Episode 7: "Child's Play"
A drug guru from the 1960's faked his death and went underground only to start emerging in Central City with a new, highly addictive and dangerous drug of his own concotion! A reporter about to break the story is killed and Barry Allen is on the trail to find the killer. Unfortunately he also is trying to help the force track down the source of the new drug AND he gets saddled with taking care of two orphan children! All three problems, though, are tied in together and one of the kids under Barry's care has the one clue that will break the whole thing wide open. Will even the Flash be fast enough to figure it out before a little boy pays a heavy price?
Airing about seven or eight years before Mike Myers' first Austin Powers movie, this episode was actually a little ahead of it's time in capturing a wave of '60's nostalgia.
The story is cheesy, yes. There's a lot of "Don't do drugs, drugs are bad. M'kay?" message here as well. The villain comes off like a cross between a psychotic Timothy Leary and Liberace (yeah, try to get THAT image out of your head now), he's got a completely unworkable evil plot that involves addicting the entire city to his drug (of course, what would you expect from a character whose supposedly been sampling his own stuff for the past 2o years), and he chews the scenery at every opportunity... And it's all crazy, stupid awesome!
Yeah, I know. On every level I should really hate this episode. The villain is, again, lacking in super powers, there is a tribute to the rock band The Who at the end that is rather more cringe-worthy than not, and there are multiple moral lessons stuffed into the story so hard it's amazing one hour-long show can hold them all.
What saves everything, though, is that the characters of the kids are rarely overly saccharine, the villain is so flamboyantly, over-the-top that it actually works, there are a couple of really well played, sincere scenes, and there are also several good lines of dialogue and good scequences. A bit cheesy perhaps, but good nonetheless. Take, for example, when the drug addled villain threatens his supplier -- pushing the man up against his car and declaring "The '60's didn't have as much peace and love as you might think."
The performances all around are fairly solid. There is one scene in which the actress playing the wife of the murdered reporter pretty much fails in portraying genuine grief... instead giving such a hammy performance it is obvious she's trying too hard. Once she gets over that hump, though, she does a much better job throughout.
The special effects are, overall, well done. There is one really, really obvious use of green screen but the rest have aged quite well and the sequence where the Flash actually phases through a wall is still cool. The way they depict the vision of those on the drugs is also nicely trippy.
From a comic book standpoint there is actually a lot to like here. Early on the episode we see the Flash catch bullets and then throw them back at the gunman's car -- blowing out the tires. This was a little trick that the comic book version did on more than one occasion. We also have the Flash vibrating so fast he is able to phase through a wall; used here for the first and (I think) only time. This is a shame because in the comic books, phasing through objects was one of the tricks the Flash used all the time.
The long and the short of it is that, despite having the deck stacked against it, this manages to actually be a fun and entertaining epsiode. Tune in, turn on, and drop out... but make sure you check your brain at the door first.
The series pays tribute to it's influences and roots -- in one sequence, as Barry walks his dog for the night they pass my a movie theatre. The marque out front declares "Double Feature: Batman and Superman". Barry also walks past a movie poster for Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie -- indicating that the double feature will be Burton's 1989 Batman and Richard Donner's 1978 Superman film.