Flashin’ Back!: Week 2 – “Out of Control”


As we mentioned on the previous podcast CW gave the order for the Grant Gustin starring Flash as a pilot, With a bevy of actors now attached to well known roles, All the more timely then that we re-examine the last attempt at carrying the character on TV.

Last week we looked at the pilot and overall it was pretty good, Not exactly flawless especially when weighted against today’s standards but it still remains a pretty strong piece of TV. It set us up with Barry Allen (Played by John Wesley Shipp) and surrounding him with a Mum and Dad, A brother whose very death led Barry to taking the crimson cowl, Iris his on and off again girlfriend, Tina McGee a star Labs scientist whom he entrusts his secret and the guys back at CCPD. By the end of the piece Barry having avenged his brothers death decided not to give up The Flash persona.

With all that established lets see how the second episode “Out of Control” plays out in the second of our weekly recaps of the 1990 series.

The episode opens on an alleyway full of hobo’s bedding in with the bins for the night… You know as you will find any night anywhere in the town… Oh yeah you wont because this is a total Hollywood version of vagrancy, Anyway I guess these people lead sad lives because there is a blues track in background. Not everything is as it should be tonight as we see a hobo in a secluded spot of the alleyway when and ominous shadow appears in front of him, The figure hands out a $20 bill and the camera cuts back to his hobo friends when they hear a scream from their friend they go and investigate only to find him badly deformed and hideously burned looking. With no killer in site. Cue Danny Elfman score.

The wonders of latex!

The wonders of latex.

And the show begins with the two hobos who found the body ushering a cop car into the alleyway of despair, When they get to the scene of the crime the deformed dead body has disappeared. Back at the precinct Barry is getting ready to clock off when he bumps into a priest in the lobby who happens to be familiar with him, It seems the priest once knew Barry’s brother Jay. He asks Barry to let him speak to his boss as several of his homeless parishioners have gone missing from attendance. Barry’s boss takes a dim view on this saying he isn’t going to assign any cops to to the skid row run because well they are hobos and have a tendency to disappear, Unless there is a body recovered they can’t do anything. After this meeting Barry goes to meet Tina McGee at a genetics lecture when he walks in late because you Barry with all his super fast reflexes (just like Spider-Man) can never make it anywhere on time ever. The man on the stage is spouting some such nonsense about genetic being used to stop birth defects and humans changing how they evolve.

Cock Blocked!

Cock Blocked!

After the lecture Barry and Tina are in the lobby where Barry makes a faux pas trying to pretend he is read up on genetics, The lecturer “Karl” offers to take Tina home and Barry looks annoyed clearly a level of cock blockage has just taken place. As they walk home Tina offers Karl some choice words about his genetic research citing the death of her husband at STAR Labs… This is like the a dozen times it has been mentioned, It makes me wonder if the writers having a fixation on this one easter egg or they were trying to build towards something. For the uninitiated Tina McGee’s husband experimented on himself and became the Speed Demon who was a nemesis during Wally’s time as time as DC’s main Speedster. After this exchange Karl makes a pass at Tina which isn’t particularly reciprocated.

In all of this Barry clearly pining for Tina, You were beginning to wonder where is Iris as in Barry’s long-established girlfriend from the comic. You know the one from the pilot episode – Well lets just say she wont be around because in the very next scene Barry is back a CCPD HQ when Julio reads him a Dear John postcard from her in which she says “I’m in Paris now and my canvases are selling well”… Where to begin with this. Clearly they decided from the pilot not to bring back the character or even the actress to film a farewell and on the other side of the coin it shows sloppy writing since the type of art she was said to make in the pilot was holographic as in can’t be printed onto a canvas. Neither of which leaves me particularly confident about the shape the show will take but we will see.

Barry and Julio here a ruckus coming from the precinct Lobby and go to investigate. The lobby is full of the before seen vagrant who are demanding justice for there missing and vivisected friends. Things quickly get out of hand when the police try to kettle the hobos and disperse them out of the building when one grabs a gun and gets into a standoff with the police, Well that escalated quickly. Barry does his super fast thing and the bum gets a slap on the wrist thanks to the objections of the priest.

Ever the hero Barry presses his boss to look into their claims and takes two of the hobos and the priest down to the lab for a discussion about what is going on. They recount their tale of the missing body from the start of the episode and rumors that someone is going around offering money to the homeless and sticking them with needles. As the hobos leave Barry agrees to investigate that night and remarks that he recognizes on of them “Charlie” and is assured they don’t keep to the same circles. But clearly they must turn out to have some previous, But what?

That night Barry follows him into the alleyway and is nearly decked because Charlie feels he is being followed, When he sees it’s Barry he holding two bags of groceries he backs of and the two of them go ahead but as they do the camera pans back and we see the same shadowy figure from the start. Clearly they won’t show us yet but at this point anyone with half a brain must know who it is.

Barry and Charlie are chatting as the other vagrant from the CCPD office screams at someone to stay back, That he knows them and alarm bells should ring if you have seen this episode for he bummed $20 from Karl the geneticist whilst he walked Tina home. He is stuck with a needle and swiftly begins to mutate with bubbles appearing under his skin. His screams alert those in the alleyway and Barry speeds to the scene. The Flash is with him as he dies and Karl is revealed staring from a fire escape.

However back at the morgue the next day it seems as though the corpse is perfectly fine, No signs of deformity which leaves Barry back at stage one. He brings Julio his school year book and as it turns out him and Charlie were school mates hence the feeling of recognition Barry had towards Charlie. He asks Julio to run a battery of tests on the blood sample taken from the dead vagrant. Feeling pangs of guilt Barry sorts out Charlie with a night watchmen job at Star Labs, And that will really help Central City’s homeless problem a huge bunch.

Then we are in Star Labs where Charlie waddles in looking much cleaner in a guards uniform and very much uncomfortable with the situation, Regardless he thanks Barry for thinking of him. Barry asks Tina out to a “nice little sushi place round the corner” but his advances are shot down again as Tina has a date with the shows resident hobo killer – Karl. At the meal the first subject to arise is Central Cities rumored vigilante The Flash, Who Karl takes great interest in. Tina on the defensive dismisses the rumors as hogwash and moves on. As if the talk is particularly anti-romantic the topic of conversation is the research of Tina’s husband, It would seem to be of value to Karl as his research is flawed. But Tina rebukes him saying the data is back at Star labs and that is where it will still. One wonders if it is really that dangerous why she hasn’t destroyed the data already to keep the same mistakes from happening.

Karl laces her drink with some dope and she is out for the count, And he scans her eye presumably with a bio-metric scanner. Which seems a bit too advance for 1990 but then again it is a show about a guy bestowed with super speed so I can give it a pass, Clearly he is heading to Star Labs to get the files and he isn’t the only one as Barry is going over the DNA tests of the hobo they are in flux, He needs to use Star Labs equipment to analyse them in further detail. Karl is the first one there using his device to get past the advance security at the labs entry, And quickly begins rooting around. Barry on the phone to the lab to ask permission to use the resources there is spooked when Charlie says and alarm has went off and he has to go check it out. As The Flash arrives he finds Charlie clobbered and in an open high pressure chamber as he goes to check on him the door on the chamber closes and the pressure builds. As Karl leaves with copies of Tina’s husbands genetic research. It seems as though the hero is in an old-fashioned trap, Ones mind jumps to West and Ward dangling over a vat.

The Escape!

The Escape!

Breathless he uses manages to cut through the density glass with super speed because um he is The Flash and that is what he does. With the ambulance carting off Charlie, Tina finds her husbands work in the photocopier, She is either dense or in denial but Barry is now positive it is Karl and harsh words are exchanged between the two. Back at his own lab he perfects his solution and jabs a Alsatian turning it into a frickin werewolf… I kid you not.

And you thought the Hulked out Poodles were bad?

And you thought the Hulked out Poodles were bad?

Two of CCPD’s finest call in the report about the giant beast at the corner of Gardner and Fox (another nod to the comics since Justice League and Jay Garrick’s Flash were both created by Gardner Fox) and The Flash makes the save, Knocking the over sized mutt on its ass as it reverts back to its canine shape. With the evidence clearly in front of them Tina and Barry agree it is Karl and Barry make his way to the crazy Doctors lab before he create a werebunny, Oh the terror. Karl lobs a bottle of hydrogen at Barry which he has to grab or it will blow up the place then jumps into a cupboard injecting himself with the formula as a last resort. Smashing the door of its hinges and knocking The Flash on his ass, Now horribly mutated he causes a ruckus in the streets tipping a cop car with his enhanced strength. In classic Jekyll and Hyde style the formula proves to have a short half-life and he begins to revert to his human self.

With 4 vials of monster juice and no needle he heads to Star Labs and begs Tina to help, She argues why he has the right to experiment on humans. In a telling piece of exposition he reveals his family were poor and that he despises the poor, That they should be wiped out. He knocks he out and used he equipment to apply her husbands notes to the last of his vials. Like a junky needing a fix he shoots up as soon as it is ready and Tina tied to a chair tries to appeal to his human side but he has none of it and decides to alter he as Barry enters the lab suited up and zooms round Tina untying the rope and creating a barrier when he is plucked by the throat from the air by the monster.

Someones clearly taken too much PCP!

Someones clearly taken too much PCP!

Who then smashes the doors in and makes a break for it, As Barry dusts himself of and makes chase for the beast. Rather than use his new-found abilities for reasons which a nefarious villain would instead he goes to the hobo alleyway and beats up hobos with bins… Who can save the world from such super villainy. A short fight ensues as The Flash exchanges punches and wraps the mutated Karl in a wire fence whereby he reverts to normal. As Tina checks on him he makes in certain he doesn’t want her near him and a street clothed Barry comforts her cue Danny Elfman score, The hobos of Central City are safe for now.

What worked in the pilot episode?

  • Tina: I dislike the direction they have taken to focus solely on her as Barry’s love interest. Call me a Flash purist but she was never from his time she was from Wally’s but at least they are expanding on her character and giving hints that reflect her comic book life. How will she develop further through the series?
  • The score: I said it last week and I will say it again but my god does Danny Elfman know how to craft a rousing superhero tune, It definitely gives some big screen class to this show.
  •  The effects: The speeding effects and those seen on the mutants, Were pretty decent. In contrast to last week were the effects were choppy in parts, Either working or not. Will this be carried into other episodes?


What didn’t?

  • My main criticism last week was the villains were too generic as in bland. This week my problem is the antagonist in spite of having a sci-fi edge and being a metahuman was very played out. How many times have we seen Jekyll and Hyde ripped off compared to the times we have seen I don’t know lets say a Man with mastery over mirrors?, Leaving aside my yearning for any of “The Rogues” to show up – The Doctor’s plan made little sense, He decides to create a serum to make super humans and perfects it. However the downside is it has a limited half life and turns you brainless, And when I say brainless I mean really brainless. His feats of strength was beating up hobos in an alleyway with a 4×4. His greater plan for what to do with the serum makes very little sense when you think it out. Where are my damn Rogues already?
  • No Iris – She was in the pilot and is pretty intrinsic to the Flash mythos yet it’s the first episode after the pilot and she isn’t in a single scene. Instead the writers inserted a Dear John letter, It reminded me of Kimberly dumping Tommy in season 3 of Power Rangers. Who else will be getting elbowed from the show?
  • Hollywood Hobos: The representation of a tough subject like homelessness is done in a pretty shallow way, clichés about living rough are spouted by all and those Alleyways are clearly studio sets. Will the show manage to find it’s own feet or continue to borrow elements?
  • Script: All over this just seemed much weaker and less tight than last weeks script. Will next week be better?

This seems to have lost some of the momentum built up in the pilot, But hey its obvious they can’t throw there all into every episode like they had to with the pilot. But in many ways the second episode is just as crucial as the pilot because you not only have to keep appealing for more fans and viewers but you got to keep the ones you got. With that in mind this story just seemed a tad average and lacking any velocity. Though areas it did excel in were in presenting another metahuman for Flash to fight against which seemed to present less of a given, 

A decidedly average 2.5/5.

And that is about it for this week, Join me next week where I recap the third episode in the series “Watching the Detectives” where “A crooked D.A. discovers the Flash’s civilian identity and uses that information to extort him into becoming his secret accomplice”. In the meantime you can find The Flash: The Complete Series on Amazon if you want to see it firsthand or to get all nostalgic, There may even be episodes on a certain popular video sharing site but I wouldn’t **cough** suggest such clandestine acts of piracy.

The writer of this piece was:
GARYavGary Kane aka (GK)
GK tweets from @Kanoclassic

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