DC Comics has had a long tradition of its properties being adapted into fairly successful television shows — from Batman in the ’60s, Wonder Woman in the ’70s, all the way up to The Adventures of Lois & Clark in the ’90s and Smalliville in the early 2000s.
Fast forward to the modern day, where Arrow has ushered in a new era of DC TV for this new decade–reflecting the grim-dark paradigm that Christopher Nolan made so famous with his Dark Knight film trilogy.
Objectively, Arrow isn’t a bad show. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s not amazing, either. The acting is often painful, the mood dour, and frankly, it feels like “Batman-lite”. As I understand it, the producers wanted to do a Batman show, weren’t allowed to, and so set about trying to turn another hero into Batman. What even is the point? And I ask that as someone who very much likes Batman & his allies–I would rather just have batman, not a wannabe.
The Flash, happily, is a different story. It’s light-hearted, doesn’t take itself as seriously, and rides completely on the appeal of its titular character. Being on the CW network, it has all the trappings of a teen soap opera, but it’s still an enjoyable watch. So I’m very happy to feature this guest post by my friend Oz, discussing one of the many cool tropes used in The Flash, specifically the pilot episode! Check it out below!
I’m super late to the party on this (like how Barry is always super late to the crime scene), but here I am writing about the CW’s hit show, The Flash. Also seeing as how I’m writing this after the mid-season finale, I won’t talk about that last scene of the episode with Harrison Wells. After all, that topic’s been analyzed thoroughly; multiple theories are abound (some of which may, or may not have been confirmed by the mid-season finale, but we’ll get to that when it’s time). So, while it may not be the most interesting, or emotional scene of the episode, first impressions are important. That’s why we’ll focus on our first glimpse of present-day Barry Allen.
More specifically, we can focus on the Sherlock Scan that Barry uses to figure out a lead on the robbers turned murderers. For the uninitiated, the Sherlock Scan is a trope made popular by the BBC’s Sherlock, whereby a detective character appraises a scene, picks out seemingly unrelated or insignificant details to deduce (or, more correctly, uses inductive reasoning and probabilities to figure out) information pertaining to the crime, victim, or criminal. The Flash seems to have taken Sherlock’s specific technique for revealing what the detective picks out from the scene. The tire tracks become clearly mapped out in white, and a handy caption, “rear super-wide tires,” “12 in.,” spells out his observations.
And somehow, Barry Allen knows the exact model of trucks that use tires that match the tracks. The leap Barry makes from “12 inches with asymmetrical tread,” to “get away car is a Shelby Mustang 500,” doesn’t seem to be a huge one. He even explains how he got to that conclusion, “Shelbys have a rear super wide tire that’s specific to that model,” but the average person doesn’t have a repository of tire tracks in their heads – Joe West, Captain Singh, and the other officer certainly don’t. And it’s that kind of attention to detail, and knowledge of those details that make Barry special. Already, he’s set apart from the crowd.
The camera angles even reinforce this. The first screencap shows Barry up close and personal with the tire tracks – with the crime. He gets on his knees, and gets his hands dirty to solve the mystery; he’s willing to go farther than anyone else. In the second screen cap, as mentioned, Barry is set apart from the average man. West, Singh, and other officer are all slightly unfocused in the background, and Barry is the focus in the foreground. But notably, the three individuals in the background have their badges clearly visible. Barry’s is nowhere to be seen. Not only is he a lot closer to the audience in the foreground (and far from the crowd), and close to the crime (the evidence is in his hands), but he’s further separated from the average man in that he’s not a policeman. He’s CSI; the guy who studies, and analyzes evidence. Background stuff. He’s not an official. He doesn’t catch the bad guy.
But we, the audience (and certainly the comic fans), know that’s not true, and this first introduction to Barry Allen sets that up perfectly. The Flash might not have invented, or popularized the Sherlock Scan trope, but it definitely knows how to use it to place Barry on center stage. The trope, in combination with the camera angles and shots, shows us that Barry is special, and that he’s the one to focus on (you know, being the title character and all). And maybe, that we should give him the same amount of attention as he gives the crime scene. After all, Captain Singh seems to think that Barry’s some kind of terminally late mess up. But I’m pretty sure we’re all on Joe’s side – we know Barry can do the job better than anyone else when he needs to.