“The Trickster” (February 7, 1991)
Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Danny Bilson
Editor: Bill Zabala
Synopsis: When private detective Megan Lockhart is abducted by James Jesse, a crazed criminal with a penchant for the theatrical, the Flash races to her rescue. The madman’s run-in with the scarlet speedster serves only to prompt a dangerous obsession, however. Jesse decides that in order to bring about his superhero rival’s downfall and recapture the lovely Lockhart he requires a new identity. Soon, Central City is being threatened by the perilous pranks of the Trickster!
Commentary: At long last, The Flash embraces its comic book heritage by bringing one of the crimson comet’s infamous Rogues to the screen! “The Trickster” is the first of a series of episodes produced after the network finally decided it was only fitting to feature costumed supervillains on the series. Interestingly, Bilson and DeMeo initially had hoped to present James Jesse as a fantasist whose shenanigans as a supervillain were nothing more than elaborate, internalized delusions. A hint of this remains in the finished script but, unfortunately, that intricate conception of the character was abandoned--primarily as both the studio and network refused it, deeming such a delusional adversary unworthy of our hero--in favor of a more traditional superhero scenario. Guest star Mark Hamill is marvelous, creating a vivid persona that would live on for years in his performances as the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series and beyond. (In addition to featuring in The Flash’s series finale, Hamill even reprised the role of James Jesse in an episode of the animated Justice League Unlimited.) Unfortunately, it’s easy to see why the Trickster was chosen as the first of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery to put in an appearance on the live action series. The character presented here bears a greater resemblance to Batman’s famous arch-nemesis than to his own comic book counterpart. Fortunately, Hamill is endlessly entertaining in acting out the Trickster’s eccentricities and there are just enough moments of outright macabre humor to balance out the episode’s general wackiness. Additionally, Joyce Hyser puts in an encore performance as the sassy Megan Lockhart, invigorating Barry Allen’s love life and fueling jealousy from Tina McGee. It’s satisfying to see our brave but bashful hero finally get the girl. There’s also a very funny subplot in which Officer Bellows becomes convinced that his partner, Officer Murphy, is the man behind the Flash’s mask. Hilarity ensues. “The Trickster” doesn’t feature The Flash's most stunning plot but it seems to represent a step in the right direction. The episode is entertaining, it features an unforgettable villain, and it serves up a healthy dose of comic book nostalgia.
High-Speed Highlight: During an overzealous effort to apprehend the Trickster, the Flash is unable to keep his footing at high speed as he slips and falls again and again on thousands of marbles sprayed across a Central City roadway.
Quotable: “That red costume, with that lightning bolt insignia signifying his dark power… There’s only one man who can stop the Flash! There’s only one man who can rescue my faithful companion, Megan Lockhart, from the Flash’s evil clutches--and I am that man!” --James Jesse finds a new purpose in life