go awry at that moment in that spot? Relax, Joe. Maybe you’re working too hard. Barry takes Joe aside, corroborates the witnesses that Joe just heard, and joe is like, “Nope. And you know what else? Your dad killed your mom. Shut up!”
Barry storms off right before Thawne shows up with a shockingly accurate police sketch and is like, “Oops, looks like Marden is still alive.” I am so embarrassed for Joe right now.
Barry goes back to S.T.A.R. Labs all in a snit because there are other “metahumans” like him. Turns out that the accelerator shot cosmic stuff all over the city, possibly creating a whole host of super-people that also just so happens to give the show an explanation for weirdos with superpowers running around every week. Convenient. Barry says he’s gonna go stop them Wells says it’s a job for the police, Barry’s all, “Well, I am a police guy,” and Professor Ed is all, “I meant the *real* police,” and I was like, “That is cold, Ed.”
Wells goes on a rant about how inside Barry’s body could be all these healing chemicals and you can see Barry getting weirded out because this rich dude in a wheelchair is basically trying to kidnap him to do experiments on him but we’re just supposed to go, “Oh yeah, I trust this wheelchair dude.” Well, I’ve read enough X-Men comics to know that you never trust the manipulative dude in the wheelchair; nice try, DC Entertainment!
Barry runs his feelings away and flashes back to his mom’s murder, with his dad getting carted off and Joe being all bummed out by Nora Allen’s corpse.
Flash back to present day and we see that Barry’s running to Starling City, where it turns out everything up until now is a story he’s been telling to Arrow, star of the television program Arrow that I’m pretty sure is not a real show. (Sorry, Matt Wilson.; your life is a lie.) Barry tells Arrow that he wants to help people, but he messed up and a person died on his watch. Arrow, a guy who fights crime by shooting arows into it until it stops moving, is like, “Hey, listen: it’s no big deal. If you’re gonna be a hero, people are gonna die. No big whoop.” Then he says the most amazing thing ever. He says, and I quote: “I don’t think that bolt of lightning struck you, Barry. I think it chose you.” He says this with a straight face. It is amazing. Arrow continues to give him a Gordon-at-the-end-of-The-Dark-Knight-style speech about how Barry needs to watch “over his city like a guardian angel.” Again, he says this without breaking into laughter. And if that wasn’t enough, he caps it off by saying that Barry can save people… “in a flash.” He did it. He dropped the titular line. Amazing.
Then he Batman’s off into the night, just in case you forgot that Arrow exists because DC didn’t want to use Batman to do a Smallville-style show, but not before pausing to look back at Barry and say “Cool.” It’s amazing. Five stars. Two thumbs up. Confetti everywhere.
Barry busts out some banker’s boxes of probably metahuman-related crimes and tells Cisco and Caitlin that they’re gonna go bust these metahumans. Cisco then shows off his latest invention:
screen-quality replica of Ben Affleck’s costume from Daredevil super-duper fireman suit for Barry to wear. Snow tells Cisco and Barry that she’s tracked a weird weather pattern to a farm just north of the city, a farm that West and Thawne are pulling up to. The same farm where Marden tried to fly away from. They confront him, but Thawne informs him that he’s a god now, which is met with a perfectly sensible “shutthehellup” from West. Joe West will have none of your blasphemous sass-talk, sir.
Marden responds by knocking Thawne out and West over, and then creating a huge tornado that whips the detectives against a car. Just as they’re about to be smashed to bits by flying debris, an unexpected red flash appears, knocking the piece of barn from the sky. Cisco tells him the tornado’s picking up speed and it’s headed toward the city. Barry decides that he’s gonna “unravel” the tornado, but he’s not strong enough. Marden has unlocked Soundgarden;s “Black Hole Sun” music video-level power. It’s looking pretty grim.
Wells comes over the headset thingy and tells Barry that he was wrong, that he believes in Barry, blahblahblah, uses the word “hubris.” This inspired Barry and he manages to run the tornado to death, because punching things is so 2013. Barry picks himself up, but A) his mask fell off and B) Marden has a gun on him. Marden says he didn’t think there was anybody like him and Barry’s all, “Well, I’m not like you. You’re a murderer.” Marden goes to squeeze the trigger, but West shoots him a couple of times.
Now that the villain’s been neutralized (killed?) Joe and Barry have a heart-to-heart and Joe tells Barry he was right about everything. His mom’s murder. His dad’s innocence. How soup is a bullshit meal. How Radiohead is overrated. He also tells Barry not to tell Iris about his, you know, run-run powers.
Barry goes to visit his dad in prison. He tells him he’s gonna get him out. Barry gets to do a Scrubs-style wrap-up montage while he vaguely catches his dad up on all that’s happened. Then they put their hands on the glass. It’s all sweet and whatnot.
The episode ends with Barry saving a bike messenger from getting creamed by a cabbie and mentioning that his friend – you know, Arrow – gave him a new name and “you something tells me, it’s gonna catch on.” Yay! The end.
But wait, there’s more: we get an epilogue of Harrison Wells opening a super-secret future door in a wall and then WAIT FOR IT he stands up…(!!!)
and walks to a laser-looking display with the following headline: (!!!!!)
FLASH FACTS: Random Observations
FLASH FACT! I seriously doubt that they’re gonna do Crisis On Infinite Earths, but boy are they baiting us nerds with that future newspaper.
FLASH FACT! Overall, I really liked the episode. There’s some goofy stuff, but it wasn’t nearly as painful to sit through as the first few episodes of Arrow and, unlike Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash didn’t just perpetually remind me that I could be watching much better shows or just doing anything else, really. I'm on board! Which is good news for this column!
FLASH FACT! Pre-lightning bolt Barry Allen is physically incapable of not running directly into people whennever he so much as jogs.
FLASH FACT! Barry had the most comically oversized order of fries at his work station.
FLASH FACT! Is it weird that Tom Cavanagh and Grant Gustin look like each other?
FLASH-FORWARD: Future Happenings
The “This season on The Flash,” teaser showed us Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold, a Multiple Man-type villain that I’m gonna assume was the Mirror Master, some smoke dude, and a bullet time scene in 2014 A.D. It’s gonna be fun, hopefully.