[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 14.]
You have to hand it to the makers of The Flash: after spending a few weeks treading water with the audience wondering exactly when the big bad of the season, Zoom, was going to return to provide the show some momentum, his arrival didn’t disappoint. It came thanks to a trip to Earth-2, in which Supergirl‘s place in the DC Comics TV Universe was explained, and even more DC Comics heroes were teased as possible new guest cast members. But in the latest episode, Barry Allen may have stumbled upon the biggest secret of the season: Zoom’s true identity.
We say “may” since the writers are clearly not going to let the cat completely out of the bag just yet. However, they also didn’t waste time in revealing Harrison Wells to be the duplicitous villain of the debut season. And still had plenty of twists and surprises in store once the man in yellow was officially unveiled. So if that’s the case here, then Episode 14, “Escape From Earth-2” may have spelled out the answer (literally), provided fans were paying attention… and are willing to use their imagination to connect the dots.
To keep all viewers in the loop, we’ve laid out the plot so far, and break down exactly how the masked prisoner in Zoom’s lair may have given fans all they need to solve the equation. And, of course, offer some speculation on the villain’s final reveal. If true, it may be a pleasant surprise to comic book fans and viewers alike – and yet another betrayal by someone Barry thought was a trusted friend.
The Devil We Know (So Far)
To start off, we’ll offer a brief primer on everything we actually know about Zoom – which, surprisingly, isn’t much. What we know comes mostly from Jay Garrick’s (Teddy Sears) insights from his time fighting what we come to learn is a losing battle against the villain on his alternate Earth. Describing Zoom as a psychotic, homicidal “speed demon,” Garrick (with help from a flashback Wells) confirms that Zoom appeared not long after the particle accelerator explosion. It’s also revealed that he is famous for murdering with little concern for collateral damage – simply sending a message to anyone who would try to stop him. Particularly, the police of Central City and Earth-2’s Flash.
When giving a play-by-play of how he came to arrive on Earth-1, Jay informs the S.T.A.R. Labs team that just as his battle with Zoom seemed to be at an end – with the villain having him splayed out, dead to rights – his rescue came when a wormhole opened in the sky above Central City, sucking him into it, and through to Earth-1. Taking advantage of the many breaches left behind when Barry closed the wormhole, villain after villain appeared with orders to kill The Flash, or Zoom wouldn’t allow them to head back home. With Jay’s knowledge, they set to taking them down one by one… but not before Zoom showed up to tear The Flash apart, paralyzing him and moving quickly enough to make him seem like he was standing still.
Meanwhile, Zoom played his biggest card in secret: send Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) to infiltrate Barry’s team, and concoct a means to steal the alternate Flash’s speed. If he didn’t, his daughter, Jessie, would be killed. After getting a small dose of said speed – injected straight into Zoom’s veins – Wells confessed, teaming up with Barry and his friends, heading to Earth-2, and seeing Barry kidnapped.
Locked up with Jessie Wells and a masked man, Barry learns Zoom will kill everyone involved once he steals The Flash’s speed, but his friends show up to rescue them – all but the masked prisoner.
The Truth Knocking?
It was clear when the previous week’s episode ended with the masked prisoner tapping cryptically on his cell’s glass that he was going to play a role, and on the surface, his involvement is still a mystery. But to ensure viewers understood just exactly what was being communicated, let’s go over the events of his revelation one more time. Upon learning that the masked man is tapping using a system known as “tap code” – tapping letter by letter using numbers – Barry and Jessie discover he’s spelling three letters on repeat: J, A, and Y (for the record, he was tapping the same letters in the previous episode’s cliffhanger as well).
Skipping over the suggestions that the inmate could probably have just written the letters on the glass of his cell for his fellow prisoners, Barry suggests the name ‘Jay’ for confirmation, to which the prisoner nods enthusiastically. When Barry makes the connection to Jay Garrick – a person whose close relationship to Barry the prisoner should have no real knowledge of – the prisoner nods more enthusiastically still. So then, mystery solved!
But here’s where things get interesting. When Barry quickly interprets the prisoner’s meaning to be an inquiry into Jay Garrick’s current state (possibly assuming that he, like Barry and Jessie, is involved in Zoom’s plot against both Flashes), he assures the masked prisoner that Jay Garrick is alive and well. At these words, the prisoner begins to shake his head, appearing not just defeated, but increasingly angered. When Barry proceeds, repeating that Jay Garrick is fine, but did not make the trip with them, the prisoner is beyond conversation, slamming his fists and metal mask against the cell, completely crushed. His message, it seems, has been completely misunderstood.
As the prisoner slumps to the floor into a dirty, unwashed heap (judging by his clothing, dirty hands and stubble), Zoom returns to let him know that he isn’t to speak with the other prisoners ever again. The threat, and Barry’s reading of his message apparently have done the trick: the prisoner ceases communication completely. Locked in a room, with no way to speak, and special care taken to keep his face hidden from anyone’s view (an unnecessary measure, unless the face in question is a well-known one) the prisoner remains in the cell, with a promise from Barry that he’ll return to free him.
If Barry had only known just who he was leaving behind. Going by the evidence: the real Jay Garrick.
The Facts Tell The Story
It might seem like a stretch, but if the first season is what we’re judging this mystery by, then it’s safe to assume the writers have planted some hints… before they actually tease the upcoming reveal with increasingly telling evidence. So with that in mind, let’s run down the actual scenes and information offered that can be substantiated. In other words, not the information that Jay has offered personally – including the reason for the loss of his powers, which he admitted was a lie – and the way he made it to Earth-1 – being saved at the perfect moment, pulled into the wormhole in the dead of night, despite it being the afternoon on Earth-1.
By contrast, what viewers have seen is hard to dispute: Zoom looks like a demonic, monstrous speedster thanks to a purposefully-created costume (complete with a full mask concealing all his features) who is capable of moving at incredibly fast speeds. Speeds well beyond any Barry can approach, as a matter of fact. His mission seems shockingly simple: he wants Barry’s speed for himself. No real explanation has been given, with Jay only offering that Zoom… well, just wants all the speed he can get. It’s been a flimsy motivation from the start, so an actual mission was expected to be delivered with the reveal of his identity.
And considering the theory we’re putting forward, Jay giving a thin, non-answer makes perfect sense.
Now, what do we know about Jay Garrick? The glimpses into Earth-2 prior to his journey across the wormhole reveal that he’s beloved by Central City residents to start with, but proving completely unable to stop Zoom’s constant terrorizing (making him a failure and coward in the eyes of Harrison Wells). Although Jay claimed that Zoom stole his speed (since that’s just his thing), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) discovered that was a lie: his cellular degeneration was the result of the ‘Velocity’ drug, which Jay then claims is the real reason he’s lost his speed.
That means regaining his speed may not solve anything, since his high-speed healing won’t fix the problem. But Caitlin has a clever idea: what if instead of healing the dying tissue, they simply replaced it with living, healthy tissue from his doppelganger here on Earth-1? Jay is quick to dismiss the idea, offering to explain it to Caitlin in person. You see, Jay already had that idea (presumably in the months he admitted to surveilling the S.T.A.R. Labs team, including watching how Barry handled the Atom smasher sent by Zoom to fight him). But there was no Jay Garrick to be found on Earth-1.
Having been adopted under the name of ‘Hunter Zolomon,’ Jay’s doppelganger had gone on to live a normal life – bestowing upon him normal cells, not the mutated ones Jay now possesses. Which means Hunter Zolomon remains ignorant to the problem.
It’s worth pointing out here that Jay’s impending death isn’t a surprise. In fact, he’s already done the investigation into the Earth-1 resident who could save him by the time the S.T.A.R. Labs team is tackling the case. But it’s soon revealed that Jay’s condition is as much a karmic punishment as a medical one. He used the drug, so he claims, to try to keep up with Zoom, no matter the impact on his body. The drug seems to be an incredibly potent one, going by Caitlin’s synthesis of the formula, and comic book fans know that Velocity is a dangerous drug – as much for the monsters it creates as the side effects.
So, to recap: Zoom is shown to be a wild, crazed, homicidal, speed-obsessed mastermind who Jay Garrick has been unable to even match, let alone stop. That is, until he is miraculously transported to Earth-1 (with some continuity problems under examination), and spends months seeking out his healthy doppelganger in hopes of curing his cells (degrading thanks to drug abuse) before setting his sights on this world’s version of The Flash.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that Jay has been noticably absent from several key events and episodes of the series, including the almost-too-obvious exit before the Geomancer attack on S.T.A.R. Labs (and the sudden, unexplained return and apology for having missed it). Thanks to his expertise in the breaches and quark matter powering the Speed Force Cannon in the facility’s basement, he’s simply set up shop next to it… “it” being the passageway between this world and Zoom’s metahuman criminal empire.
With all that under the show’s belt, Barry then finds his way into a jail cell, locked opposite a weakened, grizzled prisoner whom Zoom has made sure to encase in a face-and-voice-obscuring helmet. A prisoner who, going by Jessie Wells’ account, has spent his time in the cell incessantly ‘speaking’ the name ‘Jay’ over and over again. When Barry Allen makes that connection that he’s meaning to say ‘Jay Garrick,’ the prisoner is elated and relieved, only to completely lose hope once Barry replies that Jay is just fine, elsewhere on Earth-1.
The obvious explanation, for those still unsure, is that it’s Jay Garrick’s face that helmet is meant to keep locked away. After all, every fan of The Man in The Iron Mask will tell you that such a device is meant to keep the wearer hidden – an added protection only needed if the face will be instantly recognizable. And in the case of that film, happens to be a face also worn by his captor. The prisoner was trying to inform his fellow enemies of Zoom of his actual identity (imagine his delight when the boy in the red suit knew his last name without prompting), only to give up when Barry failed to follow, instead confirming that he had been well and truly replaced by the villain bearing his face.
A villain, we should point out, who came and went with greater frequency than ever this episode.
So, how can Jay Garrick be in two places at once? Well, it isn’t the usual case of an alternate Earth doppelganger, since Hunter Zolomon seemed everyday in every way that mattered. But what other means could there be for a Flash character to exist in two different places, at one time? We’re hesitant to throw out “time travel” as a regular explanation in any discussion or speculation post, but this is The Flash we’re talking about.
And, in case fans have forgotten, the writers were well aware of how many fans once claimed that the Reverse-Flash was really the older, evil version of the show’s hero. To no avail, we might add. Perhaps the second time’s the charm?
If it really is Jay Garrick from Earth-2 under the Zoom suit, then the sequence showing his battle with Jay must be a total fabrication (as stated above, the fortuitous and problematic details make that easier than you might usually think). But it also raises the question of what could have driven Jay to that point? The obvious answer is actually admitted in the show as a drug addiction, excused away as a need to be faster than Zoom. Or, if he’s truly the villain, another unknown reason. Honestly, good old-fashioned addiction to speed, and the mental damage and physical toll taken on users of Velocity-9 in the pages of “The Flash” comics are all adequate answers.
But Jay’s cells truly are dying: that’s confirmed by Caitlin, the one scientist who is dedicated enough (and blessed with the free time) to discover it… who Jay also happens to have entered into a romantic relationship with. In the name of keeping things simple, this much of Jay’s story seems backed up by the evidence: he used drugs to enhance his speed, and the drugs are now slowly killing him. But Jay already knew that. The drugs must be powerfully toxic, too, since it hasn’t been long since Earth-2’s particle accelerator created Jay. One might think that the drug would take years, possibly even decades to overcome a speedster’s natural healing abilities.
Which would see Jay Garrick incredibly fast, mentally unbalanced (if this version of the drug is similar to the comic version), and in need of healthy cells to replace his own. There’s just one problem: without access to a parallel Earth, you can’t take healthy cells from a copy of yourself, uncorrupted by drug use. But how would a speedster fast enough to leave Barry Allen in his dust acquire something only his younger self has…?
Simple: travel back in time. Specifically, to take the healthy cells from your younger self. But when your younger self is a superhero, some unique challenges are posed. Obviously Jay– pardon us, ‘Zoom’ by this point – can defeat his healthy, yet slower self. But to complete the process safely, you would need to keep the Jay Garrick of that time period locked up, preferably with his face covered so no curious eyes can spot a superhero in chains. Then, begin the process of harvesting the cells and speed at leisure (good thing Jay is a scientist) – ensuring only to keep your younger self alive.
Harrison Wells of Earth-2 explained that the ‘kill the younger self, and the older blinks out of existence’ theory isn’t exactly as it might seem, but still, keeping Jay weak and powerless behind glass while his older self sets out to take total control of Central City makes sense. Obviously, the absence of The Flash in the face of such a villain would only raise questions, and galvanize a defense. Better to don the red leather, and play out a losing battle on the streets.
But even if this was the original plan, tapping into the speed and vitality of a pre-Velocity Jay was only the beginning. Imagine Jay/Zoom’s surprise when the sky itself opened up, revealing not just another world, but another Flash with which to boost his own speed? Since everything vibrates at a ‘different frequency’ on this Earth, stealing speed wouldn’t be as simple. In fact, you might need an expert in quantum physics, alternate universes and the forces needed to create a speedster in the first place. But becoming friends with your victim first? That’s just pure evil.
The good news, though, is that if this is the story being told – and Jay Garrick, the real Jay Garrick is eventually freed – the showrunners have a story that pays tribute to the original Flash, the second Reverse-Flash (Hunter Zolomon, ‘Zoom’ in another life), and even leaves the door open to doing a truly heroic Jay Garrick justice. If speed can be stolen, then surely it can be gifted, no? Call us overly optimistic, but the potential being planted here for a Flash team-up – Barry and a re-powered Jay taking on the twisted future version fans suspected in the first season – is hard to ignore.
Of course, the one problem with the theory that those who scoff at its premise will mention is Jay’s death in this same episode. “Death,” in that he walks directly towards the closing breach, turns his back to it once directly in front, then has a hand put straight through his chest. The kill, and the presence of Jay and Zoom on either side of the breach are a problem. But having already seen the Reverse-Flash terrorized by a villain who wasn’t there, and both he and Barry appearing in multiple places at the same time, it’s hard to shoot down any theory on such evidence.
Again, it’s just a theory were’ putting forward, based on a few facts: the masked man having a face worth keeping secret, and speaking ‘Jay’ over and over again, Jay’s unexplained absence during the S.T.A.R. Labs attack, and the fact that – just as was the case with Harrison Wells – the writers have killed off the prime suspect just as he seemed to be the confirmed culprit. He wound up being just that in the first season, despite some trickery. But if we were betting on the outcome, our money would be placed squarely on Jay Garrick’s gaunt, malnourished face being revealed beneath that metal mask.
Whatever the explanation may be, the masked prisoner’s message seems to hold the key to the season’s mystery. But what do you make of it? Would you be happy to see so many similarities between this season’s villain and the last, including some of the most ambitious fan theories this time around? We look forward to hearing your own theories on the comments, and watching as the real mystery of Zoom unravels…
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.