Thursday, November 4, 2010

Episode Eighteen: Speed Demons

The Flash and Superman compete in a charity race to determine the fastest man alive.  During their one-hundred laps around the world, they are interrupted by bizarre weather patterns.  Just outside of Metropolis, the Weather Wizard uses his machines to blackmail millions of dollars.  The source of this amazing power: the ionic energy generated by Superman and the Flash in their race, which the Weather Wizard set up!  When his brother (who built the machine) will not participate in his criminal dealings, he informs Superman and the Flash of his brother's whereabouts.  The two heroes save the day, earning each other's respect.  They decide to continue their race, but we're left to wonder who truly is the World's Fastest Man.

Evan:  I know Kristin is going to rip this one apart, but I think this is easily in my top five.  This episode was our first concrete introduction to the fact other heroes exist outside of Metropolis (outside of the occasional Batman crack) and the first hero to visit Superman.  The show decided that the appearance by the Flash would be a good time for an all-out tribute to the Silver Age team-up, and they were exactly right in doing so.  The set-up is classic:  a charity race between the two for no reason.  Not even a cause to raise money for.  Just "charity".  The race is pure fun.  For starters: its a hundred laps around the world.  Not only that, there is basically no route they're following, and they curve around skyscrapers and make mid-ocean turns.  People sit in the crowd at the finish line and place bets amongst themselves on who's the fastest.  It is the epitome of Silver Age comics, where there's literally nothing else going on but a staged charity event featuring two of the world's greatest heroes who have nothing to do.

For the comic reader in me, the appearance of the Flash means that they have to race.  Simply put, racing is the basic element that happens when Superman and any version of the Flash get together.

This is the only way they interact.
I'm not kidding.  Look at everyone.  This is how they unwind on the weekend.
When the other Flashes aren't around, he races the one that's seventy.
I know that the entire concept is lame, but sort of inane time-passing is exactly why I love comics.  This episode hit everything pretty much pitch perfect.  It gave no explanation for how this race was set up or why the two agreed.  We don't know if the two have even ever met before, although there's some animosity.  About three seconds into the episode, the race is on and from that moment forward this episode is based almost entirely on weather and speed puns.

I know I've been hard on this series for a lack of character development, and this had exactly zero.  But if every episode of non-character filler was this much fun, the series would be a thousand times better.  This wasn't Superman and Flash team up to stop a giant monster.  This was Superman and Flash have to briefly interrupt their pointless race to stop a generally harmless villain in ways that allow them to use their powers in zany, less reality grounded ways.  Superman spins around super fast and drills into the villain's château.  The Flash vibrates through solid ice.   Everyone is having a hell of a good time.

I smiled gleefully throughout the entire episode, and I think that means that the show was working.  I was completely entertained.

To close, here's one last picture of the two racing for no reason.  This time they seem to be literally racing to the end of the universe.  For what I'm sure is little-to-no reason.  Because they aren't good at making small talk.

They don't really have anything in common to chat about.
Kristin: Yep, sooo... we all know where my schtick is going to go. There is still so little character engagement in this show that I can't even tell you whether or not Clark Kent still goes to work. My theory is that he does not. I will say that this episode seems more like what a shallow superhero-based series should be.

Instead of trying to create an interesting plot around uninteresting (and sometimes offensive) new characters, the show introduces one new hero deepening the sense that this is a universe in which people with extraordinary powers are like the town mascot - albeit an underpaid and overworked one. The plot claims to be nothing more than a baseless charity race gone slightly awry. The villain himself is not even worth mentioning because even the show seems to acknowledge that he is such a one-off that Superman and the Flash barely have to stop their cheesy one-liners in order to defeat him. If the series was heading in this direction, meaning that they wanted to create superficial but entertaining shows about the hijinks of Superman and friends, I would have no problem. It is what it is. It's when it becomes overly-convoluted or almost parody-esque that I have a problem. That's when it feels like it needs more relationship depth to justify how seriously (or not) it's taking itself.

My final point on this is simple: Why does the race have to consist of 100 laps around the world? If it's not a stamina-based contest, wouldn't one suffice?

Final Thoughts: We seem to disagree over this one... maybe a quick hundred around the block would settle this once and for all.

Evan's Episode Rating: 10/10 (Lois Lane Ratio: 0 incompetent / 0 insane) - I'm still smiling. So I think that means I've been thoroughly entertained.

Kristin's Episode Rating: 7/10 - This show has multiple personality problems.

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