We are living in nerd nirvana right now, at least if you love superhero comic books. They’re freaking everywhere on TV, via the full-on costumed heroes of Arrow, Flash and Supergirl, the Muppet Babies versions of Batman and Catwoman on Gotham, and there’s always Coulson & pals on Agents of SHIELD. Plus, we still have Jessica Jones and Legends of Tomorrow on the way as well as the return of Agent Carter.
This past week included a death in the family for the Penguin on Gotham, a once-unthinkable cameo from Matt Ryan’s John Constantine on Arrow, the most awkward aunt-niece reunion ever on Supergirl and the twisty reveal of who’s been hunting the Inhumans on SHIELD. It’s a lot to take in, and thanks to my need to celebrate the Kansas City Royals’ first World Series championship since 1985 (!!!) I fell way behind this week. So, in the interest of expediency I am going to highlight my favorite superhero scene of the week: Barry Allen’s literal blind date on The Flash.
As excellently highlight by Joanna Robinson over at Vanity Fair, The Flash has arguably become one of the best family dramas on television, especially now that Parenthood is gone. It’s as if executive producer Greg Berlanti found a way to remake his prior shows Brothers & Sisters and Everwood but in a comic book context where he could kill a father figure one season and bring him back as a doppelganger from an alternate universe a year later. Robinson’s argument is that Berlanti (and co-producer Andrew Kriesberg) have pulled this off partially due to the brilliant casting of Broadway veterans Jesse L. Martin and Victor Garber as Joe West and Professor Stein, both tugging at heart strings as the resident father and grandfather figures to the younger cast. This emotional depth grounds the show enough that it has the freedom to go comic book crazy and experiment with alternate universe and time travel storylines. We’ll go along with it because we love these characters so much.
That has all been especially true for me this season. Whenever I watch The Flash now it’s almost like the comic book story elements are secondary. There’s a big bad with a goofy name (Professor Zoom) from an alternate universe (known as Earth-2) forcing other villains to attack Barry. Cisco’s superpowers are starting to manifest, and so far he’s pretty much like Cordelia on Angel – he gets random visions of bad things that will happen in the immediate future. Jay Garrick, the Flash from Earth-2, is on our Earth, but de-powered and unsure of his place in the world anymore. Also visiting us from Earth-2 is Harrison Wells, who everyone has decided to call Harry because it’s just too weird to have another Harrison Wells in STAR Labs. This version is not evil, but he’s a total dick, as Cisco hilariously told him. The Flash keeps beating the bad guys (and girls) mostly by running really fast because, well, he’s The Flash – that’s what he does.
However, we are in the early part of the season where all of these plot elements are still coming together, and underneath it all has been plenty of family drama for Joe and Iris with plenty more on the way. Plus, there has been a parade of new love interests, particularly highlighted in “The Darkness and the Light.” Garrick and Caitlin furthered their bond while performing a stakeout, Cisco asked out the hot new barista Kendra Saunders, unaware that she’s destined to depart for Legends of Tomorrow, and Barry finally had his first date with Patty Spivot. As one viewer on Twitter joked, at one point the episode was like an Oprah moment (not so much for Iris though):
This might be a part of the show which is a little too-CW for some viewers. It is what it is, though: something like The Flash is always going to make a little more time for romance than something like Agents of SHIELD. Heck, the villain in “The Darkness and the Light” was actually Earth 2’s version of Barry’s ex-girlfriend.
The one thing about the romance on The Flash to this point, though, is that it is not afraid to be playful, sweet and, at times, endearingly cheesy. Iris’ shadow-filled rooftop meetings with The Flash last season were stolen straight from the early Christopher Reeves Superman and Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies (as well as the first season of Arrow). Barry’s first make-out session with Linda Park was ingeniously played for “I’m not sure how to do this kind of thing now that I have superpowers” laughs. Ronnie and Caitlin’s quickie wedding was full of those two gawking at each other, wrapped up in euphoria.
Now we have Barry and Patty’s first date. Vanity Fair said that what makes this show so great is the family drama. That leaves out one important factor: The Flash is the funniest superhero show on TV. Barry Allen going on a date while temporarily blind but using camera-equipped sunglasses and an earpiece to turn Cisco into the best wingman ever is such a fun, superhero update of a Cyrano scenario. It’s probably something the writers thought up after someone said, “Let’s give Grant Gustin something really, really funny to do this season. We can’t have him crying all the time.” It works on several levels:
Can’t wait to see Barry and Patty together? Well, here it is, their first date, set in an outdoor restaurant with a beautiful view of what is probably downtown Vancouver. The location scout and set designer (unless all of those strategically placed light bulbs were already there) did a truly wonderful job here. Kudos.
Just want to watch some physical comedy? Here’s a clearly blind Barry reaching in the wrong direction to grab the wine list, and then trying to quickly cover that up, unknowingly digging himself deeper when he thanks the waitress for the wine list even though the waitress is no longer standing there anymore.
Want to learn more about Patty? She reveals that her dad actually saved her life after a drowning accident when she was 9, further evidence for why his death has spurred her on to be part of Joe’s metahuman task force. In general, the more time we spent with her the more she seems like her own character and less like a Felicity Smoak-clone. Also, she’s not an idiot. Of course she can tell that Barry can’t actually see her. She is a detectve. She seemingly went along with it just to see how it would all play out.
As Patty said, that must have been some kiss.
This is classic comic book storytelling. You find some way to make the hero’s cime-fighting life interfere with their everyday life in a way which makes them even more relatable and likable. Barry Allen having a cute, accident-prone first date with Patty is what would happen on a normal family drama. On The Flash, he has to pretend that he can see even though the villain-of-the-week temporarily blinded him, and he doesn’t want to disappoint Patty by canceling the date. And it was my superhero scene of the week.
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When Barry Allen walks into the same room as Linda Park, Patty Spivot and Iris West: