The Flash: 206 “Enter Zoom” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Last December, season one’s Big Bad, the Reverse Flash, made his grand entrance by easily besting Barry in a fight – but despite the damage inflicted by the Reverse Flash, the scars from that first fight were probably more psychological than physical. This definitely wasn’t the case with the introduction speedster number two Zoom.
But before we get to that bruising final clash, there’s plenty to talk about with this week’s episode, Enter Zoom other than the introduction of the titular foe. The crux of this pre-Zoom action was the plan to fool Zoom into thinking Earth-1 Linda is Dr Light, and it’s safe to say this plot got off to a sticky start. Dr Light’s escape was absolutely necessary for the plot, and this has indeed happened a couple of times before, but it’s always a little frustrating to have so much of last week’s episode undercut by the villain escaping, especially as early on as it was in Enter Zoom. It’s the same fumble The Flash made with the Pied Piper last year, and while it’s not a moment that derails the plot in any way, I would have liked The Flash to have gone about this moment in a way that didn’t undercut last episode quite so much.
Nonetheless, Dr Light’s escape did lead to some fun material with Linda. She’s really come on leaps and bounds as a character in these last two episodes, graduating from to a likeable, distinctive character that feels like someone with our own, vibrant off-screen life. That’s a great achievement with a character who was introduced as a satellite love interest –as it turns out, removing her romantic relationship with Barry seems to have been the ticket here. The previously romantic element isn’t ignored (Linda’s reaction to Barry revealing his secret identity was one of the comedic highlights), but there’s no tedious attempt to slow up Barry’s burgeoning relationship with Patty by introducing some artificial tension regarding Linda’s re-emergence. Linda serves a purpose, and in doing so has become a surprisingly fun character. Let’s hope we see more of her in the future. The plot surrounding Linda’s training is also diverting, with a great training sequence that continues The Flash’s growing knack for slapstick humour, even if it’s a tad lightweight for something that’s leading up to the introduction of such a hardcore villain.
Elsewhere, Enter Zoom managed to add a few layers to Earth-2 Wells. His debut last week gave the season as a whole a jump-start, but he wasn’t the most nuanced character, and was certainly a long way from being sympathetic. Enter Zoom keeps the enjoyable streak of abrasiveness that marks out this version of Wells, but goes a decent way to establishing Wells’ relationship with his daughter in some flashbacks. These brief snippets are a little clumsy, with hokey dialogue (including a Gotham-level hint about Jesse being quick) and a couple of contrived moments (the camera conveniently zooming in on Jesse’s phone as Wells calls her), but they do their job of establishing Wells as someone with generally noble intentions. That’s a huge relief, as is the fact that it’s revealed at the end of the episode to everyone at STAR Labs – it’d have been repetitive and unimaginative to have Wells harbouring a secret, evil ulterior motive just like his Earth-1 counterpart, and it’s arguably more interesting to have a version of Wells who, despite his caustic personality, isn’t aiming to hurt anyone in his quest.
One of the most interesting things about (pre-Zoom) Enter Zoom is the fact that it’s completely unafraid to paint Barry in a slightly dubious light. He’s still the hero, of course, but this episode sees an irrational and perhaps even hubristic Barry who rushes to confront Zoom without pondering the consequences, endangering Linda in the process. I wouldn’t like this morally ambiguous take on Barry every episode, but it’s still notable that his predicament at the end of the episode is almost entirely a result of his rash and thoughtless actions. For once, we’re not always on Barry’s side here, and The Flash manages to play with viewer sympathies well while still retaining the innately heroic elements that have made the character so popular.
And then, of course, there’s Zoom.
There was a lot riding on Zoom’s appearance. If Enter Zoom had fumbled it, it would not only have kept the episode as the standard, slightly forgettable instalment it could have been, but it would have left the rest of the season on a very uneven keel indeed. Thankfully, Zoom’s introduction is pretty damn terrific. To differentiate him from the Reverse Flash, The Flash’s writers have taken everything from that (already intimidating) speedster and dialled it up to eleven. Zoom’s design alone is enough to let you know that he won’t be kidding around – the sparking electricity, the demonic mouth and Tony Todd’s chilling vocal performance gives Zoom an inhuman, monstrous feel. At least the Reverse Flash felt like a person – Zoom could be anything and anyone, and that’s an excellent way of making him stand out from the shadow of the Reverse Flash.
Actions speak louder than words (or design), and it’s what Zoom does here that marks him out as someone to fear. Barry getting beaten up is nothing new, but Zoom utterly annihilates him in a truly brutal fight that feels like the visceral step up that the Reverse Flash’s introduction was last year. What’s perhaps most chilling about Zoom’s introduction, however, is his enormous egomania. Zoom is a showman, desperate to prove himself as the fastest man alive – when he’s dragging Barry around Central City locations, he’s holding Barry up as a trophy that proves his worth. He’s almost flamboyant, catching the cops’ bullets and slowly dropping them for little else but dramatic effect. The Reverse Flash was a get-in, get-out kind of guy who had his mission, but Zoom is made scarier by the way he makes sure to permanently damage the Flash’s reputation in the process (and help his own, which I’m sure he’ll love, if he’s even a he) purely to score points. He even enters STAR Labs and peels off Barry’s mask (he only did this in STAR Labs, which is adding a little credence to my Earth-2 Barry theory), showing his complete dominance over every facet of Barry’s life, and there’s a feeling that the speedster serum is a mere irritant for him. The result of all this is a genuinely fantastic introduction that establishes Zoom as an even more intimidating and terrifying foe than the Reverse Flash, instantly raising the stakes for the rest of the season and flagging up the burning question – how the hell does Barry defeat that?
After the exhausting, thrilling fight with Zoom, Enter Zoom had one last ace up its sleeve. The revelation that Barry’s lost the use of his legs presumably won’t be a long lasting one, but it works as one last reminder of Zoom’s brutality and power. Essentially, he’s the Bane of the Flash – powerful, brutal, but with a touch of slightly gratuitous flamboyance. Welcome, Zoom.
Enter Zoom starts well enough, but becomes something truly memorable once Zoom appears. It’s a pitch-perfect introduction to the villain, and a great omen for the rest of the season. Next time, it’s Grodd!