Contains spoilers for The Flash season 1.
The Flash’s pilot episode is a near-perfect rendition of the superhero origin story. It has heaps of heart, impressive effects and an engaging protagonist in the shape of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen.
Recently, we checked out the DVD commentary for this episode, recorded by producer/creators Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg alongside Geoff Johns, the comic book writer who brought back Barry Allen, inspired the show and acted as an executive producer.
Here are some things – 42, to be precise – that we learnt from the commentary…
1. Some shots of Barry running around Central City in the ‘My name is Barry Allen’ monologue are taken from test footage that was shoot before Warner Bros. ordered the pilot.
2. The Flash is one of Greg Berlanti’s favourite characters ever, because he has “the biggest heart of any superhero – he felt like us.”
3. Greg Berlanti cried reading Crisis On Infinite Earths as a kid. Little did he know that he would go on to work with Geoff Johns, the man who brought him back, on this very TV show.
4. The young Barry flashback that starts the series was originally going to be split into chunks throughout the pilot episode. They moved it all to the front after seeing an early edit.
5. Geoff Johns got emotional when he was on-set for the Barry flashbacks, because all this is based on his comic book reimagining of his origins.
6. Geoff Johns was also bummed when he read Crisis. It inspired him to buy the 349 Flash comics that preceded it, though.
7. They thought they were going to do “a lot of” the Sherlock-esque text-on-screen when Barry is at a crime scene. The plan had been to use this technique to ‘make being a CSI interesting,’ and they would have incorporated his split-second forensic knowledge into his superhero scenes, too. However, they decided that it ‘looked really weird,’ and like ‘a separate super power’.
8. When they first talked about the pilot, it was going to start with Barry in a coma (due to the events of Arrow, that establish the coma he enters due to the particle accelerator explosion). It was Greg Berlanti’s idea to ‘roll back’ and make the pilot’s events ‘that day’ that leads up to the coma.
9. Before they got the green light to shoot an independent pilot, a backdoor pilot to The Flash was going to take place in season 2 episode 20 of Arrow. Barry’s appearance in episodes 8 and 9 of that series were enough to encourage ‘everyone’ to shoot a pilot on its own.
10. The original pilot episode villain was going to be The Mist. He would reform in the final moments of the episode, at which point Joe would have shot him.
11. “Joe wasn’t even going to make it through the pilot.” In an early draft, he was going to be killed.
12. They didn’t always know that Eddie was going to be a Thawne descendant, either.
13. Another early draft for the pilot began with Barry on the train back from Starling City, after his Arrow appearance. He would have met Prof. Martin Stein on that train. This meeting was moved to later episode, but it still takes place on the train.
14. Caitlin’s fiancé was initially going to be The Mist. He would have been seen with Caitlin in the pre-particle-accelerator-explosion scene at S.T.A.R. Labs.
15. The thief who steals Iris’ bag at the S.T.A.R. Labs launch event is Colton Haynes’ stunt double from Arrow.
16. The original cut had an ‘angry meet-cute’ between Iris and Eddie at the CCPD HQ. “It wasn’t really necessary” and Iris came out of it “a little harshly.”
17. Some shots from the Arrow episode where Barry Allen is struck by lightning are reused in this pilot. It’s structured in a way that deliberately doesn’t contradict Arrow.
18. “Barry’s search for his father” has always been considered a key theme to the show.
19. Originally, the pilot’s Weather Wizard would have been Mark Mardon (who instead appears as the second Weather Wizard later in the season). Because the pilot episode villain was always going to die, it was decided to save Mark for later and use his brother Clyde here, instead.
20. “What does the water going up mean?” is one of the most asked questions from fans. Apparently, “we wanted something cool to happen. Because the equivalent of air pressure is changing. A ‘Flash moment’ was about to happen. And now… it’s not real science, but now we kind of use it as a… anytime a weird time event happens. Or you get too close to an area where time travel technology took place.”
21. The entryway to the main S.T.A.R. Labs room is in a different location in the pilot to where it is in the series itself.
22. “Carlos Valdes had actually never been on camera” before he appeared on Arrow. He was really nervous.
23. The Easter egg of Grodd’s cage was a hard one to keep in. In meetings, the core team were told “you can cut that,” and it was removed from the script twice. “The studio cut it, and then we put it back in, and then the production cut it, and then we put it back in.”
24. They weren’t sure at the time of developing the pilot whether they would be able to afford having a digitalised Grodd in series one.
25. Tom Cavanagh always knew that Harrison Wells was responsible for Barry’s mother’s death. It was part of the reason he signed on.
26. Tom Cavanagh ad-libbed the line ‘yeah, keep the sweatshirt.’
27. The original Jitters was an actual location. They couldn’t afford to build a set yet.
28. The big post-coma reunion scene is actually the first scene Grant Gustin and Candice Patton shot together.
29. When Barry sees a tray of mugs fall in slow-motion, this is a direct lift from Showcase #4, Barry Allen’s first comic book appearance as The Flash from 1956. In the comics, though, he catches them all.
30. The short scene where Clyde Mardon robs a bank was in the first script, but was cut for time during filming. After seeing an early edit of the pilot, and feeling that they needed to add a sense that hero and villain were on “a collision course,” they decided to go back and film it.
31. The Right Stuff and The Big Bang Theory were inspirations for the fun science gang dynamic between Barry, Cisco, Caitlin and – sometimes – Harrison. They wanted to “dramatize the fun of being a superhero.”
32. Wells takes off his glasses as Barry recounts the story of his mother’s murder. This is a conscious tick by Tom Cavanagh, a small moment of “holy crap, does he recognise me?” It’s his “Clark Kent thing.”
33. “ You’re allowed one convenient thing, coincidence, per episode” – in the pilot, it’s that Weather Wizard’s car chase ends up on the same street as Barry and Iris.
34. Jesse Martin (Joe) needed ‘something different’ than just a standard detective character after Law & Order.
35. Director David Nutter told Stephen Amell to deliver his rooftop motivational speech to Barry ‘like he’s your child,’ as Amell’s daughter had only recently been born. Prior to this direction, Amell had been delivering lines in a more standard ‘Arrow-speak’ tone. “All of a sudden, Stephen was doing this amazing soulful performance.”
36. This is the same roof used in the Legends Of Tomorrow test footage that has done the rounds online.
37. The teams behind Arrow and The Flash see the former as a ‘night’ show and the latter as a ‘day’ show. “The Arrow is our Batman and The Flash is our Superman.”
38. When The Flash first arrives at the barn and stops the debris from hitting Joe, it is actually a complete CG recreation, not Grant Gustin himself. There’s a featurette that shows just how detailed the digital double is.
39. The script reads, “and for the first time – Caitlin smiles,” after Barry unravels the tornado.
40. Nutter told Berlanti on set, “I want you to write a line that will make John Wesley Shipp cry. Give it to Grant, but don’t give it to John.” The resultant line was ‘you wanted me to change my name.’ Both actors started crying.
41. In his final scene from the pilot, Cisco is wearing a Bazinga T-shirt. This was sent to the production from The Big Bang Theory team, because Sheldon often wears a Flash T-shirt.
42. Harrison Wells’ secret room scene, devised as a ‘post-credits sting,’ was always in the script. The original headline from the future newspaper was the less-specific “Flash Saves Central City.”
Bonus fact: There’s a deleted scene from the pilot – also on the DVDs – that teases the existence of Aquaman in The CW-verse. Barry mentions ‘legitimate reports’ of a man who can speak to fish at Amnesty Bay. Inevitably, this has ended up online…
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