There are two reasons you might be reading this – either you’ve already seen The Flash and you’re wondering if it’s worth buying the disc as well, or you’ve never seen an episode and you’re looking for a recommendation or a stay away warning. We’ll try to cover both bases in our review.
If you’re unfamiliar, The CW’s televisual version of The Flash is a terrifically fun experience. If there’s a comic book movie comparison, it would probably be Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man. This isn’t a dark, gritty superhero story, but an introduction to a character who clearly loves his new powers.
Grant Gustin steps into the lead role wonderfully well – he plays forensic scientist Barry Allen as an awkward nerdy type, adding a relatable layer to an iconic character. Once he’s running around in the red suit, it’s pure wish fulfilment for comic book fans – he’s funny, likeable and brings a great deal of heart to a role that could easily be boring in less capable hands. There’s never a moment of ‘he runs fast, who cares?’ because emotional investment in Barry is sold so well by Gustin.
One of The Flash’s biggest strengths besides Barry is the supporting cast, particularly Barry’s triumvirate of father figures: his actual father, the incarcerated Henry Allen (John Wesley Shepp from the classic The Flash show); his endlessly supportive adoptive father and police co-worker, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin); and genius scientist Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), who takes Barry under his wing after he gets his powers. Throughout the season, Barry is pulled in interesting emotional directions by these three, which creates an engaging personal struggle at the show’s core.
Harrison Wells runs S.T.A.R. Labs, where loveable nerds Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) work with Barry to help protect the city from a series of super-powered threats. The main one is a recurring villain with similar powers to Barry, who pops up throughout the season and brings real menace. Cisco’s jokes (he names all the heroes in cheesy comic book style) help undercut the tension of these episodes and save the show from getting too moody too often.
Occasionally, though, a temporary baddie comes in who doesn’t measure up to the show’s best qualities – the second episode (essentially a rehash of the pilot, with a different villain superpower) and episode 18 (a ‘bug-eyed bandit’ comes to town!) become especially disappointing on second viewing. It’s worth stressing again, though – this series is a bombastically enjoyable journey, for the most part.
Once you’re a fan, you’ll find loads of additional material on these discs with which to further explore the world of The Flash. For starters, each of the five discs has deleted scenes, with some rather interesting ones – particularly for the S.T.A.R. Labs team – sitting alongside the usual ‘you can see why they cut that’ fare.
You get a series of lovingly crafted featurettes, too, offering insights to the behind-the-scenes process. The highlight of these is Mark Hamill and John Wesley Shipp discussing the experience of returning to this world after starring in the 1990-1991 The Flash programme. Mark Hamill’s passion for comics steals the show, as he comically recalls his earliest memories of the villainous Trickster (who he’s now portrayed opposite two different Flashes).
There are detailed VFX breakdowns, discussions of the show’s origins, and even some screen test footage of Grant Gustin sparring verbally with Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow. You also get a commentary for the pilot episode where Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns dish out interesting facts about the show solidly for 45-minutes. Elsewhere there’s some Comic-Con footage from 2014, and an eight-minute gag reel that features plenty of dancing and Danielle Panabaker swearing.
Put simply, this is a true treasure trove for fans of The Flash, only let down by a handful of naff episodes and a couple of dodgy script decisions (even on second viewing, I still can’t buy into Candice Patton’s Iris – Barry’s adoptive sister – as a love interest).
If you enjoy the lighter side of superheroes, you’ll probably love this. It’s worth warning you now, though – the emotional material in the latter episodes may have you blubbing with tears. Or that might have just been me…
The Flash: The Complete First Season is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 21st September.
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