The original The Flash TV series celebrated its 30th anniversary back in September of 2020. While the show only ran for a single season on CBS, it made quite an impression on fans who weren’t accustomed to seeing DC superheroes other than Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman on their screens, and over the years it has maintained a devoted cult following. Adding to its legacy, star John Wesley Shipp keeps returning to the Speed Force, whether as the voice of Professor Zoom on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, as Dr. Henry Allen, the father of the current TV Barry Allen on the CW’s The Flash, as original speedster Jay Garrick on that same show, and finally as his version of Barry from the ’90s as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Not bad for a show that only ran one season, right?
While there were a number of factors that contributed to CBS’ The Flash not getting a second season, the people behind it at least knew how they wanted the second season to kick off. And while planning for it didn’t get very far, the first episode of The Flash season 2 would have upped the show’s game and brought it a little closer to its comic book roots.
Shipp has his own ideas about what The Flash season 2 could have done for Barry Allen and his world, as well, hoping to get deeper into the character’s head than the first season had allowed.
“What effect is this having on this guy? What about the issue of vigilantism? Do we get into that? Does this ordinary guy with these extraordinary abilities, does it start to puff him up? Does he have to be humbled in a certain way to get himself right sized again? What are the conflicts and psychological ramifications of being caught in this situation?” Shipp recalls as questions he hoped a second season could answer.
But more specifically, he knows that a key element missing from much of the first season would have been more present in the second.
“I know that they were interested in the rogues gallery for season two,” Shipp says.
Despite the fact that The Flash fully embraced its title character’s powers and scarlet costume, something modern viewers may take for granted but that wasn’t necessarily a given on network TV in 1990, the series was notoriously shy about bringing in villains from the comics in its early days.
“The first six episodes, [CBS] wouldn’t let us do supervillains,” Executive producer and writer Danny Bilson recalls. “We had to kind of prove our way into supervillains.”
Watching those first six episodes, it’s true that the villains are remarkably grounded. But as the show progressed, more science fiction elements were brought in, but still no costumed rogues. That all changed with episode 12, and the introduction of Mark Hamill as the Trickster, when the show finally brought a villain from the comics to the screen. Hamill was brilliant in the role, and was even outfitted in a colorful, comics-accurate tight fitting costume, in an episode that leaned harder into costumed supervillainy than anything that had been seen on TV since Batman went off the air in 1969. And it worked. Subsequent episodes introduced comic book villains Captain Cold and the Mirror Master, and even brought Hamill’s Trickster back for an encore.
“We thought we were hitting our stride there,” Bilson recalls. “From The Trickster on, it seemed like ‘Okay. Now we know what we can do here. We can do Mirror Master. We can do all this stuff,’ and then we were going to come back with a two-hour [season two premiere] with the three big villains in a team-up…It was going to be Captain Cold, The Trickster, and the Mirror Master.”
The versions of Captain Cold and Mirror Master weren’t quite as faithful to their comics counterparts as Hamill’s Trickster were, but they were still recognizable threats from the comics. The Captain Cold of this show wasn’t Leonard Snart but Leonard Wynters, an albino hitman with an atomic freeze ray. Mirror Master was played by David Cassidy, and his specialty was holograms. Despite the tweaks for the show, the effect was the same, and TV’s original Flash was building a rogues gallery of his own.
As fans of both Flash comics and the current TV series know, the only thing the rogues of Central City enjoy more than making Barry’s life miserable is doing it in a big group. And long before superhero (or villain) team-ups became an essential part of this kind of storytelling strategy on screen, The Flash would have gone for it in 1991, bringing its interpretations of these villains together for a two hour television event, similar to how the show premiered with a two hour origin story for Barry.
Unfortunately, they never got further than the basic idea, as no script or outline was written.
“We finished shooting the last episode, and I think either we found out we were canceled while we were shooting or it was shortly after that, maybe shortly after that,” Bilson says. “So there was no starting down the path for next season…But we had a plan, an intention, and we just never got to do it…We never wrote it. We never broke the story. We just knew that’s what we wanted to do.”
And while it’s fun to speculate what this group would have looked like, especially when led by Hamill’s colorful and manic interpretation of the Trickster, there’s one villain that most certainly wasn’t on their radar for the team-up.
“We wouldn’t have thought about it,” Bilson says when asked about a 1991 TV version of Grodd. “All it would have been is a guy in a gorilla suit.”