Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Expose The Villain When The Flash Goes "Versus Zoom!"

The Good: Character development, Performances
The Bad: Some troubling technical glitches, Mediocre plot
The Basics: The Flash Season two begins its home stretch with "Versus Zoom," which reveals many truths about Zoom and sets up the final episodes of the season.

Every now and then, someone asks me why I review both single episodes and entire seasons of some works. The answer is that sometimes, a serialized show holds up better as a whole than its individual episodes and sometimes, the episodes themselves have noteworthy subtlety and greatness and deserve to be explored further. There are some seasons of television where the sum is greater than its parts; individual episodes are not great television, but when viewed, the whole season develops into something. It is hard to see how The Flash will hold up given that its second season has been subject to unfortunate network scheduling; being pulled off the air for several episodes, reappearing for a single episode or two and then going weeks before returning. It makes the episode by episode flow terrible, which is detrimental to the season. Fortunately, the erratic scheduling of The Flash is now over and the final string of episodes for the season has begun. The comeback episode is "Versus Zoom."

"Versus Zoom" picks up after "Flash Back" (reviewed here!), following Barry Allen's resolve to take the fight to Zoom after traveling in time to get advice from Eobard Thawne.

Many years ago on Earth-2, James Zolomon returned from the War Of The Americas and his wife made plans to leave him. James killed his wife in front of their son, Hunter, and Hunter was committed to an asylum. On our Earth, Barry uses the prototype of the tachyon enhancer to run four times faster than he ever has before. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, the Flash tries to figure out how to get back to Earth-2 to use his newfound speed to stop Zoom. Drs. Snow and Wells do not want to help Barry. That night, Barry and Joe talk about The Flash going back to Earth-2 when Wally arrives. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry postulates that Cisco has the same abilities as Reverb did and that he might be able to open a breach to Earth-2.

On advice from Joe West, Wells decides to help the Flash and he modifies Reverb's goggles so Ramon can use them. Cisco begins to open a breach when he becomes concerned about the potential ramifications and stops him. After Wally moves in and Barry gives Ramon a pep talk, Dr. Snow reveals the name that Jay gave her for his Earth-1 counterpart. Wells reveals that Hunter Zolomon was a serial killer on Earth-2 and Barry comes up with a way to stop him. Cisco makes another attempt to open a transdimensional doorway and it works. Zoom comes through, but when the Flash executes his plan, Zoom is able to take Wally hostage in order to extort Barry's speed from him!

"Versus Zoom" is chock full of character moments and the best are those that focus on Joe West and (separately) Cisco Ramon. Ramon's arc in "Versus Zoom" is one where he must overcome his fears to try to access his powers. Ramon's powers were latent for almost the entire first season and his learning curve has been exceptionally erratic since he learned he is a metahuman. Reverb had years of using his powers and was still doing things like creating waves of energy - spatial distortion waves. Cisco goes from having difficulty vibing to see people in other universes when attached to their objects to using a simple device (goggles?!) that allow him to suddenly manipulate multidimensional energies. Fortunately, Ramon has a moral dilemma associated with it that makes the episode's gimmick more than a plot-based problem.

Joe West begins to truly bond with his son, Wally, in "Versus Zoom." West gets advice from Allen and it nicely overshadows the potentially soap operatic Iris subplot. West's opening his heart to Wally plays nicely off his professional detachment with Wells (who has asked the police officer for help in finding his daughter). Jesse L. Martin wonderfully plays the range of emotions needed to make the two very different scenes feel fluid and congruent.

One of the real issues with "Versus Zoom" is that the episode fails to address Zoom's abilities to leap between universes. Ramon opens a doorway through which Zoom comes, but he is able to return to Earth-2 (the presence of the man in the mask in a cell adjacent to Wally confirms that) without any aid. It makes sense that Cisco might have fractured the breaches back open (at least two), but there is nothing in-episode that makes it explicit.

Beyond that, "Versus Zoom" finally gives the viewer enough backstory on Zoom to be satisfying. The showdown between Barry Allen and Hunter Zolomon is engaging and, fortunately, does not devolve into a simple physical contest. But in many ways, "Versus Zoom" is unremarkable and straightforward on the plot front. The contrasts in backstory between Zolomon and Allen make for a compelling character study, but they are essentially long sequences of exposition and set up an ending that makes the episode very repetitive on the plot front.

"Versus Zoom" is still a decent return to the universe of The Flash and reinvigorates the fans for the next episode.


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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