Thursday, May 31, 2007

Live Action: "Shroud of Death"

“Shroud of Death” (November 29, 1990)

Writer: Michael Reaves
Story: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Mario Azzopardi
Editor: Lawrence J. Gleason

Synopsis: Moments before being executed, fanatical survivalist Jefferson Zacharias vowed that he would send an angel of death to assassinate all those who had a hand in his sentencing. Now, years later, that ominous declaration is being carried out. Law enforcement officials in Central City are being eliminated by a skilled and determined assassin. Barry Allen must discover the killer’s identity before his commanding officer, Lieutenant Garfield, can be crossed off the hit list.

Commentary: In “Shroud of Death,” guest star Mike Genovese--playing Barry Allen’s now-familiar superior, the short-tempered but honorable Lieutenant Warren Garfield--is finally granted the opportunity to step away from the sideline and into the spotlight. Here, he’s more engaging than many of those supporting characters who played pivotal roles in previous installments. The plot concerning survivalist Jefferson Zacharias’s Warriors of Freedom is intriguing albeit awkward. In this case, there may be too much back story--much of this standard revenge drama has taken place before the episode’s opening scene. There is, however, plenty of excitement supplemented with a few somewhat predictable plot twists, and the Flash is able to perform in several amusing action sequences. The art direction remains brilliant, composer Shirley Walker continues to shine, and there are a number of scenes featuring top-notch cinematography. Unfortunately, this episode also bears a pair of downright annoying subplots. When Tina McGee announces that she has been offered a job in California, the typically-sensitive Barry struggles to say that he doesn’t want her to leave. Meanwhile, after catching a glimpse of several high-speed stunts, Julio Mendez begins to suspect that his partner may be the mysterious scarlet speedster who protects Central City. Both of these subplots rehash simplistic character dynamics that have been present since the show’s pilot without contributing anything new. They also impair our suspension of disbelief. It’s difficult to believe that Barry would be incapable of communicating his feelings to Tina--almost as difficult as it is to believe that there is any sort of romantic tension between them. The writers also risk rendering the already comic Julio into an outright fool by allowing him to continually deny the secret identity scam that should be obvious to him. This sort of cheap comedy and dry drama is all too familiar. During such scenes it feels as if The Flash is running in circles, and these subplots drag the episode down. Ultimately, “Shroud of Death” is an entertaining but rather unremarkable adventure.

High-Speed Highlight: Summoning an astonishing burst of super speed, the Flash leaps from a pressure-sensitive plate rigged to explode by Zacharias’s angel of death, then proceeds to outrun the subsequent fireball and ensuing shockwave.

Quotable: “Could you feel my head? Could you feel my head, please? Is it warm? Because I could have sworn that I just saw you working so fast that I couldn’t see your hand.” --Julio Mendez begins to suspect that his lab partner is hiding something

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