• Flash, The: The Complete First Season

    Released by: Warner
    Released on: September 22, 2015
    Directed by: Various
    Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Tom Cavanaugh, Jesse L. Martin, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Rick Cosnett, Robbie Amell, Victor Garber
    Year: 2014/2015
    Purchase From Amazon

    The First Season:

    Central City is in crisis. An explosion at the town's particle accelerator has given random people special powers. Among those affected is forensic police investigator Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), who finds himself with the uncanny ability to move at terrific speed. Barry uses his gift to solve crimes while secretly investigating the death of his mother. When he was a small boy, Barry had seen his mother murdered by a ball of lightning with a face, but at the time no one believed him. Since then, his father (John Wesley Shipp, television’s original Barry Allen) has been unjustly imprisoned for the crime, leaving Barry to be raised by his surrogate father, police detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin). Complicating matters is Joe’s daughter Iris (Candice Patton), whom Barry secretly loves—and who's dating one of her father’s colleagues (Rick Cosnett).

    Helping Barry come to grips with his abilities is the staff of S.T.A.R. Labs, which includes the secretive Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanaugh), tech genius Cisco Ramon (Calos Valdes), and kindly Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker). Their primary mission is to save Central City from an outbreak of metahumans, people with eerie powers who are mostly using them to commit illegal acts. They include a man who can control the weather, a woman who can teleport, and a gorilla who thinks and speaks like a human.

    The CW took a major hit back in 2010 when the long-running series Smallville ran its course. That show had brilliantly adapted the DC Comics character Superman by focusing on the hero’s teenage years, revealing how Clark Kent learned of his Kryptonian heritage, came to grips with his superpowers, and embraced his destiny as Earth’s most powerful savior, all heavily seasoned with teenage angst. One of the things the series did to boost ratings was introduce young versions of other DC Comics superstars, including Supergirl, Aquaman, Cyborg, the Black Canary, and Green Arrow. When the series finally went off the air, the CW was left with a quandary: spin the series off, or jumpstart a completely new series utilizing another DC hero. Given the appeal of Green Arrow, the network opted for a new take on the character, which they simply titled Arrow. It proved a ratings winner, and in a second season two-parter, it introduced another famous character from the pantheon, Barry Allen, aka The Flash.

    Grant Gustin proved a hit as Allen, and what was originally intended to be his third appearance on the series was nixed in favor of a pilot. It was a smart move on the CW’s part. The Flash’s premiere episode proved the second-highest-rated debut ever on the network, and the series remained a ratings winner right through to its Season One finale. Not only was Gustin likeable, but the show was padded with affable characters, from the sexy Iris West, to the sweet-natured Caitlin Snow, to the hilarious Cisco Ramon. Adding mystery to this amiable group was the furtive Dr. Harrison Wells, Snow’s missing boyfriend Ronnie Raymond, and their colleague Martin Stein (when Raymond and Stine fuse bodies, they become Firestorm). It was this strong touch of mystery and human drama that propelled each episode to a dramatic and satisfactory conclusion.

    Perhaps the best thing that can be said about The Flash is that every episode felt like a theatrical film, with terrific special effects, always ending on a cliffhanger not far removed from the famous “Who Shot J.R.?” Comic book fans were enraptured by the series’ tone and adherence to literary tropes, while new fans unfamiliar with the comic were hooked by the characters and situations. The result was a true rarity: a first season that was about as close to perfection as one could possibly get, a nail-biter with nary a misstep. Almost immediately, it overshadowed its predecessor (Arrow) in almost every way. It was funnier, tenser, more exciting, smarter, and more emotionally resonant. It gave a boost to its sister program and provided the springboard for a new DC television series, Legends of Tomorrow, which will debut early next spring.


    The Warner Blu-ray release of The Flash: The Complete First Season features 23 episodes (979 minutes’ worth) spread across four discs. Each episode has been given an MPEG-4 AVC encode in 1080p high definition, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 per the series’ original digital broadcast. The image is highly detailed, bringing out every aspect of Central City’s cityscape as well as the various tree-lined burbs. This being a television show, there are copious amounts of facial close-ups, all of them revealing every line, crease, mole, and stray hair on the actors’ faces. The Flash’s dark red costume, a mixture of fiber and plastic, puts to shame past attempts and is every bit as ‘big-screen’ in its look as the costumes that appear in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night trilogy and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013). Better yet, there are numerous supervillains—Plastique, Captain Cold, Weather Wizard, and others—as well as guest heroes—Firestorm, Green Arrow, The Atom, and others—who sport equally groovy looks in equally eye-popping detail. Colors are naturalistic, as flesh tones reveal, but the reds and yellows really shine. The BD format capably handles the CGI effects, of which there are plenty, giving the series a much more expensive look than its TV-sized budget would suggest. (Check out Gorilla Grodd in all his glory in Episode 21, “Grodd Lives.”) Black levels are balanced with no crush, and just the right amount of artificial grain has been added to increase the series’ filmic look without overpowering the images.

    The series’ primary audio track is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It should be noted that the series is a near-equal mix of dialogue-driven scenes and action-packed sequences. The action effects are never allowed to suppress the dialogue, and these effects are nicely rendered across the various speakers. In addition to the English track, there are Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese tracks, all in Dolby Digital 2.0. For those who are deaf or hearing impaired, English subtitles are included. The premiere episode features commentary by the series’ three co-creators, producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg and DC Entertainment chief executive officer Geoff Johns. The guys discuss the character’s comic book origins and how Johns rebooted him in the early 2000s, a reboot that served as the basis for the series. They rightfully point out that the series is 70 to 80 percent drama, which allows the effects budget to be focused on short but very big action sequences. They reveal ways in which the series was changed from the pilot, and how the original Grodd easter egg was first cut by the studio and again later because its import was not understood. There are numerous interesting tidbits about the series, but woe be it for us to reveal all of them and spoil the commentary for you.

    Warner has packed the set with a ton of extras for fans of the series and the comic book. There are deleted scenes for 16 episodes; most were rightfully cut, though a few will leave you scratching your head as to why they were removed. (No doubt it was to fit the episodes into their requisite timeslot.)

    There are also several featurettes. First up, on disc three, is “Behind the Story: The Trickster Returns!” (8:39). An interview with actors Mark Hamill (Star Wars, 1977), who played the Trickster in both the original Flash series and here, and John Wesley Shipp, the featurette discusses the rebirth of the infamous Rogues Gallery villain. (It should be noted that Hamill tears the role up in episode 17, “Tricksters.”)

    More featurettes appear on disc four, beginning with “The Fastest Man Alive,” a half-hour (30:39) documentary on the making of the series. It features interviews with Gustin, Martin, Kreisberg, Berlanti, Johns, Valdes, Panabaker, Cavanaugh, and Cosnett. It’s spoilerific (as most of the featurettes are), so if you haven’t watched the show, hold off on the extras until you have. Next up is “Creating the Blur—The VFX of The Flash” (26:25), which features interviews with Berlanti, Kreisberg, special effects supervisor Armen Kevorkian, lead CG artist Stefan Bredereck, and compositing supervising editor Andranik Taranyan. The short features behind-the-scenes footage revealing just how the show’s biggest effects were crafted. “The Chemistry of Grant and Emily” (4:20) is the original screen test between Gustin and Arrow star Emily Bett Rickards, introduced by Berlanti and Kreisberg. “DC Comics Night at Comic-Con 2014” (29:31) is exactly what it sounds like, an SDCC presentation in which new series Gotham, The Flash, and Constantine were introduced, alongside returning stalwart Arrow. Johns introduces the panel and interviews the various creators, producers, and stars of each show. Rounding out the extras is a gag reel lasting 8:24. Surprisingly, it’s actually funny!

    Warner’s release of The Flash: The Complete First Season also includes a digital HD copy with Ultraviolet that allows you to watch your favorite episodes on mobile devices anywhere.

    The Final Word:

    The Flash won The People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama—and it’s easy to see why. Fast, fun, and energetic, with a heavy dose of melodrama, it might just be the most British series to ever arise out of the United States. Equal parts humor and heart, with a science fiction background made plausible with intelligence and conviction, The Flash: The Complete First Season is among television’s finest hours, and Warner’s Blu-ray presentation allows you to relive the glory at your own pace. It looks terrific, the sound sounds great, and the extras are enlightening. It provides hours of family entertainment.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!