There’s a veritable treasure trove of superhero TV out there in the world right now. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s no shortage of demand. But lately, DC has managed to dominate over on The CW, beginning with Arrow, and resulting in a show that challenges any of its contemporaries from both Marvel and DC. The Flash debuted this last Fall, with a whole lot of uncertainty. No one had attempted to depict the speedster since 1990’s similarly-named series. But this iteration has proven itself to be the king of the mountain, over Arrow, ABC’s Agents of Shield, and all other challengers.
With the first season of The Flash officially wrapped up, we can say unequivocally that no other show can touch it as a pure comic book entertainment. As the more light-hearted companion to the more somber Arrow, it’s thrived in its own right, even surpassing its predecessor. But what is it specifically that makes it the superior show?
1. A commitment to a singularly “comic book” feel
Shows like Agents of SHIELD and Arrow exist to redefine (and even create) their universes. The comic book “Green Arrow” is far more upbeat than the broody iteration we see on The CW. Similarly, Agents of SHIELD is a trailblazer in its complete focus on the everyday functions of its titular organization. But The Flash is far more derivative in its approach, something that’s really played to its strengths in its inaugural season.
Instead of the more real-world appeal a show like Daredevil boasts, The Flash fully indulges in its source material. From the hokey special effects to the bright sense of humor, the whole show looks like a comic book come to life, rather than a real-life reinvention. Because of this, we get to see even the most insane parts of the comics in villains like Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, and Reverse Flash (yes, they’re as beautifully ridiculous as they sound).
2. The expansive Flash universe
If there’s one thing The Flash has, it’s the craziest comic book history. Most prominently, its mythos features something called the multiverse, in which there are multiple versions of Earth created by our hero’s multiple journeys through time. A season that ended with a Barry Allen opening a wormhole now has given life to rumors that Season 2 will prominently feature the comic multiverse.
It’s something that’s more than a little difficult to accomplish for any TV show, but it’s ambitious nonetheless to roll with the multiverse. It’s what makes the show bolder than any of its contemporaries, diving fearlessly into a gigantic world of gimmicky villains, time travel, and parallel realities. Next season will continue on down the rabbit hole, providing a viewing experience you won’t find anywhere else on television right now.
3. Oh yeah, about that time travel thing…
There aren’t many superhero shows out there that will even touch time travel with a 10-foot pole. But The Flash completely revels in it, taking an entire season to flesh out the fact that a future version of The Flash traveled back in time with his arch-nemesis, watched his mom die in front of his child self, and then time traveled back to that night again as his present self to try and reverse his mom’s fortunes. In the end, Future Flash waves off Present Flash while he goes off to save Child Flash, making for a confusing yet wonderfully insane finale.
Odds are this won’t be the last time time travel enters into the equation as a major plot device, given its prominence in the comics as a catalyst for the multiverse. If this all sounds terribly complicated to you, well, it’s because it is. What The Flash does though is take all that, and simplify it down to an entertaining and digestible show.
4. Keeping an upbeat tone
In the midst of all the tragedy surrounding our main hero, the show still maintains a refreshing sense of humor. The cartoony names assigned to villains combined with the inherently ridiculous nature of a guy in a red suit running really fast all play in to the greater narrative, balancing gravitas with lightheartedness. There’s still plenty of death and destruction to go around, but it always rubber-bands back to its lighter tone whenever things feel like they’re diving too far down an Arrow-like hole of despair.
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