The Flash Season 1 Character Review: Barry Allen


Now that the first season of The Flash is in the books, we’ll be spending our long, speedster-less summer taking a look at how each character developed over the course of the first 23 episodes. Unlike our Agents of SHIELD character reviews, there’s no real starting point for all of these characters, so we’ll mostly be talking about the journey they took and where they ended up. Ready? Let’s do this!

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Except for the portion of the audience for The Flash that was able to remember reading the comic book of the same name when it ushered in the Silver Age back in 1959, the idea of a young, inexperienced Barry Allen was a new one. How would Grant Gustin be able to portray a Fastest Man Alive who was just beginning his marathon to keep the people of Central City safe?

Pretty nicely, as it turned out. Though this wasn’t the square, by the numbers Barry older fans had etched into their brains, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The writers and producers of The Flash were able to hand-pick certain elements from the histories of both Barry and some of the other men to wear the lightning in order to construct a new character who nonetheless felt familiar and comfortable at the same time.

Let’s look at what worked best and what didn’t.

The Positive: First and foremost, the TV version of Barry Allen helped The Flash establish its own tone: lighter and more hopeful than Arrow, yet still leaving plenty of room for drama, angst and serious consequences. Though initially motivated by the need to solve — and later fix, thanks to his ability to break the time barrier — the murder of his mother, Barry made plenty of decisions where he simply did what was right. You got the impression he would have been a hero even without the personal tragedy to drive him, something the Reverse-Flash alluded to in the season finale.

The relationships Barry formed with his colleagues at S.T.A.R. Labs also felt real. Barry and Cisco interacted the way slightly dorky buddies would in real life, and he and Caitlin had the types of interactions you’d expect from two people who realize that even though there might be some mutual attraction there, both parties are better off if they’re just friends. Barry’s trusting nature occasionally worked against him, as it took him a while to realize Wells might not be on the up and up, but it also reinforced the idea that he’s truly a good guy.

And while it was hardly a focus, especially in the second half of the season, we did get to see the police scientist of Barry play a part in more than one episode. No one wants to see The Flash become a police procedural, but Barry always seemed like one of the rare super heroes who really enjoyed and was good at his day job, so it was nice to see that reflected on television.

The Negative: Even though a love triangle or two is pretty much de rigueur for a super hero show on The CW, the Barry-Iris West-Eddie Thawne subplot was particularly insufferable at times. The few interesting moments — namely, the kiss that got wiped out when Barry first traveled back in time and that twist in the season finale — were outweighed by the agony of the middle part of the season. Barry also managed to help make Linda Park into a throwaway character, though there’s always the possibility she could return later.

Another annoyance came from the way Barry would flip-flop back and forth in terms of his confidence in his super-speed. In some episodes, it would take Wells, Joe West and his S.T.A.R. Labs buddies to all give him pep talks before he’d feel up for trying a new power stunt. Then the very next week, he’d be done in by overconfidence. It would have made more sense if he had started off cocky and learned some humility the hard way, but it didn’t resemble a defined character arc as much as it felt like a back and forth deal dictated by the plot in any given episode.

Finally, what was up with Barry revealing his identity to darn near everyone in Central City and Starling City? Pretty silly for a guy who wears a mask and can vibrate fast enough to obscure his features without too much trouble.

Next Season: Assuming he gets out of that cliffhanger in the season finale, I’d expect a more confident Barry Allen in Season 2, yet one who remains open to the advice and insight of Cisco, Caitlin and Joe. With the thought of saving his mom behind him, he’ll still be determined to use his powers for good, though you wonder if he could still work on clearing his dad’s name.

You’d expect that he’d give Iris some space given what she’s been through, but since we’ve seen what history says about the two of them as a couple, you’d expect that subplot to be revisited before we do another one of these a year from now.

Overall Grade: B+. This wasn’t your parents’ Barry Allen or even your own, but he was a refreshing addition to the DC TV universe. Credit goes to both the writing team and Gustin for getting him off to a fine start.

Next: The Flash: 5 Big Questions After the Season Finale

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