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Arrow’s Producers Clarify Flash Spin-Off Confusion: Yes, “Powers” Are Being Introduced Into the Show

Well, that didn’t take very long.  Yesterday morning at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, The CW announced that Barry Allen will be introduced as a recurring character on Arrow as a set-up for a potential spin-off series centered on Allen as the D.C. comic superhero The Flash.  

The world reacted with a real big, “Huh?  But he has a superpower, which nobody else on Arrow has.  Plus, I thought you guys were doing a Flash movie for 2016.”  We then learned that the spin-off is being developed by two of Arrow’s Executive Producers (Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg) and the D.C. comic book writer (Geoff Johns) responsible for some of The Flash’s most recent storylines.  However, we again reacted with a great big, “Huh?”

Here’s the thing: Arrow is basically Batman Begins with Green Arrow.  The people who run and write the show are card-carrying members of the I Heart Christopher Nolan fan club.  Gritty and real is the name of the game, not spandex and superpowers.  So, much like Smallville had a strict “no cape, no flying” rule Arrow appears to operate on a no superpowers rule.  How, then, can they do The Flash, a character definied by his superspeed?  Plus, what the heck does this mean for that rumored standalone Flash movie for 2016?

Well, we still don’t really know anything at all about that last part, with the CW president indicating they actually haven’t really talked about that (seems like it would have come up, don’t you think?).  However, the guys developing the Flash show made themselves available to reporters via a conference call, and now everyone is reporting back the answers they got to our burning questions.  Let’s go, with these particular answers being taken from Roth Cornett’s report over at IGN.com:

When will we see The Flash?

Allen will be a presence in the 8th, 9th and 20th episodes of the upcoming season of Arrow, with the 20th acting as a backdoor pilot.  His first two episodes will take place in Starling City while his third, the backdoor pilot, will take place in “his own world,” which most likely means Central City, the home of Barry Allen in the comics.

What’s the status of casting?

Casting is now underway.  In a seperate interview, IGN’s Eric Goldman asked CW President Mark Pedowitz about casting the role, “We’re just beginning to cast. I’m from the old school. TV creates stars. If we get a name great, if we don’t get a name, they’ll become a name.”

In the conference call with reporters, Johns joked that whoever they cast will obviously be “someone who looks good in red” while Kreisberg added that a “blond is preferred,” references to Allen’s iconic red costume as Flash and famous blonde hair (well, famous because not many notable superheroes are blonde).

How how will the character be introduced?

I had previously argued that they would most likely introduce Barry Allen as a police forensic scientist who could come to interact with Oliver through their respective contact with the police force.  He would not actually get his superpowers until the pilot for his own show.  I wasn’t far off.

Kreisberg says, “When we first meet Barry Allen, he’s just a forensic scientist, an ordinary man.  As we always do on Arrow, we keep things as grounded and realistic as possible. That’s the way the audience can be introduced to him and get to know him; and then life gets a little faster.  Part of the fun for the audience is to see how we do our Arrow take on the Flash legacy. Some of it will feel very familiar to DC Comics, some of it hopefully will feel different, fresh and exciting. The same way we approached Arrow is the same way we’re approaching Barry.”

They obviously can’t and shouldn’t give too much away so none of the producers were willing to indicate exactly how Allen will attain his superspeed.  Kreisberg did offer, “no sweat suits or strange code names. He will be The Flash, ” possibly speaking to the fears of Smallville fans who had to sit through multiple seasons watching Superman go around calling himself “the blur,” or, for that matter, Green Arrow fans who are currently watching a show in which their hero just goes by “the hood.”

Does this mean Arrow is going to start opening itself up to characters with superpowers?

According to Berlanti, the Flash is going to be the show’s Patient Zero when it comes to superpowers, “Part of the hope with Barry is to start to introduce powers into our universe.”

Geoff Johns added, “We look at it like when he [The Flash] first appeared, he ushered in a silver age for DC superheros.  In the same way he’s going to usher in some new and pretty insane concepts to the Arrow world, but like Andrew said, it’s in a very Arrow way.”

Kreisberg assured that this introduction will still be done in a manner in keeping with Arrow’s realism-based tone, “Our characters that you have come to know and like will respond to the extraordinary changes in their world in a very realistic way. These ‘powers’ will not be commonplace, they will be extraordinary events, and the world, and our characters in them, will react accordingly.”

Notice that they ran away as fast as possible, Flash-style, from using the term “superpower.”  What they seem to be saying, if you read between the lines, is that the introduction of Flash is their way of opening Arrow up to any character who might receive “powers” via a freak accident, ala the Flash.  So, no, don’t expect any of the naturally god-like heroes, e.g., Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, to pop up.

Will any of the Arrow characters find themselves moving to Central City to star with Barry Allen on the spin-off?

There is not a solid “no” on this, but the three producers told IGN that they were viewing Flash as a case of “addition” and not “subtraction.”  So, rather than take Felicity or whoever else with him Barry Allen will instead most likely end up on his own show with entirely new characters, his longtime love interest/eventual wife Iris West being the most obvious immediate candidate.

But why the Flash?

On the warmly remembered and regarded animated shows Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, the Wally West version of the Flash was used to function as the immature but ultimately sweet-natured, innocent center of a group who was becoming increasingly corrupted by power.  The subsequent animated show Young Justice did something similar with his two sidekicks, Kid Flash and Impulse. He is a character whose innate goodness, particularly the Barry Allen version, can be used to keep those around him in balance and help return them to their original core impulse of wanting to help people.  Could he be used in a similar manner in relation to Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen?

According to Andrew Kreisberg, “Despite the fact that he has superpowers, there’s something more relatable about Barry among the Big Seven of the Justice League. He got his powers by accident; he’s not a god, he’s not an alien, they came to him by accident, his reactions to that feel very human and grounded.  Oliver Queen is a very dark and tortured soul and Barry is not. He’s a great character who is going to affect all of our characters lives. It will be fun to see these two characters together because they have two different worlds… As much as Oliver now thinks he’s a hero, Barry isn’t always going to believe that.”

So, what, some goofy guy is going to come in and get all huffy with our beloved Oliver for his surprising run as a cold-blooded murderer?  Granted, Oliver has that coming, but all characters to this point who have been used as mouthpieces for that point of view (Felicity, Diggle, Detective Lance) have either eventually or surprisingly quickly abandoned their protests.  Maybe Allen won’t back down.  However, we have to care about Barry Allen enough to see him on his own show.  What more are they going to do?

According to Johns, “We’re also exploring a very personal story for Barry. His life as a forensic scientist and the people around him, the tragedies and how he deals with them in a very different way than Oliver Queen.”

Could a Flash TV show even be any good?

Actually, this is not a question posed to the producers, for obvious, “it would be rude to ask them that” reasons.  It is a question I pose to myself as well as you.  I have personally become quite fond of the Wally West version of the Flash via the Michael Rosenbaum-voiced version on Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, and Young Justice had a lot of fun poking fun at the good-natured, hokey-ness of the Barry Allen Flash.  He is a character who works well in an ensemble cast in an animated setting.  In live-action, one would imagine with his dual identity as a forensic analyst for the police and costumed crime-fighter would present the potential for CSI-meets-Smallville style episodic storytelling.  Plus, Flash’s villains are notoriously under-powered, and could very easily be tweaked to fit into the grounded, non comic book-y tone of Arrow.  However, part of what hooked me on Arrow was its more relatable, non-superpowered universe.  There are those who have been clamoring for the show to drop that angle on the D.C. universe; I’m not one of them.

Granted, it could be very interesting to see them attempt a Christopher Nolan/Arrow approach to a superpowered character like the Flash, but that’s what we were saying about Man of Steel and as far as I’m concerned that didn’t turn out so well.  Then again, I know I should be rooting for more original content on television, but based upon how inherently cool it felt watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel cross-over episodes I like the idea of there being potential Arrow/Flash cross-over events.  However, how do you do The Flash and not have it feel like another Smallville, especially with its latter seasons with Clark Kent super-speeding all over Metropolis?  Plus, does this put Arrow on a slippery slope toward losing that which was one of its initially appealing attributes: how much it was trying to not feel like a comic book superhero show?

What do you think?  Excited?  Worried?  Still confused?  Just wish I could have mentioned Felicity Smoak two or three more times because Emily Bett Rickards is just so awesome? Let us know in the comments.

Arrow’s increasingly over-stuffed-sounding/or increasingly awesome-sounding second season is scheduled to premiere on the CW on October 9.    

UPDATE: 7/31/2013 – Unrelated to The Flash, the CW President spilled the secret about who Caity Lotz has actually been cast to play.  She is definitely some version of Black Canary, but she’s not Dinah Drake.  If you don’t mind being spoiled, check out our updated article on the topic by clicking (or tapping) any word in this very sentence. 

9 comments

  1. As I recall, Barry Allen was only in 3 eps of Arrow being ep 8 and 9 There was NO backdoor pilot on ep 20 of Arrow SN 2 which is the only season Barry was introduced. In ep 9 Barry is at the very end of Arrow seen getting struck by lightening and only re-apprears in ep 1 of season 3 at the very end after he wakes up. Barry was NEVER in ep 20 of season 2 at it was never a backdoor pilot.

    1. Remember that this article is pretty old at this point. What I described was what the Arrow/Flash people and CW originally intended to do. They changed their mind after seeing the early footage of Grant Gustin as Barry Allen. After that, the CW gave the producers more money and time to go make a traditional pilot, and what was going to be the spot in Arrow’s season for the backdoor pilot ended up just being the episode where Cisco and Caitlin guest-starred, both actually making their debuts. Both Vampire Diaries and Supernatural had tried to use a backdoor pilot in their seasons to set-up spin-offs, and that worked out for VD and The Originals but not so much with Supernatural. The thinking was that if the Arrow people didn’t have to force in a backdoor Flash pilot into the season of Arrow, instead focusing on making a kick-ass traditional pilot for The Flash, then everyone would be better off. Obviously, that worked out exactly as planned.

      I wrote about it elsewhere on the site:

      https://weminoredinfilm.com/2013/11/18/the-cw-to-do-a-full-pilot-for-the-flash-instead-of-a-back-door-pilot-during-season-2-of-arrow-good-thing/

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