We don't give Wonder Woman enough credit for being as straight up bonkers as it really was. This is a television series that started out in WWII with Diana fighting Nazis and had her rollerskating through the late '70s by Season 2 with an admirably appropriate protective helmet. And still also fighting Nazis. This is a woman so dedicated to her mission that she hangs off of helicopters despite not having the ability to fly.
As a child of the '80s, I missed out on the original airing of this show and found myself curious what Wonder Woman was all about. As I discovered, Wonder Woman isn't about any one thing. It is legion. It contains multitudes. It's about weaponizing your accessories and spinning in circles and dating your ex-boyfriend's identical son 30-plus years into the future. It's about getting tied to chairs and counterfeit two dollar bills. It's about gold bracelets and the best theme song of all time. It's about having a kid sister and a best friend one season and then never mentioning them again in the second because darn it, sometimes you just get transported to a different timeline where those people don't exist.
It's a little bit about life and a little bit about love. Here are some of the essential episodes to get you started on your journey through Wonder Woman.
“The Deadly Toys” (Season 2, Episode 12)
Most sci-fi based television series will, at some point, feature an episode where the hero is replaced by a robot version of themselves that they eventually have to fight with. It's a plot device that holds the distinction of being both a heavy-handed trope and amazing. I doubt the audience will ever tire of it. In this episode, Diana goes to investigate some strange happenings, only to discover some guys with weird war robots that they pit against each other when they're bored. OK. Well, what we're all here for is Diana fighting herself in a toy warehouse, and boy howdy, that's what we get. Also, wow, those toys are creepy.
“Diana's Disappearing Act” (Season 2, Episode 15)
This episode is about a magician calling himself Count Cagliostro who discovers how to temporarily turn lead into gold by wearing a black turtleneck and staring at a Tesla Coil. Diana happens upon one of his fake gold pieces in the form of a locket, and the count sends his girlfriend, a magician named Morgana LaFay (nice) after it. The writers don't establish how Diana got the locket until very late in the episode, which is part of why this whole story feels as strange as it does. Diana somehow ends up at a magic symposium inexplicably attended by several foreign diplomats and a young Ed Begley Jr. There are a lot of characters in this episode that don't make a lot of sense, and Ed, starring as Harold, a bumbling amateur magician, is one of them. An unnamed magician begins performing, and, naturally, asks Diana if she'd like to be his assistant for the disappearing trick. She's dropped into a crate in the back of a truck that drives away, while the magician draws back up a skeleton in Diana's place.
The writers on Wonder Woman weren't exactly known for holding down a plotline, but the weird stops and starts this round are particularly nonsensical and include random mime crimes (don't bother asking). On the other hand, Lynda Carter is a particularly smooth operator here, coolly flirting with an oil baron and politely brushing off Harold's incredibly awkward advances.
“The Deadly Dolphin” (Season 3, Episode 9)
If you're one of the people who insist dolphins are going to inherit the earth someday and rule it with an iron fist, Wonder Woman was way ahead of you. In this episode, we meet a wealthy real estate agent who trains a murderous dolphin to sink an oil tanker in order to drive down prices on houses. Even comic book villains don't come up with ideas this complicated.
Diana is sent to San Diego to study a dolphin because she has the strangest, most loosely defined job of all time. The dolphin never arrives, because it gets kidnapped by said real estate mogul. This episode sees Wonder Woman break out her stylish wetsuit, and features some actually really cool, blurry underwater scenes. Also: Diana of Themyscira versus dolphin. What more can you ask for in life?
“The Girl With A Gift For Disaster” (Season 3, Episode 19)
In this episode, we meet Bonnie and Mark. Mark is terrible, I'll tell you that right off the bat. Bonnie is much less terrible but dating Mark, so that's uncomfortable. She surprises him with a visit after he tells his friend that he wants to break up with her but she “hangs on like poison ivy.” As stated, Mark is consistently the worst and makes Bonnie feel bad about herself while using her in his own schemes. Meanwhile, Bonnie herself has a superpower: everything breaks when she enters a room. It's not a very useful superpower, but it is a very awesome one. This episode is one of my favorites for many reasons, most of them revolving around the fact that it's fun to watch things explode every time Bonnie enters the room.
“The Phantom of the Roller Coaster” (Season 3, Episodes 23 & 24)
While they weren't the last episodes to be filmed, these were shown as the final two-parter of the series. Despite conceptual popularity and status as a cultural touchstone, ratings on Wonder Woman had always been a bit spotty. There was talk of a fourth season, but sadly it never came to be. Still, if you have to go out, go out strong, and "The Phantom of the Roller Coaster" definitely does.
If the title doesn't already clue you in, this episode is pure Scooby-Doo-inspired absurdity. A disfigured vet lives under an amusement park that his brother runs as a front for his information trafficking, whatever that means. We say farewell to Steve Trevor, have a touching interaction with a well-meaning kid, and about half the episode is stock footage of an amusement park. While it remains a very strange note to end the series on, mostly because there was still some question in everyone's minds whether or not there would be another season, this episode really pulls out all the stops.