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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Flash S2E6: Enter Zoom

The Flash
Series 2, Episode 6
Enter Zoom.

We're all of a quarter of our way through this series, but this episode could have easily been a mid-series finale (I have a colleague who hates that phrase, and I understand why entirely). It serves a very similar plot purpose to episode nine of the first series, acting as our first proper introduction to the main evil speedster of the series - but by jove, they took that episode's formula and put it on steroids.

Intending to catch Zoom, Barry and the S.T.A.R. Labs team prepares an elaborate trap: With Doctor Light having escaped from the Pipeline, they plan to have Linda pose as her and pretend to kill Barry. As the team trains Linda for her role, Earth-2's Harrison Wells works on a serum that will dampen Zoom's speed. Meanwhile, Cisco tries to 'vibe' off Wells, using his burgeoning metahuman powers to see events from Earth-2.

So, okay, not only does this episode serve a similar purpose to episode nine of the first series, it actually has an almost identical plot structure. The team wants to capture the evil speedster du jour of the series; to do this, they require bait and some kind of mechanism to trap it with; the trap fails, and the evil speedster does violence to Barry. I'm actually fine with them re-using that formula, it's a good formula, and the writing team has clearly gone to some effort to up the stakes in this episode.

Also, Wells' daughter was confirmed as Jesse Quick. She has a brother, too, presumably
called Johnny.

Most of the episode is devoted to forming the plan and training Linda - she even gets a training montage which made me really, desperately wish that she'd just straight up become a heroic Doctor Light and join Team Flash full time. Linda's a great character, and both the writing and the actor find a superb balance between 'totally new at this and flubbing it up a bit' and 'full of steely determination to get it right, along with a hefty helping of bravery.' I like that, she was very engaging to watch, and I'm kind of sad that the episode ended with her leaving Central City, at least temporarily. 

(The slowness serum section of the plot also gave us one of the best lines in the episode, as Caitlin remarks "Maybe it could be this year's cold gun and a few weeks down the line we'll have to deal with Sergeant Slow!" or something to that effect.)

She has some excellent interactions with both Iris and Barry in this episode, including Barry revealing his secret identity to her, and her having the totally normal reaction of 'Oh my god, I made out with the Flash once,' which I think shows that her priorities in that scene were pretty much on point.

Smaller chunks of the episode were devoted to Barry and Patty's relationship - which is fine, I'm not particularly for or against it, save that if they're going to do that I would like Patty to join Team Flash - and Cisco trying to get a vibe off Wells. Apparently 'vibing' is now the term for his 'parallel universe visions', which sounds a bit silly coming out of the characters' mouths.

N'aww, adorable father-son moments.

The Cisco and Wells interaction mostly serves as comic relief, with one sharp note of drama when Cisco does manage to vibe him, seeing his daughter trapped in a cage while Zoom threatens him. How does this power actually work, incidentally? For Doctor Light, he touched something of hers and saw what she was currently doing. For Wells, he touched the man himself and saw what his daughter was doing. Are there not any rules for how this works? I'm very confused.

The episode really hit its stride when Zoom arrived, though, in the final ten minutes of the episode. Having not shown up during Barry's 'death', because it was an obvious trick that he didn't fall for, he appears hours afterwards, kidnapping Linda to lure Barry to the top of S.T.A.R. Labs before engaging in what might be the most brutal and one-sided fight in the Arrowverse. Barry briefly has a flash of a good idea by fighting Zoom in freefall, where neither one would have a speed advantage, but it ends in failure, and Zoom's response is to repeatedly punch Barry and then break his spine. There's an audible crack, and we see Barry bend in an odd way, and it's unmistakably a spine breaking moment.

That's only the mid-point of that sequence, too, since Zoom then follows up by injecting Barry with the speed dampening formula, and then drags him to Iris' offices, and then to the police station, to wave his body around like a ragdoll in front of people, before taking him back to S.T.A.R. Labs and stabbing Barry through the stomach, only being stopped from killing him entirely by Cisco managing to shoot him with the speed-dampening serum, causing him to flee.

Is that a gimp mask? Also, I know the Reverse-Flash based his costume on Barry's,
but is Zoom working with Evil Cisco?

It's bizarre that in The Flash, the lighter and fluffier of the two series, we have possibly the most violent scene in either of them, and it ties in to something I've talked about before, which is that The Flash kind of kills the tension in Arrow's villains. Ra's al Ghul did not measure up well against Harrison Wells, and so far, Darhk hasn't managed to measure up well against Zoom.

This was a pretty astounding episode, though, for a multitude of reasons, and it ends on a pretty dramatic note, as Barry wakes up in hospital to find that he's paralysed from the waist down. Next week, we apparently have a Grodd episode: I don't like Grodd much as a villain, if I'm being honest,  but it should still be an interesting episode.

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