The Flash – Season 2 Episode 18
The Flash starts the sprint towards the season finale as Barry takes the fight to Zoom in an attempt to stop him once and for all.
Ever since the identity of Zoom was revealed there has been lingering questions over his origin and how Jay could be seen to kill himself. All of those were answered in this episode which allows focus to be placed on Zoom’s role as a villain in the coming episodes.
The opening flashback shows a young Hunter Zolomon witness the murder of his mother at the hand of his father before he is put in an orphanage. It’s striking because it is reminiscent of similar events in Barry’s life as he was orphaned in a similar manner. This draws a parallel between Hunter and Barry and brings in the age old “nature vs. nurture” debate on what shapes people. Barry grew up well adjusted because he had the love and support of Joe and Iris to help him deal with the grief and loneliness that followed what he experienced. Hunter did not so that supplies a quick and convenient motivation for him being a cruel sadist.
As a complete aside, what is it with comic book shows and throwing in completely different names for established characters? So far we’ve had Harrison Wells revealed as Eobard Thawne, Hank Henshaw revealed as J’Onn J’Onzz over on Supergirl, Skye changed her name to Daisy on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Grant Ward is now Hive on that same show and now Jay Garrick’s real name is Hunter Zolomon. I’m unsure whether to call him Hunter or Zoom so I’ll alternate them throughout and see what sticks. There’s enough of this going on to be considered a trend at this point. I wonder what the next character to not be who they say they are will be.
Hunter’s origin is further expanded with the reveal that he was a convicted serial killer who was receiving electroshock therapy when he was hit by the Dark Matter Wave after the Earth-2 particle accelerator exploded. This accident caused him to gain access to the speed force which created a serial killer with super speed.
That is a terrifying prospect by itself but the Zoom persona created after the fact has been shown to fully embrace the fear that can be associated with someone that can’t be outrun. Hunter’s unchecked insanity also accounts for Zoom’s casual sadism and the randomness of some of his actions.
The other version of Hunter that we all know as Jay was explained by Zoom apparently going back in time and creating another version of himself to divert suspicion away from him as well as keeping an eye on Team Flash. The explanation felt a little glossed over to me and doesn’t really make a lot of sense when you think about it. Is Hunter Zolomon also a genius level scientist? I would think he’d have to be if Jay is but if he was spending his time being a serial killer then when would he get those skills? It would have been more interesting if his duplicate had turned against him and had to be dealt with rather than it being part of some grander plan. This would have also fed into the nature vs. nurture theme of the episode. Another thing that puzzles me is that nobody on Earth-2 seemed to realise that the Flash looks exactly like the famous serial killer Hunter Zolomon. If Hunter was as big a celebrity as Harry said he was then surely someone would have noticed the resemblance. The Flash on Earth-2 was clearly a well known figure as shown by his public appearance where he argued with Harry back in “The Darkness and the Light”. Getting a haircut and wearing a helmet surely isn’t enough to fool everyone, least of all Harry. I also wonder if there was a real Jay Garrick at some point or if Hunter Zolomon simply made it up. Connecting the characters of Hunter Zolomon and Jay Garrick is an interesting way to do it and it kept the mystery from being obvious throughout the season.
We still don’t know the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask but apparently it will be such a good reveal that we won’t be able to believe it. Manage your expectations people! That’s all I can say on this one because this will be very difficult to live up to.
A very different dynamic has been created with the truth being revealed. Teddy Sears delivers a great performance as the casually evil Hunter Zolomon. It’s very different to the way we are used to seeing him but there are still shades of Jay in there as well. The way that his interactions with the entire cast have shifted now that he is playing the villain is nicely done and there’s the undercurrent of awkwardness since he is the face of someone who had their trust and now they have to figure out a way to stop him.
Now that Barry is armed with the tachyon device and is faster than ever he finds himself on an even playing field with Zoom and the results are initially very positive. He confronts Zoom with confidence and a complete lack of fear because the balance of power has shifted in his favour. Knowing Zoom’s true identity allows Barry to use that to his advantage by placing cardboard cut-outs of his parents to distract him and get the upper hand in the fight. It’s a clever tactic and shows a complete change in the relationship now that Barry knows his enemy. As usual his overconfidence proved to be his undoing and he even let his anger get the better of him while Hunter remains relatively calm. He knows that he’s stronger than Barry and picks his moment to escape.
Knowing the enemy is another theme that the episode has as Hunter reminds Barry that he knows him very well and can exploit that. He does this by capturing Wally and offering him up as an exchange for Barry’s speed.
Going after those Barry cares about is about the oldest villain plan in the book and it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of the compassionate nature of the hero but using Wally as an example of that doesn’t really make much sense. He hasn’t had the opportunity to become a significant part of the cast yet so having him in peril doesn’t quite have the impact that the episode needed it to. If Hunter went after Joe, Iris or Henry then the stakes would have felt far more significant. It does do the job though and allows Barry to make the heroic sacrifice that we all expect from him.
The problem I had with it is that the sacrifice was completely unnecessary considering the situation. Between Barry, Cisco, Caitlin and Harry there is enough brainpower to figure out some way to trick Zoom. Harry could have sabotaged the speed force extractor and incapacitated him instead of giving him everything he wanted. I was expecting there to be a double cross because I give the characters enough credit but the way they handled the situation was yet another example of a room full of geniuses acting stupidly to further the plot. Zoom can’t be stopped because we’re only on episode 18 and the stakes need to be raised so Barry loses his speed. I imagine they’ll be able to extract it out of Zoom again unless Barry will attempt to recreate the conditions of the accident that gave him his powers.
As expected, Zoom betrayed them after getting what he wanted by trying to kill Barry. Caitlin appeals to his humanity and hopes that there’s enough of Jay Garrick in him to create enough hesitation to save Barry’s life. It works but Caitlin is kidnapped so I imagine she’s in for a fairly tough time of it in the next episode. It may offer a natural opportunity to give some more detail on Hunter Zolomon’s duplicate and his general backstory so her kidnapping might prove useful.
Cisco’s role in the episode also ties into the theme of nature vs. nurture as he is encouraged to use his powers to reopen one of the breaches to Earth-2. Cisco is concerned that tapping into his powers will cause him to turn evil like his counterpart. He likens himself to Anakin Skywalker who became evil after embracing his full potential. Barry assures him that it won’t happen because he won’t let it. He has enough faith in Cisco to not be corrupted by his potential. Carlos Valdes plays Cisco’s fear of his own potential perfectly. His performance was sincere and the fear was believable which made the slightly contrived nature of his quick reversal feel more natural. It was a necessary doubt for the character but the story couldn’t move forward without him getting over it and the performance really sold it.
Using Cisco’s powers to reopen a breach makes sense but I didn’t understand the insistence that it was otherwise impossible. This episode shows Barry disappearing into the Supergirl episode he shows up in so he knows that it’s possible to travel between universes even if it happened by accident. Even if they can’t figure out a way to control it quite yet I would think it would at least be discussed. It’s also puzzling that he wouldn’t at least mention it especially how exciting the story will be for Cisco. I do find it interesting that no time passed on this Earth while Barry was away having an adventure with Kara.
The whole nurture side of the debate is enhanced through the exploration of family having a positive influence on people. Barry and Joe’s bond is fully on display and it seems that Wally is looking for that same kind of acceptance. Joe offers to help him out with his living costs while being at college but Wally is really looking to be closer to his Dad which Joe completely misses. His assumption is that Wally wants to remain independent since both Barry and Iris were desperate to move out. That assumption proves to be incorrect but Joe is a big enough man to admit when he’s wrong so offers Wally a place to live which goes down really well. He is visibly pleased that the offer has been extended and graciously accepts. He is fairly underdeveloped but his desire to be accepted and find somewhere to belong has always been consistent. Considering he ends up as Zoom’s hostage it can’t be too long until he finds out the truth about Barry as all of Barry’s friends work with the Flash. It really is the worst kept secret.
Iris being conflicted over who she should be with is something I can completely do without. She cancels the date with her boss because of her confused feelings about Barry, not because it isn’t a good idea to go out with your boss. Iris has always been a problematic character due to her selfish behaviour and largely being defined by who she is in a relationship with so reopening this story with Barry really isn’t a good idea. All Iris seems to be thinking about is who she’s going to go out with next which makes her such a thinly written character. Also, it’s entirely possible that she’s only thinking about this because she knows about their marriage on Earth-2 as well as the alternate future so her feelings might be misguided on that basis. Either way, I know there is potential for this character to be better than she is and defining her as a love interest isn’t a good way to realise that potential.
A really good episode that offers some interesting insight into the origin of Zoom as well as an explanation of how there are two Jay Garrick’s. I like the idea of drawing a parallel between Zoom and Barry through the reactions to their similar childhood tragedies but there’s still a lot of ground that remains uncovered due to some of the explanation being glossed over. The idea of family being a positive influence is handled really well in the episode and there are great moments for many of the characters. I found the circumstances of Zoom stealing Barry’s speed to be horribly contrived as it counts on the characters acting stupidly for the sake of the plot. Things have been set up well for the coming episodes though and I remain excited.
- excellent performances from the bulk of the cast
- the theme of “nature vs. nurture” being explored through Barry and Cisco
- an interesting shift in the established villain dynamic
- a well put fight together between Barry and Zoom
- the contrived scenario where Zoom stole Barry’s speed
- Iris only being defined by her relationships
- some glossing over of the explanations around Zoom