‘The Flash’ Post-Show Analysis Season 2 Episode 18: ‘Versus Zoom’
Welcome back to Up To Speed, in which Flash TV show veteran Dylan Todd and newbie Ziah Grace break down the latest episode of The Flash, dispense some Flash Facts, and talk about what works, what doesn’t, and where the series might be headed.
This week, it's the big showdown with the man in black himself, Hunter Zolomon, aka Jay Garrick, aka Zoom. But first there's some bad memories and good vibes to deal with, and the whole experience may leave someone feeling drained. "Versus Zoom" was directed by Stefan Pleszczynski and written by Joe Peracchio & David Kob.
Dylan: So we’re back after a few weeks away, and we’re ready for the sprint to the season two finale of The Flash. This week we got back into the swing of things with the return of Zoom, some shocking revelations about his past, Barry getting faster, and a whole heaping helping of people talking about stuff. What did you think of the episode, Ziah?
Ziah: Honestly, I felt a little bit let down after this episode. While any episode of The Flash has its high points, there were enough low points and odd interruptions that it kind of pulled me out of the story.
Dylan: It was definitely not the strongest way to come back after a two-week absence. I thought there was waaay too much talking, way too much hand-wringing, way too much unnecessarily dark business, all adding up to a real bummer of an episode. But we can get into the specifics of it as we go on. TL/DR: a swing and a miss. I’m not sure I’d say the show jumped the shark this episode, but it definitely felt way more Arrow than it ever has.
Ziah: Jumping the King Shark?
Dylan: SMDH. So we got the (very horribly terrible) origin of Earth-2 Hunter Zolomon, who we knew as Earth-2 Jay Garrick, which was really a younger past version of himself. Or something. We can pick this apart later, but yeah, his origin! Very messed up! Young Hunter saw his doughboy dad beat and murder his mom before committing suicide, which wound him up in an evil Victorian orphanage which led to him killing lots of people and getting electroshock therapy and growing a Prisoner of Azkaban-style beard and long hair.
Pretty sure in that mugshot, I saw a bird stick his head out of that beard. His origin story had it all: murdery dad, evil orphanage, electroshock therapy, metahuman moment. I know they were going for a dark mirror version of Barry, (complete with ripping off The Killing Joke with the “We’re the same, you and me…” moment later in the episode) but it all felt like too much. Am I being a jerk here?
Ziah: Oh no, no jerks here, the jerk radar is completely silent. But I definitely agree with all your points. The mirroring of Barry’s mom’s murder was clever, but every other spot the differences was way too much. And oh man, I forgot about the “We’re not so different” line! How is that a line that slips by an editor? It’s done, retire it, throw its jersey at a kid with a Coke, come on people.
Dylan: I gotta admit, I was really unsettled by the opening scene, and that kind of soured me on the rest of the episode. It was the first time on this show where I felt like maybe I would not want my kids to watch it. I mean, it makes sense, as Geoff Johns is the executive producer and darkening traditionally lighter villains --- and working the serial killer angle for a lot of that darkening --- is sort of what made him a star in the 2000s, but Papa Zolomon telling his kid, “You're gonna want to see this,” was just too much. What did you think of the Zolomon zecrets, Ziah?
Ziah: I was distracted more by the fact that Earth-2 wars are apparently fought with metal hats, if I understood that right? Earth-2’s hodgepodge of aesthetic influences continues to be a delight, but that scene overall was really uncomfortable. Good spot on the Johns influence because it definitely felt similar to his sorts of stories.
Dylan: That’s a WWI Doughboy hat, Ziah. Crack a history book much? Cuz it don’t sound like you do.
Ziah: The only cracking I’m doing is wise and at this episode, bud.
Dylan: Our secondary plot involved Cisco worried about becoming eeeevil like his Earth-2 counterpart, Reverb, dropping a dope Star Wars Prequels reference on Ol’ Bare-bear. I was worried his reluctance to tap into his new powers would feel forced, but I think the writers pulled it off. It made sense to me that Cisco would be worried about a little power going to his head. I'm hoping this doesn't result in him going Rogue anytime soon, or would that be cool?
Ziah: Oh Dylan, your love of the Prequels is a scarlet letter you wear with pride. As to this subplot, I definitely preferred this focus, mostly just because any Cisco is good Cisco, but Reverb Cisco would be a delight in the darkness of this episode. Plus, while I love Cisco on the Flash team, maybe he could be a series villain that isn’t another speedster.
Dylan: A) The Prequels are great. And B) this is the second time Cisco has gotten all worried about somebody turning evil because their doppelganger went evil on Earth-2. Has he not realized that Earth-2, while looking all retrofuturist and dapper, is just straight up horrible?
Ziah: Yeah, is there anyone on Earth-2 that’s actually the good doppleganger? Joe was a jazzman, which is certainly better, but that’s about it.
Dylan: Jazz is inherently evil, Ziah. It’s fart music. So yeah, Cisco needs to stop worrying about Earth-2, but also maybe listen to his instincts more, because him opening up that Breach was so dumb. Like, literally nobody wants him to do it, but Barry bullies Cisco into opening the Breach to lure Zoom to Earth-1.
Ziah: Barry’s just using math, Dylan. Zoom’s from Earth-2, but Barry’s new gadget gives him 4x the speed he used to have, and 4 minus 2 is still 2, so he’s got a 50-50 chance of winning, you know?
Dylan: I guess so? Math is also inherently evil, Ziah. It’s the jazz of numbers. But yeah, Barry gets him here, they have a rousing game of “Tag,” that uses all the zooming footage we’ve seen again and again on this show, and after Barry jump-punches him a few times, Zoom unmasks and they have a chat.
And then it all goes to hell because they didn't have a plan beyond “Get Zoom here and jump-punch him,” because before you can say “You can't lock up the darkness,” in your scariest Tony Todd voice, Zoom’s gone. I know I should expect these plans to be dumb as a bag of rocks, but did you think it could go this wrong this quickly?
Ziah: I’m glad that Flash’s sojourn to Earth-CBS taught him how to Superman-punch Zoom, but besides just that, this was a pretty good plan. They know Barry’s faster than he was, but Zoom doesn’t, and they also know his secret identity to throw off his game with cardboard cutouts of his mom and dad. That it didn’t work was due more to the fact that the plot has to keep on plotting along than anything else, I think. Which is really how this episode felt to me: a little overly concerned about what’s coming down the pike than enjoying banter and character moments.
Dylan: This is accurate, I guess. I know we still have four episodes to go, but it just seemed so anticlimactic. They get him there, he’s all, “How did you know?!” They tell him all the stuff we already know and then he’s like, “Cool. Bye.” and he runs off.
Dylan: And then there's Wally. He's moved into the West home, he's back in school, he's not being a total jerk to Barry; things are looking pretty okay! And then, before you know it, he's locked up on Earth-2 while some rando in a metal mask taps at him. I keep wondering what the long-game is with Wally, but so far he's just this weird side character who sometimes gets kidnapped. How are you feeling about Wally, Z?
Ziah: Well, it’s definitely leading somewhere, but like with Iris’ journalism career, it feels like the show has a hard time balancing the supporting characters’ inner lives and the fact that the show is about The Flash. I almost appreciate how obsessed Wally is with anything speed though; this episode he even wants to watch Formula 1 racing with ol’ Joe West.
Dylan: That’s also a Johns thing, though: have your character be about one thing and one thing only. Wally West is about speed. I admire his purity. But yeah, he got kidnapped and now in order to get him back, Barry has to give up his Speed Force to Zoom by, you guessed it: running fast.
Again, this didn’t make a lot of sense. Zoom had already handed Wally over; why did Barry keep up his end of the bargain? Why didn’t they get Wally safe and then pile on Zoom, besides this being episode 19 of 23 and they have to stretch things out until the finale? We spent the first half of the episode setting up that Barry is faster than Zoom now, and since on this show that is the ultimate weapon, he wins, right?
Ziah: Bizarre. There was no contingency plan, no “I’ve got a bomb”, nothing. Zoom is a guy who is bad at plans.
Dylan: Everybody on this show is bad at plans.
Finally, poor Caitlin. Ronnie? Blown up. Jay? Turns out he's a psycho murder guy who (spoilers) winds up kidnapping her by the end of the episode. Can this poor lady catch a break or something? Because her life is just one tragedy after another.
Ziah: Caitlin sure knows how to pick them, huh? Don’t forget about Grodd’s love for her, too. So, Caitlin finally gets to go to Earth-2, but it’s because she’s been kidnapped by her evil ex-boyfriend. She did get him to stop choking the Flash though, so do you think Zolomon’s got a redemption arc coming? Is the show really going to commit to Earth-2 Flash being evil? Will time travel ever make sense on this damn show?
Dylan: Oh dude, I’m pretty sure my notes told me to try and make a chart for how/who “Good” Jay wound up on Earth-1, but it’s hopeless. And I doubt they’ll redeem Zoom. He’ll wind up derezzed like that super-speed lady from a few episodes ago --- also, might I add, a former friend of Caitlin “Can’t Catch A Break” Snow.
Ziah: Oh man, if anyone’s earned the right to become a crazy supervillain, it’s Snow at this point huh? I forgot that was one of her old friends.
Dylan: Finally, one more question for you: who do you think Metal Mask Man is? Cuz I have a feeling it's another past Jay Garrick who isn't evil so maybe Caitlin can have something like a happy ending when this is all over. Right? Or am I being too hopeful?
Ziah: There’s Snow way that she gets a happy ending in this, but I feel like 3M has gotta be Wally, right? The way Barry froze when Joe mentioned his doppleganger kind of draws attention to the fact that we haven’t seen Twally yet, you know?
Dylan: Oh definitely, though I don’t think 3M is Wally. The hand we saw tapping was white, if I remember correctly.
Ziah: Well, I wonder who Twally is, because they really are hinting at him being someone. Maybe he’s Earth-2 The Top.
Dylan: They definitely have something planned. Otherwise we just spend the better part of a season with this dude walking around talking about how he’s gotta go fast for no good reason. Which, after the wrongheadedness of so much of this episode, is looking like it might be a real possibility.