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One of fall’s flashiest shows is setting the bar high.
The CW’s The Flash, a spinoff of the darker and broodier Arrow, takes a lighter spin with Barry Allen, the awkward Central City Police Department forensics expert so enthralled with the Arrow that he’d proclaim himself a fanboy. The change in tone was inevitable. As Arrow viewers glimpsed last fall during the two-hour Barry Allen arc, the man who would don the red suit had a more lively approach to life.
“When we were doing Arrow, we talked about Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. When we were talking about The Flash, we talked a lot about Dick Donner‘s Superman films — its heart and humor and scope and Americana,” executive producer Greg Berlanti tells The Hollywood Reporter.
While Arrow lends itself to being a “grandiose, sweeping Shakespearean epic,” as executive producer Andrew Kreisberg describes to THR, The Flash simply isn’t — and that’s not a bad thing. Producers went out of their way to differentiate each show from the other, even though characters live within the same universe. (Two members of S.T.A.R. Labs crossed over to Arrow late last season.)
“Arrow takes place specifically at night and this is day, where in The Flash pilot, the action starts and ends in the daytime,” explains Kreisberg, who calls the titular character “a daytime hero.” Adds Berlanti, “Arrow is a crime world and The Flash is a sci-fi world.”
They would know. Arrow excludes nonhuman supernatural abilities, while The Flash teeters toward the sci-fi and fantastical. Case in point: The latter’s pilot, which screened Wednesday during Comic-Con preview night, highlights a villain whose ability to control the weather was manifested post particle-accelerator explosion in Central City.
The Flash, like its mothership, is an origin story. Geoff Johns, an executive producer on The Flash and DC Comics’ chief creative officer, told reporters July 18 that The Flash “is probably the most faithful DC adaptation ever.” Producers emphasize that Barry Allen’s story will have unexpected detours along the way.
“Viewers will be surprised by what we choose to do,” Berlanti assures, referencing last year’s big bad on Arrow as a prime lesson. “Slade Wilson was a great example in the first two years of Arrow. Deathstroke was somebody people knew about, but we did our own version of it and were able to twist and turn some of those elements.”
One of those turns will be an Arrow drop-by in Flash’s episode four, which brings Felicity over to Central City. It’ll be the first time Oliver Queen’s right-hand woman will make an appearance on the new series, and Kreisberg promises Felicity will have the same wry humor on The Flash that she does on Arrow. Notes Berlanti, “Even Arrow seems a little bit more hopeful and optimistic when he’s in The Flash pilot.”
A two-hour “crossover event” will also take shape during the shows’ respective eighth episodes. “There will be a villain in each one that will be more evocative of that show, so that will help separate them out. But there’ll be an overarching story to the two episodes,” Berlanti says. “It’s a first for us. I just know that it’s something, as a fan, I would want desperately.”
Ahead of its Oct. 7 debut, The Flash has already booked notable names in key DC roles like Robbie Amell, who starred in Berlanti’s short-lived sci-fi drama The Tomorrow People. (“It wouldn’t be a superhero show without an Amell,” Kreisberg jokes.) Amell appears in The Flash for at least three episodes in the first 13 as one-half of Firestorm, Ronnie Raymond and Caitlin Snow’s presumed-dead fiance. But, there is a chance he’ll be sticking around. “I don’t want to give too much away with how we’re handling [his story], but yes, there’s a possibility for more,” teases Berlanti.
Introducing Ronnie into The Flash universe early on was in the cards while the pilot was being formulated. “Having Ronnie be Caitlin’s fiance brings up great story lines for Caitlin and great stories for Barry,” Kreisberg says. “Barry is someone who’s learning to love and enjoy his powers, and when we meet Ronnie, you’re going to see somebody who’s a lot more damaged by the experience. As always, any of these external characters are there to mirror what’s going on with our core characters.”
The same goes for Prison Break alum Wentworth Miller, who guest stars in the fourth episode as Leonard Snart/Captain Cold, whom Berlanti hopes will return past the one-episode commitment.
With an abundance of DC adaptations on the small screen (Gotham on Fox, Arrow and The Flash on The CW and Constantine on NBC), worrying over the influx is valid. “We always feel like a rising tide lifts all boats, in that the more that there are out there that are good is great for all of us, and that’s good for us,” Berlanti says.
At the end of the day, the first season of The Flash is the making of another superhero. “It’s Barry Allen coming to terms both physically and emotionally with what’s happened to him,” Kreisberg says. “He’s not really The Flash yet because he’s still in the early days. By the end of the year, he will come to resemble The Flash that we know from the comic books. That’s really the arc for the first year.”
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