As you might have guessed by tonight’s episode title of The CW’s The Flash, viewers were in store for their first good look at the season’s big bad: Zoom. Voiced by Tony Todd and looking every bit the “Speed Monster” the show’s writers described him as being, Zoom has set himself apart from last season’s Reverse-Flash by quite some distance. Unlike that character, who was a time-traveling Eobard Thawne in disguise as Harrison Wells and opted to keep that secret from Barry and the team for most of the season, Zoom is unequivocally evil. He’s so confident in his abilities that he has no need to hide behind anything. That’s terrifying, but you’ve got to respect his style.
We’ll hold off on talking about tonight’s cold open since it is basically a scene that is played out later on in the episode. Worth noting at the outset, however, is the brief flashback sequence tonight’s episode featured. Taking place on Earth-2 before that world’s Wells stepped through the breach, we see Dr. Harrison Wells and his daughter Jesse Chambers Wells (aka Jesse Quick) having an argument. Soon after, Wells finds that Zoom has kidnapped her and The Flash/Jay Garrick showed up too late to save her. It’s a good way to remind viewers that Wells’ motives for helping The Flash/Barry Allen are suspicious and we should not trust him just because he claims to have good intentions.
The S.T.A.R. Labs team feels pretty much the same way about Wells. Joe, Cisco, and Caitlin attempt to suss out the Earth-2 doctor’s true intent through a combination of detective work, scientific investigation, and Cisco’s Vibe powers. Wells comes up pretty clean in all three arenas, even though Cisco’s eventual Vibe vision casts some doubt; we’ll get to that in a bit. Barry Allen is equally suspicious of Wells but agrees to go ahead with his plan to lure Zoom out of his world in order to put a stop to the senseless killing of innocents in Barry’s. One of those innocents, Linda Park, volunteers to put herself in harm’s way if it will help bring Zoom to justice.
This is one of those episodes in which Barry Allen and The Flash overlap quite a bit. Though Barry has a history with Linda, it’s The Flash who shows up to ask for her help. Then, in a twist, The Flash ultimately reveals his identity to Linda in order to convince her that what she’s doing is the right thing. So if you’ve been keeping score, pretty much every major character knows The Flash’s identity except his new girlfriend, Patty Spivot.
While Patty and Barry continue to be too cute for primetime television, they have more than just The Flash’s secret identity complicating things between them. As Patty continues to investigate the powers and limitations of meta-humans, her own partner Joe keeps her at a safe distance. He certainly wants to keep her from getting too wrapped up in the inherent danger surrounding meta-humans, but he also wants to protect Barry’s alter ego (at least until Barry feels ready to let Patty in on the secret, too). So even though Barry initially has to turn down a date with Patty in order to make a heroic play as The Flash, it’s not long before they’re reunited for their second kiss in as many episodes.
As expected, “Enter Zoom” put more of an emphasis on action than character development, though there were still a few good moments between Joe and Barry in this one. While debating about the pros and cons of using Linda Park in Doctor Light’s uniform to pretend to defeat The Flash and thus lure Zoom out of hiding, Joe and Barry hit on some of the greatest conflicts in the comic book superhero’s life. Is Barry doing this as revenge for his mother’s death or to prove that Reverse-Flash was wrong about him? At what point does the life of a hero become expendable, and how many innocents have to suffer and die before the hero chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice himself? While Barry chooses to act aggressively in order to prevent more needless death, Joe counsels patience so that they can gather more intel on Zoom. You can tell it’s a well-written bit of dialogue when both characters walk away having made good points.
The silliest part of the episode, however, came via the odd little training sequence with Linda Park stepping in to play Doctor Light. It certainly had its fun moments – Cisco’s malfunctioning light gauntlets, Linda frying the wrong cardboard cutouts, and her disastrous high-five – but it was one of those silly sequences that always seems to find its way into the show. Equally silly was the purposefully poorly acted fake fight between Linda and The Flash down at the docks; it’s no surprise that Zoom didn’t fall for their charade, but it’s sad that Cisco lost a perfectly good emblem. (Maybe someone on Earth-2 will find it…)
— The Flash (@CW_TheFlash) November 11, 2015
It’s a good thing Cisco has a spare emblem because as soon as he slaps it onto The Flash’s suit, Zoom shows up with Linda in hand, having kidnapped her and spirited her to the top of S.T.A.R. Labs. What followed was a brutal sequence of events that left The Flash not only defeated and demoralized, but crippled as well. Zoom, who I must say delivers some of the best villainous one-liners on TV, started things off by dropping his hostage from the roof, a classic comic book villain move. Barry saves her, of course, but then things quickly spiral out of control.
Remember that neat lightning-throwing trick that Jay Garrick taught Barry a few episodes back? Well, Zoom is not impressed; he grabs a lightning bolt out of mid-air and hurls it straight back at Barry. Our hero wasn’t down for the count at this point, however, using his smarts to take him into a battle in the air where Zoom’s superior speed would be negated. Too bad they eventually landed and Zoom’s hand-to-hand combat proved to be too much to overcome. Zoom was even fast enough to stop the speed-slowing dart fired by Wells. The villainous speedster then jabbed Barry with both vials, injecting him with the debilitating chemical.
That would be bad enough for our hero, but Zoom wanted to make a statement. He drags an unconscious Flash on a tour of Central City, stopping at the newspaper, the police department, and finally S.T.A.R. Labs to declare the city’s hero defeated. It’s a brash and terrifying display that was stopped only by Cisco firing another slow dart at Zoom; this one actually hit him and did just enough damage to scare him off.
While Barry is recuperating, Joe and Wells nearly come to fisticuffs until it’s revealed that the only way Wells can save his daughter is by defeating Zoom, something he thought he could do with Barry’s help. But it’s all for naught because even though Barry is alive, he can’t feel his legs…
There was a moment where I may have said out loud, “Don’t say, ‘I can’t feel my legs,'” but there you have it. It’s certainly an interesting roadblock for the speedster to overcome, but I’m assuming his super-healing factor will have him back on his feet sooner than later. The next question is whether he’ll soon regain his speed, or whether he’ll be left without it like Jay Garrick. The question after that is if he’ll ever be fast enough for the next inevitable run-in with Zoom.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
Doctor Light: “Zoom always wins.”
Cisco: “Sergeant Slow is a terrible name.”
Wells-2: “That’s my Jess. Always so Quick.” Don’t click here if you don’t want to know why that’s funny.
Doctor Light’s invisibility was the biggest budget-saving meta-human effect in this show’s history.
Patty seems like the only person in Central City who doesn’t know The Flash’s identity.
I like that Earth-2’s version of the Arrow, called The Hood, is revealed to Robert Queen, whose son Oliver drowned in a boating accident. Nice flip there!
Joe: “Who exactly came up with this terrible idea?”
Joe: “If you’re going to ask people like Linda to risk their lives, you better be sure they know exactly why they’re doing it.”
The Flash: “I know that you can do this … because I know you.” Linda: “Holy crap! I’ve made out with The Flash!” This might be the most CW thing ever uttered on this show.
Joe: “Think hard about what you want and what makes you happy, and go out and get it.”
Iris: “If we’re going to be The Flash’s sidekicks, we should probably join Crossfit or something.”
Zoom: “You like to fish with bait? I do too.” Tony Todd is the best.
Zoom: “Never forget, I am the fastest man alive.”
Barry: “I can’t feel my legs … I can’t feel my legs.” – Our own Allison Keene rightly pointed out that, now that he’s in a wheelchair, Barry is just a bit closer to becoming like Season One Dr. Harrison Wells.