west trio

The Flash 2×18: Versus Zoom

Or: The Road Less Taken

This ep is a sea of feels, and I am happily drowning in them. There is a whole lot happening in this episode. It feels like an ep that simultaneously puts to bed and sets up a lot of things. So it’s a true crossroad ep, where things get settled and new things happen and where you started is not where you end up. On the plus side, WestAllen is truly on the way and I am SO HAPPY to see it. On the minus side…well…let’s dig onto the ep.

The episode begins with a Barry voice-over, mulling over the fact that sometimes terrible things happen to children. Sometimes that thing becomes the defining factor of your life and who you end up being. It was mentioned in a previous episode and is driven home again here that the reason Barry came through his mother’s murder and father’s false imprisonment as well as he did was solely due to the fact that Joe and Iris took him in and gave him love and support. The show runners took advantage of a perfect opportunity and used deleted footage from the pilot, originally a flashback, showing young Barry brought to live with Iris and Joe. Iris is in an elevated position on the stairs and reaches for his hand. He takes it. (I always loved that scene and it was perfectly used here. Kudos, guys.) Baby westallen flashbacks always give me feels I wish there were more just because those kids are so cute and the dynamics of the relationship shown are so nice. Alas, those child actors are probably twice their original size now.)

Zoom wasn’t nearly as lucky as a child. His father, newly returned from the war and now an angry and violent man, murders his mother in front of him for trying to leave him. When his father goes to prison for it he ends up in an orphanage. There is a line making a specific point that no family would take him. That kind of rejection is terrible and damaging. Interesting to contrast with Barry, who simply had no family available that we know of.

Cut to Earth 1, where Barry is about to see what tachyon enhancement can do for his speed. It makes him as fast or faster than Zoom, complete with enough speed to open a portal and accidentally travel to yet another Earth. (This is a nod to the Flash’s crossover to Supergirl a few weeks ago.) Barry is ready to take on Zoom, all he needs is a way to open a breach to Earth 2. No problem, heh. The team turns to Harry, but he’s not a fan of this plan and refuses to help. He’s such a wet blanket lately! It’s a nice character continuity that Harry will sacrifice others to keep the one he loves safe. And it’s a nice one on Barry’s part that he simply can’t let it go and refuses to let innocents on Earth 2 suffer under Zoom’s terror.

Cisco and Caitlin start working the problem, but there is a really nice exchange between Barry and Iris as she goes to leave and Barry wants her to stay. Seriously, just the line “Where are you going? We could use your help.” is so nice to hear from Barry. Even in on the secret Iris has felt on the outside of team Flash for too much of the season. It was nice to see her recognized as useful and necessary. And of course, Iris would stay except that she has a…date planned with Scott. Barry is supportive and glad to see her move on. She tells him that she couldn’t have done it with him and thanks him. He gets adorably awkward. She promises to be there the next day and Barry happily accepts that.

*RECORD SCRATCH* HOLY CRAP THE SUBTEXT IN THIS SCENE!

I love it. We’re going to break this down a bit. Iris is leaving. Barry would love her to stay. Iris would stay, except she has made plans. Why was she almost sneaking out without saying anything before Barry called her back? Because she already has doubts about this date with this guy. Excellent.

It’s clear Barry has made peace with the idea that he will always love Iris as more than a friend, but thinks she will never return his feelings that way. So he’s determined to be supportive and let her be happy even if it’s not with him. Contrast this with his annoyed faces on seeing Iris and Eddie be affectionate and his desperation to somehow make her recognize her feelings for him last season. Barry has matured quite a bit regarding his love for her and it’s nice to see. So his awkward acceptance of her thanks is him being supportive and modest, but also repressing the longing looks and strong feelings because he doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable. It’s so cute and makes me love him all the more.

And then Iris turns to leave. Only when her back is completely to Barry do we see her show disappointment in how the conversation went. Oh yeah. She is thinking about Barry in new ways and was let down he didn’t object or express interest in her moving on with him. Cue the evil laughter! It’s all going according to plan! You can’t see me, but I’m rubbing my hands together.

Okay back to business.

Barry and Joe have dinner and discuss opening the breaches. Joe would rather Barry left it alone too. It’s a scary thought to consider, taking on Zoom again. The natural temptation for most is to count your blessings and move on. But Barry wants to beat Zoom and he really thinks he has a shot now. Wally enters with laundry in tow and it comes out in conversation that college housing has become too expensive. Joe immediately offers to help Wally out financially but Wally refuses and there is some sudden awkwardness. I love Barry’s face in this exchange as he watches because it’s clear he’s tuned into the subtext of the conversation and can see what Wally really wants. Joe, bless him, has no idea. I am delighted with the progress we’re seeing in Wally and his relationships with the different West family members. Wally is a sweet cinnamon roll and I will defend him to my death.

Barry realizes that Cisco’s powers are like Reverb’s just untapped. Cisco is the way to reopen a breach between Earths. They try on the closed breach in S.T.A.R. Labs with no success. Harry takes himself immediately to Joe and asks him to talk Barry out of opening a portal to Earth 2. Joe agrees with Harry but recognizes that once Barry set his mind to something, Joe can’t talk him out of it. He convinces Harry to go with the plan because Barry has a much better shot of success if Harry is with him.

Barry tracks down the area with the highest level of residual trans-dimensional energy (say that 3 times fast!) and wants Cisco to give his powers a try. He promises to stop trying if this doesn’t work. (So obviously it’s going to somehow.) Cisco gets nothing. Not that it’s his fault, he has no idea what he’s doing. Just hold your hand out…yeah. Harry arrives with Reverb’s re-calibrated goggles and gives them to Cisco. Cisco is even more weirded out that he seems to be getting closer to being Reverb but gives it a shot. It starts to work, Zoom senses it on the other side and urges him on. Cisco immediately stops and leaves, begging Barry not to ask him to do it again.

Cisco wearing goggles, using his Vibe powers like this for the first time ever was AWESOME and we’ve been waiting so long for it. But we have also known for a long time that Cisco is afraid of his powers and meeting Reverb just made it worse. Cisco is used for comic relief so much that often his own pain and struggles are minimized if they get acknowledged at all. I am so glad Cisco gets a chance to really delve into his fear and worry about turning bad with such power. It’s a necessary thing and finally gives Cisco some seriousness and growth as a character. It’s long overdue and he deserves it.

Harry modifies the tachyon harness to be much smaller and fit into Barry’s suit emblem. Joe and Iris arrive to offer help. However, they end up on the receiving end as Barry counsels Joe on what to do with Wally, and Iris and Caitlin have a chat in the med bay.

It is such a delight to have non-emo Barry back! He freely offers Joe advice on Wally: Invite him to live with us, that’s what Wally really wants. Barry is willing to give up his one on one status living with Joe and welcome Wally because he knows how important it is to live with your father and he likes Wally. Watching Barry laugh and tell Joe there may be less pizza from Keystone is a balm after so much angst and emo this season. I love this Barry, he needs to stick around and not revert please. I haven’t seen him this good since season 1.

Sidenote: It is so true to form that Wally would want to live with his father but be afraid to ask for it and feel let down it wasn’t offered. He doesn’t want to be a burden and he’s afraid of being unwanted. He needs that freely offered, freely given acceptance and love to feel secure about his place in the family and Barry gets that. Barry becomes a very nice bridge between Joe—who  really wants to give but isn’t entirely sure what is wanted—and Wally, who deeply needs but is afraid to say so. I was really hoping this was how it would go. I’m so happy.

Meanwhile, Iris is looking at Barry from the med bay, and all I can say is she is echoing Wally right then. Deeply needing and wanting, but afraid to ask. Luckily, Caitlin clues in and asks about it. Iris fesses up that she had a date the night before, but she canceled at the last moment. When Caitlin asks if it was because of Barry or Eddie, it becomes clear that it was because of Barry. All the signs in the universe seem to be pointing to her and Barry being together, and Iris is starting to believe in destiny. Having lost the man of her dreams twice, not to mention the whole “Jay” nastiness and her Earth 2 identity as a frosty killer,  Caitlin concedes that there may be such a thing as destiny for Barry and Iris, but not for her. (My SnowStorm feels!)

Wally arrives at the West home and Joe has cleared out a room for him. Joe apologizes. It didn’t even occur to him that Wally might want to live with him and offers him a home. Wally accepts and calls Joe Dad for the first time. THE FEELS JUST.KEEP.COMING! This scene almost had me in tears. I’ve been rooting for Wally since day one and it made me so happy to see this scene unfold as it did.

I’ve been jonesing for a Barry and Cisco bond session for a long time, and it finally arrived this episode. Barry puts aside his own goals and listens as Cisco expresses his worry that this is a defining moment. One wrong move, and he’s Darth Vader. (Seriously, that is the most perfect analogy for Cisco and his Star Wars love. I was delighted.) Barry’s reassurance and support, his promise to be there for Cisco as a friend and family is what Cisco needs to hear. At this point, I’m a mess of happy feels and tears.

As they gear up to meet Zoom again, Caitlin mentions that “Jay” is probably not Zoom’s real name since his doppelganger here is Hunter Zoloman. Harry immediately recognizes the name and they finally know his true identity. Turns out Hunter was a serial killer on Earth 2 with 23 deaths on his record. He was in a mental hospital enduring electroshock therapy when the accelerator exploded and he became a speedster. Armed with the information about Hunter’s childhood, the team sets a trap. Cisco thanks Barry for always believing in him. I burst out weeping. Once Cisco opens the portal and Zoom comes through it, a chase ensues. The rest of the team is in the time vault, safely away from Zoom’s threat. Barry is finally faster than Zoom, but it’s  close. It’s a great speed chase and for once Barry is in the lead! Shock! They use Zoom’s parents against him and throw him off enough to immobilize him with Cisco’s boot. Cold, Barry. But I don’t like Zoom so I approve.

In the conversation that follows, it’s clear Zoom cares about nothing but himself. He wants a cure for his own life but he’s fine killing others to get it. What a charmer. He tries to convince Barry they aren’t much different but that doesn’t really fly with Barry. Or me. About the time Zoom says “Family such a weakness” we can all see what’s coming. Predictably, Zoom gets free and they lose him. But not before he kidnaps Wally and leaves a message demanding Barry’s speed for his return. (WALLY!!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Everyone is beside themselves, and no one more than Joe. They have no time, there are no options. Barry makes the grown up and mature call to give Zoom what he wants to get Wally back.

Cisco vibes on Zoom’s hat and tells him Barry agrees to the deal. Zoom arrives and the exchange is made. Wally, we love you, get out right now. Wally is escorted out but I’m hoping he’s putting some things together.

Zoom allows himself to relax enough to give some exposition and tie up some plot strings left hanging. This show is wrapping things up so it can head straight into season end conflict. I’m not saying I buy half of what Zoom said but it’s clear the writers are answering some questions and expecting the matter to be settled. Hunter is Zoom and he sucks. We have no idea if there is a Jay Garrick or if he was just a fabricated name. We’ll have to wait until the finale to find out who the man in the mask is I’m assuming. Harry rigs up the device he made to steal Barry’s speed the first time around and Barry runs on the treadmill until his speed is gone and he is human once more. Once he collapses Iris is the first one at his side. (Oh! My WestAllen heart!)

Zoom absorbs Barry’s speed and to add insult to injury grabs Barry by the neck and threatens to kill him. Rude, Zoom. Caitlin appeals to his better nature (if he has any), and after she called him a monster earlier it’s clear he has unresolved feelings regarding her. Zoom drops Barry but disappears with Caitlin. It’s like they took all the established normal going into this episode and threw it up in the air. Now it’s all out of whack.

Soapbox Time!

Barry gave up his speed willingly. Ok. I’ve seen a fair amount of debate concerning this plot development. I’ve seen criticism of Barry for doing it, criticism of the team for not pulling some kind of trick to prevent it after Wally was safe, and criticism for the move in the plot as a whole. I’m going to lay out my thoughts here.

  • If they pulled some kind of trick and Zoom caught them at it, what’s to stop him from killing them all? Yes Barry is as fast or faster now, but that’s no guarantee. I know Joe gave Wally his car keys and Wally is a drag racer, but cars can only go so fast. And Barry can’t keep everyone safe every second the rest of their lives. Not to mention I can totally see Zoom tracking Wally down later and killing him in retribution. Don’t forget he went back the next day to kill the cop who named him on E2. He’s not above it and I think it speaks of Barry’s growth that he realizes this and is unwilling to risk lives. Barry pulls some stupid moves yes, but he’s starting to realize he needs to be responsible for his choices. He wanted the breach open. He should accept the consequences and not let others pay.
  • Wally is a straight up innocent bystander in this mess and allowing Joe’s son and a member of his family be in danger because Zoom wants his speed is something Barry can’t allow. He made the call himself and I appreciate the rather calm but resigned way he did it. He wasn’t emo and he didn’t get whiny. He made the choice and he followed through. Don’t forget the singularity and much of the fall out from it were because of Barry’s selfish choice to go save his mother, even if he didn’t actually do it. Now Barry is starting to make selfless moves. It’s less about him and more about others. That’s a hero I can get behind.
  • The producers said early on this season was going to be all about Barry deciding what kind of hero he wanted to be. Is he a hero who can allow innocents to be hurt or killed because of his own headstrong choices? Is he a hero who makes a promise and then pulls a last minute trick, like many villains would do? Allowing Barry in this ep to make the decision, honor it, and willingly give over his speed to save another life is the hero I want him to be. He is maturing (finally) and becoming less emo and more capable of handling the weight and choices that come with being a hero. I feel this was a good move in that direction. To show Barry willingly give it up versus Zoom forcibly taking it is a huge thing in Barry’s journey to being a true hero.
  • In a good story, the best way to show the hero triumph is to bring him to his lowest point where all seems lost and bring him up from there. This is perfect.
  • This plot development leaves an opening for a perfect opportunity. Barry has figured out how to get fast with artificial means, and now he has none. We all know he’ll get his speed back it’s just a matter of when and how. Again, this season is the season he decides what kind of hero he wants to be. It would be fabulous if he fully realized his own natural potential finally, and if he did it in a comic canon way. For this season to be triumphant in my view, Barry is going to have to figure out how to get his speed back and how to get faster in an all natural way, and as far as I’m concerned it needs to revolve around Iris. She has been key to his powers for some time now (they activated in the pilot when she touched his chest, he time traveled for the first time after they kissed, only she has shared a blue spark with Barry, thoughts of her broke him out of Grodd’s mind control) and in the comics she is his lightning rod. I would be delighted if they actually finally showed that. If Barry got his powers back after kissing Iris for the second first time/ hearing she loved him/they shared a spark, I’d be so happy. I’ll take any one of the options, really. And if Iris is key to his speed, it only makes sense that having his dreams come true with her would naturally make Barry faster. The opportunity is there. It remains to be seen if the writers act on it. I’ll be seriously disappointed if they don’t.

Tidbits:

  • Seriously I cannot compliment the actors in this ep enough. Grant and Candice, Carlos, Jesse and Keiynan were all so amazing, they just kept pounding me with their amazing acting. They brought their game to this episode and knocked it out of the park.
  • All the callbacks in this ep! The boot, the blown up picture cut outs, is it that obvious, the device Harry used to steal Barry’s speed the first time, I know I’ve left some out. It’s nice because often things get dropped and never reappear especially earlier in the season. It brings some kind of order to the craziness of this particular arc even if it doesn’t perfectly resolve everything. I still have some issue with some of the writing but I appreciated these.
  • Gotta say, I’m seeing tons of lovely symbolism in this ep. Iris is wearing straight up red (and looking hot!) to go on a date with Scott while wondering if Barry is the one she should be with. That just screams that she’s climbing aboard the WestAllen train with the rest of us. She’s accepting her feelings for him. The console provides a barrier between them, a physical manifestation of their separation, still not quite on the same page yet. (Nice catch, D!) And Iris’ costume in the scene Barry loses his speed really seems to be pushing the idea that Iris will be his support through this coming trial. The maroon red, matching Barry’s suit, is on her legs now. She will be Barry’s legs, so to speak. She will be his main support. I think Scott is so far from her mind now she might forget his name.  Her black top indicates dark times, but her skirt shows hope coming through, black with white polka dots. I am really hoping that the next episodes show Iris as the true center of Barry’s inspiration to carry on and his north star in dark times. If not, the writers have blown a prime opportunity.
  • Less pizza from keystone. Poor Joe, lol.
  • “Well, the best plan we’ve come up with so far is to set off a nuclear warhead next to the city’s electrical grid. So…” “We’re not going to do that.” I love Cisco.
  • It’s a crime that I can count the number of conversations as women between Iris and Caitlin, in both seasons, on one hand. Iris needs to be integrated into the team more. By now she and Caitlin should be good friends but they still seem like acquaintances.
  • Cisco and Star Wars, Star Wars and Cisco. You can’t have one without the other. Thank goodness.
  • Caitlin ships WestAllen! I always pictured her doing that.
  • “Is it that obvious?” YES! YES IT IS!!!! LET’S DO THIS THING YOU TWO!!!!! Nice Barry/Iris parallel tho. 😉
  • Don’t think we didn’t notice that the electroshock leather mask was just like Zoom’s mask. We did.
  • “You aim it, and then you pull the trigger.” “Smartass.” Hee.
  • My husband was beside himself with cranky after this ep. The time travel remnant explanation was lacking to him. I’m inclined to agree because I’m sick of that being used over and over. Reverse Flash pulled the same last season with a speed mirage and I barely bought it then. And my husband is seriously annoyed that it appears Zoom could travel between worlds before Cisco opened the breach. He was sure having fun going back and forth after he got Wally so why would he wait until Cisco opened one to come over? I can see this argument but if I squint real hard I can concede that perhaps after Cisco opened it it remained open just not visible, which was the way the other breaches were before they were closed. It’s so confusing.
  • I admit I’m not very impressed with Zoom as a villain anymore, Teddy Sears doesn’t look menacing enough without his mask and fake voice. What do we expect? His first name is Teddy. He was much scarier before he was revealed to be “Jay”. The serial killer idea, and the crazy but suddenly sane and able to con people thing is a stretch for me to buy. I appreciate what they are trying to do paralleling Barry and Zoom to show how each took a different path but it doesn’t feel like enough. And the whole “I give hope to take it away” felt like them trying to write themselves out of  a corner they wrote themselves into. Why bring in Jay Garrick at all if he’s Zoom in disguise?  They’ve treated a beloved icon badly this season and it’s a real shame. Also, why did Zoom call killing his past self a complication if that was his plan all along? It feels like the writers did some emergency knitting to get their plot together this season and there are still a few loose strings they couldn’t make fit. Plus, shouldn’t any version of Zoom show he’s speedster? Caitlin ran tests on original “Jay” in ep 2 and found nothing and she’s been testing him all season looking for a cure. That doesn’t follow for me unless I’ve missed something. Did Hunter go back to before he was a speedster and get that version? If he gets killed doesn’t that screw everything up? Well, theoretically it should but they still haven’t adequately explained why Eobard being erased didn’t change absolutely everything. This is why my husband was beside himself with cranky. It makes no rational sense.
  • Seriously, Zoom phasing out of that boot ticked me off. No one else seemed to be able to do that. Because plot. Sigh.
  • However, I am enjoying the running theme of family in this season. Blood family, found family, as a weakness, as a strength, we’re getting all views and I like it.
  • Zoom declaring that it’s so much fun to pretend to be a hero is a nice foil to Barry’s journey to actually being a hero. Maybe that’s why the whole give hope to take it and desecrated icon thing is going on.
  • Totally self serving, but so much of what happened in this ep echoes some of my writings in fanfic. It feels good to be vindicated at least I’m not out in left field somewhere.

Possibilities:

  • I’m really interested to see how the next episodes go. The stakes have been majorly raised.
  • I’m here for Wally putting together that Barry is the Flash, he’s not a fool he’s a smart kid. The description for the next ep says he confronts Joe about it and I’m very curious to see if Joe confirms or denies it or tells him to go talk to Barry.
  • Joe wonders if Wally’s doppelganger is as complicated as he is. It’s a throwaway comment and helps Barry connect Reverb and Cisco in a way to move the plot forward, but I can’t help wondering if we will ever see E2 Wally. I so wanted him to be the man in the metal mask, and now with Wally being imprisoned and seeing metal mask man I just want it more. I could be crazy and the metal mask man is probably the real Jay Garrick which has been my thought since ep 14, but the lack of any twins running around Hunter Zoloman in both Earths makes me doubt it now. Many of us have sworn we saw blond hair inside that helmet, but the body type and hands always seemed more Wally to me. I’m very curious to know who it is and I acknowledge Wally is a long shot, but I’m ruling him back in and I’m not ruling him out again until we see who it is.
  • I love that Iris is starting to come to terms with her feelings for Barry, but there seems to be quite a lot of emphasis on destiny. I expect it to be made clear at some point that Iris is freely choosing Barry because he loves him, not because she feels she has no choice. Get on it, writers.
  • Does anyone think we may see “You can’t lock up the darkness” again? Or was that just added drama?
  • I do kind of hope that Harry gets the chance to knock that smug look off Zoom’s face. I’d like to see it.
  • How is it that Barry and Iris go a whole next episode before Iris decides to tell him how she feels? And that’s assuming she gets the chance in ep 20 after she decides to do it. Did she think he had too much on his plate being normal again? Really Iris, that could only make him feel better. Yes, yes Wells is missing and Caitlin too. But feelings, lol. Chop chop Tuesday get here quick!
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3 thoughts on “The Flash 2×18: Versus Zoom

  1. Pingback: The Flash 2×18: Versus Zoom — Take a Bite of the Silver Sandwich – ishipit87

  2. This is one of the best pieces/articles I have read regarding the show, I was blown away by how you portrayed and described Westallen. Your breakdown of each characters, I can go on and on but one word that I can say reading this piece made me feel magical maybe because I never believe that something like this can be written. Thank you and I’m rooting for your ‘Possibilities’ to come to past. Thank you!

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