“Good Night, Central City” (May 4, 1991)
Writer: Jim Trombetta
Director: Mario Azzopardi
Editor: Dennis J. Wooley
Synopsis: At the city morgue, the surprise resurrection of career criminal Harry Milgrim signals trouble for bustling Central City. The small-time crook’s apparent death was but the test run for a powerful sonic device capable of inducing a state of deep sleep in human subjects. With his reluctant cousin Roger Braintree, the timid scientist who developed this technology, Milgrim sets out to put all of Central City to sleep such that he can carry out the criminal capers of his wildest dreams, regardless of the potential side effects to the slumbering public! The fastest man alive is prepared to put a stop to this dangerous plot but, unfortunately, Barry Allen is being slowed down by an internal affairs investigation that suspects he may be involved in its execution!
Commentary: The driving premise behind this episode is simple enough--the science to induce sleep on a citywide scale falls into the hands of an ambitious criminal. This episode’s script is simply outstanding, however, and “Good Night, Central City” is a lot of fun as a result. With no need to rely on spectacle or special effects, the story takes over and offers us the requisite fast-paced action, plenty of light-hearted humor, and some gripping moments of character-driven drama. Matt Landers is delightful as the overenthusiastic Harry Milgrim, a reckless and sometimes manic crook who dreams of escalating to the level of the criminal mastermind, and character actor Bill Mumy has a brief turn as scientist Roger Braintree, the villain’s nervous cousin. The relationship between Milgrim and Braintree is reminiscent of the relationship that existed between Weather Wizard Mark Mardon and his brother Clyde, characters from the pages of The Flash comic book, allowing for an undercurrent of compelling familial conflict. Additionally, guest star Victor Rivers brings an essential quantity of menace to the proceedings as Stanley Morse, a dangerous local gangster who is invited to take part in the full-scale sleep scheme. The episode boasts a surprisingly powerful subplot as well, in which Barry Allen is tormented by an internal affairs investigation which suspects him of corruption, and this is at points beautifully integrated into the dominant storyline. The series’ full supporting cast is on hand--complete with characters representing the city’s colorful police department, underground, and media--which serves, as ever, to stimulate a very real sense of vibrancy or vitality. At the risk of repeating myself, it must also be mentioned that Shirley Walker’s score for the episode is marvelous, its bouncing, jazzy tones undeniably contributing to the overriding sense of adventure. At this point in the season, The Flash had long-since found its footing and was consistently using its stylistic strengths and outstanding supporting cast to their full effect. It all adds up to one of the live action television series’ more enjoyable installments. Following a line-up of somewhat strained episodes featuring reinvented Rogues, “Good Night, Central City” is downright refreshing in its levity and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.
High-Speed Highlight: By inflicting years of damage and decay in the span of several seconds, the Flash loosens a metal pipe embedded in the wall of a concrete bunker before then spinning it in his hands at spectacular speed to melt through the heavy-duty padlock barring the entrance to the control room for Central City’s civil defense system!
Quotable: “Oh, boy. Three days without sleep. I even tried what you suggested, you know, counting sheep. Last night at dawn I had twenty-three hundred… Well, actually, I counted their legs and divided by four.” --Officer Murphy comically struggles to cope with a bout of severe insomnia