All of which sounds a lot to stuff for one episode though thanks to some strong visuals and an economical narrative they manage it. There’s even time for some character work with strong turns from Candice Patton as Barry’s childhood best friend Iris to whom he is obviously attracted but who ends up dating someone else and Jesse L Martin as her father Joe West who is both Barry’s boss and father figure. The trio seem so natural together you can believe they have known each other for a long time; Martin in particular gives us a note perfect detective and parental figure and all the different responses that requires. A neat touch is casting John Wesley Shipp as Barry’s father - he played Barry Allen in an earlier version of the concept 25 years back.
The shows’ visual palette adds much to give it a different look. Unlike other shows not every effects sequence happens at night and the way they achieve the super speed running is excellent, cutting between blurry trails and slow motion close ups of Barry. Director David Nutter who’s helmed episodes of all sorts of series from Games of Thrones to ER to The X Files is an assured hand who exploits all the vibrant possibilities the episode provides. There is a small crossover with the older DC Comics series Arrow which might confuse anyone who’s never seen it, I only guessed from the green costume the bloke Barry races hundreds of miles to see. It’s probably franchise building but not really necessary for such a brief scene and as The Flash can more than stand up on its own.
It’s surprising how well the episode plays given the crowded narrative but it has the effect of maintaining interest far better than series which choose a slower opening gambit. You may question the dodgy science and some scenes might benefit from a little more time but overall this is one of the best opening episodes to a series in years.
The episode spins the young man growing up and breaking free of parental figures plot with confidence, the scenario complicated by the fact that West and Wells have different outlooks for Barry and of course neither of them is his father. In the end it is the long standing bond between Joe and Barry that Wells uses for his own so far secret agenda. He seems to want to test Barry yet also keep him safe. Viewers’ knowledge that Wells is not whom he seems certainly adds a tension to these matters but it is the performances of the three actors that really sell even the most familiar type of dialogue. Again Jesse L Martin is exceptional and you can really believe in the rich history between Joe and his surrogate son. Having the parental figure being aware of Barry’s power but his daughter not is certainly an unusual dynamic that keeps matters fresh.
The week’s protagonist Danton Black makes quite an impression as he constantly splits into duplicates and there’s a brilliantly staged confrontation at the headquarters of his former boss Simon Stagg against whom Black plots revenge. Seeing hundreds of identical figures streaming up stairways and passages like insects provides the episode’s most powerful visual scenes. As for Wells he gets another last minute shocker of a last scene.
One cliche they need to avoid repeating too often is Barry’s sudden disappearances when with Iris; pleasingly they even address this. The look on Barry’s face when Iris tells him she’s been investigating a `red streak` spotted around the city is priceless! Many series suffer a dip after impressive openers but this is just as vital which does bode well.