In what was shaping up to be THE episode of the season, The Flash stumbled in “Versus Zoom.” While the DC Comics series remains in tip-top shape with dynamic characters and absolutely inventive set-ups, it’s left everyone — myself included — scratching their heads over the ever-complicated antagonist, Zoom (Teddy Sears), who is revealed as Hunter Zolomon.
The show is still rich with characters who never fail to warm hearts. Watching Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) welcoming Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale) to his home and witnessing the generally captivating chemistry between series star Grant Gustin and Martin is enough to sell you on these characters, who feel like they exist — even after the Berlanti Productions bumper rolls after the credits.
And with powerful characters come equally powerful and inventive backstories. Though the revelations around the antagonist Zoom and his real identity are a mess, “Versus Zoom” shows off the most terrifying backstory to a character in a superhero TV show. How Hunter Zolomon, who is not a park bench nerd from Earth-1 but a serial killer from Earth-2, got his Speed Force during electroshock therapy was a beautifully filmed and terrifying sequence with impressive VFX. We’ll remember this scene long after The Flash has passed us by.
But for all its highs “Versus Zoom” brings The Flash to its lowest low: Everything about Zoom is complicated. Here, just try to keep up:
- We’re introduced to Jay Garrick as The Flash of Earth-2. His arch nemesis is Zoom, a monster speedster from his world.
- While on Earth-1, Jay shows Caitlin his doppelgänger, Hunter Zolomon, a peaceful guy with no involvement in anything. Or so we think.
- Before the breaches to Earth-2 were closed, Zoom kills Jay.
- Until we see Zoom unmask himself revealing that he IS Jay! And that his name is Hunter Zolomon!
- And there’s a guy in an Iron Mask who is a prisoner of Zoom.
- In “Versus Zoom” we learn that the Jay — or Hunter — that Zoom killed was a Time Remnant, a younger Hunter — or, Jay — that Zoom convinced to participate. Because they’re serial killers anyway.
- OKAY BUT HOW CAN JAY BE THE FLASH OF EARTH-2, WHEN HE’S ALSO ZOOM? Wouldn’t anyone recognize him? Serial killers are rare on Earth-2, according to Harrison Wells, so everyone would know Zolomon’s face.
- ALSO wouldn’t Harrison have SAID SOMETHING the WHOLE TIME he worked with Jay/Hunter?
- And the Time Remnant thing doesn’t make sense! If you kill your younger self doesn’t your present self cease to exist?
- And who is the guy in the Iron Mask?!?
Amid all this nonsense, we actually learned why Zoom’s mouth is weird: It was his asylum muzzle. Thanks, The Flash?
I’m sure there are answers. Maybe if we knew how long Hunter convinced his Time Remnant to play along — as in, since the beginning of Season 2 and maybe even before that — then it’s much easier to fathom. But that’s just it: The Flash doesn’t bother to smooth out its rough spots, and it distracts from the drama and tension. And it’s good drama! It’s a good mystery! It’s intriguing and scary and massively dark for a superhero show that has been a refreshing opposite to Zack Snyder’s gothic machismo. It’s just bothersome to fill in the gaps while The Flash, like its superhero, moves at a breathless thousand miles a second.
For what it’s worth, prolific comics writer Mark Waid — author of the award-winning Kingdom Come which in my opinion represents everything great about the DC superheroes — felt frustrated by The Flash.
For all its good things — I really can’t get over Zolomon’s amazing origins — I’m bummed one of the most-hyped episodes of the endlessly impressive The Flash (r/FlashTV on Reddit was really looking forward to this one) tripped on its own efforts. The Flash is a speedster, but no TV show should force its audience to tirelessly keep up.