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With Zoom’s arrival, the moment we’ve all been waiting for has come at last. Or has it? After a meandering first five episodes, The Flash pretty much had an obligation to deliver something spectacular with “Enter Zoom.” But while Zoom’s speed and ferocity were impressive, repetitive themes and flat humor kept the episode from being completely satisfying.
The humor was out in full force again, with less unintentionality this time around. But rather than lighten the mood or give the characters a reprieve before the coming of Zoom, it felt like they were just trying to delay his arrival. Don’t get me wrong, leaving the battle between Barry and Zoom for the end of the episode was a smart choice, but the training sequence with Linda didn’t do anything for me. And instead of making me laugh, Barry and Linda’s deliberately poor final fight made me wonder why they thought Zoom would come at all.
Part of me not being invested in these scenes stemmed from the way they’ve characterized Linda this season. Perhaps I’m misremembering what she was like, but in Season 1 she just seemed more…edgy? With her stress cooking and remark that she kissed the Flash as soon as Barry revealed his identity, it’s like they’re trying to make the Spice Champion of Central City fun in a slightly out of character way. And though I’m happy she finally knows Barry’s secret, I’m almost glad the show made her leave so the writers can figure out what to do with her.
To balance out the comedy, “Enter Zoom” had an unhealthy number of people with trust issues. But what made this problem worse was how they played into the storylines of two characters the show has consistently underserved this season: Joe and Cisco. Joe has been weirdly protective before (remember him saying murder isn’t murder if everyone thinks you’re dead?), but his lack of trust in Harry and Barry reached a fever pitch in this episode. After Barry says “I’m trying to stop Zoom. I thought you were on board with that,” Joe states that he’s “keeping [his] options open.” What does that even mean, Joe? I know you consider “police officer” to be a flexible term, but people will die if Barry doesn’t do something. Thankfully, Joe backs down in the face of logic, but Barry setting Joe straight made him getting physical with Harry even more tiring. “If Barry dies, you die,” are you serious? Barry would have gone after Zoom with or without Harry, which furthers the idea that Joe is a caricature of paternal protection this season. Him questioning whether Barry was still chasing after Reverse-Flash also felt mishandled, as Barry’s reasons for going after Zoom so fervently were almost exceedingly legitimate. It did segue into Barry revealing his alter ego to Linda with the finally salient line, “If you’re going to ask people like Linda to risk their lives, you better be sure of exactly why they’re doing it,” but Joe is definitely the worst character this season.
Cisco, meanwhile, got annoyingly more proactive in his desire to know Harry’s secret. His attempt to vibe with Harry after the first try was so transparent that I have no idea why he thought he’d be able to get close, and the fumbling to justify how handsy he was in that scene was so hackneyed and incompetent that it’s a wonder Harry didn’t deck him. Hopefully now that everyone knows about Jesse they can avoid future mistrust, as I’m tired of seeing characters overdramatically or stupidly seek out the truth.
On the plus side of things, Zoom was pretty awesome. I loved the way the show paralleled Barry and Zoom’s speed, with the replacement of the shot that always opens The Flash and the sheer sense of velocity when they’re moving around the city. I also really liked how ferocious Zoom’s attacks were, leading to that sickening crunch of Barry’s spine snapping. However, there were some problems with his introduction to Team Flash. “Zoom cannot be human,” Caitlin says. “How the hell’s Barry supposed to defeat that?” Cisco echoes. The show seems to forget that this is not the first time we’ve seen Zoom, making their reactions seem a bit odd. Not only that, but what are they reacting to? Zoom looks good, but he isn’t exactly frightening. I mean, okay, he has his clay-looking suit, Tony Todd voice, and blue lightning, but he still looks like a person in a costume. It’s like how Reactron wasn’t really as big a threat as Supergirl made him out to be, but not as prominent of an issue because it doesn’t take up much real estate in the episode. Regarding their fight scene, I just have a bunch of questions. Why would Barry use a trick that Jay would most likely have already used against Zoom? Why would he ask if Zoom wanted to be him, when he already knows what he’s there for? And why didn’t they have a reaction shot from Cisco and Caitlin after Cisco’s slightly long explanation was followed by a very short scene of Barry putting up a mid-air fight? I’m excited by the implications of his fight with Zoom (Barry being paralyzed and maybe having to connect with the Speed Force in a different way to become more powerful), but his initial confrontation with Zoom was ultimately disappointing.
As I said before, part of why I wasn’t engaged by Linda’s comedic scenes was because of her off characterization, but what really annoys me is the fact that we got these scenes after five episodes of waiting for the show to set everything up. Zoom was certainly impressive, but minor issues with his introduction prevented it from being a wholly entertaining experience. I’m excited to see more of Zoom, and Barry training to fight him, but I felt like we needed something more than ferocity to make Zoom’s appearance satisfying after all this time. Perhaps some insight into the character? If next week’s episode is any indication, these questions will have be put on hold for some time, as Grodd will be making his return to the series. If they can hold off on giving Barry the use of his legs, this could be the perfect time for the supporting cast to make up for their mischaracterization this season.