Several weeks ago, the violent and gritty drama Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theaters nationwide. The film continued the recent cinematic trend of D.C. comic book heroes being portrayed as darker brooding individuals who survive and thrive in hardened societies. The film lays the foundation for the forthcoming Justice League and the Flash — an iconic hero — is briefly introduced (his stand-alone movie is scheduled for release in 2018).
Like Batman v. Superman, The Flash movie promises to continue the darker direction of this cinematic series.
Fortunately though for television watchers everywhere, that same character — albeit played by a different actor — was given a more positive and uplifting spin on the CW drama The Flash, now in its second season.
In the show’s first season, the story began with a tragic back story. Barry Allen (played here by the charismatic Grant Gustin), started the program as a nerdy crime scene investigator who was raised by the kind-hearted Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) after his mother was tragically murdered years earlier. Allen’s father was falsely imprisoned for the murder so Barry had been adopted by West at a very early age.
In the pilot episode, Allen was struck by lightning and gained the power to travel at an extraordinarily fast speed. He uses that ability to fight crime and eventually solve the mystery of his mother’s death.
The show’s second season finds Allen taking on new villains, who have escaped from another world to face off against our hero. These villains have been sent by Zoom, a fellow speedster, who is trying to steal Barry’s speed away from him.
However, the show is about much more than a masked hero taking on an eclectic group of vigilantes. It’s about a noble young man who is trying to use his newfound abilities to do good in the world. Allen started out as an honorable figure but when he received his powers, he became a classically heroic one — fighting to protect his friends and his city from the bad guys who threaten it.
His underlying values of honesty and integrity come from West, the father-figure that Allen continues to look up to and Allen is oftentimes surrounded by a great group of characters who see him as part of the family. Iris (Candice Patton), West’s daughter who grew up alongside Allen, is now an intrepid reporter who wants to print the honest truth (and oftentimes refuses to succumb to the negative rumors that sometimes surround the Flash). Cisco (Carlos Valdes), an early ally of the Flash, is a technologic wizard who loves naming and then eradicating the villainous meta-humans, who use their supernatural abilities for evil. Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker), a scientist who also befriended the Flash early on, is a scientist who studies and analyzes the villains to find out their weaknesses.
Together, this group works as a family to clear up the streets of Central City and their affection for one another is palpable. These are characters who care for and about each other in a powerfully uplifting and positive way. They are not brooding or despondent or hopeless. They are the opposite of those things. One of the great joys of the show is watching these joyful warriors work with one another.
Even though the show is predominantly about a superhero, his battles against villains often take a back seat to the characters themselves, who spend a lot of time with each other even outside of their work. In the midst of the episodes, there are often real and heartfelt moments showing the characters playing board games with each other or going out together or simply having fun. They are always there for one another even when there are no monsters on the loose and that keeps this show from getting pigeonholed as just a superhero show. This is a show about family and the love that even arises from co-workers who truly care about each other.
Inevitably, the show has its darker and more emotional moments but in comparison to the superheroes who light up the cinemas, they are a beautiful and uplifting breath of fresh air.
To keep some of the situations light, Cisco loves giving the met-humans funny nicknames and making jokes about them. In a recent episode, a meta-human nicknamed King Shark — yes, he looks like what you would expect — returned to the city to wreak havoc and sprinkled throughout the episode were references to Jaws.
“We’re gonna need a bigger Flash,” Cisco said.
It’s undeniable that the big screen version of this story will feature darker material. In fact, when Batman v. Superman director Zach Snyder was asked about why he didn’t cast Gustin — an actor who lights up the television screen as the show’s hero — as the Flash in the movies, he noted that the tone of the television show is “not our world.” Considering that Snyder — who is reportedly directing The Justice League Part One and The Justice League Part Two — is an integral part of this D.C. series of movies, it looks like the tone he established in the darker Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman will be continuing in the years to come.
In the meantime, television viewers who are looking for a more light-hearted show about a superhero saving the world can look to the greatness of this television series. Right now, superhero movies seem to be venturing into more adult fare so it’s nice to see a family-friendly superhero saving the day on the small screen and actually being excited about it.
If you’re looking for more shows you can watch with your family, click here for a list of five great family-friendly options.