Series: The Flash (1990)

The Flash was a 1990 live-action TV series based on the comic book character of the same name, starring John Wesley Shipp in the title role.

Central City police scientist Barry Allen is caught in a freak lab accident involving a bolt of lightning and several random chemicals on a shelf; the bizarre combination alters his body chemistry, allowing him to move at incredible Super Speed. Shortly afterwards, his older brother Jay is murdered by notorious gang leader (and ex-cop) Nicholas Pike, prompting Barry to seek the aid of STAR Labs scientist Dr. Tina McGee in order to bring Pike and his gang to justice. To that end, Barry dons an experimental high-pressure diving suit, modified with lightning-bolt designs, and sets out on a one-man war on Pike, and eventually on crime in Central City as a whole.

The series lasted for one season, 22 episodes in all, and was eventually canceled due to poor network time scheduling. It was produced by Warner Bros. in association with Pet Fly Productions.

Tropes present in this television series based on The Flash:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: The Nightshade's secret lair is located in one, as a heroic example. For a villainous example, the Trickster commandeers one as his own personal base of operations in his debut episode. See also Never Recycle a Building below.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Barry is blond in the comics; here, he sports brown hair.
  • Agent Scully: Officer Murphy refuses to believe the Flash exists, even after seeing the speedster running around a bus to defrost it right before his eyes. (In fact, his just missing the Flash so many times leads to HIM being suspected of being the hero in one episode).
  • Anti-Hero: The new Nightshade in "Deadly Nightshade".
  • Artificial Human: The titular cyborg in "Alpha."
  • Ax-Crazy: The Trickster.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: This series' version of Captain Cold and Mirror Master.
  • Badass Long Coat: Captain Cold.
  • Batman Gambit: A criminal mastermind gathers a team to supposedly steal a foreign treasure. While the police sit on the treasure, he sends them out to pick the city clean. As it turns out they're just distractions to pull the police away so he can steal the treasure.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Barry and Tina.
  • Berserk Button: Prematurely canceling a contract with Captain Cold is not a wise thing to do, especially because his offended feelings won't show openly.
  • Big Eater: Barry, by necessity due to his powers.
  • Black Best Friend: Julio Mendez, also his co-worker.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Trickster does this to the Flash in his second appearance.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: This is Pike's attitude in the pilot, when Flash confronts him about Jay's murder.
    The Flash: You made me when you killed my brother.
    Pike: I've killed a lot of men's brothers.
    • The Trickster has this as well. He constantly reinvents himself, and disregards his past actions entirely once a new inspiration takes him. In his second appearance, Jesse is broken out of jail and even though Central City, the Flash, and his Harley Quinn-esque devotee are all prepared for the Trickster's return, he himself just dismisses the whole thing as another passing phase and prepares to do something new. He has to be convinced to care enough to put on the suit again.
  • Caltrops: The second Nightshade uses them to stop the Flash from pursuing him.
  • Canon Foreigner: Barry's older brother Jay.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Nightshade was essentially a combination of The Shadow and The Green Hornet, with his outfit based on that of the Golden Age Sandman and sharing the same name as the superheroine.
  • Cassandra Truth: A toddler in an episode calls Barry "Flash" as she's begun talking. Fortunately, since she is a baby nobody takes her seriously.
  • Cloning Blues: Pollux was a clone of Barry Allen. He didn't take it very well when he found out.
  • Clothing Damage: Barry has to be careful about how fast he runs out of costume (or when carrying civilians) because the wind shear from super-speed will shred their clothes (and a lot more if he's really negligent).
  • Composite Character: Barry Allen's eating tendencies and connection with Tina McGee are all taken from Wally West's run as the Flash. The costume is based on Wally's subtly different one as well.
  • Continuity Nod: Some of the later episodes would reference events from earlier episodes. One example would be Nicholas Pike, the Big Bad of the pilot episode, returning for revenge in "Fast Forward." Also, in the same episode, Barry mentions what Nightshade had previously said to him.
    Barry: Someone once told me the Flash would be forgotten in a few years. I never thought he'd end up in a museum.
  • Corrupt Cop: Pike used to be this.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Inverted in the pilot, as Pike's murder of Jay is what motivates Barry to use his powers to fight crime. Also played straight twice, both times indirectly—Flash's existence motivates James Jesse, already a criminally psychotic Stalker with a Crush, to become the Trickster, a Stalker with a Crush with outlandish gadgets; and Flash's DNA is used (through a stolen blood sample) to create his not-quite-Evil Counterpart Pollux.
    Barry: Since I became the Flash, these eccentric criminals have been coming out of the woodwork. The Trackman, Ghost, Gideon, now this. Maybe I should hang it up.
    Megan: Stop blaming yourself. Blame society. Welcome to post-modern America.
  • Da Chief: Lt. Warren Garfield.
  • Damsel in Distress: Megan Lockhart in "The Trickster," though she defies the status.
    Megan: I'm no damsel in distress! I'm a detective!
  • Darker and Edgier: Most of the episodes portrayed Central City in a manner more akin to Gotham City. Plus, the Flash wasn't afraid to kill (unlike his comic book counterpart, who only ever killed once out of desperation).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lt. Garfield. An example from the episode "Captain Cold":
    Okay, somebody call the coroner to pick this guy up before he melts...On the other hand, may be better to call the Good Humor Man.
    • Barry himself, at times. From the same episode:
    Terri Kronenberg: All right, look. About the other night. I acted like a jerk. Well, I mean not so much a jerk as much as I was just pushy. All right, no, actually, to tell you the truth, I was a jerk. You know, but it's my job. It's just, I take it very seriously and it makes me a little aggressive sometimes. And I know that it's a problem and I've been working on it. I'm actually a lot better. You should have seen me before. Woo. It's a trait, it runs in my family, you know? So, what I'm trying to say here is that I'm sorry, okay?
    Barry: Do you ever breathe?
    Terri: Yeah, that's another thing, I talk a lot.
    Barry: Oh, really? I hadn't noticed.
  • Disability Superpower: In "Sight Unseen" a blind newspaper vendor's other senses are so sharp he's able to give the Flash a relatively detailed description of a murder. He would probably know that Barry was the Flash if someone referred to him by name during their talk.
  • Electric Torture: In the episode "Fast Forward", Barry Allen is transported ten years into the future where his brother's killer Nicolas Pike runs Central City. He uses an electric chair in the old STAR Labs to give whoever opposes him an electric lobotomy. However, when Nicolas had Barry strapped up to the chair and given a full measure of the chair's powers, it briefly restores Barry's superspeed allowing him to escape
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In the pilot, one of Pike's men tries to run off with his girlfriend when he fears Pike is crazy. But his girl ratted him out to Pike and killed him by tying him on a motorcycle with a bomb.
    • The mob boss in "Good Night, Central City".
  • Evil Albino: The show's version of Captain Cold.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The dog does not like the disguised Trickster, while nobody else can tell who he is.
  • Expy: Pollux, Barry's clone in the episode "Twin Streaks," was essentially the show's Reverse-Flash. He also has roots in Speed Demon and the Blue Trinity, all early speedster foes of Wally West who got their powers via lab experimentation.
    • Omega to the Terminator in "Alpha".
  • A Father to His Men: Pike.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Happens in "The Trickster," where Barry goes to a police costume ball as his alter ego...and a number of the guests there are clad in similarly-colored costumes, since nobody knows what the real Flash looks like beyond the red-and-gold speed blur. Amusingly, Barry is told that his costume is bland.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Nightshade, the Ghost, Mirror Master, and Deadly Nightshade.
  • Genre Savvy: In the pilot, Tina says if the government found out about Barry's abilities, they would try to cut him up to make more like him. Barry responds that she has read too many comic books.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "The Trickster," when Barry brings Megan back to his apartment while Tina's there:
    Megan: (to Tina) Barry mentioned to me what happens to you when you don't get enough sleep. All-girl gang, huh? (referencing the previous episode, "Tina, Is That You?")
  • Handy Cuffs: In his titular debut episode, the Trickster was handcuffed with his hands in front of him. While sitting in the middle of a police car with three officers, he grabbed a gun from one officer and shot all three dead. Oh, and Trickster is also an escape artist so he was out of the handcuffs seconds later.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Barry has a dog, Earl.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Captain Cold's demise.
  • Honor Before Reason: Captain Cold will finish a contract, even if the employer cuts the contract short without paying him.
  • Hot Scientist: Tina, of course.
  • I Lied: The mad scientist in "Out of Control" lied to everyone about growing up as a privileged rich kid. His parents were very poor, and was ashamed of his upbringing. To the point that he's disgusted with the poor.
  • The Informant: Fosnight, an ex-mobster and thief.
  • Invisibility: Brian Gideon and his invisibility cloak.
  • Internal Affairs: Jack Farrow in "Good Night, Central City"
  • It's All My Fault: In "Sins of the Father", Henry blames himself for getting his friend and former partner Pete involved, resulting in his death.
  • It's Personal: Garfield in "Shroud of Death", after the assassin shot his fiance.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Barry pulls his on one of the members, by scaring her that the "demon" Flash will come after Pike if she doesn't talk.
  • Kangaroo Court: In "The Trial of the Trickster", the Trickster refers to his trial as one. He even set up his own later in the episode.
  • Kick the Dog: In "Twin Streaks," Pollux complains to his creator, Dr. Jason Brassell, that he doesn't know who his parents are, whether he's a good or bad person, or what his true identity is supposed to be. His creator's response?
    Brassell: You're nothing. Absolutely nothing. A random accumulation of molecules grown in a lab. An experiment. A lab animal who at the moment is getting on my nerves!
  • Kill It with Ice: In this series, Captain Cold was a mercenary assassin whose freeze ray did just what you'd expect it to do; he also utilized freeze-bombs that did basically the same thing as the main ray. (His original comics incarnation's freeze ray didn't kill people, merely put them in a sort of suspended animation with the freezing appearance as a side-effect, because he never killed unless the situation absolutely warranted it.)
  • Laughing Mad: The Trickster.
  • Mad Love: Toy designer Jinx has this bad for the Trickster in his second appearance.
  • Man Child: Pollux.
  • Master of Disguise: The Trickster. In his titular debut episode, while infiltrating the police department, he is able to fool Barry and the other cops into thinking he's an FBI agent by putting on glasses, a fake mustache and skin-like wax on his nose and ears and tidying his hair. However, Megan takes one look at him and sees him for who he is immediately.
  • Meaningful Name: In "Twin Streaks," Pollux is named after the Greek/Roman mythological figure; his creator notes as much when naming him. Pollux gives up his own life to save Barry at the end of the episode, just as his mythological namesake gave up part of his own immortality to save his brother.
  • Mistaken Identity: In "The Trickster", Officer Bellows thinks Officer Murphy is the Flash due to never seeing them together. He even has a chart of the Flash sightings with Murphy's patrol log. Barry and Megan humor this revelation.
  • The Mole: Gun shop owner Calligan for the Warriors of Freedom in "Shroud of Death". The leader's daughter Angel found out and killed him.
  • Mythology Gag: Several throughout the show's run:
    • Mentions of several Silver Age Flash villains (Professor Zoom, Gorilla Grodd; neither actually appeared in the series, however).
    • A "Garrick Avenue" address (Jay Garrick was the alter ego of the Golden Age Flash).
    • While the series is ostensibly based on the adventures of the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen), in "The Trickster" the villain creates a statue of the Flash which wears a winged helmet and winged boots, which were hallmarks of the uniform of the Golden Age Flash.
    • A mention of "Police captain Julius Schwartz" (Julius Schwartz was a legendary DC Comics editor and a co-creator of the Silver Age Flash).
    • A reference to "the Hotel Infantino" (Carmine Infantino was another co-creator of the Silver Age Flash).
    • The appearance of a TV reporter named "Linda Park" (in the comics, Linda Park is the girlfriend — later wife — of Wally West, the modern Flash, and was originally a TV reporter).
    • A mention of "the intersection of Gardner and Fox" (Gardner Fox was the creator of the Silver Age Flash).
    • In The Pilot, Barry Allen's older brother was named Jay, another reference to Jay Garrick.
      • Also in the pilot, Tina has Barry run on a treadmill, a nod to the Cosmic Treadmill (a device he uses to travel through time and between dimensions).
      • Barry tells Tina she's "been reading too many comic books". Barry himself is a comic book fan of the Golden Age Flash.
    • In "Watching The Detectives", Tina mentions expecting a call from Dr. Carter Hall.
    • In "Honor Among Thieves", Barry said he loved museums. In the comics, the Flash gets a museum dedicated to him.
    • In "The Trickster", one person went as Superman at the costume party.
    • In "Flash Forward", The Resistance made a museum dedicated to the Flash.
    • In "Captain Cold", Barry calls Terry "Lois Lane".
    • In "Alpha", Fosnight asked Alpha if she was from the center of the earth.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Just how many abandoned warehouses and run-down apartment complexes are there in Central City for criminals to exploit?
  • Non-Indicative Name: Julio Mendez, who couldn't be more black.
  • Not Wearing Tights: Flash does, of course, because the red suit is resistant to friction but the villains, even the ones from the comic, mostly avoid their classic looks: Captain Cold wears a trenchcoat, Mirror Master wears a suit. Trickster is an exception, but then, he's crazy.
  • Police Are Useless: Oy vey.
  • The Power of Rock: Used to defeat the Villain of the Week in "Child's Play".
    • Which was also where, and how, Barry discovered his ability to vibrate through solid objects.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Several aspects of the comics' mythology were altered or mixed together for this series. For example, the Flash became a Composite Character of Barry Allen and Wally West—he was a police scientist (Barry's occupation) but had to eat huge quantities of food to sustain his powers (Wally's main weakness early in his role as the Scarlet Speedster). He was also limited to the speed Wally could run at the time, a little over the speed of sound.
  • Professional Killer: Captain Cold.
  • Pungeon Master: Captain Cold. Some examples:
    "Even you can't outrun the cold hand of death."
    "I'm here to take you to the Ice-capades."
    "You look pretty hot. I think I'd better cool you off."
  • Punny Name: Leonard Wynters, Captain Cold's real name in this series (in the comics, his real name is Leonard Snart, which...doesn't lend itself to cold puns).
  • Put on a Bus: Iris West, Barry's girlfriend, after the pilot.
  • Race Against the Clock: In "Beat the Clock," Flash has one hour to save an innocent man on death row for the murder of his wife. Made all the more intense because the episode's time was counted according to real-world time, including the commercial breaks.
  • The Rat: Fosnight, played by classic character actor Dick Miller.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "Captain Cold," Flash rips into wannabe reporter Terri Kronenberg when she complains about the titular villain's destruction of her photos that she'd taken of him earlier in the episode, disregarding the fact that the speedster had just saved her life:
    Flash: I don't believe you! All you care about is your money and your career. You almost got us killed!
    Terri: N-no, I-I-I didn't mean to—
    Flash: You didn't mean to what? To be an unprincipled, manipulative brat who thinks the truth is something to be twisted to get what you want? If you really wanna be a good reporter, you have to learn to care about the truth. And about people.
  • The Resistance: The Liberation Movement in "Flash Forward".
  • Ret Canon: Shortly after the show's debut, Wally West began to use a costume similar to the one Barry used on the show.
  • Sanity Slippage: Harry Milgrim in "Good Night, Central City".
  • Scary Black Man: Whisper in "Beat the Clock".
  • Second Coming: The Flash became a Messianic Archetype when he was accidentally blasted ten years into the future where his brother's killer Nicholas Pike runs Central City as his personal kingdom and its citizens are looking for his return to set things right.
  • Secret Keeper: Tina, to Barry. Megan Lockhart and the Nightshade as well.
    • In "Deadly Nightshade", it is revealed that police captain Julius Schwartz knew the identity of Nightshade. It has now been revealed to the public.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In "Flash Forward".
  • Shout-Out: In "The Trial of the Trickster", the Trickster forced a band to play the Looney Tunes theme during his mock trial.
  • Skyward Scream: Barry, while holding his brother's body.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Captain Cold always speaks in a very gentle, very pleasant voice - no matter what he's doing or who he's killing. He rarely shows any overt emotion and barely ever drops the polite way of speaking - the only time he does is when he's menacing a runaway witness, and even then his threats and gloating still very softspoken. It's highly unsettling, especially in situations where the audience is expecting him to lose his temper (which he never does, at least not visibly).
  • Split Personality: Happens to Tina in "Tina, Is That You?" Due to an experiment gone wrong, Tina becomes criminally aggressive and becomes the leader of a dangerous all-girl gang, and even threatens to use her knowledge of Barry's secret identity against him if he tries to interfere with her plans. Barry has to strap her to the machine that was part of the accident and get inside her mind to get her back to normal.
  • Starter Villain: Pike. Though he comes back in "Flash Forward".
  • Super Speed: Well, of course.
  • Taking the Bullet: Pollux does this to save Barry and Tina in "Twin Streaks."
  • That's All, Folks!: The Flash says this after beating the Trickster.
  • Those Two Guys: Officers Murphy and Bellows.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: In "Watching the Detectives", a crooked DA who learned the Flash's identity tells him that the only way he would keep him from revealing to everyone is to kill him. However, he gets killed when his car exploded, rigged by the mob he was working for.
  • Time Travel: In "Fast Forward," the combination of him running at super-speed and the explosion from a homing missile somehow causes Flash to get sent ten years into a Bad Future.
  • The Unfavorite: In the pilot Barry was this for his father Henry, in stark contrast to his brother Jay; Henry always praised Jay's accomplishments as the leader of the local police department's major crime task force while dismissing Barry's work in the police lab. However, Barry never held it against Jay himself (and it helped that Jay supported Barry's lab-work).
  • The Vamp: Megan Lockhart.
  • Trophy Room: The Flash Museum in "Flash Forward".
  • Villain of the Week: Many of them were mostly normal mobsters. Among those who used costumes or special gimmicks: the Trickster, Sam "Mirror Master" Scudder, Captain Cold, the Ghost (archenemy of the hero Nightshade who utilized television broadcasts), the Deadly Nightshade (an Evil Counterpart to Nightshade), Brian Gideon (who used an invisibility cloak) and Pollux.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The Flash himself, apparently. Lampshaded by Lt. Garfield in "The Trickster."
    Lt. Garfield: Costumed clown running rampant in my town? What next? It's like the Flash draws them out of the woodwork.
    Barry: Wait a minute. You think the Flash is responsible for the Trickster?
    Garfield: Circus suit, high media profile, works outside the law. Every loon in a three-mile radius has gotta have a case of costume envy.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Henry Allen, Barry's father and a former street cop, looks down on Barry's work as a scientist in the police lab, believing it to not be "real" police work.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed in "Twin Streaks."
  • Would Hit a Girl: Most of the villains, but Trickster stands out in particular.
  • You Killed My Father: Pike murders Jay Allen, Barry's older brother, in the pilot.
    • In "Shroud of Death", Garfield has Angel's father arrested and he was sentenced to death.
  • You're Insane!: What Barry Allen says to Nicolas Pike after he's seen what his nemesis has done to Central City during his ten-year absence through accidental time travel.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Warriors of Death mentioned in "Shroud of Death".