Wow. What an episode.
This week’s episode, “Enter Zoom”, was essentially part two of a larger story begun with last week’s now-ominously titled episode “The Darkness and the Light” (Exhibit A). Why is that title so ominous after this week’s episode? And what’s with the “Exhibit A” thing, man?
Thanks for asking. Let me tell you. You’ll see these exhibit pieces pop up throughout my review of this week’s episode –which can’t be done without referencing last week’s episode, since this really does feel like a two-parter– because I intend to use these presented exhibits to build my case for what I think is going on this season.
Shall we begin?
To help refresh your memory, last week, Earth-2 Harrison Wells begrudgingly joined the team at Earth-1 STAR Labs. According to Wells, an incident at Earth-2 STAR Labs, which occurred at the same time as the reactor explosion at the Earth-1 STAR Labs (Exhibit B) released a wave of dark matter that created the Earth-2 metahuman problem. Zoom has been sending metas through the breach between the worlds to kill Earth-1 Flash. What does Wells know about Zoom? “Everything. I created him.” (Exhibit C)
So, what does Wells tell the team about Zoom? That Zoom is fast and Zoom is mean. That’s it. That’s all Wells is telling the team that he traveled across the breach to meet in order to help stop Zoom. That’s all he’s telling Barry (Exhibit D). That’s all the information the team is going to use to take down the villain holding Wells’ daughter captive.
The breacher that Zoom sent last week was Doctor Light, who is the Earth-2 Linda Park. Doctor Light is able to temporarily blind Barry because he was caught off guard by this revelation. In what was treated as a throw-away line, Wells and Barry briefly mention that somehow Zoom knew to send Light because Zoom somehow had intel on Barry and Barry’s past (Exhibit E), which is why Light, who had been nothing more than a small-time thief, was sent to Earth-1 with a chance of killing Flash.
The team figures out that Doctor Light is probably going to go find and kill her Earth-1 doppleganger, because that’s what breachers do (Exhibit F). Linda is saved, but her editor is accidentally killed by Light. By episode’s end, Barry captures Light and locks her in the meta-containing prison at STAR Labs. With Light tucked away, Wells suggests the team use Light to draw Zoom into a confrontation with Barry, who is the only one fast enough to defeat Zoom (Exhibit G). In fact, Wells was impressed by Barry’s speed when Cisco tells Wells that Barry time traveled not once but twice (Exhibit H).
The one person on the team who immediately voices dissent is Jay Garrick, who knows Wells from Earth-2. The same Jay Garrick who lost his speed powers in a fight with Zoom and says that Zoom wants to be the only speedster left in the multiverse (Exhibit I). The same Jay Garrick who staked out the Flash and the team at STAR Labs for six months after crossing over from Earth-2 to Earth-1 (Exhibit J). Jay can’t go along with this plan because it will get Barry killed. Wells calls out Jay. Says Jay wasn’t chasing Zoom, but running for his life from Zoom. That Barry is not like Jay, Barry runs toward danger, not from it (Exhibit K). So, Jay steps away.
I’ll bet you can already see where I’m going with this, huh?
This week’s episode picks up with Barry trying to talk Doctor Light into helping the team lure Zoom into a confrontation on Earth-1. Zoom was going to know that Light had killed Barry when she tossed the white insignia that Flash wears on his chest into the breach. The same insignia that the team saw on the future version of Flash on the newspaper that Gideon showed them. The same white insignia on the Flash that Barry saw already in his family’s living room when Barry went back to save his mother in last season’s finale. The same Flash that shook Barry off and told him not to save his mother from the Reverse Flash. The same white insignia that Cisco put on the Flash suit this season (call all that Exhibit L).
Wells offers to provide the weapon they need to stop Zoom –a projectile that will inject Zoom with a serum that will slow him down– if Cisco can develop the firearm to shoot the dart. Cisco uses the time collaborating with Wells to try and vibe some information from Wells. What Cisco finds out is that Zoom captured Wells’ daughter (Jesse Quick, people!) and that she is still alive.
(Aside: why does Cisco get this scene? I mean, when he vibes off of someone, it’s like he’s in the room with that person, like a ghost tethered to that person. He doesn’t see what they see from a first-person perspective, but he is there in the room with them. So why does he see a room which presumably contains just Zoom and Jesse? I don’t think it is because Wells is Zoom, but others may want to do so. Fine by me. That’s just, like, your opinion, man.)
How does Wells know that his serum will work on Zoom? Since we’re indulging in rampant speculation later in this recap, let me just throw this out there… Wells didn’t build his metahuman tracking watch to detect the presence of metas in general. Being able to sell the watch to the public is a side effect. Wells has developed the serum with the purpose of administering it to his daughter in order to mask her abilities from Zoom, because if Zoom knew that Jesse Quick was a speedster, too, then he would presumably hunt her down and killer her. The watch was developed to let Wells know when the serum is wearing off so he could administer another dose. My guess is that Jesse was starting to ping something for Zoom, which is why he abducted her from campus. Finding out what her father is up to is what is keeping her alive.
Barry is on board with Wells’ plan, but no one else on the team is ready to trust Wells. Not Joe. Not Caitlin. Not Vibe. Not Doctor Light. Wait… what? That’s right, Doctor Light uses the lights in her cell and the fiber optic network to hack her way into the STAR Labs system (you know, the one that Cisco upgraded so people like Jay and Wells couldn’t just walk in and people like Light couldn’t just walk out) and escape. Oh, and being able to turn invisible helped.
(Aside: If Light can bend light to make herself invisible, why did she need to ditch her clothes; couldn’t she bend the light around them, too? I know, I know… the plot demands the team have her clothes.)
With Light out of the picture (pun intended), Barry moves onto asking Earth-1 Linda to pretend to be Doctor Light and pretend to kill Flash in order to draw Zoom out of the breach. Joe calls Barry out; not once, but twice this episode. Why is Barry so relentlessly pursuing Zoom? Does Barry feel like Eddie cheated him out of killing Reverse Flash? Can Barry not see his own hypocrisy? How can Barry say that he has to stop Zoom in order to keep any more innocent people from getting hurt when Barry is willing to use an innocent person in Linda as bait to draw out Zoom?
Linda, who is cookin’ up a fury at the West safehouse, agrees to help. We get a fun training montage where Linda learns to use the modified light gloves Cisco made her for this little bit of schadenfreude. As fun as the scene was, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “So, now another investigative reporter knows the Flash operates out of STAR Labs… how long until she figures out his secret identity.” Which was promptly followed up with, “Oh, that long. Well, she’ll be written out now.”
The plan comes together at one of the breaches down by the docks in a fun display reminiscent of amateur hour during the early show at the local improv club. Linda, dressed as Light, “defeats” Flash and tosses his insignia into the breach. Then they wait. And wait. And wait. An hour later, still no Zoom.
Wells is clearly angry. Barry is disappointed that Zoom didn’t show up. Barry has been haunted by the recording Earth-1 Wells-not-Wells left Barry, telling Barry that he’ll never be happy. Barry says there is a void inside that he hasn’t been able to fill since he sat back and watched his mother die. Again. (Exhibit M… you didn’t think I was finished with these, did you?) Joe tells Barry to go be happy, then.
Barry finds Plucky Patty and tells her that being with her makes him happy. Kissing her makes him happy. Watching Joe squirm awkwardly while Patty tells him all about her budding relationship with Barry makes Barry happy.
You know what doesn’t make Barry very happy? When things don’t go according to plan. Zoom hadn’t been fooled by the trick of using Linda to impersonate Doctor Light. So, he waited until everyone’s guard was down, then he came through the breach. His move? To do to Barry what Barry and the team had tried to do to Zoom. Use Linda to bait Flash into a confrontation.
Barry takes the bait. He saves Linda from being dropped from the top of STAR Labs, then winds up the thunderbolt, while an almost bored-looking Zoom watches and waits. When Barry unleashes the lightning, Zoom steps aside, plucks the lightning bolt out of the air, and tries to engage Barry in a friendly game of Catch the Bolt. The only problem is that Jay told Barry how to throw lightning, not how to catch it. Upset that his playmate dropped the pass, Zoom proceeds to pummel Barry, stab him with Wells’ serum dart, and drag him throughout Central City –but not before telling Wells, “Never forget, I am the fastest man alive.” (Exhibit N) The point of this little exhibition? Showing off a limp and unconscious Flash to the West’s (Exhibit O). First, Zoom takes Flash to see Iris at the newspaper office, proclaiming to the staff, who will get the word in the morning edition, that the Flash is finished. Then, Zoom and Barry swing by the CCPD to see Joe, where Zoom tells the police that Flash will no longer be around to save their city. Yes, the media and the police were put on notice, but make no mistake, Zoom was talking to the Wests. Because he has information on who is important to Barry.
Finally, Zoom drags Barry back to STAR Labs, where he can kill Barry in front of Wells and the team. He would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. Cisco hits Zoom with a second serum dart, causing Zoom to retreat, but not before dealing Barry a serious blow. Barry recovers, thanks to his fast healing ability, but we leave him without feeling in his legs.
Next week: Grodd returns!
So, looking at the exhibits above, I have a theory as to what season two of The Flash is all about. Season one was all about Barry stopping the Reverse Flash, who, in Wells-not-Wells’ own words, was the opposite of Barry Allen. I believe that season two is all about Barry confronting his own feelings about what has happened to him from the time his mother died until now. Barry’s struggle against those feelings is made manifest by Zoom, the personification of what Barry would become if he had chosen to give into those feelings and frustrations. Had Barry chosen the darkness instead of the light.
Because that’s what Earth-2 Barry Allen chose.
That’s right, I think Zoom is Earth-2 Barry Allen. Barry in a black suit that is a twisted version of his Earth-1 red suit. Barry claiming to be the fastest man alive.
I think that the STAR Labs incident on Earth-2 created Zoom in much the same way that the Earth-1 STAR Labs explosion created Flash. Only the Earth-2 Barry Allen wasn’t the optimistic, aspiring young man that Earth-1 Barry Allen had become by the time he received his powers. Earth-2 Barry Allen was still openly suffering from a tragedy in his past, picking at the scab so that the wound was constantly being reopened and never healing into a scar.
That is the Zoom that Wells knows, the Barry Allen that Wells was familiar with on Earth-2. That is why Jay Garrick spent six months scoping out the team at STAR Labs. Could it be possible that on Earth-1, Barry Allen the speedster was a hero? That’s why Wells hasn’t given Barry and the team any more information about Zoom than he has. Would Barry be able to stop Zoom if it meant killing the Earth-2 version of himself?
Maybe that’s the point in why the team has been so flippant about killing breachers. Could they continue to devalue lives so much if they were forced to kill alternate universe versions of themselves? We know the team distrusts Earth-2 Wells because of their relationship with Earth-1 Wells-not-Wells… how much must Earth-2 Wells be suppressing his feelings toward Earth-1 Barry Allen based on what Zoom has done in abducting Jesse? This season is an allegory in seeing both sides of the conflict and valuing the lives of those who think that they are the heroes in their own stories on the other side of the conflict, or on the other side of the breach.
That is why Wells came to Flash in order to stop Zoom. Only Flash, the Earth-1 speedster Barry Allen, can stop Zoom, the Earth-2 speedster Barry Allen. The meta that Earth-1 Wells-not-Wells created versus the Earth-2 meta that Earth-2 Wells created.
That is how Zoom knows a little about Earth-1 Barry’s past relationships. Earth-2 Barry’s relationships with those same people on Earth-2 were likely funhouse mirror distorted reflections of Earth-1 Barry’s relationships.
So, why does Zoom want to kill Flash? It’s more than “that’s just what breachers do”. There’s more to it than just eliminating your doppleganger, though that is exactly what Zoom is trying to do. The question is why? The answer lies in the white insignia on the Flash suit.
In the season one finale, Barry went back in time to stop Reverse Flash from killing Nora Allen. Barry just knew that he was the second speedster in the living room that night. But, when he got there, season one Barry saw that future Flash –he of the white insignia– was already fighting Reverse Flash. Future Flash shook Barry off, like a pitcher calling for the fastball instead of the curve. So, Barry didn’t save his mother, and was left with that void in his heart.
To Zoom, killing the Flash with the white insignia is all-encompassing. Think of Earth-1 and Earth-2 existing as two parallel lines. I think there are places where the two lines are not parallel, where they converge around events that are critical to shaping each world. The STAR Labs incident is one such event. It happened in slightly different forms on both worlds, but had a similar result on both, namely, the creation of metahumans. The event was similar and the result was similar, but each took place within the context of its own unique world. On Earth-1, Barry Allen became Flash. On Earth-2, he became Zoom.
I think that the time traveling speedster is another such event. On Earth-1, young Barry Allen was in the house while season one Flash watched future Flash battle Reverse Flash. What if on Earth-2, young Barry Allen was in the house while time traveling speedsters wrought tragedy on the Allen family? What if Zoom thought he could rewrite history and prevent such a thing from happening by becoming the only speedster in the multverse, making it impossible for anyone else to travel through time or across the breaches? What history could he then write for young Earth-2 Barry Allen?
Or, what if Zoom is the one who traveled in Earth-2 time and birthed his own tragedy and is trying to stop any speedsters from changing it for the better?
The last piece of evidence not cited above comes from what seems to be another throw-away piece of a scene. The scene in question is when Earth-2 Wells is on Earth-2. After a falling out with Jesse, Wells hears on the news that there has been an attack on the campus where Jesse attends classes. The video of Jesse’s phone ringing with “Dad” on it confirms to Wells that Jesse is in danger. That the world Wells has known has shifted on its axis. Prior to the special report, we hear that the Earth-2 Starling City vigilante was outed as Robert Queen. Father of Oliver Queen, who was killed in the shipwreck.
This is reminiscent of a recent DC comics storyline called Flashpoint, which featured –you guessed it– the Flash. During the Flashpoint event, Barry Allen inhabits a world where important events had different consequences, leading to a very different world from the one he had known. In the world of Flashpoint, Bruce Wayne is killed in Crime Alley and his surviving father, Thomas Wayne, is Batman. Since Arrow premiered, people have been calling Oliver Queen “the poor man’s Bruce Wayne” (okay, they’ve been calling him such for longer than that). I think it is interesting that the Wayne family role-reversal involves the Queen family in this television universe and takes place on Earth-2 on The Flash.
You know what else was different in the world of Flashpoint? Nora Allen was alive and Barry’s father, Henry was dead. Not from murder, but from poor health. Natural causes. Like they did with Flashpoint, DC Comics has a history of introducing worlds where the characters we know as heroes in the main world are villains on another. Some have been pretty memorable, like Owlman, the twisted version of Batman who really isn’t all that different from Batman in many unsettling ways. Others, not so much. I think it is not only possible, but at this point in season two it is increasingly likely, that The Flash is giving us the same.
What say you, readers? Is Zoom Earth-2 Barry Allen? Someone else? Does it matter who the monster behind the mask is? Sound off in the comments!
Catch up with The Flash on Same Geek Channel:
Episode 4.01: The Man Who Saved Central City
Episode 4.02: Flash of Two Worlds
Episode 4.03: Family of Rogues
Episode 4.04: The Fury of Firestorm
Episode 4.05: The Darkness and the Light