The arrival of a formidable new foe in the waning minutes of an episode has a way of lifting what would otherwise be a somewhat lackluster hour of The Flash into more memorable territory. We saw an abbreviated example of this a couple of weeks ago when King Shark made a startling and all too brief appearance, but “Enter Zoom” ups the ante by finally giving us an extended look at Barry’s major nemesis for the season. Zoom doesn’t disappoint, although he does leave the impression that he’ll be most effective if his appearances are confined to brief, shadowy bursts of action.
Before we can meet Zoom, however, Barry and company have to figure out how to lure him to our Earth—or whether that’s even a good idea at this stage of the game. Joe is against the plan, and we get not one but two scenes hammering home his opinion that Barry is being too anxious and careless in his haste to confront a villain they know little about. Joe’s concerns prove to be well-founded, but that’s not to say Barry is entirely in the wrong in his eagerness to dispense with this threat; as he points out, Zoom is bound to keep sending metahumans to kill him and innocent people are more likely to get hurt the longer this goes on.
One of those innocents caught in the middle is Linda Park. After Dr. Light makes her escape from the pipeline using her surprise power of invisibility (which Joe would have known about if he’d only listened to his partner), Linda goes into hiding with Iris at the West house and deals with her anxiety by cooking massive amounts of food. Slowly but surely the writers are figuring out how to make Iris a more integral part of the STAR Labs team, but at times they still come up short: This would have been an ideal opportunity for Iris to come up with the plan to disguise Linda as Dr. Light on her own instead of inadvertently sparking the idea in Barry. Still, her bonding session with Linda is welcome, especially considering she has every right to be a little pissed that Barry has once again revealed his identity to someone at the drop of a hat when it took him forever to clue her in.
Linda’s training session as the faux-Dr. Light is this week’s comedic highlight (with all of cardboard Cisco’s poses being pure gold), with Cisco’s clumsy attempts at vibing Wells-2 a distant second. Cisco does eventually manage to glean that Harry’s daughter Jesse is being held captive by Zoom (and Wells-2 is so eager to get this news from him in the end, I have to wonder why he was so dead-set against being vibed in the first place…unless there’s yet another secret he’s trying to hide).
Zoom’s arrival late in the hour kicks the episode into another gear. He’s bigger and faster than Barry, his voice is much deeper, and his black costume with its scarecrow-like mask is much scarier. His ability to catch lightning bolts and throw them back is very cool, and his whirlwind tour of Central City, holding up the Flash as a broken trophy in front of crowds at the Picture News and the police station is queasily suspenseful, in that I was half-certain he was going to rip off Barry’s mask in public. (Why he didn’t do this is definitely something worth speculating about—see the first stray observation below.) The fact that he leaves the Flash with no feeling in his legs is probably good for at least one episode featuring Barry in Wells-1’s old wheelchair. Whether Zoom is sustainable as a season-long villain remains to be seen, but for now he’s made quite a first impression.
- There’s been so much going on in this first chunk of the season that I haven’t even gotten around to speculating about Zoom’s true identity. Rest assured that the internet is on it! I’ve already glimpsed a few intriguing guesses, and although I haven’t delved too deeply into any of these rabbit holes, the idea that Zoom is the Barry of Earth-Two is easily the most irresistible possibility I’ve seen.
- Speaking of which, isn’t it a little strange that our characters have expressed little to no curiosity about the parallel Earth? If Barry is still haunted by the circumstances of his mother’s death, hasn’t he wondered at all if her Earth-Two counterpart is still alive? Having seen the alternate Linda Park in action as Dr. Light, aren’t they curious at all about their own doppelgangers? I feel like these questions should come up at some point.
- Barry has now revealed his secret identity to two reporters for the Picture News. That’s usually not a winning formula for keeping a secret.
- Easter egg from Earth-Two: Robert Queen is “the Hood,” and his son Oliver died at sea.
- Still at the top of my guest star wish list: Mirror Master and the Elongated Man.