?It’s hard to believe that The Flash TV series is now 20 years old. It’s also pretty hard to believe there was a Flash TV series ever, let alone in 1990. But perhaps the most unbelievable aspect is that this 1990 Flash TV series was somehow pretty great. John Wesley Shipp was am excellent Barry Allen, delivering heroic quips with an exceptionally square jaw. The show wasn’t totally accurate to the original Flash comics, but still far moreso than later superhero series like Smallville or Birds of Prey would eventually be. It ran for only one season but made it a full 22 episodes, some of which starred classic Flash baddies like Mirror Master and the Trickster. And it was scored by Danny Elfman before we realized his music almost always sounds exactly the same.
Of course, The Flash TV series wasn’t perfect. It was actually pretty goddamned goofy a lot of the time. But sometimes the show wallowed in its comic book/’90s TV silliness, and sometimes it transcended those limitations to be pretty awesome indeed. So slow down and take a minute to relieve the five best Flash TV episodes… and the five most ridiculous.
THE MOST RIDICULOUS:
5) Out of Control
From the pilot episode forward it’s obvious that The Flash and Tina McGee, his doctor, should date, and Dr. Carl Tanner is just one character that keeps them apart. This old flame of Dr. McGee develops a skin-melting drug and experiments on the homeless, and the results ain’t pretty. After trying his drug himself, Tanner runs rampant across the city as a brutish mutant, or what one might call a Hulked-out Ted Nugent. It’s genetic reorganization gone totally awry.
Shaking off the beating, The Flash dazes The Nuge, wrapping the monster in fencing and returning Tanner to his old nerdy self.
4) Ghost in the Machine
After escaping the Sandman-esque vigilante Nightshade, The Ghost undergoes cryogenic freezing in 1955 and emerges in ’90, unscathed by the decades, and his pompadour still intact. He recruits a trio of thugs wowed by his button-mashing mastery at the local arcade, promising control of “The Future!”
Naturally, The Flash learns of his machinations, and bands with The Ghost’s aforementioned adversary, now retired, to thwart the villain. Tracking the bad guy is easy, but the fight is not — not interesting, specifically. It’s more like an S&M event, with The Flash screaming as The Ghost warps his mind with provocative images, such as detonation of a nuclear bomb. He regains control, though, when Nightshade hits the scene, saying “Don’t touch that dial” as he subdues the villain.
3) Done with Mirrors
In the comics, Mirror Master is a masked supervillian and, of course, well-versed in mirror trickery. But here Sam Scudder is a suave, mullet-sporting punk armed with holograms. What’s more, David Cassidy assumes the role, carrying out a crystal heist at S.T.A.R. Labs West with the help of a blonde femme fatale, who later betrays him. As Barry and the blonde track down Scudder, Barry goes undercover as Dr. Zoom, alleged inventor of The Flash, the videogame, the laser disc and the microwave — not to mention that Italian-Jamaican-Russian-French accent.
The ending is a little uneventful, as McGee uses giant floodlights to blind the Mirror Master and expose him among the decoys. Watching The Flash knockout Cassidy is fairly entertaining, however.
This episode was promising until it became a poor man’s Terminator. Balking at her assassin directive, Alpha, a female android, escapes the lab of the National Scientific Intelligence Agency, and overnight she takes a job at S.T.A.R. Labs. She later meets Barry at the Apocalypse Wow nightclub, where “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” is a hot-ass track, to which Barry cannot shake at all.
NSIA agents, after several failed attempts to capture Alpha, unleash their heavy Ah-nold prototype, Omega, to rein in the fugitive. In their first encounter, though, The Flash jams a pair of live wires into the bulky android … and its head explodes.
TV androids of the early ’90s, folks. What can you do?
1) Child’s Play
The Fastest Man Alive is also a guitar virtuoso.He takes on a cult of neo-hippies, thwarting a Jim Morrison, and that chick that plays Ari Gold’s wife in Entourage. The leader of the cult, like other villains, wants to expose the entire city to a hallucinogenic drug, or Blue Paradise, an addictive inhalant bearing kaleidoscopic side effects. Not long after handling a pair of runaway kids and strung-out disciples, The Flash is poisoned in the cult headquarters. However, a dose of Blue Paradise accelerates his molecules in way that sends him spiraling through a wall like an apparition.
It’s interesting, but not as much as the moment when The Flash picks up an electric guitar. Like Yngwie Malmsteen, he rips an ear-shattering solo and brings the cult to its knees.
The best is yet to come — because it’s on the next page.
Indeed, this is a rad retelling of The Flash’s origin. Barry is struck by lightning and spills over an assemblage of chemicals in the crime lab, eventually ending up as a subject of S.T.A.R. labs and McGee. Throughout this hour-and-a-half-long show, we follow Barry as he controls his newfound power, discovers his endless appetite and mourns the loss of his brother. We meet his crime lab partner Julio Mendez, too, who’s obsessed with Allen’s love life.
The pilot is our introduction to the pun-laden humor teeming in this series. For example, Iris West, an art chick here, laying in bed with Barry, says, “I can’t believe it was over so quickly.” But … she’s talking about a televised boxing match. Get it? GET IT?!
4) Flash Forward
Pike is the dude who kills Barry’s brother, Jay, and gets away with it after a non-guilty verdict. He’s also the dude who designs — wait for it — a nuclear missile that blasts The Flash into far off 2001. The Flash wakes up in a post-apocalyptic, police-dominated Pike City, formerly Central City, where the murderer is a slick-haired mayor, and Julio is a trash man. Julio, though, knows of the underground liberation movement and the brain-numbing machine at S.T.A.R. labs, which Pike controls. And when The Flash regains his speed, Tina McGee suddenly learns that S.T.A.R. Labs can return the Scarlet Speedster to ’91 by turning the facility into a mini-nuclear warhead. What?! Nuclear absurdity aside, this episode is a solid study in cyberpunk.
3) Captain Cold
This is one of the few episodes where drama dominates comedy. Captain Cold is a creepy mercenary resembling traits of the comic book character, armed with a laser-y subzero gun as well as a disturbingly explosive snow globe. In one encounter, he puts The Flash in an icy coma, thanks to an ambitious reporter from The Inquisitor tabloid. With help from McGee, The Flash thaws out (oh, sweet metabolism!) and dons a freeze-proof belt for a level rematch against Captain Cold. The fight spills into downtown, where Cold gets another hit on The Flash — only this time the Scarlet Speedster deflects the second shot with a mirror, freezing his opponent.
2 & 1) The Trickster/Trial of the Trickster
Call these a primer for Mark Hamill’s work as The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. His gripping portrayal of The Trickster is loaded with hokey jokes and cheap kills, like one where he uppercuts one sheriff and shoots another in the back in a matter of seconds. Like the Joker, he has a laugh ruining lives — alone or with his sidekick Prank. In these episodes, The Flash can barely keep up with the villain’s antics, such as an exploding Mercury statue and a bubblegum-spewing getaway vehicle. At the same time, Barry tries to reconcile his relationship with the elusive P.I. Megan Lockhart, who is also The Trickster’s obsession, and he debates all the crime The Flash has possibly inspired.
Finally, after he snaps out of a TV-induced trance, The Flash rips his adversary from The Great Trickster Escape Mobile before it explodes, aiding police as they throw him in maximum security. Indeed, both episodes yield a cool blend of Silver Age-y humor and ’90s crime dramas.