This morning, I woke with a giddiness I hadn’t felt in a long time, and it had nothing to do with the State of the Union.
President Obama’s annual address to Congress was not at the forefront of my mind but instead a show that, over its first nine weeks, proved itself to be one of the best new network television offerings of the year and one deserving of a slot in your weekly lineup. Yes, after more than a month hiatus, The Flash finally returned last night and, despite the time off, showed no signs of slowing down.
There’s a simple rule about television—that it, above all, should be enjoyable. Really, it’s the goal of all mediums of entertainment, and yet it can often feel as though this rule is lost on many shows and showrunners. It’s not lost on those that keep The Flash’s treadmill humming. While it’s not rewriting the crime drama, or the comic book show, it is consistently delivering competent stories that are enjoyable from beginning to end. That’s much more than I can say about most new shows, and much, much more than I can say about one particular Fox drama that lives in a similar universe to that of The Flash.
The success that Greg Berlanti and crew have found with the Scarlet Speedster is based in simplicity. Unlike many new shows, The Flash hasn’t attempted to do too much in its first ten episodes, and has allowed its characters to develop at a healthy rate. There is no doubt that some of this can be attributed to the fact that The Flash was spun off Arrow, thus alleviating some of the pressure that comes with launching a new program, but it remains that the writers have a solid grip on their story and how to unroll it. I was slightly worried coming off the fall finale that the reveal of three large plot points in that hour would tip the show slightly off balance. “Revenge of the Rogues” calmed my fears as the writers once again proved they understand that episode stories need a proper hierarchy. There were many things at play in this hour, but none of the outlying stories affected the main plot involving the return of Leonard Snart (Captain Cold) and his new partner Mick Rory (Heat Wave). Caitlin was still trying to find Ronnie and figure out what exactly happened to him, Barry and Iris were still dealing with the aftermath of hidden feelings being revealed, Cisco was still having all of the fun, but none of it overshadowed what the episode was trying to do as a standalone story.
“Revenge of the Rogues” was the continuation of what appears to be, rightfully, a long battle between Captain Cold (and his growing list of allies) and the Fastest Man Alive. Everything in the episode done by Cold was an attempt to draw out The Flash, only Barry was focused more on sharpening his skills (and becoming moodier) in order to take down the vaunted Man in Yellow (i.e. Reverse Flash). As these things tend to go, Barry eventually snapped out of his training quest when a member of the team (this time Caitlin) was put in grave danger, and he was forced to deal with the Rogues. While predictable, the story was tightly told and paced briskly, with few dangerously dull moments and a typically entertaining final showdown. Eventually, the predictability may begin to nag, but for now it feels less like a cause for concern than a consistent groove. It’s easy to bypass the common setups when the performances are this good and the production values are better than ever expected. I’d much rather watch multiple similar episodes of a show that knows what it is, and what it’s doing, than several dissimilar episodes of a show struggling to figure it out.
Multiple developments in longer storylines came forth in episode ten, as well. Caitlin inched closer toward understanding what’s happened to her fiancé (and possibly finding him), Barry and Iris tiptoed around the issue of Barry’s feelings and eventually reconciled (kind of), Iris moved in with Eddie, but, perhaps most importantly, Barry moved back in with Joe. I’ve made no attempt to hide my adoration for Joe, and Jesse L. Martin’s portrayal of the strong, but gentle detective. The relationship between Joe and Barry has been one of my favorite aspects from the beginning, and I can’t wait to see what pairing the two under the same roof will bring. All of these moves forward are exciting, and have me curious as to what the next steps will be, but there is an issue. There is a name missing from the list above: Cisco. Everyone’s favorite S.T.A.R lab scientist has proven to be a sticking point for the writers and remains the most underutilized character on the show. While the entire ensemble has major storylines growing behind the scenes, Cisco remains the de facto comic relief with little to do than utter scientific lingo and name Flash’s foes. Carlos Valdes has proven himself a capable actor, and shown range (particularly in “Things You Can’t Outrun,” the show’s third episode that revisited the particle accelerator explosion), and is deserving of something more substantial than the occasional demonstration of fancy gadgets for the Central City police. Then again, adding another storyline could derail the balance the show currently finds itself with, that I love, and thus Cisco’s time in the light may have to wait.
?Ten episodes in and The Flash is primed to continue its torrid pace, looking to deliver one of the best first seasons I’ve seen from a network show in years. Coming off a subpar episode in the fall finale, the show wasted little time getting back in the groove, serving up another tight and entertaining hour. Everything, from the writing to the special effects, has found a solid consistency that should be admired, but not rested upon. With a sturdy base, the writers have an opportunity to take The Flash to the next level sooner than most new shows, and breaking the current predictable pattern of each episode would be a welcomed move. Despite featuring a man who can move faster than the speed of sound, The Flash isn’t moving fast enough for me. Each week, when the hour concludes, I find myself disappointed. Not because the 60 minutes that preceded were a waste, but because I want more. The writers, thankfully, aren’t allowing those like me to deter them, though. They are controlling the pace, and making it very clear who has the (super) power in this relationship.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.