As a general rule of thumb Pilot episodes are flawed beasts. At best you hope that they will seed enough interesting elements for a show to build on. There are exceptions of course, but it's hard to both build a new world, introduce your characters and set up the core plot elements in 45 minutes. Something usually has to give.
The Flash is definitely flawed in this first out. But it does also show a lot of potential.
There's a lot of elements here that scream CW Series to me. For a start we have a very young cast with Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, Candice Patton as Iris West, Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow and Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon taking center stage. And in the early stages of the episode they seem to seed the usual youth-centric plotlines (love triangles etc.) that the CW is known for. None of the cast seem bad mind you. Just a little bland and generic right now. But… very early days.
A couple of older actors anchor things however. Jesse L. Martin spent a good number of years on Law and Order so he has no trouble filling out the role of Detective Joe West even with the limited material he has at this stage. Similarly Tom Cavanagh has more than enough experience to give Dr. Harrison Wells a likable quality even when the script is hinting at darker things.
And the script does a lot of hinting. Because once Barry is back on his feet and everyone has been properly introduced the pace picks up significantly and that's when we see signs of what the show could become.
For a start they are making heavy use of comic book continuity here. I don't know how faithful exactly they plan on being to it, but if you look at most of the core elements of The Flash's origin and the characters, they are in place. Beyond that, this episode gives us Weather Wizard as the villain. Sure it doesn't call him Weather Wizard but that's clearly who the character is by his power set.
But they're just getting warmed up with that one. Not only is STAR Labs a major location in the show, there's a brief scene where we see a broken cage with the name Grodd on it. And then there's the police detective whose last name is Thawne. A very important name in Flash history. And speaking of names Cisco Ramon is the civilian name of Vibe in the comics while Caitlin Snow is the civilian name of Killer Frost.
Are all these characters going to follow the comics route? Maybe, maybe not. But the pilot makes it absolutely certain that unlike Arrow we are going to see lots of people with superpowers. Basically the setup with the explosion activating the powers of people in the city guarantees us plenty villain of the week style episodes.
But there is a larger plot line. Barry's mother seems to have died as a result of a strange yellow and red streak. An effect that looks very similar to how Barry looks when he speeds.Of course again, in the comics, there is an evil speedster who wears yellow and red. And then there's Dr. Harrison Wells who is definitely more than he seems. Whether the accident actually was an accident is up for debate right now, as is what his end game really is.
So yes lots of elements put into place in this first episode. Lots of potential to be mined.
Interesting enough where the show felt at its weakest to me was during the Arrow cameo. Although the shows are clearly set in the same universe (as previously established) and in fact in a universe that contains Wayne Enterprises, they are stylistically and tonally very different and it showed in this scene.
Barry Allen, as he should be, is much less grim and mopey than Oliver Queen. He also inhabits a world that is full of superpowers. They don't feel like they really belong together. The CW have scheduled the shows for two different nights rather than having a block of DC shows. I think that was a good call.
I should talk about the special effects. I was pleasantly surprised. Keep in mind that this is 1) A CW show (so the budget won't be that high) and 2) a pilot episode. There's nothing here that's going to compare to a blockbuster movie. But what they did worked. The Weather Wizard's tornado was more than passable and most importantly the way they handled the Flash and his super-speed worked well.
Their default effect was something that strongly evoked the look of the comic books with a blur crackled with lightning. But they also gave us moments of time seeming to slow or stop as we saw how Barry was perceiving time. Again nothing ground breaking, but competent and I hope they explore that more in the series.
So this is firmly in the traditional network tv mold of series television. But it's done all the right things and set up all the elements it needs to to become must see network tv.
Or it could just throw it all away on tedious romance subplots. It's a risk with the CW.