Note: Because the total runtime of this episode is right around 94 minutes and is chock-full of exposition since it is a pilot episode, I ended up with a seriously long recap here. Rather than expose you to it all at once, I’m going to break it up into two parts to spread the pain around.
In my last post I gave you a broad overview of the iconic(?) Flash television series from 1990. Now stuff is about to get real. I’ve decided, because I’m full of bad ideas, to do a full recap of the pilot episode that introduced us, and the world at large, to John Wesley Shipp as Barry(ish) Allen: the Scarlet Speedster, the Sultan of Speed, the Crimson Comet, the Fastest Man Alive…The Flash. Hold on to your butts ladies and gentlemen.
The pilot wastes no time and immediately assaults us with yellow cartoon lightning bolts shooting in from all corners of the screen. They finally calm the hell down and form the famous Flash emblem. In later episodes, we’ll recognize this as the precursor to the opening theme, but for now, since this is a pilot episode, all it leads us to in the title screen.
After the title screen fades we get a nice establishing shot of our fair Central City at night. As I stated in the last post, this show was heavily influenced by the 1989 Batman movie. As such Central City looks just as dark, gritty, and gothic and Gotham, which is in stark contrast to its portrayal not only in the comics, but even in the modern Flash series, as a nice, bright, bustling, modern city. There have even been jokes in the comic regarding how Gotham is almost perpetually dark compared to other cities.
Meanwhile in bustling Gotha- uh Central City!
Now that we know where we are and are treated to a few nice shots of steam coming out of vents and neon lit streets, we get a very pleasant shot of a kid screaming bloody murder at the camera and then taking off while being pursued by kids on bikes who are encouraging each other to “get him”. The menace of the kid in front is slightly undercut by the fact that he is wearing a very purple 90s jacket.
Sadly this is not, in fact, John Wesley Shipp.
The tension of whatever the hell this is supposed to be is quickly undercut when a woman dressed as an urban Chicago mother circa 1930 comes running down the steps to yell at the children for being out in the street so late.
“You boys stop your bootlegging and speakeasying and get in here right now!”
After Eliot Ness’s wife shoos the children inside, she gives a nervous look around, letting us know that Central City is indeed a dangerous place after dark. If that was too subtle, however, fear not. Our helpful extras really hammer it home by moving hastily off the streets just before a gang of ne’er-do-wells on motorcycles come screaming around the corner, alarming a bus-driver who happens to be fixing his bus on the side of the road, at what appears to be 8 or 9 o’clock at night.
Our group of rapscallions drive past the bus and it decides to blow itself up for no apparent reason. I’d attribute this to the motorcycle gang, but literally none of them do anything that could even be construed as being responsible for the explosion. As this is a superhero show, maybe one of them possesses pyro-kinetic powers that are just never referenced at any point.
At any rate, the explosion doesn’t go unnoticed and a couple of temporally displaced extras hurriedly get out of their car and attempt to get into their house. The gang makes their way around yet another corner and this time we see that they are tossing what appear to be green glow balls at stuff. This apparently isn’t an attempt to start an impromptu rave as we see that the glow balls are highly explosive (so of course they are the best thing to carry on motorcycles).
It is dangerous to be this fashion-forward.
The modern 90s man, who fashionably still wears fedoras, huddles with his wife and baby as our roughnecks toss a glow ball at their hyper-modern car, blowing it up, but fortunately not causing any debris to hit the bystanders. He laments that “someone’s got to do something about this” which really brings it home that crime is out of control in Central City in case you still had doubts. Of course if it weren’t apparently a local ordinance that everyone drive vehicles and wear clothes several decades out of date, maybe the populous wouldn’t be so bitter. So, figure that one out City Hall!
“Dammit! That was a brand-new car that I just bought 18 years ago!”
Having blown up a grand total of one bus and two cars, we see our gang drive past a gate guard post with an already dead gate guard. The camera pans up and we see that they have just left the Central City Armory. I’m going to assume this is all happening consecutively, but why did they feel the need to sow some random destruction before hitting up the city armory? It seems like they’d try and be a little more low-key before the major felony stuff. And if they didn’t get the glow ball bombs from the armory, what did they take? For a brief moment it looks like one of the several motorcycles is towing a small trailer with a bunch of rifles in it, but in the next shot the trailer seems to have disappeared. Wherever the guns went they definitely don’t use them against the poor single cop car chasing after them, choosing instead a double dose of more glow balls.
Whatever the point of all that is will have remain a mystery for now as we get a dissolve into our next scene. We focus in on a chocolate birthday cake meant to look like a police badge (apparently the CCPD uses a nice rich fecal brown color for their badges) while people sing Happy Birthday in the background.
We see that the Allen family is sitting around preparing the celebrate their eldest son’s birthday. Said eldest son is Tim Thomerson who is playing the completely-made-up-for-this-show-but-obviously-referencing-Jay-Garrick-character-named-Jay-Allen (from here on out I’ll refer to him as just Jay because the other name is too long). Nora Allen puts the cake in front of her son and before Jay can blow out the candles, Papa Allen points out that he didn’t make a wish yet. Jay gets a look on his face that is a cross between a yawn and a desperate attempt to drop a load before finally blowing out the candles which excites his father in the same way that doing the disconnecting thumb trick excites three month olds.
Of course considering that his eldest son just made a boom-boom in his pants, maybe this is just a family of elderly-looking toddlers.
Jay’s wife Matronly…or something…asks her husband what he wished for and Jay claps his brother Barry on the shoulder and says he just wishes he had some of Barry’s brains. Barry happens to be playing cutesy with his very young girlfriend Iris, but takes a moment to tell Jay he isn’t doing too bad himself. This prompts Henry Allen to exposit that Jay is 42 and heading up the CCPD’s Motorcycle Division and managed to take down “that Conway” and his highjacking crew. For some reason the camera takes a moment to show us Jay’s son smooshing his piece of cake with his hand for no apparent reason, but we don’t have time to wonder what the hell is up with this because Jay quickly throws in that it was actually Barry and his boys in the Crime Lab that put them onto bad ol’ Conway. Obviously Jay is just throwing his brother a bone, but I can’t really blame him when it becomes obvious that we are being set up for a good old fashion example of the father that is super impressed with one son while not really thinking too much of his other son trope (I’m not very good at coming up with short names for things).
Apparently fecophilia is hereditary.
Right on cue Henry quickly proclaims that Lab Boys are all fine and good, but “real cops” work the streets, “facing the scum of the Earth with nothing to back you up”. And we get the feeling that this is something he says a lot because Jay and Barry follow this up by saying in unison “…but a gun, a badge, and a prayer”.
Despite the fact that Henry just obviously insulted his younger son by saying he isn’t a real cop, Barry takes some amusement in this. Jay, for his part, brushes his father off. Nora brings in some coffee and Iris shows us she is one of those “modern” 90s ladies by saying she just needs some hot water for her Korean Ginseng tea bag. Barry wonders aloud if this newfangled ginseng she is talking about isn’t in fact that stuff that is also an aphrodisiac. Iris does this weird big nod thing and Barry tells his mom he’ll go ahead and skip the coffee and I start feeling very uncomfortable because seriously…your freaking mom is in the room, Barry! Not to mention your nephew who can’t be more than ten! Jay decides to double down on the gross by asking his mother if she can get him one of those “ginseng things” for him and his wife. This perturbs “Eve” because of course it does, but Jay complains that it is his birthday so of course it is perfectly natural to talk about boning your significant other in front of your elderly parents.
Nora is just relieved that ED medication hasn’t been invented yet.
Henry isn’t going to let a little inappropriate conversation derail his desire to talk shop and wonders what the CCPD is going to do about those “biker punks”. Little Sean Allen chimes in, letting us know they are called the Dark Riders, because what else would you call your biker gang, and Eve is upset that Sean happens to know the name of a biker gang that has been exploding cars and buses left and right. Iris lets us know that its been all over the news and Eve frets while wiping Sean’s hand that is still covered in cake and mentions that it makes her “skin crawl”. Henry chimes in again wondering what “we” are doing about it (because you see, he can’t get over being retired, get it?)
Jay mentions that the cops are baffled and can’t pin them down. Henry begins a good ol’ “back in my day” speech and only Barry seems to have the presence of mind to remember that there is a minor in the room and tells Sean to go take Barry’s Golden Retriever Earl into the kitchen to get him a biscuit before his grandfather can continue to scar him with some story of how he would be handling these young whippersnappers.
Sean tells his uncle that he will only do it if Barry “reads his fingerprints” and we realize that the reason Sean smashed his piece of cake earlier was so he could leave a chocolate hand print on a napkin for his uncle to decipher. Everyone laughs at the “cute” and after Barry takes the napkin and promises to “read” it Sean runs off, taking Earl with him.
Ma Allen tells Henry that that’s enough “shop talk” and suggests everyone take their cake and coffee to the next room while lamenting that she should have married that “nice quiet accountant”. While the boys joke around about the series of men Mom is always reminding their father she’d rather be banging, we hear a strange beeping noise. Rather than pulling out a cell phone, however, Barry grabs some strange small black device off his belt. Turns out this is something folks used to carry called a “beeper” or “pager” that would allow someone to dial a number, but rather than getting to actually talk to the person you were dialing, all you could do was enter a contact number or code that the person on the other end would see and know that someone wanted something. Usually your jerk friends would just type 80085 into it over and over.
Having made me feel really old, Barry goes off to find out what is going on while Nora tries to engage Iris in a discussion about her upcoming art exhibit. Nora swings and misses several times trying to figure out what kind of artist Iris is, and Iris tells her she works mostly in “hand-tinted computer graphics” which seems to go right over Nora’s head and causes Jay to inquire how “graphic” they are.
Nora tries to figure out how one hand tints stuff in a computer and Iris realizes she needs to stop pretending this counts as a “job” or “art”.
Before the conversation can get any more awkward or Iris can regret her life choices any further, Barry returns, saying that the Riders have struck again. Jay gets ready to tag along, but Barry assures him that the “shooting is already over” so all that is left is the “mop up”. Kissing Iris goodbye, Barry asks Jay to give her and Earl a ride home. Jay complains about dog hair in his back seat while trying to straight up murder Barry’s dog in front of him by giving him a piece of chocolate cake. Barry adds that Jay better “run him around the block a couple times” or Earl will throw a fit (which Jay won’t be able to distinguish from the one he throws as he dies from chocolate poisoning). And, having managed to pawn his girlfriend and his dog off on his family, Barry puts on his coat and promises his mother that he will be careful.
Of course Henry wonders what is so dangerous and jokes that he might stub his toe on a footprint. Nora chides him but he says he didn’t mean anything by it and continues his descent into Type Two Diabetes by taking another bite of cake. Jay gives his father the stink eye and goes after Barry.
Jay and Barry have a brotherly heart to heart where Jay tells Barry not to let their mean-spirited father get to him. It is here that we learn that, for some reason, Barry promised his mom and dad he wouldn’t become a street cop, which seems odd since Jay is a street cop even though he assures Barry that, if he had the brains for it, he’d trade jobs with him in a second. Barry of course isn’t buying this and then remembers that he has forgotten to give his brother his birthday present. Jay opens a tiny package to reveal a silver medal he had won in high school for track which he used to wear on his letterman jacket for good luck, but which Barry had apparently “borrowed” at some point and forgot to give back for 25 years. Barry is giving it to him now for good luck against the Dark Riders, and if this show were any cheesier we’d hear a music cue here. The two bro hug and, having foreshadowed his brother’s fate, Barry gets in his actually modern car, slaps a red police light on the roof, and takes off.
Back at the armory, where apparently the police have finally figured out there has been a break-in and murder, Barry pulls up and is accosted by a news crew led by Asian Reporter Trisha Takanawa. This actually turns out to be Linda Park, an “inside reference” to the comics where she was Wally West’s one time girlfriend, later wife. As I said in my last post, this show really can’t seem to decide whether it wants to focus on Barry’s tenure as the Flash, or Wally’s, and is constantly throwing out stuff that is really only relevant to Wally’s backstory.
When Barry can’t answer any of her questions, having just shown up on the scene, she asks if there is another officer she can speak with and Barry points to his newly arrived partner Julio Mendez. For some reason the mere appearance of Julio clues her in on the fact that Barry isn’t with the Homicide Department, which seems odd because Julio isn’t really dressed in any way that would lead her to believe that either one of them isn’t a Homicide Detective. Apparently the asian reporter thinks African Americans can’t be detectives…maybe Central City is deeper South than I thought.
Unfortunately 90s TV hadn’t invented any good Asian Reporter stereotypes so the writers just went with “raging bitch”.
Annoyed, Linda tells her cameraman to stop filming and throws out a sweet burn about seeing if they can find a real detective to which Julio manages a weak comeback about finding a real newscaster while she’s at it. Good one, Julio. Having proved himself the champion of insults, Julio walks with Barry behind the police tape and they start to set up to gather evidence. Before anything can be done, however, we hear thunder and Julio says he better get his “rain suit”(?), whatever the hell that implies. Barry asks him if he’s going to melt and looks none too pleased when all Julio does is chuckle, and it is hard to blame him since his partner has essentially just left him to do all the work before the rain washes away any evidence they might find. As we’ll see later, this seems pretty normal for Julio, as he seems to take every opportunity to ditch on work.
This is what Google comes up with for “rain suit”, so apparently Julio is planning to go crabbing.
Barry doesn’t get very far on his own before the rain starts and, as he stares up at the sky, we get a music cue to let us know something dramatic is about to happen. Cut to the CCPD’s Crime Lab. Here we get to see how amazingly high tech all their equipment is.
They need two computers because each one can either play pong or process a forensics report, but not both at the same time.
Julio is distracted by the storm brewing outside while Barry is trying to get some actual work done. On a TV on the counter nearby we see that Police Chief Cooper is being grilled by tabloid-style news reporter Joe Kline, who is being played by 90s relevant “comedian” Richard Belzer. I’ll probably go into this more in a later episode, but I really never understood what Belzer’s appeal was. I loved comedy in the 90s, but that love never extended to him and I remember watching this show and cringing every time he appeared on the screen.
Kline wonders if maybe the CCPD is in over their heads with these Dark Riders, but Chief Cooper assures the audience that they are working around the clock and have formed a special task force to deal with the problem. Kline isn’t buying this and the argument goes on way past its relevance to the plot. Fortunately the storm spares us from too much more and Barry turns the TV off and starts barking orders at Julio. Julio mentions that it is already 10pm, which doesn’t faze Barry for a second. We get a little more foreshadowing here as Julio wonders why he brings his boss food, because Barry never eats (trust me, this will be only marginally relevant later). We get a little throw away joke that I’m not going to bother typing and we move on to the next scene.
After this is done he’s going to wait 90 minutes for a picture of Tori Spelling to download.
Thanks to the glow-in-the-dark clock on the wall, we see that it is now just past 3:30 in the morning, and while Julio’s lazy ass has naturally fallen asleep, we see that Barry is still working hard putting away random chemicals and failing to notice that Julio is passed out while asking him to make him a solution involving 10% Iodine…you know…for sciencing or something. Noticing that Julio has for some inexplicable reason fallen asleep at three in the morning, Barry goes and wakes him up and tells him to go home while he continues to work. Barry says he’s still analyzing the rubber he pulled from the skid marks at the crime scene, which is apparently a six hour job. Julio attempts some psychoanalysis on why Barry is working so hard, but Barry sends him on his way and gets back to it. We get some more shots of storm clouds and lighting and the music gets really Danny Elfmaned up. Suddenly, a lightning bolt does what we’ve all be waiting for and strikes the building, causing the rack of chemicals Barry is working in front of to become electrified. The whole thing explodes, and Barry’s stunt double is thrown ten feet back.
Central City lightning uses the latest in “Ghostbuster” technology.
The whole thing is pretty close to how they do it in the new series, only with the obviously less advanced special effects. Alarms start going off, the sprinkler system kicks in, and Julio rushes back into the lab to find out if Barry is okay since, if Barry dies, he’ll have to actually do something. It is here that we first really notice that the lab is in some kind of weird loft above the CCPD HQ.
After a commercial break, we find ourselves at Central City Hospital (apparently there is only one) where Henry, Nora, and Iris are waiting for news on Barry’s condition. Jay comes out from talking to the doctor and ushers everyone into Barry’s room where we see that he is, against medical advice, getting dressed so he can leave, because he feels fine and poo-poos the doctor’s dire assessment of his health, claiming it’s just “cuts, bruises, and a headache”. Papa Allen of course gets behind this macho-ness while everyone else thinks Barry should listen to the trained professional. Henry immediately starts talking about the good ol’ days again, when he got shot in the shoulder twice and was back on the job the next day.
Iris insists of getting Barry some breakfast before she takes him home, so we cut to a diner where we see two 50s-style cars, what looks like a Trans-Am, and then a generic 90s car. I’m really not sure what kind of feel the producers were trying to give Central City, but it isn’t really working.
The diner is of course a 50s themed diner and we pan past waitresses dressed in pink and customers about to head out to the sock hop at the local high school and find Iris boring Barry out of his mind with talk of how poorly the gallery hung her “mostly hand-tinted computer graphics”. She complains that, since this is her first show, she of course has absolutely no input on how her artwork should be displayed and that she thinks maybe her prices are too high, all while he stares off into space.
She snaps him out of it and he starts talking about how his near-death experience has made him start thinking about his life. She knows where this is going and he wonders what’s wrong with that. She says she loves him and seems to think that should be “enough right now”. He for some reason accepts this and starts to drop it, saying he needs to get to the lab which causes her to say that he’s “too much” and she wonders what he was doing there “at 3 o’clock in the morning anyway”. They have a rather dull fight about the fact that Barry is too dedicated and feels justified in working hard what with the whole crime wave that is happening and all. Have I mentioned how annoying Iris is? She is really annoying.
Anyway, after that little bit of drama we are all of the sudden at what looks like an old dam and a motorcycle drives into some abandoned tunnels where we find our much talked about Dark Riders hanging around like the hippie beatniks they are. One of said leather jacket clad beatniks grabs a couple plates of BBQ that is being grilled up right there in the tunnels and starts walking through the throng of people. We pass a guy who looks like one of Wayne and Garth’s buddies from Wayne’s World, making a fresh batch of glow balls.
It is neither “party-time” nor “excellent”.
Mr. Leather Jacket (who we find out is called Rick) eventually gets the food to his vaguely Meg Tilly looking girlfriend who comments on how awesome it is that they are having “steak again” and that they never ate this good on the streets. Our friend Rick, however, isn’t letting his mood be lifted by the promise of steak, and Almost-Tilly wonders what is wrong with him. He apparently feels the cops were a little too close to catching them on their last caper, but she assures him that “Pike” isn’t going to let them get caught.
And if you can’t trust Luke Perry, who can you trust?
Rick doesn’t share her confidence in their leader and thinks he must have gotten “scrambled or something” because of the apparently horrible scars he has. Tilly-Lite is aghast because Pike is “a genius” and takes care of them. Rick then reveals that he’s been taking some of the money they’ve pulled in on their heists (I’m guessing this happened sometime while they were blowing up random stuff) and that he’s getting her out of there tonight.
The perfect person to assess “genius”.
Tilly-ish tells him she just needs to get the rest of her stuff (because I guess she owns more than the horrible tube top she’s wearing) and goes off. Of course because Pike is a genius she can’t go along with this and goes and tells him what Rick has planned. Soon we see the man himself in all his horrible scrambled glory.
Women can’t resist tall, dark, scrambled geniuses.
He looks lovingly at Approxi-Meg (hey, give me a break, these are getting hard) and tells her she was right to come to him with this. She smiles like a good Manson Family member and they head down to the main room. Pike then takes a moment to give his followers a rousing speech about how Central City is crumbling, the street are empty, and people live in fear (hey…we DID see all that earlier, didn’t we!). Pike goes on to talk about the lies that the police spread about how they will protect the city, but feels they are full of crap because, for some reason, the cops didn’t offer every single one of them food and shelter like he did. Suddenly we see Rick who has now been collected by a couple of guys armed with assault rifles. He asks “Lila” why she went and told on him and then tries to convince Pike that he was totally going to give him the money. Pike then promises all his minions that when the city and police are finally broken they’ll all get their fair share, implying that, while they are getting steak and a nice dank tunnel to sleep it, Pike is keeping the cash for himself for the moment. Apparently Pike is just trying to build up a little interest so he can give them a good return on their investment. The crowd seems cool with this.
The Blue Rebel says: It’s not the amount of drugs I smoked, it’s the…wait what now?
Pike goes on to give us a little history lesson by letting us know that “in the days of Genghis Khan, a disloyal warrior was tied to a horse and then set free. His punishment was left to fate”. So of course the crowd grabs Rick and straps him belly down and backwards on a motorcycle because, much like a real horse, motorcycles naturally have their own self-interests in mind and won’t just go off course and run into a wall or something. Also, in order to give “fate” a hand in deciding Rick’s punishment, they put a glow ball on his back, because that’s how they did it in the days of Genghis Khan.
Green glow balls actually originated in Ancient Egypt where they were also used to blow up traitors.
They then rev up the bike and set it “free” to roam where it will, which ends up being about twenty feet down a side tunnel before it, in a completely surprise twist of fate, blows up. Everyone hoots and hollers about how awesome this is and we are blessedly transitioned to our next scene.
We find ourselves back in the CCPD lab where Barry has just returned. An entire team of people in lab coats are cleaning things up, but don’t worry, we won’t ever see this many people working in the lab again. Apparently the janitors here just like to wear white lab coats.
Julio is naturally glad to see Barry, as it means he can get back to being lazy. Fortunately they only lost enough evidence to just “slow [them] down”, and Julio informs Barry that his doctor called and insisted on talking to Barry as soon as he got in. Barry, who previously had blown off the doctor’s concerns, immediately picks up the phone. The doctor informs him that one of the tests revealed some kind of cell damage and wants Barry to make an appointment with a specialist at S.T.A.R. Labs. Thanks to Julio’s exposition drop, we find out some guy got killed last year in one of their tests. Barry has heard this rumor and refuses to be a guinea pig to the super evil scientists. Here we have another common tie to the new series, this idea that S.T.A.R. has a bad reputation. We never really get this in the comics as far as I can remember. Maybe I’m wrong, but in the comics, S.T.A.R. Labs always seems like the go to place for superheroes. It is also really weird that a scientist would be so mistrustful of other scientists just because they work for a federally funded operation. Barry is a scientist and a cop isn’t he?
After this little bit of nonsense, Barry sends Julio off to get some soil sample evidence and reaches for a coffee mug which he sends flying across the room because he reaches for it too fast. Of course we don’t really get this impression, because it is cut very poorly and his hand didn’t seem to be going all that fast in the first place, but let us take a leap of faith here and say it happened that way.
“Why you shifty mug….”
Cut to the next day and we are at Barry’s apartment. Earl brings his leash in to a sleeping Barry to ask for walkies. After a doggy make-out session, Barry finally gets up and suddenly we are running in the park. A children’s baseball game is happening nearby and when the batter sends a ball flying, we see that Earl has spotted where it has landed, though apparently none of the outfielders have as no one seems to be making a run for it. Earl naturally flips his $#!+ and begins going for the ball while Barry gets dragged behind. Barry eventually goes to run ahead of him and suddenly takes off at superspeed, outpacing Earl and eventually slamming into some bushes.
Drugs…just…so many drugs.
Rather than breaking several bones, Barry merely stumbles out of the bushes (that were right against a hill by the way), dirty and disheveled and promptly passes out. Cut back to Barry’s apartment and we see that Barry has downed everything in place. This is funny because remember, Barry never eats anything, remember that? No?
Why was all this stuff in a bachelor’s apartment anyway? If this were reality he’d have had two rotten apples and couple packages of ramen.
This is another call back to the comics that kind of muddies the line between the use of Barry in the show, and the obvious fact that they wanted to be using Wally from the comics. You see, Barry never had a problem with his metabolism, but Wally sure as hell did. While Barry ate and slept fairly normally, Wally, at that point in time, needed massive amounts of food every time he used his powers because he was constantly starving, his metabolism having literally drained him of all his energy. This was actually made into a huge deal in the comics and was one of the reasons Tina McGee was called in. But it never applied to Barry until this show decided that all speedsters would just naturally have this flaw (even though it kind of just makes the power seem a little crappier). In the comics you’d see Wally eating entire restaurants out of their supply of hotdogs, and later in this episode you see Barry finish four whole pizzas in one sitting. Can you imagine if Batman had to make a Taco Bell run every time he beat up a street gang? It just never worked for me and, besides giving Barry some kind of weakness to exploit, it doesn’t make sense here either. And it also seems kind of weird that Barry is barely concerned about having just cleaned out his pantry and still being hungry. He barely comments on it before going on to shovel chicken into his face.
Earl is a little freaked out by this at least and goes to hide behind the couch. And now that Barry is close to the plot-point revealing device (aka the answering machine) he checks his messages and finds that Iris had called wondering where he is as he was supposed to help her set up for her exhibit at the gallery. Barry looks at his watch, changes, and rushes out of the house only to find that he has a flat tire (wouldn’t ya know it!). Seeing a bus down the road, Barry takes off to catch it and suddenly bursts into a super-fast jog.
Rear projection and a blur effect…ILM eat your heart out!
I’ll ignore the bad special effects here (because frankly if I stop to comment every time they are bad I’ll never get done with this), but what really kills me about this scene is that it literally goes on for 25 seconds. The whole time we see that Barry seems perfectly aware of what he is doing. He even manages to make sharp turns and doesn’t seem to think to try and stop until he sees the ocean in front of him at the end of a beach. Ending up in the water, Barry stumbles back to shore and we find out that he is now at Crystal Beach which is “30 miles” away from his apartment.
So, let us make the math a little easier and assume it actually took him five more seconds than we saw to get there. That would mean he was clocking a mile a second or taking a brisk 3,600 mph jog. Later in the episode we see him briefly topping out at 480 mph before pushing himself further after which he breaks the sound barrier and creates a sonic boom. Here, not only do we never see evidence of a sonic boom, but he doesn’t even seem like he was struggling. Even if we assume we didn’t see the whole run and it actually took much longer, that makes even less sense. Say it actually took him two minutes to get there and he was only going around 900 mph (still well above the speed of sound). That would mean that for longer than your average American can jog total without stopping to wheeze, Barry managed to not only keep going, but didn’t even think to apply the breaks. Why not make Crystal Beach a mere 5 miles away? Then he’d have only been hauling at 600 mph and at least it would be a little closer to what we see later. It still would be really fast, but not Mach 4.7 fast. That is just sloppy writing. Of course I’m sure they didn’t expect someone to actually pull out a calculator. Obviously this show was not nerd-proofed.
Anyway, moving on. Immediately after leaving the water Barry passes out again and wakes up some time later under a lifeguard tower. The sun is starting to set and Barry looks at his watch to see that it is “Oh my God” o’clock. Rushing to a pay phone(!) and looking just this side of homeless, Barry makes a call to Iris and tries to explain everything before begging for a ride. He naturally fails to charm her with his “I just ran 30 miles” story, so I guess he has to walk home. Hopefully for my nerd-rage it took him considerably longer than 30 seconds.
Back at home we see that Barry has changed, Earl has gotten over his fear, and Barry is finishing one TV Dinner and starting a second (with two more ready to go, but hey, at least it is a step in the right direction from earlier). The phone rings and it is Christina McGee from S.T.A.R. Labs. Now that he has broken the everything-speed record, Barry is a little more inclined to talk. Barry agrees to meet her at ten the following morning at her lab at 50 Garrick Ave (yet another inside reference for Flash fans, but at least we don’t see a busted open cage with a name-plate that says Grodd at any point). After hanging up the phone, Barry turns around to see that Earl has finished the dinner he was working on as well as the other two he hadn’t gotten to, so, holding up Earl’s leash, he offers to take Earl to “Burger World” so he can get something to eat. Earl is having none of this after the park incident and, grabbing the leash, closes himself in the closest.
Cut to what I’m assuming is around ten the next morning and Barry is waiting at the preordained place on Garrick Ave. He looks at his watch in an annoyed fashion so obviously the good doctor is running late (Lady scientists, huh? Am I right, fellas?). She finally shows up wearing round John Lennon sunglasses and the best high-waisted mom slacks the 90s have to offer. There is some kind of instant chemistry? I guess? It is really hard to tell because honestly McGee looks a little frumpy compared to the woman Barry is actively dating, but none-the-less he states that she isn’t what he expected. Dr. McGee says they are even in that case. I have to agree with her here as John Wesley Shipp is definitely not what I expected as The Flash either. Dr. McGee leads Barry into her office building(?), which, for some reason, is lit with neon purple lighting (Seriously, the 90s were weird you guys).
Unfortunately Tina shares office space with a lava lamp store.
Tina confirms that Barry is a Police Chemist and asks if he is aware of their programs. Barry says no as S.T.A.R. is “federal” so the CCPD doesn’t have much contact with them. Tina wonders what Barry is so afraid of since he too is a scientist, so Barry lays out the rumors about S.T.A.R.’s “unorthodox experiments, secret government contracts” which Tina dismisses as “rumors mostly”. So Barry lays into her and asks if it is a rumor that one of their researchers died last year in an experiment. Turning away, Tina confirms this one. As it turns out the researcher in question was her husband.
S.T.A.R. Labs – where science and horrifying modern art meet.
Walking into her state-of-the-art lab, Barry asks how many people work here and Tina says it is just her. I guess this is supposed to show us the stark contrast between the money the “evil” government throws at its researchers versus the pittance that police scientists have to survive on, or something. It is somehow at the same time vague and not at all subtle.
Two stationary bikes? I guess even with government funding, Tina still has to share her lab space with the local Curves.
Tina asks Barry to go over everything from the beginning, starting with the accident. She asks if he has any idea what chemicals were on the rack the lightning struck and he starts naming them with ease. She seems surprised that he “knows all that”, to which he points out the fact that she “knows all this” in her fancy pants lab. Tina gives him a “touché” look and moves on. Next we see her putting wireless sensors all over him. They apparently each transmit their own signal and she built them herself to keep from tripping over wires. I guess this is so we know she is a super genius who is capable of building all sorts of gadgets.
It turns out that what Barry is standing on some sort of treadmill that is built into the floor. Seriously, why does she have this? What kind of experiments does she normally do that she needs a treadmill built into the floor and those two stationary bikes from earlier? Or is this just for her personal use? She does seem in decent shape, maybe working out is just important to her.
Anyway, she agrees with me that it seems like total crap that he ran all the way to Crystal Beach in only a couple seconds so she wants to see how big of a filthy liar he is. Okay, actually she just says “if you ran to Crystal Beach in a few seconds, let’s see how you got there”, but I’m standing by my inference of the obvious subtext.
Anyway, she goes over to her computer and starts up the treadmill, and now that I’m watching this more closely I have to say that, as long as she is sticking to the whole “scientist” shtick Amanda Pays is really not as bad as I previously thought. Granted, whenever she strays into the whole showing emotion stuff she misses the mark, but she actually seems kind of cute in a way with the whole super-analytical scientist bit. But I digress. So she starts up the treadmill and begins watching the monitor and within a few seconds Barry is already exceeding 125 mph. After about 25 seconds (yet again with the 25 seconds) the treadmill blows up. According to Tina’s sensors Barry managed 347.31 mph. As she points out however, this was just up until the equipment failed so he might not have hit his top speed. As we discussed earlier, obviously he didn’t hit his top speed as, at 347.31 mph, after 30 seconds he would have only managed a paltry 2.89 miles, a far cry from the 30 he managed earlier. I’m beginning to doubt Tina’s credentials, or at least her mathing skills.
“I am a scientist not a mathologist.”
So they start running more tests. The next thing we see is that Tina has put him in the “Imaging Resonator” which tells her that all his “electro-chemical systems are accelerated” including his “nerve synapses, brain waves” and that this is “even when [he] is at rest”. She also lays it on him that his “muscle and bone tissue are changing to keep pace”. This freaks Barry out and he wants to know how they can stop this, but Tina begs him to bear with her for a few more tests.
Oddly enough her “tests” go from the highly advanced scientific equipment to having him put a shuffled deck of cards in order (very scientific). This takes him a whopping three seconds (which will make how slow he does some other stuff later on even more aggravating for me).
Naturally he is now wiped out which Tina explains as being a result of his blood-sugar being incredibly low. She asks if he is hungry and we smash cut to the scene I referenced earlier where Barry has finished off four pizzas on his own. One slice is left and he half-heartedly offers it to Tina. She turns it down and he goes to town. A waiter with very 90s long hair asks if he’d like another one and he momentarily looks super excited, but quickly turns the offer down when he realizes he is looking kind of like a pig at this point. Rather than find this disgusting as Barry assumes she does (you know, because she’s a girl and all), Tina actually finds it fascinating and has a little bit of a nerd-boner going. She explains (to the scientist may I remind you), that his body is using up so much energy that it is demanding that he replace it. Barry, the scientist once again, flat out says he can’t even pretend to understand all this, but he has guessed that, if everything about him is moving faster, he could be aging prematurely. Tina kind of dodges the concern and says she thinks she can help him, but she doesn’t want anyone to know she is treating him because she is afraid of what the gov’ment might do if they find out what Barry can do. She claims to have seen it happen before and we get the backstory on her deceased husband.
David, apparently discovered an enzyme that stimulated the brain and enhanced the senses. The Man demanded that he start human trials before it was fully perfected and when David raged against the machine, their funding was threatened, so David tried it on himself. Unlike the awesome time travel results of Project Quantum Leap, David was dead by the time Tina found him.
Tina makes the mistake of telling Barry she feels lucky he came to her as he may just be her life’s work. This pisses Barry off and he reiterates that he wants these powers gone and that is the deal. Later, at Barry’s apartment, we find that Barry’s metabolism is so out of control that even Earl’s dog food is looking good to him. Barry looks out the window just in time to see Iris pull up and, looking around at the mess in his apartment, decides to use his superspeed to clean things up before she can make it upstairs.
This is another scene that has always bugged me (and I mean always. Even as a kid I knew it was stupid). Things start out promising, if you ignore the stupid fast-paced classical music that starts up or the reused shot of Earl closing himself up in the closet from earlier, but things quickly (ha!) spin out of control.
You see, at first everything is going fine and Barry has actually managed to get things straightened up without any problems. Then, when everything is already almost already completely clean, Barry for some strange reason starts speeding up. You might say that he merely can’t control himself, but I call B.S. because earlier, when he was organizing the deck of cards in Tina’s lab, he had no trouble at all stopping when he was done. It wasn’t like he started, got almost finished and then started randomly throwing cards around at superspeed. He put them in order and stopped. But here, for some reason, he gets almost completely done cleaning and then goes nuts and starts, I don’t know, randomly running around the room or something.
This causes a whirlwind to spring up in his apartment and all of the stuff he just finished organizing just ends up thrown all over the place and he has a bigger mess on his hands than he started with. I’m just not sure what the heck he thinks he is doing at this point since, as I said, he was already almost done. But hey…comedy! Right?
Exasperated at the new mess he’s created just as Iris knocks, he throws the towels he still has in his hands into the air and opens the door. Iris claims she was just driving by but then looks down and sees that Barry’s shoes are smoking. Screaming that they are on fire Barry starts trying to stomp them out while Iris jumps into the apartment. At this point we can see that there are burn/skid marks on the hardwood floor leading to the front door (comedy!). Barry claims he dropped a match on the floor and this seems to work for Iris. She then asks what happened to his place and Barry blames it on Earl. Iris decides they need to “talk” and Barry apologizes for missing her exhibit, blaming it on blackouts that he’s been having. This isn’t cutting it like the brilliant match on the floor story and Iris says they need to slow things down and maybe stop seeing each other for a while. She mentions at this point that she is 25 and not thinking about getting married, but looking at the stupid hat she is wearing she looks more like she is 16.
“And then Bobby told Cindy that he was taking Debra to the prom, so Cindy said…”
Okay, I’m going to kind of skip ahead a little past this next scene because it really doesn’t add much to the plot. It takes place back at the Biker HQ (holy crap, I almost forgot they were actually the main bad guys here). Basically the only important parts of it are that we see that Lila has traded up and is with Pike now, Pike is crazy, the Police Chief is showing off his new task force tonight on TV, and Pike used to be a cop and wrote the CCPD’s Motorcycle Officer’s Handbook. Oh, and his first name is Nicholas if you cared.
And he either doesn’t know how to take care of books or the publisher was going for something arty.
Moving on. We are back at the CCPD lab and Jay is there waiting for Barry and randomly decides to pour some random red liquid into some random bottle with white powder in it and seems surprised when it starts reacting and foaming over. Man, he seriously wasn’t joking about not having much in the brains department.
And yet they let this guy carry a loaded weapon as part of his job.
Barry shows up and pokes a little fun at him. They banter back and forth a little and it is pretty boring, but fortunately Julio shows up (I can’t believe I just said that) and says he has good news. Apparently one of the bikers left behind a hair sample at one of the crime scenes. Barry wants to send it to Chicago for a DNA profile, but Julio is one step ahead and says he not only has already done so, but he has the results already. Besides taking away my joy in joking about Julio’s laziness, this just makes him kind of seem like a jerk whose been sitting on evidence.
According to DNA Testing Centre Inc. in Michigan, depending on the type of test, it can take anywhere from 1 to 15 business days just for the test itself to be done. Also, Central City is supposed to be in Missouri on the Missouri/Kansas border. Let’s assume it is around where Kansas City, Missouri is. That means Chicago is roughly 500 miles away. And we need to remember that this is 1990. Even if it was rushed there by plane, which it probably wouldn’t be, despite how desperate the CCPD is for leads, we’re still talking maybe 2-3 hours just in travel time (even if they faxed the results back, but they obviously didn’t just do that because Julio has the sample in his hand). But wait, Julio says that this crime happened just last night, so not only did he get jumping on getting the sample to Chicago on CCPD’s private jet, but he also somehow managed to circumvent the at least 1 business day for the testing. So Julio is not only a better Crime Lab Scientist than I thought, but managed to invent time travel and is just using it for the stupidest reasons possible (instead of, say, to stop the crime from happening in the first place). I owe him a partial apology I guess.
Aaaand that stupid “beard” has ruined the moment.
Anyway, besides Julio’s amazing new time-travel powers we learn that Jay is going to be heading up the new task force, because of course he is.
We cut to the press conference announcing this new task force, but before Jay can finish his speech, the Dark Riders show up and start with all manner of shenanigans. People get shot, paint gets thrown on the building, the usual. And of course the cops manage to hit exactly zero of the gang members. Linda Park is on the scene and Jay says he is going to get the scum that did this. And of course later on the gang is watching their exploits on the news. Seeing Jay on TV pisses Pike off and he goes all Batman growly, saying that this is the man who betrayed him and gave him his scars before punching out the screen.
Cut to the S.T.A.R. Labs test track, which looks like it is used to test high-speed vehicles (which makes me wonder how often that comes up), or else it is used by the local high school. Tina is there setting up her equipment.
This must be where they hold their intramural track meets against Cadmus Labs.
Obviously the plan is the have Barry run the track to see how fast he can go, but there is an added twist. See, every time Barry runs, his speed, while not hurting his body, destroys his clothes. Now in the comics this isn’t an issue because speedsters produce their own kind of forcefield that not only protects them from the physical damages normally associated with super-high speeds, but extends a few centimeters outward, protecting their clothes and actually anyone they carry. The field also makes it possible for them to breath, even though running that fast would normally make that impossible; it cuts down wind resistance, allowing them to move even faster than they might otherwise; and it has been proposed that it may even turn the kinetic energy of their running into fueling energy. For Wally this doesn’t solve his need to eat a lot, but if he didn’t have it he would have to eat constantly, even as he was running. Anyway, in this version Barry is protected from his own powers, otherwise they would be useless, but his clothes aren’t, so Tina needs to come up with some way to keep him from ending up running around in the buff.
Hard to decide which one of these two looks stupider in what they are wearing.
Enter, as she describes it, a “Soviet prototype deep sea suit” (which is obviously why it is red, duh) that she “borrowed” after the project was abandoned months ago (probably as the Russians were trying to deal with that whole collapse of the Soviet Union thing). I have no idea how or why the Soviets decided to go with a skin-tight suit that leaves little to the imagination, but which has “a layer of reactive insulation” next to the wearer’s skin which expands and allows the suit to “handle the pressure of high-velocity” and regulate body temperature.
“In Soviet Russia, suit wears you!”
How advanced did we think the Soviets really were at that time? For some reason, despite all the evidence to the contrary, American writers seemed to think that we were just a few hours away from being wiped out by the superior science of the Soviet Union on a regular basis. I mean, seriously, besides the obvious uses for a man who can move at super-human speeds, or apparently deep sea explorers, think of all the things someone could do with this suit? If the Soviets were that good, why did they lose again?
So anyway, Barry’s got the supercool commie suit and Tina fits him with an earpiece communicator which he will have no trouble at all using. If you saw the new series pilot episode there is a scene that is really similar to this one where they take Barry out to an airfield to see how fast he can go. Julio…I mean Cisco gives him a prototype communicator that was designed to combat battlefield impulse noise, or, as he points out, potential sonic booms. Tina doesn’t mention that the communicator she is giving Barry is any different from a regular one.
She puts her wireless sensors on him and turns everything on, telling Barry to go whenever he is ready. Barry takes off and is quickly holding at 480 mph. This time it only takes about 20 seconds to get there, so he seems to be accelerating faster now.
Tina asks if he can go any faster and Barry obliges, but a few seconds later is about to cause a sonic boom, despite the fact that the last speed Tina reads out is 620 mph (the speed of sound in dry air at 68 degrees is about 760 mph, so he kind of makes a huge jump out of nowhere). In any case, the sonic boom isn’t that impressive, but it causes Tina to lose contact with Barry for a moment (she freaks out for some reason, despite the fact that all she would have to do is look around and see the red streak going around the track to know he was at least still alive and running).
“Oh…yep…there he is. Guess he’s fine.”
This isn’t however because of equipment failure, but because, despite his body becoming suited to moving at superspeed, his ears started ringing because of the sonic boom. Anyway, he’s fine and apparently starting to like this whole running faster than sound thing.
Tina says she envies him and asks how it feels and Barry, being the genius he is, tells her to see for herself and detours to pick her up and take her for a couple laps, completely forgetting the whole “your clothes get all ripped up and that is why you have to wear the suit” business, or the fact that her muscle and bone tissue HASN’T been changing this whole time to keep up with his speed so he really has no idea how it will affect her. This is kind of like when, in The Avengers, Thor tried to hit Captain America, the man he’d never met before and who he didn’t know possessed an unbreakable shield, with his god hammer. Obviously, much like Thor, Barry is straight up trying to murder Tina.
The cold smile of a psychopath.
Fortunately the worst she suffers is one single torn sleeve because this is still CBS and Game of Thrones levels of nudity hadn’t been invented on TV yet. Hell, her hair isn’t even messed up. She looks perfectly fine. Ask any woman with straight hair how well it holds up after being in a windstorm and see what she says. Tina doesn’t even look mad, she actually seems to be a little turned on by the fact that he’s holding her like that. We also discover that Barry’s breathing and pulse are regular, despite his attempted homicide.
However, as successful as the test was, Barry still starts to feel faint and nearly collapses, only to feel perfectly fine a second later.
To Be Continued…