[Review] The Flash (2014) Episode 2×06: “Enter Zoom”

We can talk and talk until we’re black and blue, but this week’s episode has us at the edge. Get ready to have a blast, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.


BETHANY

I work with two other women at my level of management. Our boss is a man, and often our complaints are dismissed out of hand, or inadequate excuses for them are given. Recently, his boss discovered that we were all in the process of leaving and decided to have a manager meeting, whereupon we all discussed why we were leaving.

Here’s some background: None of us are amateurs. Two of us have been with the store for a while – me for well over a year, the other for longer than the store manager. One of us has been here for less time, but she is much older and more experienced with management. We are all smart women and I, personally, have more experience in pizza than anybody else in the store, period. I’m not exaggerating here. Any outsider can look at this situation – three of us all looking to leave, and soon – as a basic problem with the store itself and the way it’s being run.

The “emergency managers’ meeting” we had in order to address the issue made it clear that our boss’s boss was under the impression we were all in some sort of interpersonal conflict. I would not be surprised if, behind closed doors, my boss and his boss didn’t mutter about us all being on our periods together or something.

There was no trust given. At no point did I feel like either my boss or his direct supervisor believed there was a real issue.

Trust is important, even in very small jobs like mine.

It is, in fact, even more important when your job involves being armed and capturing dangerous metahumans who shoot light beams out of their hands.

Spoilers under the cut.

I know I am making it a little personal this week. Well, okay, it’s more accurate to say that I make everything personal all the time, but this season has been cutting especially close to the bone. Iris’s non-relationship with her mother very closely reflects mine, and my anger is as deep as Iris’s, if not so fresh. Joe lying to his children to “protect them” reminds me a lot of how my mother treated me and my sibs when we were younger.

But let’s talk about The Thing That Happened this week which I made personal.

Patty, like a good person who is competent at her job, realized she didn’t know enough about the scientific properties of light (who does, amirite?) and went and did some research. A+, Patty, you get a gold star. She starts talking about it excitedly with Joe, listing off the things she’d learned about. Hard light, for example, and invisibility, for another.

Joe shuts her down. Joe is cold. He refuses to explain further, just cuts Patty off at the knees. The whole time Patty is talking it’s clear that he is not even listening, just trying to shove his voice in between her words in order to tell her to shut up.

SOME TIME LATER

Dr. Light, in her cell, turns invisible and therefore engineers an escape.

This demonstrates two things.

Thing the first: Patty would be an excellent addition to Team Flash, to be fully in the know about what’s going on. Because Patty went “ooh, I better research more about what kind of powers this lady could have” and immediately figured out two very important things worth knowing about Dr. Light. If she had given that spiel to, oh…I dunno, Cisco Ramon, perhaps the whole “Dr. Light escapes” thing could have been completely avoided. She is passionate and curious and is 100% willing to fill the gaps in her knowledge. She deserves a spot on Team Flash.

Thing the second: Joe is an ass.

Now, I’m not saying this because he’s keeping Patty out of the loop, necessarily. Patty is new to the group and new to Joe, and with all the additional metahumans spilling in from Earth-2, it’s prudent to keep a probationary period so Joe could get a feel for things. He has a good gut instinct for this sort of thing, and if he gave himself a month or two to suss a new person out before they got read in, that’s all right. (I’m pretty sure he’s not doing that, to be clear, but I’m just saying that, at this point in time, it’s still not entirely unreasonable to be keeping her out of the loop.)

I’m saying this because he fucking ignored the important information she was giving to him. Because of the incredibly dickish way he shut her down. Patty did her goddamn homework. She deserves for that to be at least acknowledged. “Hey, I’m glad you found this out and we’re gonna drop it in the file, just in case, but I’ve got word from the Flash that the situation is resolved. Keep up the good work.” That would have been A) appropriate and B) actually somewhat honest. (Also a phone call in to the team i.e. “hey maybe she can be invisible keep an eye out” would have been prudent.)

Joe is her partner. He needs to trust her, or she cannot trust him. And she tells him, point blank, that he does not trust her enough for their relationship to work.

Moving on, here’s the other thing I wanna talk about:

Zoom is fucking terrifying.

I always thought the Reverse-Flash was kinda cheesy-looking. Yellow isn’t a color which strikes fear into my heart, and the red-eyed thing was cool and ominous but I was always wondering exactly how he pulled that trick off. Does his mask light up? What’s going on here?

It distracted me more than it did anything else, is my point, though I’ll cop to it being creepy.

Zoom wears a suit of all black, and his Speed Force color is blue-white electricity. But it’s more than the suit being all black. The face is nearly fully masked, leaving only the eyes visible. The eyes appear to be almost completely black, showing up mostly as a bit of shiny reflection. The mask evokes something rotten and stretched, and his voice is gravelly and creepy. The gloves are even clawed. Zoom has dedicated himself to looking like something nightmares are made of, and damned if he didn’t succeed. (Props to the costuming department, as well as the poor guy who had to probably wear all-black contact lenses and that mask.)

He’s also physically imposing, bigger than either Barry or Reverse-Flash. At one point he has beaten Barry very badly, and runs him around the city to Make A Point, scruffing Barry like a naughty kitten.

The Hunter and the Hunted

I would say that Zoom and Barry are close in height, and it appears that they even have similar breadth of shoulders, but Barry has a very lean physique, while Zoom’s is thicker. A thicker waist and torso, broader arms which are heavily muscled, larger legs. Zoom is a big guy, and based on his ability to lift Barry one-handedly, tremendously strong.

One of the best creepy things about Zoom is impossible to show in a pic, and even a gif wouldn’t do it justice – it’s the way the mask moves when he speaks. It appears as if the leather (is it leather?) is stretched and rotted across his mouth, and it flexes and stretches as he talks.

Like I said, this is an incredibly scary villain.

I really, really dig it.

Speaking of scary, let’s talk about Zoom’s theme for a second. This is the first time we’ve seen the Flash face off with Zoom, so we got a particularly intense song to go with the fight scene, and I know normally Kevin kicks this stuff around but I wanted to touch on it because I picked up on something fun. At least, I think so.

The first thing you notice is that it’s got a heavily electronic-based theme (which makes sense – even when standing still, Zoom crackles with blue-white electricity) and then you get these sort of mournful calling horns (a lot of the Earth-2 themes bring the horns in). It moves almost immediately into an urgent rhythmic section which I’m pretty sure is strings backed up with percussion. I thought, at first, that the strings were being played pizzicato (plucked), but the more I listen, I believe it’s actually col legno, which is when you hit the string with the wood side of the bow (I had to Google it because I could not remember the term). Over it, you get screaming strings and electronic music. It’s a really great, intense, urgent sound. The (presumed) col legno technique gives the whole percussive sound a sort of melodic thrumming.

I bring this up because I cheated and listened around to a couple of clips of Zoom’s themes, and one of the things that struck me was how commonly the strings ended up using the more unusual bow techniques. Another clip seemed to me to feature a technique (which probably has a name but I can’t find it) where you start at the very frog of the bow (which you don’t commonly do, since rosin builds up there) and bear down and drag hard and slow to get a weird, crunchy, hard sort of string noise. This is the sort of thing you’re trained not to do when you’re a baby string player, if you were curious.

Given that the Flash’s main theme is heavily reliant on strings, it’s interesting to note that Zoom’s theme dips into these different bow techniques for the strings. Of course, the Flash has got that beautiful choral theme over it, and any chorals involved in Zoom are more supporting the strings and percussion and electronic bits to build horror and fear. But it’s the near-perversion of the string theme which I find interesting. (Look, I used to be a cellist, that’s what I pick up on first.)

I’m mostly pointing it out because it’s early enough that anybody watching along with us can catch it as they go. When Zoom’s around, listen for the electronics, for the long mournful calling horn, and listen for the weird shit they’re doing with the strings.

(An interesting thing that happens in this fight scene and also happened in Reverse-Flash’s theme is the play on the main string theme of the Flash. With the Reverse-Flash, I think that they actually did reverse the notes in their order – like, literally, because lol why not? – but with Zoom they either moved it into a minor key or inverted it somehow. I would love to get a look at the physical score, tbqh.)


KEVIN

Aaaaand this is why it’s better to have someone who actually knows music talking about this, rather than someone like me who only took a semester of piano and a semester of trumpet and those were both over twenty years ago.

Actual trained musician versus someone who just really likes music a lot. There’s no contest.

Bethany’s spot on with the inherent perversion of Zoom, both in visual aesthetics and in his leitmotif. Everything about him is a corruption of that which we know – his voice is deep and methodical, speaking slowly and carefully to make sure every drop of malice gets through. His speed suit doesn’t actually match the Art Deco aesthetics of Earth-2, but rather takes its influence from Barry’s suit and warps it. Black on black, with black accents. A black lightning bolt emblem, black warped lightning bolts over his ears. As Bethany noted, black rotted face mask and black demonic claws.

Even his lightning, blue where Barry’s is yellow (and Eobard’s was red), is a direct corruption of the Speed Force. It’s sinister, it’s disturbing, it’s cold where Barry’s is warm and comforting.

Zoom is such a great villain, and while some people have certain and specific issues with Season Two, he is not one of them.

Meanwhile, and we’re coming back around to trust here, Linda Park is really kind of awesome and I wish they’d use her more. Like Patty and Iris and Caitlin and…well, let’s face it, Arrowverse women in general are often way better than the writers know how to deal with.

Linda wants to do something, even though she’s being targeted specifically. She meets the Flash and immediately agrees to help. She takes on the persona of the woman who tried to kill her, and the only complaint she really had was that she wasn’t very good at it.

Barry unmasks himself to get her to trust him. It’s extremely disappointing that he’s not there with Patty yet, and he took so long to do that with Iris.

I hate how the issues of secrets and trust keep popping up where we all know that these people know better. Joe knows better. Barry knows better. And yet, time and time again, they keep pushing away the very people whom they need to bring into the fold.

Minor spoilers for current broadcast (Season Three, Episode 12 at the time of this writing), but I have to say that when the tables are turned, and a major secret is kept from Joe in order to “protect him from the truth”, I actually shouted out loud “DOESN’T FEEL SO GREAT TO BE ON THE OTHER SIDE, HUH?”

…I may not have the directly personal connection to this sort of thing that other people do, but it still angers me. As it should anger anyone.

We’re way over the review length as it is, so let’s skip to the Things To Note This Episode:

  • Short nerdy girls who can probably kick my ass are my aesthetic. Jesse Chambers Wells certainly meets that. Sorry.
  • One of my favorite things which television shows can do is mess with the logos and other framing devices to match what’s happening in the show itself. On Arrow, they change the logo to a heart-shaped arrowhead whenever Cupid is around, and they combine the lightning bolts and arrows whenever there’s a crossover with The Flash. In this episode, the lightning flash for the eyecatcher before/after the commercial break turns blue when Zoom shows up the first time.
  • Gosh I really love training montages set to music.
  • “Oh my god, I’ve made out with the Flash.” Linda has her priorities in order.
  • You can see Patty make the connection between Joe needing her to “trust him for a few days” and Barry saying he needs to go do a thing with Joe. That’s why this season angers me even more than Season One, but paradoxically also I’m a lot more comfortable with it happening, if that makes sense – Patty’s putting it all together. And it’s going to be just as cathartic when she does.
  • BARTHOLOMEW. HENRY. ALLEN.

  • “I would never do that. Sergeant Slow is a terrible name.” Cisco, never change.
  • THOSE FIGHT SCENES. They’ve really upped their game this season. I mean, holy shit.

Kevin O’Shea is a writer and hard-light apologist. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or making cardboard standups of all his friends. His editor politely requests that her cutout be from at least ten years ago when she was several pounds lighter.

Bethany the Martian is an abuser of parentheses and works in the Pizza Mines. She can be found on Twitter (@martianbethany) and on Tumblr (bethanythemartian).

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