Summer is a great time for a lot of things: eating copious amounts of ice cream, spending all day in the pool or at the beach, traveling to new places with old friends, and—of course—falling in love with new pieces of media.
Lazy summer weekends are the perfect time to dive into a new book series. Summer blockbusters sometimes get us into movie theaters multiple times for the same great movie. And summer nights filled with reruns and reality TV are made for catching up on TV shows that we don’t have the time to watch when the rest of our beloved shows are on the air.
For me, this summer was all about finding a new leading man to love, a new “ship” to give me “ALL THE FEELS,” and a new parent/child relationship to put tears in my eyes on a regular basis. It just so happens that I found all three while watching the same show: The Flash.
The best loves are often unexpected, and that’s true for me and The Flash. Before this summer started, it was a show I figured I’d watch at some point in the next couple of years because people whose opinions I trust really enjoy it. But it wasn’t high up on my must-watch list for this summer. All that changed, though, when The CW decided to pull a genius move and re-air their most popular shows throughout the summer. Having nothing to do on a Tuesday night, I watched the pilot of The Flash, and the rest is history.
I was immediately in love. And each time I went to watch one episode, I’d find myself unable to resist the pull of “just one more hour.” Great cliffhangers are the key to getting me interested in pretty much anything. If you end a chapter of a book or an episode of a television show with a strong cliffhanger, it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll be back for more as soon as possible. And The Flash ended almost all of its Season One episodes with scenes focused on the season’s key mystery. It was a very smart bit of episode construction that made me so happy that I didn’t have to wait a week between each episode.
However, the real allure of The Flash for me wasn’t its cliffhangers or even its cool special effects. If you know anything about my history with “genre TV” or science-fiction/superhero stories in general, you know that the characters are what get me invested and keep me invested for the long haul. And The Flash has an amazing cast of characters portrayed by some of the most charming and emotionally engaging actors on television right now.
For those interested, here’s a basic summary of The Flash: Barry Allen is a young forensic scientist living with Detective Joe West and his daughter Iris (whom Barry has loved since he was a kid) after his mother was killed by a mysterious man but his father was sent to prison for her murder. After a lightning strike and an explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry gets super speed powers and becomes The Flash, working with the team at S.T.A.R. Labs (Cisco Ramon, Caitlin Snow, and Harrison Wells) to catch others who were affected by the explosion and chose to use their powers for evil instead of good.
That summary may make The Flash sound like your average superhero story, but this is where the importance of well-written characters and a talented cast comes into play. Nothing about The Flash is average. Its first season told a rich and compelling story about family, friendship, and fate. And it did so through some of the most instantly likeable characters and most instantly compelling relationships I’ve seen on television in a long time.
It may seem like a strange comparison to make, but if you like Parks and Recreation, then I think you’d like The Flash. It’s a show about good people who want to help others working together and forming a family with each other. While some superhero stories are dark or snarky, The Flash is driven by sincerity. No show that I’ve watched in the last year has made me cry harder on a more consistent basis than this one. It wears its heart firmly on its sleeve, and we all know that’s how I like my TV.
The surprising emotional resonance of The Flash starts and ends with the performance of its leading man. Grant Gustin is a true breakout star in this role (even though some of us have been charmed by him since his days on Glee), and Barry Allen is quickly becoming my latest fictional dream man. He has all the makings of a tortured vigilante superhero (dead mother, wrongfully imprisoned father, job where he sees murder and death on a regular basis), but he’s defined by his warmth and big heart instead of darkness and cynicism. Barry is driven by hope—the hope that he can free his father, the hope that he can save people with his powers—and he is known for giving hope to others. That’s the kind of superhero I can believe in. (Plus, he’s an adorably lanky science nerd with a killer smile. It’s like he was tailor-made for me to love him.)
Gustin has a way of making you feel every single emotion Barry is feeling with an intensity that will surprise you. Whether he’s looking at Iris, doubting his role as a hero, or visiting his father in prison, Barry will make you cry. And if Gustin and Jesse L. Martin are sharing a scene, the chance of those tears turning into ugly sobs is almost laughably high. The relationship between Joe and Barry has become my favorite parent/child relationship on television, and it’s all because of the vulnerability and emotional honesty those two actors bring to their scenes together.
I’m hoping to have more time to write about this show soon, but for now I’ll just say that The Flash is one of those shows I know will go from summer love to fall favorite once it returns next month. And I’ll leave you with this clip to help explain why I fell so hard for this silly little superhero show that’s really anything but silly.
Did you fall as hard for a book, movie, or TV show as I fell for The Flash this summer? Tell me all about it in the comments!
On the TV side of things, this summer I fell in love with You’re the Worst. It’s been getting so much love from critics that the affection is almost overwhelming but it was one of those shows that had me invested and interested in the first 5 minutes. Gretchen and Jimmy are in fact kind of the worst but they’ve found a messy, terribly wonderful match in the other. Jimmy’s roommate Edgar was also instantly a favorite of mine, as was the rap trio Gretchen manages. I am so happy that season two has started and I get more of this crazy world.
I’ve only watched the first 6 episodes, but I am already in love with Hellcats. So much of it is predictable but I do not care because it nails the cheerleading aspect. The stunts are well done and actually realistic for the level at which they are competing (one of my few gripes about Bring it On), and the tumbling is beautiful. It captures the fact that most cheerleaders are in it for the competitions, not for cheering on the sidelines, and because the majority of the characters are on the squad, it avoids the mean cheerleader trope that I hate. Some are nice, some are mean, some are in it for life and others are only there for the benefits it provides. It feels real, even if the plots are nothing new.
My true love this summer, however, is the Newflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire). With three books (Feed, Deadline, and Blackout) and several novellas that I can’t wait to dive into, the world McGuire has created is incredibly rich and thought-out. For those unfamiliar with the series, it takes place in 2040, 26 years after a zombie apocalypse (referred to as The Rising). During The Rising, traditional news sources failed the public by not acknowledging the crisis so news bloggers took their place and reported what was really happening along with ways to protect yourself. It led to a huge blogging industry and that’s where we meet Georgia and Shaun Mason, adoptive siblings and co-creators of After the End Times. They (along with their partner Buffy) are invited to be the first blogging team ever to cover a presidential campaign with a potential candidate.
There are zombies, yes. But it’s not just a zombie book. The Rising is years in the past and society has had to rebuild itself. It looks different than the world we know but just because people can now rise from the dead, they aren’t immune from other problems that plague the world as we know it. America still has presidential elections. There are still smear campaigns and all too familiar political figures. Though the book is 5 years old at this point, the problems with traditional news media and the gaps that bloggers fill in feel all too real and current to us today. It’s a political thriller at its core and it is fascinating.
It’s genre-savvy, tense, and incredibly captivating (I read the trilogy over about a week and a half). The world-building is so fantastically done and while I was reading, I half expected zombies to come shuffling out of dark corners. It’s unsettling in the best way and made me very excited to read the rest of Seanan’s books, both the ones published under her own name and the ones published under Mira Grant.
For those of you who are interested in that sort of thing, Seanan got her start writing fanfiction and also just seems like a lovely human being that I would highly recommend supporting by buying a book or two. And for further fun with this universe, Mark Oshiro of MarkReads.net wrote reviews of each chapter (found under the Past Books tab). He went in completely unspoiled so spoilers aren’t an issue in the reviews, just stay out of the coded part of the comments. One of his regular commenters is a friend of the author’s so there is some occasional insight into the process of writing these books. And for the chapters that are available, I’d also recommend the video that accompanies the review (which is Mark reading the chapter and reacting in real time) because we all need someone to join us in our emotional destruction sometimes.
I also finally read and finished Color of Magic, the first book in the massive Discworld series. I’d started it 2 times before but was never in the right mood to continue so I set it aside for later but I finally came back to it and I am in love. Once again, I watched Mark’s videos alongside it which really helped. It’s a complicated and confusing universe that you’re just tossed into and it was nice to have someone to read it with that was just as confused as I was. Prachett’s prose is in fact wonderful, however, and I can’t wait to continue on in the series.
Other summer recommendations: Stitchers if you want a show with extremely lovable characters and a terrible cliffhanger and UnREAL if you want some deliciously dark and twisted fun.
Finally, I love that you caught up with The Flash (thank you CW for promoting it so well this summer) because it is such a perfect show for you. Barry really is the sort of superhero and character you love best and it’s such a fun show. Everything you said about it is perfect and I’m so glad that Shauna and I can now share our crying over Barry and Joe with you!
First of all, I love that you knew The Flash was the perfect show for me and that Barry would be a character I’d adore. Once again, you were right.
I’m so happy you’re enjoying Hellcats. There’s nothing better than finding a show about an activity you loved that actually gets the details right. That’s why—for as melodramatic a movie as it is—I will always have a soft spot for Step Up. (And Center Stage, too.)
I’m also now incredibly intrigued by the Newflesh series. I had no idea that it took place after the zombie apocalypse. My favorite dystopian stories are the ones that take place years after that kind of event (The Selection, The Road, The Hunger Games), so I like knowing this series follows that pattern. The rebuilding of society after that kind of event fascinates me. I’m also sure I’ll love it because when do I ever not love something you recommend? 😉 I have two books to finish reading right now, but I might buy the first book soon so I can get started as soon as those two are done!
Well, we started watching Sons of Anarchy, very belatedly. My husband wanted to watch but I didn’t like the look of it. So I told him to go ahead and watch it and I’d just read or mess around on my laptop or whatever. He watched the first couple of episodes while I was out and then there was some nasty stuff in the third episode so even though I wasn’t really watching I still had to leave the room. (I don’t tolerate torture well). And then I started to pay a little bit of attention, and before long hubby was filling me in on Tiggy’s depraved sexual preferences and the club’s history and before I knew it I was completely hooked. It’s nasty and violent, but it’s also good storytelling. Somehow I love Tiggy even though he’s a sick bastard.
And Charlie Hunnam is very attractive whether he’s somewhat naked (which he often is) or fully clothed and smiling with his lovely eyes. Even his “you’re going to pay for that” face is pretty darn appealing. I might be guilty of gazing lovingly at the screen when he’s on, which is most of the time.
We’re into season 6 at this point and since it’s a tragedy based on Hamlet, things are going downhill pretty steadily. I enjoy seeing how they alter the credits as they kill main characters off and trying to guess who is going to be blown up/away next. I’m learning a lot about leadership and motorcycle clubs and how difficult it is to withdraw from criminal business even when you want to go legit. Important stuff.
Oh, and Jimmy Smits is awesome. And Katey Sagal. But especially Jimmy Smits. I’m sure he’s going to meet an unfortunate end sooner or later (as will they all, most likely). But for now he’s my favorite brothel manager/gangster and I love that he appreciates a mature woman. Very much a show that makes you love a good bad guy, especially when so many of the “good guys” (the cops) are actually horrible bad guys. Yeah, anyway. It must be good storytelling for me to get past the racism, sexism, violence, and general subject matter.
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Sons of Anarchy, and I’m glad to add you to the list of people I know who like it—because I always trust your opinion on TV shows.
I had no idea it was based on Hamlet, which makes me even more interested in it. I’m a sucker for modern-day Shakespearean re-tellings, even though I was never much of a Shakespeare fan. (Interesting English major quirk of mine) I also have a deep love for Jimmy Smits, so I’m always glad to hear he’s doing good work.
One of the actors mentioned the Hamlet connection in a video, at which point I realized that everyone I had fallen in love with was going to die… I’m not sure how closely it follows along. I can’t google it because I don’t want to get spoiled.
I had no idea how much I was going to love Jimmy Smits when his character showed up (in season 5 or so?) but he’s great.
I didn’t quite get to Castle, which was at the top of my list for summer bingeing, but maybe in the long winter coming up.
OMG OMG I almost forgot to mention Masters of Sex!! I watched the first season and I fell in love with everything about it SO HARD! I can’t wait to catch up with seasons 2 and 3. Do you watch?
I watched the first season of Masters of Sex last summer, and I loved it so much! I never got around to watching Seasons Two or Three, but Heather can talk to you all about those. 😉
I’m going to sign up for a month of Showtime on Hulu (it doubles the price for that month, but I’ll cancel as soon as I’m done) so I can catch up to the current point. I just need to find time to do that. I’m also on the waiting list for the season 2 library dvds, but they’re projected to take about 7 months to get to me!
I’m so happy you have loved the first season of Masters of Sex! It is such an amazing season and Lizzy Caplan and everyone else are just incredible. I liked season 2 a lot, it wasn’t quite as interesting as the first but there is still a ton of good things in in. I haven’t enjoyed s3, however. I temporarily stopped watching in the hope that I just wasn’t really in the mood for it right now so if you do catch up, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Oh, interesting. Season 1 was so good! I hadn’t heard anything about it lately so I just assumed it was just as good. It’ll be sad if it has gone downhill. Now I want to watch it right away rather than looking forward to it for months. I’ll let you know 🙂
I surprisingly havent had many new loves this summer. I am just getting close to finishing the 1.5 seasons of Eli Stone I started. It was a slow start for me, but once it became clear what the show was and where it was going, I got way more invested. I am sad knowing the characters stories are almost over, and they arent going to wrap up in a nice little bow.
That said, I am just so excited that you joined ‘The Flash’ fanclub with Heather and I. I cant remember a time when I was so impressed and surprised by the first season of a TV show. If I could only use one word to describe the show, I would say “ambitious”. Ambition isnt reserved just for TV shows that are also “cuthroat” and “ruthless” and “edgy”. This is so far from being a dark show. It can be serious, but it doesnt take itself too seriously. I love comics, I love superheros, but I absolutely cant stand the need to make everything “dark”. I gave up on ‘Gotham’, I couldnt get through ‘Daredevil’, so I am just so excited that there is a superhero TV for people like me too. People that dont want it to be all about the villians and corruption. I want to see honest people just trying to do whats best and work as a team. I want to see the good guys win on a regular basis! This is also why I am looking forward to Supergirl (even despite the lack of Lois, haha). The show is also not afraid to delve into some pretty complex comic book mythology, and yet it somehow manages to be welcoming to those unfamiliar with comics without insulting those that do. All of these things are incredibly hard to do, and hard to do well, yet ‘The Flash’ seems to do it. I just have so much respect for what everyone did in the first season. They crammed a good 3 seasons worth of mythology into one, and there were quite a few times throughout the season where I found myself asking how in the world I was watching a mid season episode and not a season finale.
And dont even get me started with Barry and Joe. They are the new Kurt and Burt Hummel for me, and its so great that the relationship is given so much screen time. I love seeing healthy, supportive non-traditional families on TV, and this one is one of the best of them. I cry a lot watching those too, and I am not an avid TV crier. Its not the romantic relationships that get me, its the family and friendships, and The Flash has those in spades.
I wish I was excited about the romance side of the show, but it doesnt distract to take away from my enjoyment of the show either. I think I am learning that despite my all consuming obsession with Hook and Emma, I am actually not a very avid shipper. I am pretty neutral with all other shows I watch. I had a hard time with Iris being in the dark for so long (this coming from a Lois Lane supporter, lol) and I would love to see her more integrated with the group. I love teams and partnerships, and Barry is allowed to have that with Joe, Cisco, Catlin, and even the other superheros, but you dont get to see that partnership as much between him and Iris, and I would love to see more of it, and I am hopeful we will get more of that in the new season. But that is the one minor flaw in a show that is pretty dang close to flawless in all other areas. And I have to give the show credit for having Barry tell Iris how he felt mid season. That was another thing they could have easily drug out. The show has so many different ideas and stories it wants to tell that the characters and plots never are allowed to get stagnant. The show moves at a pace similar to its title character, and I love the show all the more for it. Yay ambition!!
I have said way too much about the show now and I havent even talked about how much I love all the other characters and Grant Gustin and a million other little things but I will be here all day. I guess I can say that my true summer love is just sustained love of a great first season of television.
There are so many typos in this and I seem to be getting worse by the day, sigh. How to you get these posts up with so little typos? You are my hero.
The answer is LOTS of editing training. 😉 It’s what I do for a living, and I still make typos that I catch in posts months later. You’re not alone, friend.
I’m so behind on my Eli Stone viewing. That was one of the shows that got bumped because of my obsession with The Flash, but the few episodes I watched so far have been very entertaining. And the world could always use more Victor Garber—especially Victor Garber singing.
Your enthusiasm for The Flash was such a big part of my decision to watch it, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing your love for it with me. Because I really do feel like my TV-watching life is better for having this show in it now. Like you said, I love knowing there’s a superhero show out there for people like me, who like to focus on good people and positive relationships. Barry is such a unique character because he’s just so inherently good despite catching such a rough break as a child, and I think so much of that has to do with the fact that he grew up with Joe’s love and Iris’s friendship in his life. I don’t like “lone ranger” types of superheroes, so Barry’s relationships and the strength he draws from them are what make this show so special to me.
I also 100% understand your feelings about Barry and Iris. I was pretty ambivalent about shipping on this show until the episode with the “alternate timeline” story, and then I really liked seeing their chemistry get a chance to shine. And then for some reason Barry seeing her byline from the future made my get that lump in my throat that tells me I’m hooked on a couple. I blame Grant Gustin’s face. 😉 I’m kind of the opposite of you in that I usually need a ship to connect to for me to fall completely in love with a piece of media. I can’t remember the last time I really devoted myself to a fandom without a ship to root for.
But with all that being said, the best relationship on the show is the one between Barry and Joe. It’s absolutely everything to me. It’s realistic and honest and as moving as it gets. Yes, the entire show is wonderful, but that relationship is the reason why I would recommend this show to anyone and everyone.
I’m back! After the longest hiatus while I got distracted with other shows, I finally finished LOST. Which you already know because I’ve been texting you about my watching but I have feelings and you’ve given me this wonderful space to talk about those feelings 😉
That finale was perfect to me. I see why it would have been totally unsatisfying if you were watching for the plot and wanted all the mysteries of the island solved. That last season would have been terrible for those people but I really enjoyed the non-island half. I would have gladly watched the Sawyer and Miles cop show every week as they went around and arrested their friends.
All of the remembering made me cry but nothing even came close to Sawyer and Juliet. I knew I was going to fall for those two because when do we not ship the same things (I’m fully assuming I’ll be fully onboard with Barry/Iris for that reason next season tbh) but I didn’t expect to ship them so much. I should have because they were individually my two favorites before they got together but wow. LaFleur is one of my favorite episodes of the entire show and it’s all because of these precious characters. They are responsible for so many tears, both happy and sad, and more than anything else on the show, I’m glad I got to meet and fall in love with them.
Other large instances of crying were Sun and Jin remembering each other and their daughter, Kate, Claire, Charlie and Aaron, and Daniel’s face when he saw Charlotte.
I also really love that I eventually fell in love with Ben and wanted his happiness just as much as I wanted everyone else’s. Michael Emerson was always fantastic and I loved watching him but I also hated Ben because he was terrible. But then they had to go and add more complexity to him and everything in the flash-sideways with him and Alex so that by the time we got to the finale, his two scenes with Hurley made me so incredibly emotional. That was fantastic storytelling and character development.
It has been a summer of loving things very deeply and I love that my summer started and ended with new ships to ruin my life. For both ships, I can pinpoint the moment that I went all in (Bellamy and Clarke’s hug and Sawyer and Juliet’s bridge scene) and let’s face it, they have so much in common because you and I both know I have a type. They will forever be my memory of this summer (besides our Chicago trip, of course) and it’ll be a memory that I will always look back on and smile.
I love that the ships you fell in love with are your memory of this summer, and I’d say they’re pretty well connected to our Chicago trip since we spent that last night on the rooftop talking about our OTPs and all things TV until way too late. 😉
I’ll save Sawyer and Juliet for last, so I’ll start with Ben. He remains one of the most fascinating and complex characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. He did so many things that made me hate him, but I sobbed so hard when he sat outside the church in the end, not quite ready to go inside. It was such a simple but deep moment of character insight, and, as such, it was basically the entire finale in microcosm.
And now for Sawyer and Juliet…I couldn’t wait for you to get to this finale because it’s such a beautiful payoff for the trauma we endure before it. Their reunion is so beautiful that words actually fail me when I try to describe how it makes me feel. To see Juliet finally safe, happy, and loved—and knowing it’s forever—meant the world to me. And for Sawyer to finally get the chance to hold her and not have to let go…It’s just still a lot for me to think about all these years later. All I know is that when he whispers “I got you, baby” to her, I lose it every time. First time, 500th time—it doesn’t matter.
I don’t think any of us ever meant to ship these two as hard as most of us ended up shipping them, but they became the great love story of Lost for so many of us. And I’m thrilled they became that for you too (though completely unsurprised).
Welcome back, fellow Lostie! I’m glad I’m not alone in liking the ending. I know a lot of people were unhappy, but it left me feeling very satisfied. My love for Sawyer and Juliet knows no bounds. (It’s one of the reasons I did the dance of joy when Elizabeth Mitchell was cast in OUAT.) The development of Michael Emerson’s character was also brilliant. So much to love about Lost. It wasn’t perfect, but they really swung for the fences on that show. It was nice to have a show that didn’t assume all watchers were idiots.
Glad to see so many people on board with Flash. Like everyone else, I can’t say enough about the Joe/Barry relationship. I love the fact that it’s so strong, but especially that it doesn’t come at the expense of Barry’s relationship with his own father. There’s room in Barry’s life for both men. The nerdygirl in me loves that the showrunners incorporate actors from the previous version of the show. Let me also chime in with love for Cisco. I love a character who is unabashedly, coolly nerdy. Go Cisco.
I love that NGN is filled with people who loved the LOST finale. It makes me feel like I have the right people around me. (I think the kids these days would call you my squad? lol) I’m also glad I wasn’t the only one to do a happy dance when they announced Elizabeth Mitchell’s casting on OUAT.
And I’m so excited that you’re also a fan of The Flash, because I’m sure we’ll be talking about it a lot over here in the coming weeks/months! I will also echo your love for Cisco. After Barry and Joe, Cisco is my favorite character. Give me all the fun, friendly nerds with big pop culture vocabularies and bigger hearts.
First of all, I’m happy you loved watching the Flash. I loved Grant’s portray of Barry Allen since he appeared in Arrow the previous year. He was my only other relationship option for Felicity in case the Arrow writers wouldn’t have gone for Felicity and Oliver. You know, the comic book canon ship is Oliver and Laurel, so we didn’t really have the certainty that the writers would have changed the hero’s love interest. What I love the most in that show is Barry’s relationship with his dads, like a friend of mine likes to say, “the real love relationship in the Flash is the one between Barry Allen and his dads.” I couldn’t agree more. Most of the time the scenes that got me emotional were the ones between Barry and Joe or his own father,
I didn’t watch too much television this summer, because of the high temperatures it was impossible to stay in front of the tv or the computer screen. But I managed to watch Sense8 and I loved it. It has been since Lost that I haven’t watched an unanimous show. It’s impossible not to love every single character and their story, not to root for them and hope for them to be ok. The way they get to know each other, fall in love or fight for /help each other is fantastic. To me, it is surely a must watch.
Another fan of The Flash—yay! Your friend is so right when they say the best love story on this show is the one between Barry and his dads. They’re the emotional core of the show, and I can’t wait to talk more about them with you and all my other fellow Flash fans!
I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Sense8 so much! I might need to add that to my (ever growing) to-watch list! 😉
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