There was little doubt that, in order to surpass its strong premiere season, The Flash would need a capable villain in the second year. The writers tapped Zoom, a horrific speedster who appears to be more a renamed version of comic miscreant Black Flash than the Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins creation. Like last year, The Flash scribes are taking their time revealing the season’s big bad. Until last night, we had seen very little of the man (or is he?) in the black suit with a face of death, and knew even less.
We got our best, and quite extended, look at Zoom in the aptly titled “Enter Zoom.” As I’ve written for weeks now, The Flash is in a confident groove, each new hour bringing the usual cocktail of action, drama and comedy. Episode six was no different. This was a well-executed building block episode, laying groundwork for future Zoom encounters. The hour opened with Team Flash devising a plan, using last week’s villain Dr. Light as a lure, to bring Zoom to Earth One and trap him. The scenario brought, for the second straight week, a wonderful comedic element to the show. Watching Earth One Linda attempt to master faux meta powers was delightful, upstaged only by the actual plan in action. Once Zoom made an appearance, he did not disappoint. My one complaint for several weeks has been the subdued, though still entertaining, nature of the show’s battle sequences. The fight between Barry and Zoom, and the subsequent display of power by the villain, was the most exhilarating moment of the season. Zoom, voiced effectively by Tony Todd, has the potential to be a stronger villain than Reverse-Flash was a year ago. Where Harrison’s motives could at times be unclear, often washed over with vague dialogue about something Barry does in the future, Zoom’s motives are pure evil. He is a more frightening character than Wells, in part because of his fantastic character design, but also because his driving force is destruction. He doesn’t want to get back to his world, he can do that whenever he pleases; he wants to eradicate speedster in the multiverse.
With the episode focused on Barry’s first encounter with Zoom, there wasn’t room for much else. We did get a bit of growth in the relationship between Patty and Joe, as well as Patty and Barry. I am still a first class passenger on the Barry/Patty hype train, but the more the show makes it clear that she is an impeccable partner for our hero, the more I fear for her safety. That was not a concern a week ago. But, after the menacing display of Zoom’s power and abominable personality, I’ve begun to fear for everyone. I still think Jay is the most suited for a heroic, and tragic, end this season, but it also makes sense for a newfound love to have a calamitous close. Really, no one is safe. I have learned not to assume anything about The Flash, and at this point I have little idea how season two will finish, and what shape Team Flash will be in when the horn sounds.
Praise unto J.J. Makaro, who directed the season’s sixth episode, and did so expertly. Makaro handled the grand action of the second half with a deft hand, shifting without problem from a lighter, comedy-centric tone in the first half-hour, to one with heaps of stress and anxiety. The effects were top-notch, as well. The Flash has rarely looked cheap, but the toothless fight scenes early this season made more sense after witnessing last night’s display. The producers must have been hoarding money, because Zoom looked beyond what the modest CW budget could have bought. In a show dependent on visual effects, it is vital for the villain to appear realistic within the world. Take a look at Lash on this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. For a show with an ABC/Marvel budget, that has delivered some of the best effects in the business, Lash is an embarrassment. It’s a far more extensive makeup job than the series has endeavored before, but it downgrades every scene that features the universe’s maddest Inhuman. Zoom, so far, does not suffer the same fate. His appearance and powers do not detract from the immersion, but enhance it.
?Though Zoom is still wrapped in mystique, that has not stopped fans from forming wild theories regarding his identity. The most intriguing is that he is Barry from an alternate timeline, a version of our hero with a darker history (perhaps he was never adopted by Joe, or Reverse-Flash killed more of his family, maybe even Iris) that led him to become a crazed speedster. I usually don’t put much stock into theories and, as I wrote above, I’m done assuming I have a bead on The Flash’s writing staff. But, there is reason to give this particular idea close thought. The theme of doppelgangers has been prevalent in Season Two’s six episodes, growing larger in reference until last week, when Linda Park from Earths One and Two came face-to-face. We know that Killer Frost (née Caitlin Snow) is headed to Central City later this season, though we don’t know which Caitlin will don the ice blue dress. If it is to be Earth Two Caitlin, the likelihood of Zoom being an alternate Barry will become stronger. It’s a punchy idea, one that would lead to a host of emotional moments for Barry et al. In a show that gleefully takes on, and succeeds with, storylines including multiple universes, time travel, telepathic gorillas, shark men and more, turning the titular hero into his most fearsome foe is just crazy enough to work.
Eric Walters is the Assistant Tech Editor for Paste and a regular contributor to the TV section. For more of his thoughts on comic book television, listen to his podcast.