REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 5

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Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Hartley Sawyer (The Young and The Restless)
Danielle Nicolet (Central Intelligence)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (Cam)
Chris Klein (American Pie)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)

Jessica Parker Kennedy in The Flash (2014)

Recurring / NOtable Guest Cast

Keiynan Lonsdale (Love, Simon)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Daniel Cudmore (Twilight: New Moon)
Erin Cummings (Bitch Slap)
Susan Walters (The Vampire Diaries)
Kiana Madeira (Trinkets)
Kyle Secor (Veronica Mars)
Troy James (Hellboy)
Phil LaMarr (Free Enterprise)
Carlo Marks (Smallville)
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus)
Lossen Chambers (Unspeakable)
LaMonica Garrett (The Last Ship)
Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Teddy Sears (Chicago Fire)
Tony Todd (Candyman)
Chad Rook (War For The POTA)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Tyler Hoechilin (Teen Wolf)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Jeremy Davies (Hannibal)
Elizabeth Tulloch (The Artist)
Ruby Rose (The Meg)
Reina Hardesty (StartUp)
Gabrielle Walsh (East Los High)
Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother)
Britne Oldford (American Horror Story)
Victoria Park (Plus One)
Kimberly Williams-Paisley (The Christmas Chronicles)
Audrey Marie Anderson (The Unit)
Zibby Allen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
Sarah Carter (Smallville)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Godzilla)
Kathryn Gallagher (You)
BD Wong (Gotham)
Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead)

Hartley Sawyer and Carlos Valdes in The Flash (2014)Odd as it may sound, The Flash may very well now be the flagship show in the Arrowverse. When you think about it, the series’ ascension to that spot makes sense, especially when you factor in how it’s consistently The CW’s top rated show. Plus, it often charts new course for the DC TV landscape as a whole, which I’ll discuss in just a bit.In the meantime, though, I’m going to shower the next leg in the Scarlet Speedster’s journey with much praise after being left jaded by what I thought was a parabolic fourth season. Those familiar with this site may remember how I didn’t exactly care for how our most recent trips to Central City became downright farcical at times, whereas the premiere I’ve just had the honor of screening found the proper balance achieved in earlier seasons.Grant Gustin and Candice Patton in The Flash (2014)Maybe it’s just me, but Nora West-Allen AKA XS, played by the adorable Jessica Parker Kennedy, gave this show the shot in the arm that it needed. After being left stranded in the present, Barry (Grant Gustin) and Iris’ (Candice Patton) daughter from the future manages to strengthen the family aspect that’s been a solid cornerstone since day one, while also taking the action scenes to the next level. Being someone who digs legacy heroes, I was delighted to hear Nora begin season 5 with narration similar to that of Barry’s, thereby letting us know that she’s a chip off the old block and, yes, she’s the fastest woman alive in her native time period.Chris Klein in The Flash (2014)In very short order, I became convinced that Nora is quite possibly the role Kennedy was born to play, and is quickly becoming my favorite thing about the show. Believe me, it won’t take long for you to warm up to the father-daughter dynamic shared between her and Barry. It’s a tad awkward as one would expect at first, sure, but the two bond before long.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)Seeing as how this is a comic book-based series, their first instance of Take Your Child To Work Day comes in the form of a run-in with Gridlock (Daniel Cudmore), our first freak of the week for the fall. In truth, it’s probably best that we get someone of lesser power to start off things before organically building up to the new big bad, Cicada (Chris Klein). Make no mistake, the Flash himself isn’t forgotten in the premiere, as this is still very much his headlining gig. What’s more is that longtime viewers will be rewarded as he runs the costuming gamut by donning the suits he wore in seasons 1 and 2, before settling on his new threads.Chris Klein and Danielle Panabaker in The Flash (2014)Continuing on that note, the comic aficionados among you should geek out upon seeing said duds emerging from a ring, an element from the source material that’s finally been utilized by the producers. As for getting it back inside, well, that sounds like a job for Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and his magnificent mind. Rest assured that a piece of jewelry isn’t the only thing brought back from the future because – get this – Nora gives quite the nod to Batman Beyond by using “schway” in a sentence on multiple occasions. Not only that, but the DC Easter eggs don’t stop there – her name-drops may be laying the groundwork for the next five years of Arrowverse programming, so be sure to pay close attention.Danielle Panabaker and Jessica Parker Kennedy in The Flash (2014)Now, I’m not going to get into major spoilers, but I will say that stuff established all the way back in the pilot episode is revisited and factors into what’s to come. The sharper guys and gals reading this may have a few good guesses after learning that, so just keep on formulating your own theories until it’s showtime. At this point, I imagine lovers of Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) are wondering what’s going on with her character and the unfolding mystery involving her past. Though her alter ego of Killer Frost has yet to resurface, some sizable breadcrumbs are provided, each of which will definitely factor heavily into future episodes. Bank on it.The Flash (2014)In the eyes of this critic, showrunner Todd Helbing and company have rediscovered what’s quintessentially The Flash. Hand to Zod, the creative minds behind the series look to be returning it to the glory days of seasons 1 and 2 – and that’s no joke. These folks have put together one of the strongest premieres this show has ever produced, and it’s guaranteed to leave people talking. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s next because, you know, it’s not like I can run so fast that I can time travel or anything.

REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 4

 

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Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Keiynan Lonsdale (The Turning)
Neil Sandilands (The 100)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)

Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Kim Engelbrecht (Dominion)
Danielle Nicolet (Central Intelligence)
Britne Oldford (God Friended Me)
Jessica Camacho (Watchmen: The Series)
Dominic Burgess (The Good Place)
Richard Brooks (The Crow: City of Angels)
Sugar Lyn Beard (Sausage Party)
Violett Beane (God Friended Me)
Chelsea Kurtz (Scandal)
Hartley Sawyer (The Young and The Restless)
Vito D’Ambrosio (Bones)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Caity Lotz (The Pact)
Morena Baccarin (Gotham)
Chyler Leigh (Not Another Teen Movie)
Franz Drameh (See)
Paul Blackthorne (The InBetween)
Jeremy Jordan (The Last Five Years)
Juliana Harkavy (Last Shift)
Melissa Benoist (Whiplash)
Wentworth Miller (Underworld)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Max Adler (Into The Dark)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Kendrick Sampson (Relationship Status)
Mark Valley (Human Target)
Corinne Bohrer (Tellers)
Devon Graye (13 Sins)
Bill Goldberg (Santa’s Slay)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (Cam)
Derek Mears (Swamp Thing)
Kendall Cross (Another Life)
Paul McGillion (Stargate: Atlantis)
Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Bethany Brown (The 100)
Kevin Smith (Clerks)
Jason Mewes (Mallrats)
Arturo Del Puerto (For All Mankind)
Katie Cassidy (Taken)
Ryan Alexander McDonald (Izombie)
Mark Sweatman (Uncut)
David Ramsey (Dexter)

Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)For the last three years, “The Flash” has proven itself to be one of the very best  superhero shows on television. With its incredible mix of compelling characters, intricate storytelling, and tense thrills, it has continued to deliver a wonderful blend of drama, comedy, action, and even a little romance. Heading into season four, the show has shown no signs of slowing down, and coming off of a particularly excellent season, expectations remain quite high. Now, at last, it’s time to see if “The Flash” continues its “streak” of greatness, or if the show has at last run its course.Neil Sandilands in The Flash (2014)At the end of season three, Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) found himself with no other choice but to go into the speed force itself to save Central City. This left the rest of Team Flash, including Iris (Candice Patton), Cisco (Carlos Valdes), and Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), to pick up the slack in regards to fighting crime in the city. However, they find that not only do they miss Barry, but that their team just isn’t the same without him, which eventually leads Cisco to devise a way to free him from the speed force.Grant Gustin and Hartley Sawyer in The Flash (2014)Their happiness at being reunited is short-lived however, as they quickly discover that the rift they opened to free Barry also unleashed a massive amount of dark matter that changed a dozen civilians into meta-humans with extraordinary powers. Meanwhile, a new brilliant foe by the name of Clifford DeVoe, aka “The Thinker” (Neil Sandilands) has emerged with a mysterious plan that involves collecting the powers of these recently-created meta-humans. It’s up to Team Flash (including new team member Ralph Dibney/”The Elongated Man” (Hartley Sawyer)) to discover how all of it is connected, and what DeVoe’s ultimate goal is before he can carry it out, all while trying to protect the people of Central City from the continuous onslaught of criminals.One of the most impressive things about “The Flash,” aside from everything mentioned so far, has been the remarkable ability of the writing staff to fill its lengthy 23-episode season. In an age where TV shows are moving away from the older model of having epic-sized seasons of 20+ episodes and moving towards more streamlined lengths of about 10-13 episodes, it’s quite something to see a show continue to utilize so many AND be able to actually fill it with quality material. Sure, some episodes aren’t an actual part of the season’s main arc, but even when they don’t further the main plot, the writers usually still manage to deliver consistently fun and exciting episodes.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)It’s rather satisfying to say that season four is no exception. Once again, we have a compelling storyline that sees the entire city put in danger, forcing our group of heroes to use every means at their disposal to take down “The Thinker.” That actually brings us right to the main reason this season stands out as being particularly special: for once, the villain is not an evil speedster, but rather a man with an insanely-advanced intellect. In the first three seasons, we saw our heroes go up again The Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Savitar, but now, in a refreshing change of pace, we have a villain who uses sheer brainpower (and eventually several neat powers) to challenge Flash and co., literally forcing them to have to try and out-think their foe.Kim Engelbrecht and Neil Sandilands in The Flash (2014)In the same vein, the showrunners have also made the wise decision to get rid of certain characters that hadn’t been working particularly well. Most notably, Wally West leaves early on, and actually joins the Legends on “Legends of Tomorrow.” His character never really found a satisfying place on “The Flash,” so it made perfect sense to put him with other b-characters on one of the weaker superhero shows on the network. He still pops in every now and again for important events, but for the most part, he’s been removed. It’s also worth noting that this season doesn’t feature an appearance from the silliest villain in the show’s repertoire, Gorilla Grodd. Perhaps after the misguided arc in the previous season, they’ve finally learned that the character was just a bad idea.Grant Gustin and Violett Beane in The Flash (2014)As far as complaints about this latest season, I suppose the somewhat simple ending was a little bit of a drawback. After all of the buildup, it seemed a little too easy to get to the end result, but still, it worked well enough for the show’s purposes. That being said, it hardly seems worth mentioning with everything that went so well this season. Once again, we had 23 episodes that flew by at top speed, delivering everything that fans have come to expect from this fast-paced and remarkably entertaining show. As usual, we’re left with another cliffhanger that shows that yet another wild season will probably be in store for Team Flash. What kind of villain will we get this time? Another speedster? Another brainiac of sorts? Or will it be something entirely new and surprising? Just like everyone else, I can’t wait to find out.

 

REVIEW: THE FLASH – SEASON 1

 

Starring

Grant Gustin (Glee)
Candice Patton (The Guest)
Danielle Panabaker (The Crazies)
Rick Cosnett (The Vampire Diaries)
Carlos Valdes (Vixen)
Tom Cavanagh (Scrubs)
Jesse L. Martin (Injustice)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Michelle Harrison (Tru Calling)
Chad Rook (Timeless)
Patrick Sabongui (Power Rangers)
Al Sapienza (Suits)
John Wesley Shipp (Dawson’s Creek)
Stephen Amell (Arrow)
Fulvio Cecere (Dark Angel)
Olivia Cheng (Warrior)
Jennifer Cheon Garcia (Van Helsing)
Brendon Zub (Batwoman)
Logan Williams (When Calls Your Heart)
William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Robbie Amell (The Duff)
Anthony Carrigan (Gotham)
Wentworth Miller (Underworld)
Emily Bett Rickards (Brooklyn)
Dominic Purcell (Prison Break)
Kelly Frye (Criminal Minds)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Greg Finley (Izombie)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Morena Baccarin (Deadpool)
David Ramsey (Dexter)
Paul Anthony (Blade: Trinity)
Anna Hopkins (Shadowhunters)
Amanda Pays (Max Headroom)
David Milchard (Sanctuary)
Roger Howarth (One Life To Live)
Andy Mientus (Gone)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Victor Garber (The Orville)
Malese Jow (The Shanara Chronicles)
Britne Oldford (Blindspot)
Bill Dow (Izombie)
Isabella Hofmann (Burlesque)
Katie Cassidy (Black Christmas 2006)
Chase Masterson (Star Trek: DS9)
Liam McIntyre (The Legend of Hercules)
Nicholas Gonzalez (Sleepy Hollow)
Peyton List (Gotham)
Paul Blackthorne (Arrow)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Matt Letscher (Her)
Bre Blair (Game of Silence)
Vito D’Ambrosio (Bones)
Devon Graye (13 Sins)
Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead)
Brandon Routh (Superman Returns)
Danielle Nicolet (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Peter Bryant (See)
Doug Jones (Star Trek Discovery)
Ciara Renée (The Big Bang Theory)

 

The Flash was unique in its first season in the sense that it never really needed to find itself or grow into something better. It simply started strong and continually got better over the course of seven months. Much of the credit rests with the fact that the Flash was hardly starting from scratch. This show is the first spinoff of Arrow and its growing superhero universe. It features many of the same producers as Arrow and several writers responsible for Arrow’s stellar second season. Not only did The Flash not have to waste much time establishing its universe, it didn’t even have to introduce viewers to its protagonist. Grant Gustin debuted as a pre-speedster Barry Allen midway through Arrow’s second season, culminating with the accident that created the Flash. By the time this show came around, viewers already knew Barry, what made him tick and what fueled his particular quest.Gustin rapidly grew into the role of Barry Allen once the spotlight was placed on him. Gustin brought a winning blend of youthful energy, latent pathos and Peter Parker-esque awkwardness to the table. He gave us a Barry Allen that’s impossible not to connect with. Barry is immensely likable. He’s less intense than Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen. He’s driven by tragedy but anchored by a small family unit. He’s faithful to the comic book Barry Allen. One of the main reasons for The Flash’s success, though, was its supporting cast. So much of the drama and the emotional core of the show centered around Barry’s ties to his core circle of friends, family and allies.Kelly Frye and Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)There was his adoptive father, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). There was his adoptive sister/unrequited love, Iris (Candice Patton), a dichotomy that never came across as creepy or incest-y as it could have. There was his newfound father figure/mentor in Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). There were his new friends/partners in metahuman-busting, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes). And rounding out the core cast was Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Barry’s colleague and sometimes rival/sometimes ally.The show exploited these various relationships to great effect. Above all, the father/son relationships between Barry/Joe and Barry/Wells were the source of great drama. Martin and Cavanagh were the MVPs among the cast. Martin brought a crucial warmth to his role as a concerned father and a man simply baffled by the increasingly bizarre state of life in Central City. Cavanagh, meanwhile, helped mold Wells into the show’s most captivating figure. It quickly became apparent that Wells was far more than he seemed, eventually emerging as the primary antagonist of Season 1.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)But thanks to Cavanagh’s performance, it was always apparent that Wells cared for Barry even as he plotted and schemed and tormented the hero.Caitlin and Cisco became increasingly compelling characters in their own right as the season progressed. Caitlin, initially cold and a little haughty, grew as her relationship with Barry blossomed and her past relationship with Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) came to light. Cisco was largely a comic relief character at first. And while he remained the show’s most reliable source of comedy, he too was fleshed out and developed a father/son connection to Wells of his own.Iris and Eddie were a little more uneven when it came to their respective roles within the show. At times it was easy to forget about Eddie given his tendency to drop out of view. However, he definitely became an integral player in the final couple months of the season.Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)I appreciated how the writers never took a one-note approach with Eddie. He may have been Barry’s romantic rival, but he was never written as a bully or a jerk, just a guy with his own set of hopes and desires. As for Iris, there were some episodes where she filled what seemed to be a mandatory quota as far as superhero relationship drama. The Barry/Iris/Eddie love triangle definitely had its moments, but some weeks it came across as pointless filler. The big offender was “Out of Time,” which featured a terrifically epic climax but dull build-up. The premiere episode, did a fine job of laying out the cast of characters and basic status quo for the show. The idea that the STAR Labs particle accelerator created a new wave of metahumans alongside the Flash offered an easy way to start building a roster of villains and put Barry’s growing speed powers to the test. Luckily, it wasn’t long before The Flash began moving away from the “villain of the week” approach and building larger, overarching storylines. Bigger villains like Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) were introduced, paving the way for the Flash.The show played its part in expanding the CW’s superhero universe, introducing Firestorm and crossing paths with Arrow at several points. The mid-season finale, “The Man In the Yellow Suit,” offered the full introduction of the Reverse-Flash and set the stage for a conflict that would drive the show all the way until the season finale. As that conflict developed, the question of just who Dr. Wells was and what he had planned for Barry became paramount. Wells symbolized just how much the show was willing to play with expectations and shake up the traditional comic book mythology. I noted in my review of the premiere episode that the show was showing signs of being too predictable for seasoned comic book readers. It wasn’t long before that concern faded away.Looking back at these overarching conflicts and how they were developed over the course of the season, it’s clear that The Flash succeeded because it managed to adopt the serialized nature of superhero comics so well. Each new episode offered its fair share of twists and surprises, culminating in a dramatic cliffhanger that left viewers craving the next installment.Grant Gustin in The Flash (2014)It served as a reminder that, in many ways, TV is an inherently better medium for superheroes than film. A weekly series can do serialized storytelling in a way a couple superhero movies every year can’t. The show started out big with the premiere episode, pitting Barry against the first Weather Wizard and a massive tornado. Even that was chump change compared to later conflicts. Barry’s battle with the second Weather Wizard culminated with the hero stopping a tidal wave at supersonic speed. But the most impressive technical accomplishment was more subtle. The late-season episode “Grodd Lives” introduced viewers to Gorilla Grodd, a completely computer-animated villain who looked far more convincing than we had any right to.Mark Hamill in The Flash (2014)Perhaps one of the strongest episode of Season 1 was “Tricksters.” That episode paid terrific homage to the short-lived 1990 Flash series as Mark Hamill reprised the part of the prank-obsessed villain the Trickster and former Flash John Wesley Shipp was given his most in-depth role as Barry’s father, Henry. Not only was “Tricksters” a fun love letter to the old show, it proved that this series can venture into full-on camp territory without losing sight of itself.Ultimately, though, it’s the finale episode that stands out as the crowning moment of Season 1. The show bucked the usual trend by getting the physical confrontation with Reverse-Flash out of the way in the penultimate episode (via a team-up between Flash, Firestorm and the Arrow, no less). “Fast Enough” wasn’t concerned with the visceral element of the Flash/Reverse-Flash rivalry so much as the psychological one. The finale was intensely emotional, forcing Barry to decide just how much he was willing to sacrifice to save his mother. Just about every actor delivered their best work of the season. It was a tremendous payoff to a year’s worth of build-up.Jesse L. Martin in The Flash (2014)The finale ended the season with a big question mark of a cliffhanger. The great thing about the way the season wrapped is that now the door is open for practically anything. The finale touched on the idea of the multiverse – other worlds inhabited by other Flashes like Jay Garrick. The Flash didn’t suffer from the familiar freshman growing pains most new shows experience in their first season. This show built from the framework Arrow laid out and made use of an experienced writing and production team, a great cast, and a clear, focused plan for exploring Barry Allen’s first year on the job. The show was never afraid to delve into the weird and wild elements of DC lore, but it always stayed grounded thanks to a combination of humor and strong character relationships.