The last two episodes of The Flash have been middling at best, but in ‘Versus Zoom’ the series reached an all-time high – this wasn’t just a great episode of The Flash or a great episode of superhero TV, this was a great episode of television, period.
The story advanced the main narrative and maxed out the drama, whilst also expanding Zoom’s backstory and providing the nice little character beats the show does so well. Every character is serviced and the ending is risky and rewarding.
Zoom’s backstory is like every superhero/super-villain back-story in that it’s very tragic. He witnessed his dad murder his mum and spent the rest of his formative years in a loveless orphanage. His story deliberately mirrors Barry’s (Grant Gustin) and reinforces the main theme of family. The Flash has played around with the family theme before, but here it felt real and the show sold the friends-are-family mantra better that a Fast and Furious flick. It really felt like these characters would sacrifice themselves for the others, with Caitlyn (Danielle Panabaker) possibly going the furthest. Panabaker has been working with a husk of a character this season — only providing exposition and having an under-developed love story. So it was awesome seeing her in the thick of it this week. One moment she is playing love guru with Iris (Candice Patton) and the next she is saving Barry’s life. Panabaker is so good in these moments that the audience will forget about her forced love for Jay (Teddy Sears) and believe that Caitlyn loved Jay as much as the writers think she loved Jay.
What about Jay? Well, he’s actually called Hunter Zolomon and Hunter Zolomon is Zoom. So, Jay is Zoom. This storyline is reminiscent of last season’s mentor dynamic but, like the love story, the show hasn’t earned this moment and, as a result, the reveal was underwhelming and plain perplexing. However, Teddy Sears was convincing enough and even though taking away his mask, and possibly Tony Todd’s voice, dulls Zoom’s creepiness, his backstory makes him sympathetically scary.Elsewhere, Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) reached peak dad as he struggled watching Barry save the day and invited Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) into the family home. It was nice to see Barry and Wally not have an antagonistic relationship this week, making the potential of the future speedster team up more exciting. Wally still isn’t much of a character but it’s nice to see him slide into the family dynamic this show executes so well. The Flash’s ensemble cast is hard to beat.
In storytelling vernacular, the end of Act 2 is when our characters are at their lowest, when the bad guy is winning. This episode of The Flash may leave the S.T.A.R Labs squad with bleak prospects, but had everything that makes the show great: there was sassy Harry (Tom Cavanagh), a quippy but introspective Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and so many oh-my-god moments that tuning in next week is a must.