“Pilot” (September 20, 1990)
Writers: Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo
Director: Robert Iscove
Editor: Frank Jimenez
Synopsis: Central City is under siege, its residents terrorized by an underground army of bikers known as the Dark Riders. After being struck by a bolt of lightning in his laboratory one stormy evening, police scientist Barry Allen discovers that he has been endowed with superhuman speed. With the help of Dr. Tina McGee, Barry trains to control his unique powers and sets his sights on avenging the death of his brother by eliminating the threat posed by the city’s malevolent motorcycle gang once and for all.
Commentary: The Flash looks and feels like a television spin-off of Batman (1989) and, for all intents and purposes, it is; the series pilot borrows heavily from Tim Burton’s box office hit, both stylistically and thematically. What is unique about Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo’s comic book adaptation is that this is a story about family in which the heroes are men and women of science. The contrast between Barry Allen, a forensic scientist, and his brother Jay, a hardened field officer, establishes a dynamic that will continue to define the series. Additionally, The Flash earns points for attempting to convey the spirit and style of comic book adventures on the small screen. The resulting lightning-bolt logo screens that open and close each episode are unforgettable. The pilot episode presents a dark take on the familiar origin story. The plot contains more than a few overt clichés, villain Nicholas Pike and his sinister Dark Riders teeter on the edge of the ridiculous, and the aforementioned imitated style and borrowed mythology create the sense that we’ve seen this all before. Additionally, I have always felt that imposing vengeance on Barry Allen as a crime-fighting motivation is somewhat crude. Fortunately, John Wesley Shipp really carries the story as an appropriately dashing and charismatic leading man. That all-important sense of fun doesn’t really kick in until Barry dons the crimson costume of the Flash for the first time, though, leaving us excited and eager for the television adventures ahead.
High-Speed Highlight: The Flash dismantles an entire motorcycle into its constituent parts in less than three seconds, leaving its outlaw rider a bit bewildered.
Quotable: “Come on, Murph. Will you give the poor guy a break! I mean, how would you act if you got hit by lightning?” --Officer Bellows defends Barry Allen’s eccentricities