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!