THE PLOT: Flash Thompson, mainstay character from the Spider-Man mythos, is introduced here taking “tutoring” from a Dr. Zellner. What’s really going on is that Thompson is serving as a guinea pig for Zellner’s experimental brain formula which turns people with low I.Q. into geniuses. He’s gaining funding for this by having two other test subjects rob banks for him, which naturally forces Spider-Man to be involved.
LONG STORY SHORT: The formula is unstable and will eventually kill the test subject, I.E. Flash. Spidey eventually knocks out the evil doctor and uses his SCIENCE to save Flash’s life.
MY THOUGHTS: Another clunker. Another miss opportunity. Another bad episode.
While not as bungled as the last “Head Over Heels”, this is another potentially intriguing story let down by lame writing. It’s saved by virtue of not being as character-driven as that one, making this episode’s plot simpler and easier to get right. Of course part of making a script work is by having it be interesting, and this one really isn’t. Any investment a Spider-Man fan will get in seeing Flash runs out soon after one sees how he’s depicted. He’s a total idiot who spends the episode hitting on MJ and knocking around Peter.
The thing about Flash Thompson that both the 90s show and the Spectacular Spider-Man show got right is that there’s more to him than just serving a role as your typical bully. He’s a deeper, more developed character and even if we’re not meant to see the depths of his personality, he should be given more than stock lines. One of the best moments in recent memory for Flash was his depiction in the Amazing Spider-Man movie, where you went from seeing him be very brutal to Peter and serve the usual bully role to showing his honest empathy once he learned Peter’s uncle died. That’s more than the Ultimate version got. Bottom line is that Flash is a character with humanity, and this show wasn’t interested in showcasing that.
I get it. Developing a character such as Flash takes time and effort that a show may not have when trying to tell their story. At the same time, Spec Spidey did it during the first season with small moments few and far between. The problem with this episode is that the whole plot hinges on Flash and his character. He’s easier to like when he’s smart, but it seems like at his basic level of intelligence he’s meant to be an utter neanderthal. That’s not only wrong, that’s not fun to watch. It’s too easy and makes for a boring protagonist.
Dr. Zellner and the Biker twins all felt like they came straight from the 60s show. There was very little depth to any of them, to the point that they probably didn’t even need to have names. Zellner himself was saved by having Jeffrey Combs for a voice actor. He brought his very creepy and disturbing tenor to the role that made it enjoyable to watch, even if the character himself wasn’t much to get into.
The biggest thing I took away from this episode was the vagueness surrounding Peter and Indy’s relationship. Are they together or not? She told him at the end of her first episode she liked him, and in this one she all but comes right out and tells him that he’s free to…uhh…how should I put this…”sample some of her wares” whenever he wants to. Peter says he’s only down for a casual acquaintance and again we’re denied any real insight into what he’s feeling. Does he like her or does he see her as an easy lay? He does say she’s easier to deal with than Mary Jane, but is that because he feels stronger feelings towards MJ which makes it awkward? Some clarification would have been appreciated.
Thing is, I still like Indy as a character. It may be due to her voice in Angelle Brooks. Maybe there’s something really alluring about a black woman voicing a half-Japanese, half-Indian wannabe journalist, but I also don’t find her annoying. I know there’s a contingent of the fan base who definitely do, but so far she’s not naggy, she goes after what she wants, she’s assertive without being aggressive, she’s funny, and even when she’s unfunny the show plays it up like she’s just a dork. As someone who’s role is quite plainly meant to be “the other woman”, this show could have done a whole lot worse.
The biggest let-down for this episode is that it’s boring. The fights are uninteresting (save for the scene where a doped up Spider-Man pathetically wrestles with the twins, that was amusing) the villain, as usual, is barely enjoyable, and there’s not enough character moments to sink our teeth into. For the only episode to feature Flash, this is the first one I would actually recommend skipping. There’s nothing of significant consequence to look out for here.