Thursday, January 08, 2009

Live Action: "Done With Mirrors"

“Done With Mirrors” (April 27, 1991)

Writer: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Danny Bilson
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: When Barry Allen bumps into Stasia Masters, a beautiful classmate from his high school days, he could hardly suspect that he is about to become embroiled in a web of greed and deceit that will pit his superhero alter-ego against a dangerous high-tech criminal. Masters is the former moll of one Sam Scudder, an elusive thief known to law enforcement as the Mirror Master due to his use of advanced holograms in the execution of elaborate crimes. Both Scudder and Masters are in possession of revolutionary technologies stolen from Star Labs and, with Tina McGee’s career and reputation on the line, the Flash must see through myriad layers of deception to stop them both.

Commentary: The one and only Mirror Master is brought to life by guest star David Cassidy in the aptly titled “Done With Mirrors,” an episode that continues The Flash’s late-season trend of reinventing key members of the superhero’s Rogues Gallery. Unfortunately, this is the least engaging episode thus far to feature one of the crimson comet’s famous comic book nemeses. Sam Scudder himself is entertainingly updated for his television debut, his mirror technologies replaced by a bevy of imaginative holograms, and Cassidy is appropriately menacing in the role. When Barry Allen notes that the notorious criminal’s police file is thin, however, he might as well be describing his characterization. Surprisingly, actress Signy Coleman earns more screen time as the seductive but duplicitous Stasia Masters. It is frustrating that the script doesn’t spend more time elaborating on Scudder’s character or exploring his motivations. The episode’s storyline is sorely lacking as well. Though the opening scenes are as breathless as any we’ve seen in the series thus far, by the time of the sudden climax the characters are lost in a tangle of absurd lies and double-crosses. The viewer would be forgiven for thinking the episode’s central MacGuffins--a pair of supposedly priceless, high-tech devices lifted from Star Labs--to be all but meaningless as they contribute little sense of consequence or threat to the proceedings. Additionally, a subplot involving Tina McGee’s efforts to reconnect with her estranged mother, played by actress Carolyn Seymour, proves to be absolutely useless and, worse still, it represents the reiteration of a woeful dramatic cliché. On the plus side, the sets and art direction are inspired, as always, and serve to create a vivid and colorful atmosphere for the action. Shirley Walker’s score is also particular engaging this time around thanks in part to the playful theme written for femme fatale Stasia Masters. There are a lot of fun references to the creators behind the Flash’s comic book adventures slipped into the script as well--take, for instance, Central City's Hotel Infantino on the corner of Fox and Broome. In the end, “Done With Mirrors” is an unsatisfying installment and the audience is left wanting. It’s undeniably disappointing that the Mirror Master does not live up to the standard of villainy previously established for the series by the likes of the Trickster and Captain Cold.

High-Speed Highlight: In a last-ditch attempt to confuse the scarlet speedster and escape justice, Sam Scudder produces eleven identical holographic doubles and loses himself in the crowd! In the blink of an eye, the Flash must race to attack each insubstantial duplicate in turn in order to locate the one true Mirror Master.

Quotable: “Well, Flash! Did you know that three east coast crime families have commissioned studies on you?... How much for you to forget you ever saw me? Take a walk?... Everybody has his price.” --Sam Scudder tries to buy off the fastest man alive

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here. Visit Those Who Ride the Lightning for an overview of The Flash television series, complete with character profiles.

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