Sunday, February 21, 2010

Breaking the Bank

The Flash

Episode 3: "Watching the Detectives"

Plot: A corrupt DA is involved with a mobster running an illegal casino but when both hatch schemes to get out of their deal the DA decides he wants to stack the deck. He hires private investigator Megan Lockhart to discover the real indentity of the Flash and when she does the DA uses the information to threaten Barry with exposure... unless Barry does exactly what he is ordered to.

My Take: Much better! The story here hangs together pretty well and there is a nice mix of humor and action. There is still a bit of a simplistic, moralizing tone as P.I. Megan Lockhart has to be 'shown how her work can impact others' lives' and the ending is entirely too convenient and smacks of deus ex machina but overall the tale is solid. There is also some nice acting by Shipp as Barry. For perhaps the first time he seems more at ease in the role and he doesn't try to force the humor which therefore actually makes it funny for a change. The scene where Barry breaks the bank at the illegal casino is genuinely entertaining with some good lines. Joyce Hyser is also quite good in her guest starring turn at Lockhart -- injecting the character with a lot of spunk and a little bit of grit. Hyser would reprise the role two more times before the series' end.

The series is still suffering from a bit of Burton Batman worship, though. There are elements of 'creative anachronism' as viewers see modern style reporters carrying 1930's style microphones -- just as they did in the Batman movie.

There is still a bit of a problem with the threat levels, though. In dealing with superhero stories there is an expectation that the threats the heroes face will be equal to their powers. Here we have a mobster, a crooked DA, and an arson-for-hire scheme that your average powerless pulp-style detective hero could have wrapped up in no time flat. The addition of the threat to Barry's secret ID adds a little jolt to the proceedings but really, there's nothing here that really pushes our hero. Just as an aside... The arsonist is called "the Spaniard". A guy who is so "white and nerdy" (as Al Yankovic sang) he practically defines the words is called "the Spaniard". Seriously?!

It is interesting, though, that the writers chose to go for the whole 'exposure of secret identity' theme this early in the series.

Most of the special effects are also quite good here. The opening fire looks good although the fire staged toward the end of the story is weak sauce and pretty obviously the work of a pyrotechnics department. As was mentioned before, the sequence of Barry using his powers to cheat in the casino comes off beautifully but the final fight between the Flash and the mob henchmen has not aged well at all.

Special note should be made of Shirley Walker's score here. Walker would score this series and then go on to score Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond. She would win an Emmy for her work with B:TAS. Here, in keeping with the sub-theme of the semi-shady private eye, she devised a score that had a real 1930's sound with a kind of jazzy/bluesy edge to it. It's really nice work and worth paying attention to.

From a comic book standpoint there is not too much to kick about. At this stage in the series they were still portraying the Flash as a kind of urban myth and having some of the population believing he existed and others not. This was yet another throwback to Burton's Batman as, in the comic books, the Flash was always public about his existence -- often appearing on TV and being mentioned in the news. Interestingly though, in the Silver Age Batman operated out in the open as a hero as well. His status between public hero and urban myth has veered from one to the other in the comic books in the modern era to the point where I wonder if anyone knows for certain which he is supposed to be.

Flash Facts:
The title for the episode comes from the song by the same name by Elvis Costello.

At one point in the story Tina McGee indicates she is expecting a phone call from "Dr. Carter Hall". Carter Hall was the civilian name of the superhero Hawkman. In the comic books Carter's day job was as a museum curator so one would wonder what a museum curator would be doing calling a STAR Labs scientist.

No comments:

Post a Comment