Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find my all of my reviews of The Flash here.
Zoom’s backstory was finally revealed in “Versus Zoom”, an overall very strong episode of The Flash that was slightly weighed down by some convoluted explanations and poor character decisions.
One of the things I really liked was how Zoom’s origin was a twisted mirror of Barry’s. From the fateful night when their mothers died (though unlike Barry, Zoom’s father was actually guilty) to the particle accelerator explosion that gave them powers, Barry and Hunter Zolomon’s stories followed the same brushstrokes, with one key difference. Zoom had nobody in his life and was shuffled away to let the darkness consume him, whereas Barry had a support system in Joe and Iris West.
In fact, the idea of a support system was very much a theme in “Versus Zoom”. From Barry’s surrogate family helping him become the hero he is today instead of someone like Zoom, to Cisco similarly having his friends there to guide him as he explored his powers and prevent him from having his Darth Vader moment like his doppelgänger, Reverb. Even Wally’s subplot with Joe contributed to that theme.
Zoom, on the other hand, saw family as a weakness. And given his experiences, that made total sense, and was actually something Barry used to his advantage in his fight against him. Sure, the life-sized cardboard cutouts of Hunter’s parents were a bit goofy, but the battle between Zoom and Barry was a terrific scene, as Zoom’s (temporary) defeat came thanks to haunting images of his past. The cherry on top was seeing Barry, who’d been outmatched by Zoom all season long, actually get a moment of confidence as the tachyon device gave him the upper hand.
But alas, it was too good to be true. As Zoom himself said, “You can’t lock up the darkness.” How he escaped Cisco’s metahuman trap was left unexplained, but I didn’t mind that at all, since it’s that kind of mystique that made Zoom’s powers so terrifying to begin with. And Zoom demonstrated his belief that family was a weakness by kidnapping Wally West, leaving Barry with no choice but to—gasp—surrender his powers.
It was a very strong storyline and most of the episode was fantastic and featured some pretty dark moments. I say “most of the episode” because after Zoom kidnapped Wally, things got a little too… convenient.
Those final scenes, in which Barry agreed to give up his powers, were played in a very casual and straightforward manner. I wish there had been some sort of twist, like Wells tricking Zoom by giving him a fake vial rather than Barry’s actual speed, or at least some failed attempt to outsmart the villain somehow. But it was not to be. Barry simply decided there was nothing to be done, and gave Zoom what he wanted—with the latter strangely living up to his word, too. On a show that manages to pull unlikely solutions to impossible problems on a whim, the way the heroes threw their hands up and gave in to Zoom felt a bit like lazy writing in order to move the plot forward.
Finally, Zoom’s backstory and the majority of his plan was revealed, and those actual honest-to-God answers to months-long questions were a major part of what made “Versus Zoom” satisfying. Compared to some of the fan theories (which suggested multiple alternate Earths, and maybe even clones), the explanation that it was simply Jay all along was pretty straightforward, and I liked that.
On the other hand, the explanation of how Jay pulled off his great feat was far more convoluted, and that part I liked less. To be honest, I still can’t explain how Jay used a “time remnant” to fake his death. The concept of time remnants was confusing enough when introduced in “The Reverse-Flash Returns”, and it was made even more incomprehensible this week.
It’s a consequence of this season mirroring Season 1 a bit too much—an evil speedster with a secret identity gains Team Flash’s trust and betrays them, revealing a complicated master plan. Reverse-Flash’s plan last season was complicated but easy to follow, in a way that made Thawne look smart without losing the audience. Zoom, on the other hand, seems like a case of the writers trying too hard to bamboozle the audience, and writing themselves into a corner where the only way to explain what was going on was to raise their hands and declare, “Speed Force!”
Still, I can forgive all of that as long as the villain’s compelling and enough of a believable threat, and Zoom is very much that. Aside from the aforementioned quibbles, “Versus Zoom” really was a very good episode of The Flash especially as it returned from its final hiatus.
Rating: 4/5 (Great)
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