It is a common rule of thumb in superhero stories that before the final showdown, the villain must defeat the hero so they can be set up as a credible threat and add a sense of danger. In ‘Enter Zoom’, The Flash not only delivers this beat, it delivers it in a brutal fashion that registers Zoom as one of the most dangerous enemies Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has ever faced.
With his mask looking like it was made out of melted skin and Tony Todd’s raspy voice, Zoom becomes more than just a presence as he systematically inflicts pain on The Flash before parading the broken Barry in front of his closest friends. Interestingly, The Flash prolongs this moment of terror and, as Zoom holds the crippled hero for the world to see, uses the reactions of the supporting characters to make it a sickening scene and one that is most likely traumatic for younger viewers. It has an impact that the episode as a whole doesn’t deserve and is a chilling reminder that even if our heroes are steadfast, they are still fallible, still breakable. Unfortunately, much of what comes before the final 15 minutes of this episode is forgettable fluff. On the lead up to the final fight, there isn’t much conflict, with the show repeating familiar beats. Joe tries to convince Barry not to do something stupid, Barry argues against this, Joe tries again, Barry goes through with his stupid idea and proves Joe right. These scenes aren’t badly acted, directed or written, they’re just too familiar and they sometimes make a show that involves telepathic gorillas and wormholes seem creatively stale.
‘Enter Zoom’ also falls into the same trap most science-fiction shows fall into; they have smart characters do stupid things for the sake of the narrative. The idea of training Earth-One Linda Park (Malese Jow) to pretend to be Earth-Two Linda Park in order to trick Zoom into thinking she has killed The Flash is incredibly, incredibly stupid. Did Barry really think this switch and bait would trick Zoom, the harbinger of evil Jay has been warning him about for weeks? Did he really think the lightening bolt move would work? It’s just a shame The Flash’s writers couldn’t think of any smarter decisions for the characters to make, because when Barry did use his brain and cancel out Zoom’s speed by removing friction and free falling, it was a smile inducing moment. It was nice to see The Flash have the confidence to throw hard science at the audience and not fuss around with explaining it, creating a dialogue with the audience instead of at the audience. The premise of training Linda does create some funny moments as the characters interact with one another and are a reminder that the Joe-Cisco partnership is under-utilised. As always, the cast chemistry is euphoric and unlike most shows, watching one-to-one dialogue scenes become a highlight with the sprinkled little moments – like Barry’s unmentionable high school football tryouts or his goofy flirtations with Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten) – adding a relatable dimension. You want to spend time with these characters.
The disappointment with ‘Enter Zoom’ is the fact it twiddles its thumbs for the majority of the runtime, only hooking the audience with the promise that the Zoom fight will be awesome. The fight in question, and Zoom’s arrival, did energize proceedings but the immediate aftermath and the unexpected darkness, kept this episode from feeling like fluffy filler.