‘The Flash’ Season 2 Episode 18 Review: ‘Versus Zoom’ Is Epic, Heartbreaking TV
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 18 – Versus Zoom:
It’s probably hyperbolic to say so, but “Versus Zoom” is the most heartbreaking episode of The Flash this season, and I say this not because any tragedies necessarily happened. Rather, I say this because it confirmed the worst fears about Jay Garrick/Hunter Zolomon (Teddy Sears). He really is as bad as he appears to be, and his Mr. Rogers-esque demeanor really was a ruse. It’s a bold move for the show, which hasn’t shied away from making its heroes into villains in the past. But this is as devastating as any apparent twist the show has made so far.
Granted, you could make the argument that it was never really Jay Garrick who betrayed our group, but Hunter Zolomon. Yet the implication is that they’re one in the same, and that Zolomon (as Zoom) is an opposite version of Barry (Grant Gustin) in more ways than one. In a way, it almost makes sense why Zolomon is so supernaturally bitter towards the world, whether it’s Earth-1 or Earth-2. He’s never particularly gotten a fair shake, if you think about it. This is a guy who was forced to watch his father kill his mother as a kid, which mirrors the presumed circumstances of Barry’s childhood (before his father was cleared of Nora Allen’s murder). Zolomon was also sent to a terrifying orphanage where he was neglected — when he wasn’t being actively abused. As a result, he grew up to become a serial killer, who lucked into his speed powers, and decided to adopt the Flash moniker simply to give hope to the people before snatching it away from them. It’s a tragic origin story, but it doesn’t particularly excuse any of his actions. Still, it offers a window of insight into why Zoom has such a large chip on his shoulder, and why he wants Barry’s speed to become all-powerful. He’s an agent of chaos who simply wants destruction for its own sake. Granted, we still have no idea who The Man In the Iron Mask is, but I’m not sure that was ever the point of this episode. Rather, we got an origin story that illustrated why Zolomon is both worthy of scorn but also worthy of a shred of sympathy. It’s a complicated characterization, but that’s what I loved about it.
That said, I’m not sure how the show gets out of the corner it painted itself into, as Barry gives up his speed in order to save Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale), whom Zoom holds randsom. It’s accomplished via a speed siphon devised by Wells (Tom Cavanagh), and while it seems like an absolutely terrible idea to just let Zoom win, I think the strength of this storyline is in showing how Barry’s pride comes secondary to helping the ones he loves. He doesn’t really think about cutting Wally loose in order to preserve his powers and continue to do good as The Flash. He immediately opts to give up his powers to save Wally, thinking instead about the good he can do in the moment. That’s what’s so great about Barry Allen, and why he’s such a compelling hero to watch. Even if he has a grudge, he has a habit of doing the right thing, regardless of what it means to his future as a superhero. In a way, he’s more of a boy scout than Superman, which should be boring, in theory. And yet, it manages to be an engaging, honest character choice for a guy who only ever wanted to protect innocent people. He’s the polar opposite of a serial killer like Zolomon, whose sense of hope has been completely eroded, to where he no longer sees the good or worth in other people. Case in point, even after receiving Barry’s speed, he still plans on killing the de-powered Barry anyway. That is, until Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) pleads with him to reconsider, saying that if anything between them was ever real, he wouldn’t do this. Ultimately, Zoom decides to let Barry go in exchange for Caitlin, abducting her and disappearing through a breach, creating another crisis for Barry to solve. And, in true dramatic fashion, denying Barry the powers he needs to be able to solve it. That said, Cisco (Carlos Valdes) might be the key to all this, as this episode shows him tapping into his powers more and more. On the one hand, he’s terrified about turning as evil as his Earth-2 counterpart. But, on the other hand, he doesn’t have much of a choice but to develop his breach-opening powers. His intelligence is an asset to the team, but his powers could help even more, which is why Cisco’s dilemma feels less like a choice he can actually make, and more like a decision that’s already been made for him, by virtue of his innately noble character. He doesn’t want to succumb to the darkness of his powers, but he needs these powers in order to help his team. Much like Barry, Cisco is a selfless type of hero, thinking of the good he can do in the moment rather than worrying about his inability to do good in the long term. With Caitlin abducted and Barry now powerless, Team Flash is going to need all the help they can get.
In other developments, Iris (Candice Patton) is uncertain of her blossoming relationship with editor Scott, rationalizing that she was meant to be with Barry. It’s kind of a predestination storyline, since Iris’s feelings are less about her attraction to current Barry, and more about the signals she’s getting from the fact that she’s married to him in Earth-2, and married to him in all visions of the future. All those signals can’t be wrong, can they? And yet, if this is how the relationship happens between Iris and Barry, I’m going to be really disappointed. I mean, it’s not as if our Iris doesn’t love Barry, and doesn’t have feelings for him. But if he and Iris are going to be together, I’d rather it happened through the organic development of their feelings for one another, and not through some quantum imperative that demands Iris accept that Barry will be her husband. It robs the connection of any potency, and this show is far better than a storyline like that, even if it would be fairly novel for a superhero series. I like Iris and Barry as a pairing, but I want it to be real, if/when it happens. Here’s hoping the couple is on the right track. If nothing else, “Versus Zoom” is a strong episode that delivers character development and peril in equal measure. I’m excited to see what The Flash has in store for the weeks to come. Hopefully, there are no more interruptions from now until the end of the season.
But what did you think of The Flash Season 2 Episode 18, “Versus Zoom”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, read our review of the outstanding “Flash Back”!