Sometimes, terrible things happen to us when we’re children. Things that can define who we become, whether we want them to or not. Some of us become stronger. The people who took me in helped me heal and move past everything that happened. They’re responsible for who I have become today. But I know that I’m one of the lucky ones; not everyone gets that kind of support. Without it, I don’t know where I would have ended up…or what I could’ve become.
—Barry Allen, “Versus Zoom”
Heroes are heroes but there are times when a spotlight character does something so monumentally stupid that nothing can justify or make sense of it. This is Barry in “Versus Zoom”.
During the episode voiceover highlighted above, we get to see just how different Barry’s childhood was from Zoom. He’s a bit cracked, as would most kids after watching their father murder their mother in cold blood. Still, Zoom must be stopped and now, Barry finally has a way: the tachyon enhancer. There’s efficient then there’s something that’s allowing the Central City speedster to hit speeds four times faster than he’s ever gone. Oh, and there is that pit stop in National City with Super Girl (more on that later). Now that he has the confidence to take down Zoom, now it’s all about finding a way back to Earth-2 to take the blue lightning bad guy down. Not everyone’s as gung-ho on the plan, though. Harry, for one, thinks it’s insane. “Zoom does not care for anyone,” the Earth-2 scientist says but it won’t stop Barry; he made a promise to take Zoom down and will see it through.
Getting a bit of downtime before heading back to the lab, Barry has some one-on-one time with both Iris and Joe. It’s obvious something has changed between our hero and his ‘sister from another mister’. Though she has a date with her editor (doesn’t that violate some type of office workplace policy) but her eyes are saying she’d rather be spending time with Barry. Back at the house, Barry fills Joe in on his plan and the latter, though not as demonstrative as Harry, believes taking Zoom on is not the greatest of plans. But Barry will not be swayed. It takes a small comment from Wally to spark Barry’s imagination.
Back at the lab, Barry picks Harry’s brain on Cisco’s Earth-2 double, Reverb. In addition to vibes, Reverb could not only see through dimensions but tap into the forces of the multiverse to open breaches to practically any world. So now, it’s time for a bit of testing. The first run is no good and it’s not until the next day when Harry throws his support in with Barry (after a conversation with Joe) that the gang makes headway. Recalibrating Reverb’s glasses, Harry offers them to Cisco, believing they will help the young scientist focus his powers. It allows him to open a breach, one he immediately closes, begging the others “Don’t ask me to do this. Please.”
While Harry works on upgrading the tachyon enhancer, everyone gets a bit of the advice bug. It starts with Barry pointing out to Joe that the latter should ask Wally to move in with them. Caitlin and Iris converse about Ms. West’s dating life, one that now has Barry at the forefront of her thoughts. And finally, it’s Barry and Cisco. The generally happy-go-lucky disposition of Cisco is in a darker place now. Using a fantastic Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader analogy—well, fantastic for us geeks—he admits to fearing the power he possesses and whether it may corrupt him. But Barry doesn’t believe that; he points out one major difference between the two Ciscos; this Cisco has friends, no, family. It’s enough to give Cisco the focus he needs and he opens the breach and…
Enter Zoom, aka Hunter Zolomon. After we get the Zolomon story from Harry, Barry, and the gang are ready for the bad guy. When he crosses over, Barry lays the trap: racing around the city before leading him to STAR lab and a set up that includes pictures of Zoom’s parents. It’s enough to throw him off his game and the others pump him full of the equivalent of speed sedatives. The two speedsters talk with Barry raging at Zolomon’s focus on becoming whole again, no matter who he kills. “That feeling was taken away from me a long time ago,” he tells Barry before eventually getting away.
Yes. Zoom gets away and, not only that, but he takes Wally back to Earth-2 as a hostage, demanding Barry’s speed as a trade. Using Cisco’s abilities, Barry brokers the deal. When he arrives with Wally in tow, Zolomon spills the beans on his entire set up and, when Barry asks about the man in the mask, his only reply is “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Ultimately, Barry is true to his word, allowing Harry to sap the speed force and give it to Zolomon. Ready to kill Barry, Zolomon is stopped by Caitlin pleading to whatever goodness is left in the demented killer. He doesn’t kill Barry but does take Caitlin away with him.
- Well, that was an unmitigated disaster. Not only was the over-confident and hardheaded Barry unprepared, but he’s basically given the keys of two Earths to a certifiable madman. The ease at which he gave up his powers is only overshadowed by his foolishness to open the portal so early. Barry gave his team very little time to plan their attack on Zolomon. And for that, quite a few lives will be lost.
- Despite Barry’s insane plan, the symmetry of the episode, watching the fork in the road, so to speak, where Barry and Hunter’s paths diverged was classic yet effective storytelling. Even better was their conversation after Barry temporarily nullified Zoom. The evil speedster’s “you could’ve just as easily become me” line was reminiscent of Frank Castle, aka the Punisher’s words to Matt Murdock in season 2 of ‘Daredevil.’ While Barry may never have become so crazy, the point is still valid: so often how we end up in life is predicated on the things that happen to us, the people that imprint their own values on us.
- A few tidbits: Iris is finally coming back around to her and Barry together. Cisco seems to be coming into his own now and Wally is becoming a true part of the family (did you catch his ‘slip’, calling Joe “Dad” when they were in his new room?). Sometimes a show loses its way—I’m looking at you ‘Arrow‘ — but not ‘The Flash.’ It remains, at the moment, what it has always been. A story of light, of goodness. A story about family. And even when the decisions of our characters are beyond the pale stupid, we can still empathize because these characters remain true to themselves.