Barry tries to get Doctor Light on his side, learning that she only wanted to kill Linda to fake her own death. He learns that she was supposed to kill The Flash, steal his chest emblem, then through it into a rift to prove she’d done it and Zoom would take her home. Barry goes along with Harry’s idea of using Doctor Light to lure Zoom to them so they can defeat him, planning for Cisco to convert the nanites The Arrow used to slow down Reverse-Flash into a dart that would slow down Zoom. However, Doctor Light is able to turn invisible — something Patty had theorized on her own — and escapes, though she leaves behind her outfit. Meanwhile, Patty doesn’t understand why Joe is keeping her away from the Doctor Light case, and theorizes that he knows about she and Barry being together. She decides to be up front with Joe, but he makes it blatantly clear that he doesn’t care about that. Patty, however, realizes he is still hiding something. Iris gives Barry the idea of Linda pretending to be her Earth-2 counterpart to attract Zoom — she has a personal stake in it now, and desperately needs to find something to do. They give her a choice, and she decides to do it, using Cisco-built light devices to emulate Doctor Light’s powers. While no one thinks Linda is ready, Barry wants to get the plan moving anyway. Joe suspects that Barry doesn’t have closure from Reverse-Flash since Eddie is the one to take him out, but Barry insists that he’s worried about what Harrison Wells said in his video will — that Barry will never be happy. Barry senses that he does have a void.
They enact the plan perfectly, but Zoom doesn’t show, making the team wonder where things went wrong. Cisco tries to get a good touch on Harry to “vibe” him and figure out what his secret is, and then discovers that someone named Jesse is being held by Zoom. Barry decides to stop being afraid and own up to what he wants, and he gives a great big kiss to Patty. Suddenly, Zoom shows up and abducts Linda, revealing that he knew they were trying to trick him. The Flash saves her, but Zoom beats him to a bloody pulp, dragging him all over Central City — Picture News, the police station, STAR Labs — and shows off that The Flash has been beaten. Just before Zoom fatally stabs him, Cisco is able to shoot him with a dart, which prompts Zoom to leave. Harry reveals that Jesse is his daughter that Zoom kidnapped, which makes the team question if he was sent to kill The Flash by Zoom. Barry wakes up, in bad condition but healing. Then he reveals that he can’t feel his legs.
It’s hard to say how well Zoom will ultimately hold up as a long-term villain once this season finishes. For one, it’s too early to really tell how the show will use him, especially since it pulls out all the stops for his first major interaction with our favorite Scarlet Speedster. The most pleasant surprise in how Zoom has been handled is just how vastly different he functions than Reverse-Flash did. The biggest fear going into this season was if Zoom would be a rehash of the first season’s villain — he is, after all, synonymous with Reverse-Flash in the comics, and he’s yet another “mirror-Flash” evil speedster.
Where Zoom differs becomes all-the-more clear in “Enter Zoom.” For one, the Earth-2 conceit has livened everything up already, and has so much more potential to be utilized. But for Zoom himself, the show actively makes sure we aren’t terribly interested in the mystery behind him. This isn’t a question of who or why, because his motivations aren’t much more clear than “Kill The Flash.” He doesn’t inspire contemplation and suspicion like the Reverse-Flash, he inspires fear and foreboding. While it’s likely there’s a person behind Zoom’s mask that will be played as a shocker, that just doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that this is a powerful force of nature, one that has beaten The Flash more thoroughly than anyone else ever has.
Of course, “Enter Zoom” suggests that this is part of the problem — the team is treating Zoom strictly like nothing more than that powerful force of nature, with singular evil motivations. They simply don’t know anything about him, so it’s no surprise that their first attempt to directly take him down fails catastrophically. There are still so many questions about Zoom, beyond even the question of who he is. Where did his powers come from? How does he know so much about speedsters and the multiverse? Why did he feel the need to flaunt The Flash’s failure all over Central City before trying to kill him? Why did he send metahumans to kill him instead of attacking him directly in the first place? How the heck does his costume even work?
Nothing about Zoom makes sense, and that’s why he functions as such a great villain, even if not nearly as complex and engaging on his own as Reverse-Flash. Six episodes in and we’ve only gotten mere bursts of Zoom, and none of them have any logical explanation outside of “he’s evil.” That complete otherness and lack of comprehension is exactly what makes him scary on a primal level. So, it makes sense that “Enter Zoom” ends with a bloody, beaten, paralyzed Barry — you can’t bring a storm to your house and expect everything to work out. But you can find ways to study it and understand how it works, and thus craft stronger preventative measures to survive it. In Zoom’s case, if the team actively worked to figure out who or what he really is, they may find that he’s not such a malevolent force of nature after all. Or if he is, they can find an actual weakness. Because attracting him and hoping they can get a lucky shot in is not going to cut it.
All of this is only from the very last act of the episode, which is a stunning, back-to-back-to-back wallop of an ending if there ever was one. And while it vastly overshadows the lead-up, there is still lots of good stuff within. In fact, it’s all a much lighter affair until the last act, so much so that there’s a bit of tonal whiplash. Linda gets a major spotlight in a surprising but worthwhile turn. I mentioned this last week, but it’s just so delightful that The Flash has fully embraced its larger world and diverse cast of characters, and finds ways to give material even to the supporting players. On any other show, Linda probably wouldn’t have been seen after the first season since her romantic diversion stopped being part of the plot. But she clicked enough as a character that she’s now had a two-parter based around her, where she’s been able to play a supervillain, face the main villain head-on, and learn The Flash’s identity. The DCwU creators really did learn from Felicity in the first season of Arrow — if a character works, even if they weren’t intended to be major players, run with it anyway and give them stuff to do.
It’s likely that Linda will disappear for a while given that she’s fled the city at episode’s end, but this is still a great hour for her. Oddly enough, part of her plot seems to be acknowledging that the characters have grown from their dumber decisions in season one. Iris straight-up tells Barry to let Linda decide for herself if she wants to take a risk, which would mean playing an active role rather than a passive one. Of course, we know that Iris spent the first season never being able to decide anything for herself and being the last person to know Barry was The Flash, so it’s hard to not see Linda being given the choice to jump into danger and learning of Barry’s identity as a direct commentary on their growth.
Linda’s integration into the plan is the episode’s most entertaining material, complete with a training montage with actual Cisco-made cardboard cut-outs popping out. It gets even better when Linda and Barry act out their parts, complete with terrible line-readings from Linda and an unnaturally forced “deep hero voice” from Barry. It’s silly and it’s fun, to the point that it’s almost a diversion. But the lightheartedness of bringing Linda into the fray — especially her remarks that “I made out with The Flash!” and bonding with Iris over a beer — is ultimately a calm before the storm. It also speaks to how well The Flash balances its optimistic outlook; other shows would have likely had its whopper of an ending with Linda tragically dying thanks to Barry’s failure of a plan. That certainly would have cranked things up a notch — it even seemed to be leading in that direction — but we’re all probably happy the show didn’t go to that tired place. The Flash takes a harder but ultimately more satisfying route — beating the living crap out of Barry and apparently breaking his back — which still succeeds at raising the stakes, making Barry’s plan an utter failure, and creating bigger hurdles for the coming weeks. But it does so without forcing a controversy or completely ripping our hearts out, and that’s a testament to why this show has been such an accomplishment.
Even with the fluffy and comic Linda material, it’s not as though the entire episode is all rainbows. There’s definitely a sense of foreboding throughout, even in he equally fluffy Patty and Barry stuff. There’s a sense that Patty is going to have to figure out Barry’s identity sooner rather than later, given that it’s become a character trait to pick up on every little detail. She figured out Barry was blind last week, and this week she picks up on Joe’s secrecy and that Doctor Light could become invisible. Picking up on Joe keeping a secret isn’t a surprise, but it does suggest that Patty is going to keep pushing on this metahuman stuff until she breaks through on him. And if anyone listened to her about Doctor Light’s invisibility, she may have prevented the entire mess the characters make.
So the show is clearly setting Patty up as vital to being in the know, but while the romance with she and Barry felt a little forced before, this actually seems purposeful. For as much as this episode makes a case for letting characters like Linda in on Barry’s secret and actively participate, it does end on her nearly dying and practically going into hiding. In a meta reading of “Enter Zoom,” it strikes as odd that an episode that heavily sets Patty up as a potentially vital member of the team happens at the same time Linda’s foray into Team Flash fails miserably. In fact, Patty and Linda have more than a few similarities by episode’s end — both have a personal stake in getting involved (Linda’s Doctor Light double, Patty’s father killed by a to-be metahuman,) both have romanced Barry, and both work with a West. There’s also the notion that directly after Barry and Patty have their big romantic kiss, everything collapses. Intentional or not, it’s as if Linda’s storyline serves as a cautionary tale for Patty, which may or may not come true.
Beyond that, though, is the elephant that is Harrison Wells and the Reverse-Flash. For the former, Harry’s secret about his kidnapped daughter, Jesse, is out. It’s after a few silly, but worthwhile antics that Cisco can finally “Vibe” him, which is a creative way to utilize Cisco and have him learn about his powers. Harry already feels integrated into the main cast — which makes sense, considering the circumstances — but that’s still saying something considering he’s such a vastly different character from his predecessor. This episode continues to hammer in that Harry is a gigantic jerk, a nasty corporate scientist-type that wasn’t truthful about metahumans because he didn’t want to damage his public image. That’s also likely the reason he’s been so secretive around the current team, not because he has nefarious plans, but simply because that guarded dickishness has been cranked up to eleven thanks to his daughter’s situation. It’s also clear that Jesse is the one shining light in his life, as the only times he really, truly shows raw emotions are in his flashback when she’s kidnapped and when he gets confirmation that she’s alive in the present. This version of Harry may not have the complex backstory that his Eobard iteration did, but he’s still a fully fleshed-out character, even after only a couple of appearances. That’s no doubt thanks to Tom Cavanaugh being on-point literally all the time, but his little quirks — the music he listened to last week and the insults he chooses to pin on people now — really help to sell this as a fresh, new character.
But he still has the face of Harrison Wells, and that’s surely something that continues to haunt Barry. The irony in “Enter Zoom” is that Barry is virtually the only one who defends Harry and doesn’t question his motives, yet Barry’s own motivations still lie in his unresolved issues with the man Harry looks like. The other piece that’s made Zoom such an effective villain is that he’s sort of the personification of the fear Barry carried about the Reverse-Flash, even more than the actual man in yellow. Joe makes a vital point — Barry wasn’t the one who truly stopped Reverse-Flash (and he wasn’t even technically the one to stop the succeeding singularity, either), and that lack of closure could drive someone crazy. Barry suggests that the real issue isn’t the lack of closure, but the void that’s been left because of it and the fear that he’ll never be happy, also inspired by Wells’ words. Those things are still all part of the same problem, ultimately, and that Barry doesn’t see the forest for the trees is a major reason why he moves forward with a flawed plan that fails. This won’t be an easy emotional hurdle for Barry to overcome, if only because it’s not as simple as “save mom” or “stop being scared.” It’s enough of a mixture of guilt, obsession, fear, and anger to carry his arc throughout the season, especially with so many factors from Earth-2 likely to affect him.
As fast-paced as season 2 has been, and even with the dark themes and cliffhanger akin to last season’s mid-season finale, there’s still ample left to explore. It was unexpected to uproot the show to the extent it has this early in the season, but it’s given things a larger sense of focus than we’ve seen. Zoom represents primal fear in a way Reverse-Flash never could, a malevolent and otherwordly terror that vastly separates the tone of this season from its predecessor. “Enter Zoom” is a predominately light affair, but carries a heavy enough weight and sense of dread throughout that its shocker of an ending is more than appropriate and earned.
Odds & Ends
- I love that Earth-2 has a perpetual yellow tint to it. Reminds me of Smallville‘s heavily saturated color scheme.
- The entire Sergeant Slow gag and exchange is hilarious.
- On Earth-2, Oliver Queen died in the shipwreck and his father took on the mantle of The Hood/The Arrow. It would have been cool to get Justin Hartley on as Earth-2 Oliver Queen like we’ve suggested before, but this is still an interesting twist. Especially given how close it is to Flashpoint Batman.
- They’re really hammering in the “Jesse is so quick!” references, aren’t they?
- Zoom literally catches lightning and throws it back. It’s ridiculous and the effect isn’t even very good, but if you want to show how next-level powerful Zoom is, that’s definitely a way to do it.
- I’m not sure how scientifically accurate the terminal velocity and freefall bit is — I’d assume they should have been falling from a higher height to hit it — but even so, it’s a very creative idea. Always fun to see superhero media play around with physics and concepts with their powers.
- Does Zoom say “You’re next” to Harry just because he’s mad about getting shot and the betrayal, or is that a hint about a connection we don’t know about? After all, Zoom went through a lot more trouble kidnapping and holding Jesse hostage to get Harry, who isn’t even a metahuman, over to Earth-1. Seems like there’s still more to that story.
- “If we’re gonna be The Flash’s sidekicks, we should probably join Crossfit or something.” – Well, it worked for the ladies on Arrow, so maybe not a bad idea.
- “You’d think the serial killer version would have been the bigger jerk.”
- Regarding Barry’s high school football tryouts: “You said you’d never bring that up again!”