“Zoom Always Wins…”
Welcome back Flash fans! Wow. I think we can safely table any concerns that Zoom (voiced by Tony Todd) was going to be a boring rehash of the Reverse-Flash. After a tremendous episode stuffed with wonderful character moments and an overall sense of fun, there was an insane dark twist when the evil speedster finally took center stage. Considering that his appearance didn’t even occur until the fourth act, “Enter Zoom” was a perfect balance of dark and light themes that delivered a new high point in a series known for incredibly consistent storytelling.
Considering the strength of the episode that follows it, the cold open for “Enter Zoom” was pretty flat as it flash-forwarded to a rematch between Flash (Grant Gustin) and Doctor Light (Malese Jow). If you caught the teaser for this week’s episode you already had this plot point spoiled but even without that tip of the hand it was pretty obvious what was going on: a staged fight to lure Zoom out of hiding.
Despite that one complaint, the rest of this episode was firing on all cylinders. The slow build of tension towards an inevitable confrontation with Zoom was kept in perfect balance with a lot of fun, namely training Linda Park to act like her misguided Earth 2 doppelgänger. The warehouse scene where Linda learns how to harness her new “powers” against silly cardboard cut outs of Cisco, Kaitlin, Joe and Barry was pure hilarity. It also gave us some much needed time with Linda, fleshing her character out and making her a prominent member of the cast versus a throw away reference for fans of the comics. Of course, the flip side of the coin is that Linda is yet another person who knows Barry’s secret identity. How long before this is used against him or if he’ll publicly unmask is unknown, but it certainly has created an unseen clock, counting down to zero.
Flash Fact: Linda Park started out as a television reporter that was a frequent foil and eventual love interest for Wally West, the third man to become The Flash. Despite having no powers, she never shies away from danger and has bailed out the scarlet speedster on more than one occasion. Her tenacity to pursue truth as well as her fearlessness in dating and marrying a public figure like The Flash has led to Linda being one of the critical figures in the mythos of “The Fastest Man Alive”.
Comedic moments aside, there were some genuine moments of drama leading up to the big Zoom showdown this week. The most significant of these was insight into why Barry is so determined to confront Zoom. Tying it back to Wells and his goodbye video during the season premiere was a great moment that seemed to indicate that the writers knew how easy it would be to make Zoom a carbon copy of the Reverse-Flash and made some clever choices to step around that pot hole. By challenging Wells’ assertion that Barry could never be happy despite the fact that he avenged his mothers death, it gave Barry a clear cut choice to fall into a pattern of predestination or to blaze his own trail. The decision to pursue his feelings with Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) was a great affirmation that he would not be confined by “the future”. The onscreen chemistry between these two actors is downright palpable and makes this relationship feel genuine instead of the “two quirky geeks in love” trope.
Speaking of wonderful performances, we have to give credit to our father figures again. Joe (Jesse L. Martin) had some fantastic beats this week with Barry as he helped his adopted son realize that they can’t work from a place of fear. When you pair that against Doctor Wells (Tom Cavanagh) as the single minded curmudgeon, you have a wonderful pairing of the optimistic and pessimistic that has become so infused with The Flash. I feel the need to call particular attention to the scenes involving Wells and Cisco (Carlos Valdes). The sheer dichotomy of these two characters is so much fun to watch, I could easily watch a spin off sitcom of these two trying to survive being roommates at the drop of hat. Using Cisco to “vibe” out more info on the surly doctor is a great MacGuffin. The fact that Wells knows exactly what Ciscos attempting just makes it all the more enjoyable. Speaking of Wells, there were some great flashbacks this week that offered us some insight with his daughter, Jessie (Violett Beane) who has been kidnapped by Zoom. It’s also a fun wink and a nod here to know that somehow in her captivity, Jesse will gain super speed and become Jesse Quick. There’s still a question of “how”, but we know it’s coming.
Flash Fact: Jesse Quick is the daughter of Golden Age superheroes Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. Inheriting both of her parents powers but unable to use them both at the same time, Jesse uses her father’s “speed forumala” equation to grant herself the ability to move at incredible speeds. Eventually joining Team Flash, Jesse was eventually granted the mantle of The Flash, becoming the only woman to have that honor. Eventually losing her speed to a costly injury, Jesse took on the mantle of Liberty Belle and continued to fight crime using her mother’s powers of strength and invulnerability.
Speaking of Earth 2 flashbacks, there was a great reference to the Green Arrow in this parallel world. Apparently, here Oliver died and his father Robert took on the mantle of “The Hood”. Unfortunately it looks like he wasn’t as successful in fighting crime as his son, but considering this is comics who knows? Could we see an elder Green Arrow appear in a future episode of The Flash? I kind of hope so.
Of course that leads us to the aforementioned fourth act of Zoom. Considering the title, we knew the dark speedster would make an appearance, but I don’t think anyone could have seen this coming. After a hilarious mock-fight between Linda and Barry that wound up doing a whole bunch of nothing, it was looking like this week was going to be a big fake out. Yeah, we can scratch that. Not only did Zoom show up, he turned out to make a Stay Puft Marshmellow Man like entrance. Despite his increased speed and abilities, it was obvious that Team Flash had clearly underestimated this terrifying figure. Add to that the downright creepy affectation of Tony Todd and you have a supernatural speed demon.
The fight, played out in similar fashion to Barry’s first encounter with Reverse-Flash but the results were so much worse. After a stoic but ultimately futile effort, it became clear that Zoom’s speed is in a whole different league from Barry’s. Seriously folks, the guy caught a lightning bolt and threw it back for crying out loud. After pummeling the scarlet speedster, Zoom took him on a tour of Central City displaying his limp, near lifeless body, to the local news outlets and law enforcement agencies. Without an ounce of fear he threw Barry around like a rag doll and vanished into the night. To add insult to injury, when Barry woke up the next day he discovered he was paralyzed! Depriving the fastest man alive the use of his legs is an effective storytelling technique and I can’t wait to see how they handle it and the obvious parallels that will be drawn between this and Doctor Wells in the first season.
Now that we’ve had our first real taste of Zoom, its clear we’re dealing with a whole new monster. While his motivations are still far too ephemeral for my tastes, it’s obvious that the writers have a solid idea of where they’re going with this and I can’t wait to see how this plays out. The Flash continues to outdo itself week in and week out and it just keeps on building speed from great episode to the next. Speaking of which…next week we get a chance to go back to my favorite Flash villain of all time: Grodd!!!! See ya then Flash Fans!