Season Two, Episode Eighteen — “Versus Zoom”
By Jarrod Jones. Holy hot sauce, I’ve never been so uninterested in such a terrifying villain before. Yep, it’s origin time for what might be the most unpleasant character ever depicted in The Flash. Let’s take a peek into the past, when super-serial killer Hunter Zolomon was but a wee child, and — omigod, what are you doing, ‘The Flash’.
*scratches head* Yeah, this week’s episode is a puzzling one. For the last forty episodes, The Flash has most certainly gone to some dark places, but never at the consequence of its own narrative. “Versus Zoom” might be the series’ darkest episode yet — even the sepia tone of Earth-2 is scorched with a blackened tint — but it is far from the most interesting one. It’s a telling thing that this episode’s only shock came from the hot-blooded murder of a defenseless woman crying out for her child. Which, ick.
If anything, this week’s snoozer of an episode is a prime example of what can go wrong when you try to upstage yourself. And that is what’s happening here. The Flash is finally getting around to making Zoom matter as much as the Reverse-Flash ever did. But we’ve entered the second season’s final stretch, and the payoff was woefully inadequate. And that’s definitely a bummer. Makes me pine for the next season, where presumably there’s gonna be some bananas-crazy stuff going down with Gorilla Grodd. (One can only hope.)
WHAT WORKED: Not a whole bunch, sadly. (What makes matters worse is that it took three weeks for this episode to get to us, and it still fell with a tremendous thud.) I’m enjoying Carlos Valdes as much as I ever do (which is sooo much, by the way), and finally getting to see Cisco step ever closer to his Justice League destiny as the vest-sportin’, snazzy shades-wearin’ Vibe was one of this weeks’ few joys. But wouldn’t you know it? We had to slog through a “dark night of the soul” with freakin’ Vibe in order to get there.
WHAT DIDN’T: Iris and Joe pay the S.T.A.R. Kids a visit to offer a helping hand, but it’s obvious that Iris has other things on her mind. Yes, apparently the West family’s only recourse to make their subplots matter in The Flash is to horn in on all the Zoom to-do. It’s a tricky thing to balance lingering plot threads this late in the season — Zoom does need dealing with, after all — but the show’s “we’ll get to it later” attitude about Wally West is finally causing the show to trip all over itself.
We’re told that Hunter Zolomon’s a ruthless killer — and we’ve definitely seen Zoom do some pretty messed up things in this season’s run. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, Hunter’s kind of… a mush. He lets Barry live after giving up his speed (which was something I definitely did not see coming, considering the evidence leading towards the contrary), he hangs out with the S.T.A.R. Kids while The Harrison Wells of Earth-2 scores him some Speed Force (which makes for one hell of a silly visual, by the way), and he runs off with Caitlin Snow by the show’s end? Why? Presumably, love. Eh.
And while we’re at it, something’s not quite adding up with Zoom. So Jay Garrick as we knew him — the one who was killed by Zolomon — was a Hunter Zolomon from the past, brought to the present by Zoom to fool the Earth-1 kids into thinking that Jay was a pretty alright dude. All to… *shrugs* what. Find out how to take Barry’s speed? Wasn’t he just… taking it from other speedsters before? And to establish that trust, the past Hunter had to cook up a false identity, become The Flash of Earth-2 for a while, and get on the radar of Wells-2 (so much, in fact, that the two have a well-founded animosity towards each other)? So you mean to tell me that the heroic Jay Garrick was all a lie? I don’t buy it, Show. I can’t.
“Just like Reverb. All I’m missing is the guyliner and the transformation’s complete.” – Cisco.
Joe: (taking a rather complex looking gun from Wells-2) “So… how do you use this?” Wells-2: “You aim it… and then you pull the trigger.” Joe: “Smartass.”
BEST MOMENT: Cisco feels the vibe. If for nothing else, all this multiversal hopping about has been a consistent highlight of The Flash‘s second season. And though I can’t help but feel the show shot itself in the foot by closing all 52 gateways so early on in the running (puns!), that turn of events does force Cisco Ramon to finally embrace his metahuman powers. And the moment where he finally opens his own portal is decidedly an all-time DC TV best. I can’t wait to see what happens once he gets used to it.
EPISODE’S MVP: Mmm… nah. Barry’s been a knucklehead all season, and this week only further cemented that sentiment. Joe needs someone else to tell him to embrace his biological son. Iris is playing her ill-advised relationship with her editor against Barry. Cisco has performance anxiety. And Zoom — who should have been the most important factor of this episode — was a ding-dang goofball.
– If this week’s flimsy episode did one thing right, it showed us that Teddy Sears’ crazy-eye is truly the stuff of nightmares.
– That tachyon enhancer sure looks familiar. And Barry did look rather discombobulated when he came back to S.T.A.R. through that portal. Methinks he probably took a detour to Earth-3? (The show never once brings it up, which was a drag unto itself.) But Barry’s team-up with Supergirl likely took place in these fleeting seconds.
– I refuse to accept that a man like Joe West would ever drink swill like Blue Moon.
– Wally + Wells-2 = AWKWARD. I think this is the first time these two characters got to meet each other, and both men’s innate hostility made for a pretty cringe-inducing thirty seconds. More, please.
– Why is it that whenever we visit Keystone City, it looks like an abandoned plot of land? C’mon, guys, you have that big-time Season Two money! Give Keystone City some roots — after all, it might need a Flash of its own some day. (Right, Wally?)
– Zolomon’s murder trial was so infamous that it inspired… a podcast? So now we know that Earth-2 has Serial. Hey, good for them.
– Who the hell made those cardboard cutouts of Hunter’s parents? Seriously, it never got brought up. Did Caitlin have to drive to a Kinko’s and ask for a custom job? How long would a job like that take? And where did she come up with a full-bodied glamour shot of both of these people? Did she take them herself? Is Caitlin Snow a closeted shutterbug? So many questions! So many questions.
5 out of 10
Next: “Back to Normal”, soon.
Before: “Flash Back”, here.