‘The Flash’ Review: Beatdown of the Century Anchors the Terrific ‘Enter Zoom’
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 6 – Enter Zoom:
Now THAT’S how you do a supervillain! This isn’t to say that The Flash hasn’t had its fair share of imposing, intimidating villains. But “Enter Zoom” brings us a villain who seems virtually unbeatable. He’s so far above the other threats Barry (Grant Gustin) has faced that I have no idea how the show is going to have Barry plausibly win in the end. And that makes for great drama, particularly in an episode like this, which is anchored by the beatdown of the century.
One of the things that makes Zoom so formidable is his intelligence. Put simply, he’s too smart to fall for the silly plan Barry concocts, in which they have Linda (Malese Jow) impersonate Dr. Light, and put on a show in front of one of the rifts. Barry allows Linda to “kill him” so they can fool Zoom into coming through the portal, but Zoom apparently sees through the charade. And when he does come through? Oh man, does Barry ever get a quick lesson in just what Jay Garrick warned him about, as Zoom delivers an absolutely brutal beating to The Flash. Something I found clever about the narrative up to this point was how they have characterized Jay’s warnings throughout the season. Instead of sounding ominous, Jay sounds like a guy who’s nervous about Barry facing Zoom because he himself faced Zoom and couldn’t beat him. The story seems to indicate that Jay either lacks faith in Barry’s abilities, or has an inflated opinion of Zoom’s. It didn’t really occur to me that Jay might be telling the truth, that allowing Barry to fight Zoom now would be as good as signing his death warrant. And that’s because the series has been invested in the theme of Barry’s exceptionalism. Sure, their Flash failed. But Barry’s our Flash. He’s our guy, our hero. How could he possibly lose?
Well, he loses just the same as anyone else: he’s outmatched by a superior opponent. And this isn’t to say that Barry doesn’t give it his best shot, using terminal velocity to take Zoom’s speed out of the equation, and using Jay’s lightning bolt-throwing technique to try and incapacitate the villain. But Zoom has an answer for nearly everything Barry does. In mid-air, Zoom is the stronger fighter; on the ground, Zoom is faster than The Flash; and the lightning bolt? Don’t even get him started. In one of the biggest jaw-droppers of the season so far, Zoom snatches Barry’s lightning bolt out of the damn air, and flings it right back at him! It was sheer madness, and it only got worse for Barry from there. He took a vicious pummeling from the surprisingly bulky Zoom, who leaves him covered in blood. And he adds insult to injury by parading Barry’s bloody, unconscious body around to the newspapers and to the police station in order to get the word out that The Flash is done. In the process, he catches every single bullet the police fire at him, letting the shells drop to the floor like candy. In short, Zoom is downright terrifying because he represents unstoppable malevolence.
The design of the character is also sinister in how straightforward it is, serving as a dark mirror to The Flash’s own costume, save for the full-covering mask, which looks like a cross between DC villains Scarecrow and Deathstroke. His voice is a dark, hollow, yet eloquent rumble of a voice, which tells us this is a thinking man’s villain, but also one who’s prone to the same bouts of hubris as any other supervillain. Except it’s probably not hubris with Zoom. This is a guy who can pretty much have the world, if he desires it. Which begs the question of why he doesn’t just take over Central City, if that’s the case. It’s a question that remains unanswered, along with the equally puzzling question of why he’s still keeping Jesse, the daughter of Wells (Tom Cavanagh), alive back on Earth-2 if the plan isn’t to blackmail Wells into killing Barry? It’s clear from the “vibes” that Cisco (Carlos Valdes) gets that Jesse isn’t a willing participant in any of this, and that Zoom really has abducted her. And yet, could Stockholm Syndrome have taken hold? Or is there a larger plan at work? Zoom is just a fascinating villain, as much for his mystery as for his ominous, threatening physicality.
Of course, Barry survives the encounter with Zoom, but only barely. And this is another instance where the show’s careful plotting helps significantly. This episode was promoted as centering on the Linda-as-Light decoy plan. But that’s not really what happens here. Most of the episode is focused on Barry’s relationships, whether it’s his closeness with his team at STAR Labs, the father-son relationship he shares with Joe, the developing relationship he has with Patty (Shantel VanSanten), or the surprising moment in which he shows his trust and faith in Linda by revealing to her that he’s The Flash. And all of these separate relationships come to the fore in the climax, as each person who loves Barry is forced to come face-to-face with his mortality. The panic on Caitlin’s (Danielle Panabaker) face when Zoom stabs Barry and leaves him for dead in front of his STAR Labs team tells us everything we need to know about how much they care about him. Well, that and Cisco sticking up for his buddy by getting in a lucky shot of speed-dampening serum on Zoom to prevent the villain from finishing the job. These are all people who love Barry and want to protect him, which is why it’s so heartbreaking, at the end of the episode, when Barry awakes in the hospital and reveals that he can’t feel his legs. Just as Jay warned, Zoom has taken Barry’s speed, and no one could help him. The fight against Zoom can be a team effort, but it’ll still be a solitary one, because there’s only so much anyone can do to face a threat like this. In short, Zoom is THE villain of all villains right now, and the show is going to have to build up a hell of a story for it to be plausible for the gang to actually beat him. But then, I love that sort of towering threat, since it sends the stakes through the roof.
Ultimately, “Enter Zoom” is a terrific episode even without the mysteries surround it, but it still leaves us with a few other important questions hanging in the air. Where did Dr. Light escape to? Will Patty learn the truth about Barry being The Flash? What IS Zoom’s plan, exactly? Why has he taken Wells’s daughter captive, and what are his plans for her? This is made all the more tense and dramatic by the realization that Barry has effectively been robbed of the one thing that makes him any kind of a match for this villain. Placing him at a severe disadvantage, however, should be a milestone moment for any good hero, as ingenuity and intelligence takes precedence over brute force. It’s one of the things I love about The Flash, its willingness to allow science and intelligence to become as vital to saving the day as the superpowers. Hopefully, that’s exactly the type of climax the show is setting up here, since Barry has to beat Zoom somehow. Well, I would assume so anyway. But in a show this uniformly solid, it wouldn’t surprise me if we broke from convention and had Barry end up on the losing end, signifying his greatest failure as Zoom retreats to Earth-2, victorious. But then, maybe that’s just too dark a direction for this show to take. Either way, “Enter Zoom” is a terrific installment in what’s shaping up to be a worthy successor to the stellar first season.
But what did you think of The Flash, “Enter Zoom”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, read our review of last week’s dramatic “The Darkness and the Light”!