“MY NAME IS BARRY ALLEN, AND I’M THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE!” bellows Grant Gustin cheerily over the opening credits of The Flash, a hectic series of primary-coloured blobs with happy/frowny faces whose entire first season arc was scribbled on the back on a napkin and the lost down the back of a cab seat.
The first time I saw Grant Gustin, he was playing Sebastian, a sexy, charming, devious gay guy trying to hook up with Chis Colfer’s boyfriend in Glee, of all places. For some reason, his most memorable moments on the show came during this amazing performance of Uptown Girl-
(for reference, Grant Gustin in the one standing next to a pillar with a vase thing on it at 8 seconds in, and also the only one from this show whose career hasn’t been permanently derailed by it)
– So whenever I see him wander, often apparently lost, on to screen as Barry Allen/The Flash my mind immediately shouts a line from that song at me. But that’s not to say Gustin (UPTOOOWN GIIIRL) isn’t kind of brilliant- he’s the epitome of bumbling charm, being a nice guy without being a Nice Guy (the kind who mope and frown because they’ve been “friendzoned”). The Flash- a super-fast superhero alter-ego of Barry’s who fights crime created after an accident- is essentially just an endearingly serious and shouty version of Barry, who’s just yer normal everyday forensic investigator with a face as cute as a puppy made of ice cream. He’s the centre of what is probably my favourite superhero show on television right now, which is saying kind of a lot because superhero movies and TV shows are beyond played out for me right now. Sure, I gave Arrow (The Flash’ mother series) and Agents of S.H.I.T.E a go, and sure, a picture of Stephen Amell holding a baby made my womanhood explode like a nuclear weapon. But Gustin (SHE’S BEEN LIVIN’ IN HER WHITE BREAD WORLD)- and his show, by extension- have an old-school, Gerry Anderson charm in the simplicity of both character and plot that sets them apart from the overly slick antics of The Avengers or-God forbid- Gotham.
The supporting cast- including That Guy Who Played JD’s Brother in Scrubs, Gruff Detective Father Figure, Gruff Detective Father Figure’s Intelligent and Beautiful Daughter, and the one nerdy guy on TV who’s somehow not an unbelievably annoying exaggeration of the worst parts of myself- are superb, and the simple backstory (big explosion, boom, megapowers) allows loads of time to fill in the universe around Gustin (AS LONG AS ANYONE WITH HOT BLOOD CA-AN). The villains are my favourite part of the show, by far. Plucked seemingly verbatim from the comics, they wear giant goggles, have guns that shoot ice, deliver terrible quips as they wreak havoc, and generally stalk around the place looking like they’re actually enjoying ruining countless lives because no-one has bothered to stop them yet. Give me bad guys who look like they’re having more fun than I did the whole of last weekend, and you’ve got me hooked.
I like that kind of brazen simplicity- I don’t need things to make sense when they’re fun. Sure, if you want to go hardcore on serious backstory, be my guest, but superhero shows that don’t work a healthy dollop of self-awareness into the mix are just throwing all their potential to the winds as far as I’m concerned. Go kick around the back entrance of the Game of Throne’s writers room if you want some serious work, I’m pretty sure they have a terrifying sweatshop of writers just attempting to keep up with how many characters are in the damn show.
I don’t demand high levels of camp from every series I watch, but that’s not to say I don’t miss it from time to time. If there’s one good thing that Gustin (AND NOW SHE’S LOOKIN’ FOR A DOWN-TOOOOWN MAN) has brought over from his time at Glee, it’s a bit of silliness. Everyone on screen during every episode of The Flash looks like they’re having a whale of a time, and it shines through every frame to turn Barry Allen’s antics into something really quite charming. Hard to fault? Probably not. Hard to dislike? Completely.