The Flash S02E16 “Trajectory” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Lauren Certo & Lilah Vandenburgh
Director: Glen Winter
Essential Plot Points:
- Barry is trying to force himself to run fast by attempting to leap over a wide canyon. He fails but Cisco has luckily provided a safety net.
- The rest of Team Flash gangs up on Barry, saying the need a night off to chill. They all go to a night club where they laugh at Cisco’s dancing.
- Harry only lets Jesse go if she wears protection (yes, the show does go for the obvious gag at this point). He gives her one of his metahuman detecting watches.
- Unfortunately it also contains his old, spoken journal entries that Jesse accidentally triggers. She hears him say he’s prepared to kill to save her. She’s not entirely happy with having a bad-ass dad.
- Then a Speedster ransacks the night club in a superfast bout of petty thievery.
- Barry gives chase but the other Speedster is faster. Barry experiences speed envy. Again.
- Because Bad-Flash* never slowed down, it looks like The Flash is responsible for the theft. (*Don’t worry, Cisco dismisses this as a possible codename very quickly.)
- Iris’s new editor, Scott, wants her to write a story trashing the Flash. She prevaricates by asking him out for a coffee to “discuss” his beef with the Flash. He misreads this as a date. It all gets very awkward.
- Turns out the speedster is old colleague of Caitlin’s whom Caitlin had used to help synthesise Velcocity-9, the speed drug that Jay took.
- (Oh yeah, while we’re on the subject of Jay it’s worth pointing out how he’s mentioned many, many times throughout the episode, with everyone going misty-eyed with nostalgia each time, or looking adoringly at his helmet which is on display in a glass cabinet. It’s impossible not to guess there’s a major Jay-shaped revelation on the way.)
- Anyway, Caitlin’s old colleague, Eliza, has reverse engineered Velocity-9 to become Trajectory, and is using her powers to raise funds for her own (massively behind schedule) projects.
- When Barry learns about Velocity-9 he wants to take some so he can compete with Trajectory but everyone points out that the drug actually kills you through cellular degeneration. And anyway, it’s cheating and no one want to be known as the new Lance Armstrong.
- Trajectory’s now addicted to Velocity-9 and running low on supplies, so she goes to STAR Labs, and takes Jesse hostage to force Harry and Caitlin to make more of the drug.
- To test that they haven’t laced the drug with something nasty, she injects some into Jesse. Jesse has a bad reaction but survives.
- Trajectory runs off, but Caitlin and Harry did lace the Velocity-9 with something – a micro tracking device.
- Barry chases her to a bridge which she destroys (using vibrations) for no apparent reason other than to make Barry look heroic by being forced to jump the gap it leaves behind. Unlike with the canyon, this time Barry succeeds. Yay Barry.
- Trajectory injects herself with more Velocity-9 and runs off, but then disintegrates as her cells break down.
- Barry can’t help but notice that her lightning turns blue as she disintegrates.
- Hang on, Zoom’s lightning is blue…
- Jay was taking Velocity-9…
- Putting two and two together Barry smashes the glass display case holding Jay’s helmet and gives it to Cisco to vibe on. Their worst fears are confirmed. Jay is Zoom!
- Oh, and Iris has second thoughts about Scott and tells him that they can make the next coffee a proper date if he wants.
- Jesse leaves town to escape her overprotective dad.
That was a public service broadcast on behalf of World Anti-Doping Agency. We half-expected Lance Armstrong and Ben Johnson to turn up as the villains-of-the-week as Barry fights with temptation to take Velocity-9 to make him run faster. Don’t you just love a show with a social conscience? Don’t do drugs, kids! As usual, gutsy performances from Grant Gustin and Tom Cavanagh help make scenes that could have been hokey sound utterly convincing.
‘Trajectory” is a surprisingly satisfying epsiode. We say surprisingly because there are some shockingly annoying plot illogicalities (see below); this is the kind of episode where Harry suddenly forgets he’s a genius and gives his daughter a metahuman-detecting device that’s also full of shocking revelations. Because creating a device that both detects metahumans and takes dictation is always a best seller on IWantOneOfThose.com.
But it doesn’t really matter. This is The Flash back to doing what it does well; packing an episode with so much enjoyable incidental detail that any plot mechanics niggles pale into insignificance.
It starts off well, with the members of Team Flash letting their hair down. Barry and co spend so much time being all angsty these days it’s a pleasant change to see them enjoying themselves. Even Wally’s attempt to introduce some snark (“The tic-tac-toe theme is cool,” he says sarcastically of Barry’s choice of club) wither and die in the glow of camaraderie.
Trajectory is a fun villain too; as two-dimensional as the majority of Flash baddies, sure, but benefitting from a feisty performance and some very impressive FX sequences. Great death too. Actually quite spooky.
Another impressive aspect of the episode is the way the main characters think their way to the revelation that Jay is Zoom at the end. It makes a change from the usual unmask-and-gasp approach. Of course, it may well be a red herring; there are so many doppelgängers in this show who knows what brand of Jay this might be? But it’s still good to witness some intelligent deduction going on that doesn’t involve reams of technobabble.
To be honest, four stars is possibly a little generous for “Trajectory” because it is so slight and clunkily plotted, but as the “Good” section below indicates, there was much else to enjoy and savour. Ultimately that made this feel like an episode that was more than the sum of its parts.
- Lots of smiling! Lots of camaraderie! It’s a genuinely pleasant surprise to have a few angst-free moments…
- Plus we got to see Disco Cisco which is worth an extra star for entertainment value alone. We really wanted him to do the drunk giraffe, though.
- Watching Trajectory disintegrate was genuinely disturbing.
- The conversation between Barry and Harry about whether Barry should use Velocity-9 or not was brilliantly understated. We thought we were in for a wodge of sententious moralising; instead we got Harry bluntly going, “Figure it out!” and forcing Barry to come to his own (correct) conclusions.
- You have to love Barry’s indignant expression when he smashes the display case, though there might be a little bit of, “I hope I don’t get glass in my eye,” mixed in there too.
- They Evil Knieval stunt may have failed but it was still a great, visually impressive way to kick off the episode.
- Plus the shot of Cisco’s drones fishing Barry out of the mist was impeccably achieved. You’ll believe a man can fly fish.
- There was some lovely attention to detail in some of the FX shots, particularly the cyclist bring knocked off his bike by Trajectory and, later, a car plummeting off the bridge that Trajectory destroys.
- Did the way Eliza became Trajectory make any sense? Caitlin says she “followed the protocols of information compartmentalisation,” and only gave her three of the eight components necessary for Velocity-9’s structure. Yet somehow, it seems, Eliza was clever enough to reverse engineer the Velocity-9, a turn of events covered in about two half-lines of dialogue. Well, fair enough, let’s accept that. However, if that is the case, why did she need to go back to STAR Labs to get more Velocity-9? If she could reverse engineer the other five of the eight components, surely merely duplicating the three she was actually sent would be a doddle? Unless this was all a big red herring and next week we learn Zoom was helping her or something. But even then it would have been nice for Caitlin to have acknowledged, “Something doesn’t make sense here.” On the other hand if a real chemist out that wants to inform us that backwards engineering a substance is actually easier than duplicating a substance then we take that all back.
- The destruction of the bridge, meanwhile, was utterly gratuitous. Trajectory goes from petty theft to mass murderer in one easy, unfathomable step. There’s one brief line when she’s having her Gollum moment when her dark side says, “There’s a beauty in chaos,” but that barely seems like enough justification.
- Iris is falling for Scott? Really? The Flash’s number one fan is falling for the man who’s only defining character trait so far has been, “Hate Flash! Hate Flash!” That’s taking “opposites attract” to an extreme.
- Hang on… Harry didn’t realise that he was giving a Swiss army watch to Jesse that just happened to contain incriminating audio journal entries? That’s just sloppy.
And The Random:
- When Jesse hears that Beyoncé Knowles has a successful music career on Earth-1 she wonders out loud, “They mean Seantor Knowles?” So presumably QueenB went into politics on Earth-2. The mind boggles.
- 52-Spotting: Okay this was a real stretch this week but the first part of the number (just to the right of Trajectory’s head) is 52. Go on – give us that one!
- Eliza Harmon/Trajectory was a short-lived character in the DC comics universe, debuting in 52 #17 (2006) and being killed off a mere four issues later. She was given her speed powers by Lex Luthor as part of his Everyman Project, when he created a superteam from people given drugs to kick-start their metagenes. She died when Lex Luthor later stripped of her powers at a crucial moment during a battle with Blockbuster.
- The coach on which Jesse leaves town is being operated by Midway Bus Lines (a nod to the fictional home of Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Doom Patrol) and it’s heading for Opal City (which is the fictional home city of The Mist and Elongated Man).
- When Joe West tells Eliza Harmon that he’s a detective she says, “How very Law & Order of you.” Joe West actor Jesse L Martin starred as Detective Ed Green in Law & Order from 1999 to 2008. Incidentally, Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin) – who was in the scene as well – also had guest appearances in Law & Order LA and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (as different characters in each).
- Harry says that his and Jesse’s blood group is PZ Negative – this is a bit of a stretch but could that be a portmanteau reference to DC’s Phantom Zone and Marvel’s very-similar-in-concept Negative Zone?
- Although Harry says the blood transfusion has got all the V-9 out of Jesse’s system, anyone else thinking that may not be the case and we’ve just witnessed the origin of Jesse Quick?
Review by Dave Golder