Monday, January 4, 2016

Stacy (Finally) Watches THE FLASH.

"Now run, Barry. Run. . .!"
 I have no earthly idea why, but there's just something inside me that is extremely reluctant to embrace the mainstream wholeheartedly. I remember being a young man and absolutely refusing to have anything to do with the Harry Potter books solely because they were popular. I wasn't going to be taken in by this pokemon-literature. I was a Serious Reader of  Serious Fantasy. It was only after HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE was assigned to me for a course at university that I gave it a chance and immediately learned a truth: sometimes the zeitgeist actually know what it's talking about. It's rare, but it's true.

 Which brings me to THE FLASH. Yes, my friends raved about it. Yes, people in the know whose opinions I trust told me I absolutely, positively, had to watch this show as I would take to it like a duck to water. But for all the praise there was still this little part of me that resisted. ARROW's initial take on the character of Oliver Queen as a vigilante who flat-out killed criminals had turned me off a bit to the DC Television stable, and while I was assured that this series was to be a complete 180 from ARROW in many ways, it's hard to make me want to watch genre television, particularly adaptations of favorite titles like THE FLASH. This show was about Barry Allen. My Flash was Wally West. This show had a darker take on the Flash costume. I wanted the wings and the yellow boots. I had a vision in my mind of what the character should have been and while my vision wasn't wrong it wasn't entirely compatible with what was on the screen. So I hesitated.

 But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. On a whim I picked up the first collection of DC's SMALLVILLE SEASON ELEVEN, a comics continuation of the CW series. Now, understand that I -did not- care for Smallville. The liberties taken with the canon and the long, loooooong time it took to get Clark into the suit and actually becoming Superman drove me bananas. But, in need of a Superman series to read I picked it up. . .and devoured the first trade pretty much in a single sitting. Bryan Q. Miller's take on the SMALLVILLE-verse was a mixture of the familiar and the conceits of the series in such a way that I realized something not only about the series but about myself.

 With the series, it was the notion that this take on the DC Universe could literally have it's cake and eat it too, incorporating all the coolest toys in the toybox without worrying about the budgetary constraints of the SMALLVILLE TV series. Seriously, if you haven't checked out the 7 trade collections out so far from DC I heartily recommend them.

With myself, it was simply this: I was being silly. Holding out for a version of a character you enjoy that's sympatico with your ideal take on the character (the 'real' version you hold in your mind) is about as worthwhile an endeavor as trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. With this in mind, I bought the first season of THE FLASH on Blu Ray, and having some time free over my Christmas vacation I say down with it and watched the first episode. And the second. The third. And so on into the night. By the time the credits rolled on FAST ENOUGH, the season finale, I was both an emotional dishrag and a devout believer in the power trio of Berlanti, Kriesberg, and Johns.

 The beauty of the series isn't just the love that goes into the costumed characters and the fights (which are plenty awesome, believe you me), but the thing I absolutely love about the show is the heart. Good -God- the heart. If you can make it through the sequence where Barry Allen/The Flash (played with aplomb by Garrett Gustin) gets to say goodbye to his mother (you know the sequence) without rolling tears you are stronger than I will ever be. I haven't bawled like that since the end of THE GREEN MILE. The family dynamic between Barry Allen, His father Henry (played by John Wesley Shipp, the Flash of my youth), his foster-father Joe West (Jesse Martin, who absolutely crushes as the moral anchor of the show), Barry's unrequited love Iris (Candice Patton, who is intensely charismatic and idealistic in her own right). . .not to mention Team Flash consisting of Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes, expect to hear from my attorney because your character's nerdity is clearly infringing on my copyright).

And then there's Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh).

 Dear God in Heaven, I could do a rant and half of the character of Harrison Wells, on how the arc of that character is in many ways equally as fascinating as that of our protagonist. If you haven't watched the show, I will do my utmost not to spoil it, but this take on the Mentor Archetype is so wonderfully crafted and put to such amazing use that I was left gobsmacked. As a writer, the gears and mechanisms of Making Story sometimes keep me from fully appreciating a book, movie, or TV show as I can usually pick up on the cues of a series or story unfolding and see things coming from a mile out. Like a magician watching another magician set up a trick. But with Wells. . .well, that'd be telling, but regardless my expectations were played with and I loved it. A gun was hung on the wall in the pilot, and by the end it went off with one seriously powerful bang.

And the love of the source material is insane. Costumes. Code names. THE FLASH MUSEUM. Mark Hamill reprising his role as the Trickster from the '90s FLASH series. Jay. Frickin'. Garrick (whom I've yet to see, but his helmet showed up in the season finale). All handled with such skill that the neophyte and the longtime comics reader can sit down and enjoy it and be equally entertained. I watched an episode of THE FLASH with GORILLA GRODD people. With my father. And he liked it too! We live in blessed times.

So yes, I was late to the party But now that I'm here I can't wait to see where this is headed. Consider me a fan.