The Flash’s “Versus Zoom” ran with the notion that Zoom/Hunter Zolomon is essentially a dark shadow version of Barry. When Hunter trods out his own version of the the old standard “we are not so different, you and I” speech during their epic confrontation we know he’s telling the truth. Hunter is what Barry theoretically could have become if Joe and Iris hadn’t taken him in so many years ago.
Before we got that point, though, “Versus Zoom” was one of the most casual, low-key episodes of The Flash that I can recall. There was no metahuman-of-the-week to track and defeat. There were precious few action sequences. Instead, it was just a series of conversations, as if the momentary lull in the action allowed everyone to stop and ask, “How are you doing? Let’s catch up.” Of course, many of those somewhat casual conversations were taking place precisely because everyone was rallying around Barry as he neared a crucial next step in his conflict with Zoom. So it’s not exactly like everyone was simply hanging out and enjoying their free time in a down week. Still, it was refreshing to see everyone simply interacting with each other in such a comfortable way.
Barry gave Joe advice about Wally (dude clearly wants to move in with his dad). Caitlin asked Iris how she was doing, and they talked about how Iris now wants to pursue a romance with Barry. Harry asked Joe to talk Barry out of his plans to take the fight back to Zoom, and Joe responded by asking Harry to help Barry achieve this goal instead of trying to stand in the way of them. Cisco used Star Wars to explain why he’s afraid of enhancing his vibe powers, and Barry re-assured him and settled his fears.
It vaguely reminded me of how a lot of Age of Ultron reviewers argued they could have taken a whole movie of just that party scene where the Avengers all tried to lift Thor’s hammer. Well, here was The Flash front-loading an episode with continual moments of these people simply talking to each other and being present as friends, brothers, fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, mentor and student, etc. In short, they were behaving like a family.
Of course, that couldn’t last, but that might have been the whole point. These conversations all served to remind us of everything Barry has which Hunter does not. Barry has an amazing relationship with his surrogate dad Joe, a still-developing mutual respect with his mentor Harry, a remarkably supportive and life-affirming friendship with Cisco and the potential for romance with the love of his life Iris. There was even a brief moment of Barry being a caring friend by checking in with Caitlin to gauge how she was dealing with the inherit discomfort of them taking the fight to her crazy ex-boyfriend.
However, this is still The Flash. To embrace all of this meant ignoring multiple glaring plot holes, e.g., Caitlin somehow never mentioned Hunter Zolomon to the rest of the team this whole time?, Harry instantly knew who the Hunter Zolomon of Earth-2 was but he never recognized that Jay looked just like him minus a beard? Plus, it could all be undone by a nonsense final act (cardboard cutouts of Zoom’s parents, really?) after all of the inevitable action the scenes finally arrived.
I personally struggled with Barry’s largely unchecked conviction to let Zoom back into Earth-1 in the first place. When Harry vocalized his opposition I wanted to say, “Thank you! Finally someone on this show realizes this is not only a terrible idea but one which should be actively discouraged.” I kept flashing to the moment in Guardians of the Galaxy where after the infinity orb causes the complete destruction of Benicio del Toro’s museum an extremely exasperated Rocket yells, “What do you still have it for?” after noticing Gamora is still carrying the dang orb even though they clearly just discovered it is a highly-coveted weapon of mass destruction. Rocket’s exasperation in that moment mirrored how I felt about Barry’s insistence to re-open a breach to Earth-2.
But Barry’s a hero. I suppose he can’t simply leave Earth-2 to the whims of a madman, and he did promise to return for the man in the iron mask. Plus, and this seemed to be the most important thing for Barry, there was revenge to be had against Zoom for having tricked them this whole time through his “Jay Garrick” persona.
If this had to happen at least Barry would have a great plan:
He locked everyone but Wally in STAR Labs’ glorified panic room, led Zoom on a chase back to a room in STAR Labs which had been equipped to display cardboard cutouts of his parents at just the right moment and used Zoom’s momentary hesitation to clamp him down with a speed-dampening device.
As BMD argued, “STAR Labs is peopled by brilliant scientists and superheroes. I’d like to believe they can come up with a better plan than the use of cardboard cutouts of Zoom’s parents to entrap him.” At least it was cool seeing Flash and Zoom chase each other around town. Barry and Hunter’s eventual unmasked conversation was a hero vs. villain joy to behold, even if Barry’s borderline arrogance over outsmarting his enemy clearly set him up for an immediate failure. However, Barry’s sacrifice of his powers seemed avoidable:
“It makes no sense that they’d honor their bargain with [Zoom] after Wally’s safe return. In that moment, Barry’s faster than Zoom – why not rush him into a cell while he’s waiting for the Speed Force serum? Why not fill the syringe with a substance that will incapacitate their enemy rather than empower him? We have five episodes left in the season, so obviously The Flash needed to create a new obstacle for Barry before he bests Zoom, but I wish the writers had conceived of a plan that didn’t leave Team Flash looking so silly.”
1. Nitpick: Did “Jay Garrick” ever meet Wally? Were we ever given an on-screen indication that “Jay” knew who Wally was?
2. Nitpick: I want to nitpick pretty much everything about Hunter Zolomon’s back story, from the stupid helmet being tied to his father and that complete nonsense about using a time remnant as his double. However, I’m just choosing to appreciate how this all served to reveal how much better Teddy Sears is at playing the villain than he ever was at playing the hero. You could argue that his “Jay Garrick” was purposefully stilted, but that might be too charitable because I’m not sure when exactly Sears was told who he was really playing.
3. Poor Danielle Panabaker: The Flash writers, you have failed this woman this season. Other than her Killer Frost moment, we are too deep into the season for her biggest moment to have been her begging Zoom not to kill Barry and then immediately getting taken hostage.