The Flash: Fastest Man Alive review

The Flash squares off with Multiplex in episode 2, but it's really Jesse L. Martin's episode. Here's our review...

This Flash review contains spoilers.

In many ways “Fastest Man Alive” is an extension of The Flash pilot, “City of Heroes.” This isn’t a bad thing. If anything, “Fastest Man Alive” is marginally better, if only because the characters are a little more settled in, and there’s a little less explaining to do. Plus, there’s more all out superhero action. 

In fact, we get that superhero action right up front. Among the many refreshing things about The Flash, is how completely unashamed it is of superheroics. There is nothing remotely ambiguous about its tone or intent. It’s almost a little jarring, especially for a show this young. While Arrow took over a season and change to become comfortable in its spandex roots, The Flash throws all that out there, and if you don’t like it, well, too bad. 

Now, with that in mind, it’s difficult to imagine a bigger superhero cliche than “rescuing folks from a burning building” and that’s exactly how “Fastest Man Alive” starts up. In fact, John Wesley Shipp himself cautioned about this problem from the original Flash TV series when we interviewed him recently. It’s silly, I know, and I suppose for an episode that is almost like the second hour of the pilot, it’s a reasonable way to showcase Barry getting to know his powers and giving us a glimpse of how Central City will come to know Flash. Keep in mind, folks, this isn’t a guy who is gonna operate in the shadows. In the comics, Central City built an entire MUSEUM for this guy…while he was still alive.

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They don’t do that for guys like Batman, y’know.

Anyway, it’s a sign that the first episode did its job really well that we can jump right into Flash saving people, with Cisco operating as his eyes and ears (while Ms. Snow disapproves) and everything immediately makes sense. Now that the STAR Labs team has been properly assembled (and by episode’s end, even Caityln is on board), things can really start moving.

Here’s a random thought: has the suit already been tweaked? It looked a little brighter and more lightweight this week. In fact, virtually everything looked cleaner and generally more “at home.” Or maybe that’s just me getting used to this world.

I’m not 100% sure how I feel about all of this flashback stuff. It could get a little tiring if we have to do it every episode. It’s handled well enough, I’m just not sure it’s a narrative device that can be sustained over an entire season. But this week, it’s the flashback that brings us John Wesley Shipp, and my admiration for that dude is boundless, so I’ll stop complaining now.

Danton Black/Multiplex isn’t the most memorable villain, and his plan (and reasoning for) wanting to eliminate Simon Stagg (guest star William Sadler) all played out like typically flimsy supervillain fare. But man, his splitting moments were exceptionally creepy, and I’m impressed with what this show is doing visually on a budget.

This cast, though, are really a bunch of charmers. Even a character who has said about six words so far (Patrick Sabongui’s Captain Singh), I’m looking forward to seeing more of. That might just be because I know him from the comics, but I think there’s some interesting stuff in store.

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Jesse L. Martin’s Joe West is wonderful, and this is very nearly his episode. I found his general trajectory regarding Barry’s costumed adventuring this week rang true, even if they had to hit us over the head with some of the “you’re not my dad!” stuff in order to get it done. It was a reasonable parallel to the obligatory “I don’t think I’m cut out to be a hero” installment of superhero television (see also: the obligatory “we must learn to work as a team in order to defeat this menace” that we usually see in the third episode of every superhero cartoon)  “For once in your life, do what I tell you to do…” made me smile, and I’m certain it was Martin who made that happen.

Just as I was about to moan about how some of the scenes with Barry and Iris feel a little “feelings over-explainy” we get that bit with Barry unburdening himself at super speed. It’s clever. It’s cute. It’s a moment. They’d better not do it every week, but it works.

Not a perfect episode by a long shot, but it’s all such sincere fun that it’s difficult to lean on its faults too much. Yes, the burning building and jewelry robbery bits were kind of “superhero 101” cliches, but it’s early yet. For an episode that has to do a chunk of the heavy-lifting that wasn’t done last week (and reinforces some other important character points in case you missed ’em), “Fastest Man Alive” does the job just fine. I could really do without more dialogue like “we were all struck by that lightning,” however.  

Flash Facts!

– And we have our first official mention of Ronnie Raymond. Firestorm, folks. Firestorm.

– Yes, Cisco built Barry a treadmill. You’re damn right that’s a cosmic treadmill. I called it already, we WILL see some version of “Flash of Two Worlds” before this show is finished.

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– Barry has the “Wally West problem” where his metabolism is having difficulty sustaining his super speed. This was also Barry’s problem on the original Flash TV series. Sadly, the invention of the high-protein superbars means we won’t get to see things like Barry eating entire boxes of cereal at super speed or whatever. How many times can I reference the classic show or JWS this review? Is this three? I’m a fan. Sue me.

– Another mysterious Harrison Wells ending. The idea that he is hear to keep the Flash safe (and has knowledge of his future) sure is pointing to him being a very particular version of a very particular villain. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past this show to throw us a curve. 

Were there more? Call ’em out down below! It felt like this week was a little light on the wider DCU stuff, which is probably a good thing considering just how much the pilot packed in. 

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3.5 out of 5