The Flash S02E18 “Versus Zoom” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Joe Peracchio, David Kob
Director: Stefan Pleszczynski
Essential Plot Points:
- In an Earth-2 flashback we learn that young Jay Garrick aka Hunter Zolomon aka The Flash aka Zoom witnessed his abusive father killing his mother and was sent to live in an orphanage.
- Harry’s new gizmo helps Barry run faster than ever before.
- Barry now wants to open a breach to Earth-2 so he can defeat Zoom.
- Harry initially refuses to help until Joe points out that Barry won’t give up until he finds a way to get what he wants. Joe reasons that in that case, Wells should help Barry, because it improves Barry chances of not getting killed in the process.
- Barry has worked out that if Earth-2’s version of Cisco – Reverb – can manipulate dimensional energy then Cisco should be able to as well, and that way they’ll be able open a breach.
- Wells even builds some tech to help Cisco out, but Cisco is initially reluctant; he’s scared he’ll go to the Dark Side like Reverb.
- But hey – Barry pep talks him out of it suspiciously easily.
- We’ll get back to the main plot in a moment but also in this episode:
• Joe invites Wally to come live at chez West; Wally accepts.
• Iris ponders whether she and Barry are supposed to be together, and if she should stop fighting destiny.
- Caitlin casually mentions she knows that Jay’s doppelgänger in Earth-1 is Hunter Zolomon because, well, now just happens to be a really good time – dramatically – to mention it.
- Harry knows that name.
- On Earth-2 Zolomon is an infamous serial killer. He was sent to a mental asylum for the criminally insane but when Earth-2’s particle accelerator exploded the dark matter turned him into Zoom and he escaped.
- Now they know who he really is, Barry feels they have an advantage over him and he comes up with a ker-azy plan. Honestly, it’s ker-azy. Sheer cuckoo.
- Cisco opens a breach. Zoom comes through. There’s a big Flash/Zoom chase which ends up in STAR Labs’ training room where Zoom is distracted by some life-sized cardboard cutouts of his parents… This was Barry’s plan. We did tell you.
- Surprisingly it works, giving Barry time to use the “boot” (see “The Man Who Saved Central City”) to trap Zoom.
- They rant a bit at each other until Zoom turns “Dark Zoom” and vibrates his way out of the boot.
- He dashes off, kidnaps Wally, and demands the Flash’s speed in return for Wally’s life.
- Amazingly Team Flash capitulates. While Harry syphons Barry Speed Force into a test tube (or something) Zoom delivers a stunning nonsensical infodump about what he’s been up to all season:
• Jay was actually a Hunter Zolomon time remnant he convinced to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
• That’s how he could be on two Earths at the same time.
• He created Jay’s “nice Flash” persona purely to give Earth-2 hope before taking it away from them.
- While Team Flash’s heads are spinning trying to process this tosh, Zoom injects himself with Barry’s Speed Force, turns into super-duper-Dark-Zoom and runs off with Caitlin.
And here’s where it all goes hideously wrong. “Versus Zoom” is a pivotal episode. It’s the one where Zoom reveals what his plan has been all along. It should leave you reeling at his evil audacity. Instead it leaves you shaking your head wearily at its sheer stupidity. A self-sacrificing time remnant? Who doubles as a good guy just so Zoom can come across as even more evil later on? Really? Just… really???
As you sit there listening to Zoom deliver this ludicrous spiel you can’t help wondering if he hasn’t overcomplicated things a bit. Well, a lot actually.
Certainly, the plotting of the episode would seem to suggest the writers are now struggling to make sense of the mess they’ve created. There are plot holes (how does Zoom take Wally back to Earth-2 when the breaches are all closed?) and plot illogicalities (Caitlin really hasn’t thought to mention Hunter Zolomon to the others before now?) that aren’t just ammunition for nit-pickers; they’re such monumental head-scratchers even casual viewers are left wondering, “Hang on…?”
Meanwhile, Team Flash gives every impression this week of having been replaced by their doppelgängers from Planet Dimwit. They make a series of baffling decisions (or indecisions) culminating in suddenly giving up all hope when Zoom kidnaps Wally. This despite the fact that they seem to hold all the aces: Barry’s now faster than Zoom; Cisco controls the breaches; Cisco can vibe to learn where Zoom is. Come on guys; Zoom’s one quick, well-planned mission away from defeat.
Oh yeah – well-planned. There’s the rub. We’re talking about people who think cardboard cut-outs are a good plan. What’s happened to you, guys?
There aren’t even any particularly good action set-pieces. On the plus side, the shots of Dark Zoom cackling have an ominous chill to them; there are a few well-scripted, impeccably acted character scenes; and Cisco’s speech about turning to the Dark Side is premium Cisco geekiness.
Oh it hurts to be on such a downer on a show that’s usually so good. Even weak episodes tend to make some kind of sense overall. But “Versus Flash” is an almost complete clunker. The season’s last few episodes are going to have to work really hard to recover from this serious misstep.
- In amongst the torturous plot this week were some lovely character scenes. The mini-sub-plot with Barry having to point out to Joe that Wally wants to move into the family house is surprisingly fun, while Iris’s conversation with Caitlin about whether she should just give in to destiny and throw her lot in with Barry is both sweet and thought-provoking. Does the fact that two other versions of Iris have both ended up with Barry mean he is her soul mate? Or have those two other Irises simply not met their true soul mate?
- The Harry/Joe conversation about helping Barry is great too.
- The “alternate origin” opening was a clever gimmick. Plus: Hunter’s dad… you can see where Zoom gets the scary gene from, can’t you?
- There are some gorgeously-framed and lit shots, especially this one:
- And, bizarrely, the shot of Cisco’s hand when he’s trying to open the portal looks almost 3D.
- How the hell did Zoom take Wally back to Earth-2?
- The flashback to Hunter being hit by the dark matter has a voice0ver by Harry saying, “I had thought piping the explosion underground would limit exposure. I was wrong. All it did was create an unstoppable monster.” This makes it sound like Harry knew all along that Zoom was Zolomon. Clearly he didn’t, so the voiceover is just confusing.
- Why has Caitlin never mentioned Hunter before?
- Why does Team Flash capitulate to Zoom’s demands so easily? They just cave in with a bunch of astoundingly weak excuses.
- Zoom’s reason for creating Jay’s “nice Flash” persona is just laughable, while his whole, “I convinced a time remnant to give up his life for me” is pure time-twaddle. In fact, his entire exposition scene is a list of the ludicrous that serves to turn him from one of the scariest screen supervillains into one of the most ridiculous.
- When Barry says that knowing Zolomon’s true identity gives them an advantage we never in a million years thought that meant, “Because we can guilt-trip him with cardboard cut-outs of his parents!” Seriously? What kind of a plan is that?
- And then, having captured Zoom, does Barry rapidly escort him to the cells? Nope, they rant at each other long enough for Zoom to go all Houdini.
- Barry talks Cisco round far too easily. It was hardly worth Cisco putting up any resistance.
And The Random:
- If Hunter had prepped his time remnant for self-sacrifice all along, why at the end of “Escape From Earth-2” after he had killed Jay did he say, “This complicates matters”?
- Did that tachyon enhancer look familiar? You may have seen it the Supergirl episode “World’s Finest” when Barry turned up looking a bit confused. The inference seems to be that Barry made that pan-dimensional journey to Supergirl’s dimension during his test run from Keystone City to STAR Labs. If you look closely he briefly vanishes during that test run and when he arrives in the lab he splutters, “I’m back… how long was I gone?” Not that anybody seems to pick up on this.
- It was a silly gag, but you have to love the way the woman at the orphanage tells the future Zoom not to dawdle.
- Have you noticed the way Wells has managed to turn “zoom” into a three-syallable word? He now habitually says, “Zoo-ooo-woom”.
- The asylum where Jay is locked up is called Saint Perez Mental Asylum for the Criminally Insane, which could be a reference to renowned comic book artist George Perez, especially as there is no Saint Perez. But Perez is a pretty common Spanish name so that’s a bit like claiming that a hospital called St John’s is named after John Buscema.
- Wells says that on Earth-2 Hunter Zolomon was a serial killer and there was a podcast about him, which presumably was Earth-2 version of Serial.
- In the comics, Ashley Zolomon isn’t Hunter’s mother, but his wife.
- SPOILER WARNING FOR NON COMIC FANS: if you know your comic lore you’ll be wondering why we’ve been saying “‘Dark Zoom” and not “Black Flash” in this review, but that’s because we’re trying not spoil things for the comic readers. BUZZ of course knows that Zoom is probably turning into Black Flash, a personification of death created by the Speedforce.
Review by Dave Golder