Where does one even get life-sized cardboard cutouts of an otherdimensional serial killer’s dead parents? This question and more goes completely unanswered in this week’s recap of CW’s The Flash.
We start this week with the origin of Hunter Zolomon.
Spoilers under the cut.
Many years ago – no, really, they couldn’t be assed to give us a specific date – Hunter’s father, a soldier returning from some war which requires you to look like a ’40s comic book character, murders his wife because she’s going to leave him. Hunter’s father forces him to watch the murder, and then we snap cut to Arkham Orphanage apparently, where we learn nobody else in his family wants him.
Back in the present and on Earth-1, Team Flash has put together a tachyon enhancer from Eobard Thawne’s notes and Barry’s about to try it out. Turns out he can now run four times faster and completely leave the CW (this is where the Supergirl crossover happens in their continuity). I wonder if he can just randomly show up in other TV shows now, just because. Like the Master is about to destroy Earth and has the Doctor in his clutches, and Barry just warps in and pantses him. Anyway, because Barry just dimension-hopped, he knows that even though the breaches are closed, they can be reopened. Harry doesn’t want to reopen them, though, because he doesn’t want to give Zoom another chance to get to Jesse.
Joe agrees with Harry, but inadvertently gives Barry the idea that Cisco might be able to do what his doppelgänger, Reverb, could do. Harry tries to get Joe to talk Barry out of reopening the breaches, but Joe tells him that’s not possible. The only other option, Joe says, is for Harry to help Barry defeat Zoom. Cisco, meanwhile, is having confidence issues. He’s afraid that with all his power, he might turn into the kind of person Reverb was. Harry finally learns who Zoom really is, and reveals that Hunter was an extra-notorious serial killer on Earth-2. We saw the origin of Hunter Zolomon, and now here we have the origin of Zoom. This gives Barry an idea about how to defeat Zoom.
Cisco opens the breach, and Zoom comes through. He and Barry race through Central City and back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where the trap is sprung: cardboard cutouts of Hunter’s parents. Barry uses the opportunity to shoot Zoom with The Boot (a power-dampening device), but then spends waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long monologuing at the villain, allowing him to escape. Zoom kidnaps Wally and takes him to Earth-2, then waits for the inevitable word that Barry will sacrifice his speed for Wally’s life…his plan all along.
With the trade done, the deal is fulfilled. Barry gives all of his speed to Zoom. Caitlin uses what few real feelings Hunter had for her to let Barry live, but he kidnaps her instead as we get the logo and credits.
This episode was good, possibly great…until Barry revealed that he knew who Zoom was. After that, there were way too many “we can stop the villain here if we use one ounce of common sense” moments which completely derail it. Next up, Barry returns to being just as human as human (apologies to Rob Zombie).
This week’s episode kicks off with Barry reflecting on how much living with the Wests changed his life for the better, how they saved him from falling into a dark place after witnessing his mother’s murder. We then go straight into a dark parallel to Barry’s story: a man in a uniform abusing and then murdering his wife in front of their son, a young Hunter Zolomon. This narrative has the clear intention of saying some mix of post-war PTSD in addition to probably being a less-than-great person at the core made Hunter’s father that way. His father’s helmet is the same one Hunter had been wearing as “Jay”, which is a dark and twisted reference to Comic Book Jay Garrick’s winged helm being his father’s modified WWI helmet.
Afterwards, Hunter ended up abandoned in the foster care system, still clinging to his murderous father’s helmet. Obviously, the parallel between Barry and Hunter is that no one was there to help Hunter heal and not become a terrible person after having a bad childhood. I’m a big Flash fan because our speedster family is generally positive and loving. As much as I love the dedication to parallels this season, this twisting of Comic Book Jay Garrick’s story into something dark and abusive in order to create the TV show’s Hunter Zolomon sticks in my craw a bit.
Back in the present, Team Flash is testing out the tachyon enhancer to speed Barry up, with the fun Easter egg of Barry starting the run in Central City’s twin, Keystone City. (The city sign in the background reads “Opening Soon”?) Barry is now faster than Zoom, but the little portal effect and the question “How long was I gone?” seems to hint something more happened when he kicked up the speed. Given that Comic Book Wally West’s Flash is based in Keystone City, along with the multiple Wally moments in this episode, the evidence suggests we’ll see Wally “riding the lightning” sooner rather than later.
This episode starts digging deeper into a thread left hanging by Reverb back during the Earth-2 episodes: that Cisco’s powers are rooted in the ability to manipulate the vibrations between dimensions and are of the multiverse itself. In the comics, Vibe was given these powers during the “New 52” reboot, and they took him from a D-lister in the ’80s to a potential superhero heavy hitter today.
With a little help from a reluctant Harry, Cisco begins to reopen a breach to Earth-2, but he stops in a little panic just as Zolomon arrives at his side of the breach on Earth-2. It turns out that Cisco is understandably scared of turning out like Reverb, of being a villain. Barry reminds him that Team Flash is a family. The continual kicking back to “family” being the core of this team is also what makes the Flash my favorite superhero. It’s why this show still works so well for me, despite my gripes with it. It gets what is at the heart of the Flash legacy: hope and family.
Best moment of the episode? The heart-to-heart where Joe invites Wally to move into his house. I love the interactions between Joe and his kids. Jesse Martin makes every emotional moment for Joe extra poignant.
Before Cisco fully reopens the breach, it’s finally revealed to the rest of Team Flash that “Jay” is really Hunter Zolomon/Zoom. Caitlin recalls that “Jay’s” Earth-1 doppelgänger is named that, and Harry recognizes the name as an infamous serial killer from Earth-2. (Easter egg alert: Zolomon’s mental asylum on Earth-2 was named “Perez”, likely as a reference to comics great George Pérez.)
Cisco opens the breach, and Zoom immediately jumps through. Cue the speedster battle! Team Flash has planned ahead, setting up a trap of triggering images of Hunter’s parents, and they finally get him with a metahuman-disabling cuff. Hunter and Barry chat about the fundamental differences between then as people, despite their parallel origin stories, and Hunter uses that monologue time to escape.
Joe, Iris, and Barry rush over to the West house, only to find it trashed and Wally kidnapped by Zoom. We hop over to Earth-2 to see Wally in a cage back in Zoom’s speedster menagerie (because everyone in there seems to have been a speedster in the comics) across from the Man in the Iron Mask. On Earth-1, Team Flash is trying to figure out how to rescue Wally. Wally is family, and Barry is willing to give up everything for his found family, so he offers Zoom his speed.
Like a classic villain, Zoom monologues while Harry does some science fiddling, clearing up some plot discrepancies for the audience and giving more insight into just how much he is, at his core, the opposite of Barry. Caitlin echoes Hunter’s dead mother’s words, calling him a monster.
Zoom gets Barry’s speed, then kidnaps Caitlin. Their failed relationship has turned into sociopathic obsession.
To be continued…
George Hatch just adopted a tiny kitten named Adora, so he has no time to come up with a witty quote to get you to follow him on Twitter @Raeseti. He just wants you to know he will be posting kitten pictures. Teeny, tiny kitten pictures.
Becky Shire is everyone’s favorite Flash Guru, cosplayer and all-around badass. You can find her on Twitter at @ElfGrove.
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