This episode (and the rest of the season) faced a very a major problem concerning its main villain; since being unmasked Zoom just isn’t as fearsome as he used to be. While revealing the face of Teddy Sears under the black speedster attire had plenty of shock value, now that has subsided through time the character feels much more man than monster even when re-masked with Tony-Todd’s raspy tones blaring out. That’s why the approach this episode takes is all the more effective as it rather than fighting a losing battle it takes Zoom’s character in entirely new direction. So there is a man behind this monster; well who the hell is he? He’s Hunter Zolomon (as teased by Jay as his Earth 1 doppelganger) rather than being Jay Garrick and a fair amount if this episode serves to give him an origin story.
Verses Zoom – With the tachyon accelerator power harnessed into his suit, Barry is now finally fast enough to rival Zoom and wants to end things once and for all using Cisco’s Vibe powers to open a multi-verse doorway. Can Barry finally defeat the demon speedster or will he lose all his new speed to Zoom?
The opening setup is fantastic with Barry recapping his own early years trauma leads into a childhood flashback of Hunter, who actually went through a similarly horrific, life-changing parental loss (except his dad really did kill his mom), which creates a wonderful parallel between Barry and Hunter. Their journeys had the same beginning with roads and destinations determined by those around them. Barry had the love and compassion of Joe, Iris and everyone else around, which enabled him to recover and become a good person. Whereas Hunter had no one, no support system, no positive role models and no focus for his trauma other than anger and darkness. There are some great shades of young Tom Riddle from Half-Blood Prince to the orphanage scenes as Hunter’s holed up somewhere that would drive most people crazy and/or evil. As we catch up with him as an adult to witness his transformation into a speedster, there’s a heavy departure from the comics but to good ends. The visuals are gloriously menacing as Hunter becomes affected by Earth 2’s particle accelerator explosion and being in the electric chair is a good Easter Egg to the events of Flashpoint Paradox (and probably not the last this season judging by the episode’s conclusion). As for present day “not Jay” , to his credit Teddy Shears produces more menace than expected from his de-masked exchanges with Barry. We still get the impression of the Jay we knew and loved being on the surface while a darker twisted personality breaks through from underneath. That’s also extended well thematically into practice as the show (assisted by Cisco’s awesome prior Star Wars monologue) takes a Darth Vader approach to Zoom. Now, it’s no longer a question of how do the beat Zoom but how do they reach Hunter/Jay underneath. Catlin sets up this up as a possibility and even if it does take a light dusting of parmesan to get there it’s the kind of groundwork that will pay off so well in the finale by adding a new dimension of possibility to just how the team overcome Zoom. Speaking of the finale (5 episodes left!), we get some more glimpses of the happy man in the iron mask this week. The cast have confirmed that his reveal won’t take place until said finale episode. When considering his tapped message of “Jay” to Barry and Jessie, it now looks highly likely that underneath that mask lies the real Jay Garrick. Although Zoom’s boasts certainly keep many stranger theories on the table, “Who’s the man in the iron mask.... you wouldn’t believe me even if I told you”.
Cisco (who now has his own web series) has an interesting story arc when the team try to ramp up his powers to Reverb/doppelganger levels. While hearing Cisco say “midichlorians” sounds like character blasphemy, he does work a smart Anakin Skywalker argument of being terrified that too much power will lead him to the dark side. Even more so because of the way we see him overcome this through the support of Barry and the team, which circles back around to the Barry Allen/Hunter Zolomon parallel of the people around becoming the difference between good and evil. Full credit and high-fives all round to Brooke Roberts & Katherine Walczak on writing duties for such a connected episode. The same can’t be said for Iris, whose sudden romantic U-turn is more than a little frustrating. Of course, we all know that Barry and Iris are destined to wind-up together but the budding relationship Iris was developing with her new editor Scott was genuinely interesting. They really should have lad that play out a little first like Barry and Linda Park last season before bringing Barry and Iris back together. Catlin also feels mistreated. Her last big (non-doppelganger) story concerned her relationship with Jay which was good enough but since she had her Die Hard 2 moment of dead boyfriends (“How could the same thing happen to the same girl twice?”), the show hasn’t given her anything new to work with and now she’s been reduced to damsel duties. Danielle Panabaker is a great asset to the show, and they need to remember that... fast. Back to happier times, and the episode does a good job moving Wally West steadily closer to Team Flash. If moving in with Joe wasn’t close enough after the events he witnesses, Joe and the others will have a hard time convincing him they don’t work with The Flash.
Despite mishandling some supporting characters, this is a good episode. The Flash Vs Zoom action is great with some blinding effects, great twists on the testing room floor and the glowing tachyon generator suit emblem looks pretty darn cool. It’s a little sad to see the show covering Barry’s multi-verse jump into the recent Supergirl episode (his early portal vanish) without any explanation but they could be saving it for another time. Just like Arrow’s last episode, this is a big season shake up before going into the final few episodes. It’s surprising that the show doesn’t feel quite as strong as this time last year but still has a lot going for it. What’s more all these bizarre season breaks are now done with as we have an episode a week until the end.