[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 11.]
It wouldn’t be an ensemble story if the supporting characters of The Flash didn’t get storylines of their own, packed with twists and turns that, more often than not, have had serious repercussions on the overall plot. While the CW show has taken some time off from the ever-looming threat of the Earth-2 supervillain speedster ‘Zoom’, it hasn’t exactly given fans more time with Jay Garrick (Teddy Sears) – the alternate Earth Flash whose arrival was once heralded as one of the season’s biggest developments.
Unfortunately, the latest episodes have shown that the audience’s time with Jay may be running out faster than they feared. But surprisingly, that wasn’t even the biggest bombshell dropped in the developing subplot – at least as far as DC Comics fans of “The Flash” are concerned. No, the moment that sent fan speculation and excitement off at breakneck speed has more to do with a certain doppelgänger. Or, more accurately, his name.
Since some viewers may have missed the meaning, or are simply confused by the countless headlines and theories claiming that the episode revealed… well, anything, let alone the identity of Zoom, we’re here to help. That starts and ends with answering a simple question: who is ‘Hunter Zolomon’?
Jay Garrick’s Dilemma
It’s truly a shame that Jay Garrick has taken a backseat to other season subplots; a point perfectly illustrated by the fact that fans are nowhere near as interested in his looming death as the fruits of Team Flash’s investigation into a cure. With his connection to the Speed Force stolen, Jay’s cells have begun to die, with no solution other than restoring the healing effects (we assume) of the Speed Force. That is, until Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) got on the case.
Her plan was simple, relying on the fact that every resident of their Earth has an alternate version of themselves on Earth-2 (an idea most of the cast have apparently pushed out of their minds entirely). Simply find Jay Garrick’s Earth-1 doppelgänger, and replace the dying cells with the genetically identical, thriving ones. There’s just one problem: Jay doesn’t have a doppelgänger. Well, sort of. We’ll get back to that.
Unfortunately, the entire plan is a bust, since Jay’s cells were mutated by his injection of Speed Force back on his Earth (meaning an Earth-2 doppelgänger cells wouldn’t match). The only answer then, as it was assumed beforehand, was to defeat Zoom, and regain his powers.
Still, it was a good plan, and one that Jay had already thought of beforehand. Of course, Jay could have simply said “my cells won’t be the same as my doppelgänger” and that would have been the end of the issue. But he – and the writers – clearly have more up their sleeve, with Jay insisting on explaining the problem to Caitlin in person, taking her to a spot frequented by his genetic “twin.”
Who is Hunter Zolomon?
Having lost his mother in childbirth, and been bounced from one foster home to another before finding a permanent family, the man who would have been ‘Jay Garrick’ goes by the name ‘Hunter Zolomon.’ Sadly, Jay doesn’t go into any further detail, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions about the mystery man based on little more than his appearance. Well-dressed, well-kept, and taking in an afternoon in the park with book in hand; all signs that ‘Zolomon’ did all right for himself, given his tragic beginnings.
We would also point out that it’s not a pulp or trashy novel he’s reading, but “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse. The glasses should be a hint, in television terms, that it’s not for the light reader. It’s impossible to know how much the novel’s narrative relates to his own life, but the protagonist’s longing to find his true self, and an understanding of his place in the world isn’t hard to grasp for an orphan. On a larger scale, the novel’s ultimate message – that past, present, future, good, bad, pain and joy are all part of one massive force.
Apply that idea to The Flash as a whole, and it’s clear the series is a literal interpretation of those same ideas, with both a Flash and Reverse-Flash, and an understanding that time is a moving, subjective force. That’s a nice touch on the part of the showrunners, but it isn’t Zolomon’s tastes in literature that have fans talking.
You see, ‘Hunter Zolomon’ also happens to be the name of a pretty famous DC Comics characters – and here’s where things get interesting…
The above image should make the point clear enough, even to those who haven’t followed the theories and speculation surrounding Zoom’s identity. Hunter Zolomon isn’t just a character in the pages of DC Comics, but a villain. Not just any villain, either – he’s the second man to call himself Reverse-Flash. Eobard Thawne, the first man to sport the yellow suit (and a serious grudge against The Flash) is already a major part of The CW’s series, showing how he became not just one of the scarlet speedster’s greatest enemies, but one of the most deranged and ruthless villains in the DC Universe.
What hasn’t made the leap to the TV series is Thawne’s chosen moniker, ‘Professor Zoom’ – admittedly a little too comic book-y for such a serious drama. Silly name or not, the Reverse-Flash slid into the background of the DC mythology after decades of battling Barry Allen, as the title of The Flash was passed to Barry’s nephew, Wally West. But with a new Flash came a new Reverse.
Enter Hunter Zolomon, an intelligent child of truly tragic circumstances who devoted his life to profiling criminals after seeing his mother killed at the hands of his father. When a run-in with Gorilla Grodd saw his back broken, leaving him confined to a wheelchair, Hunter did what any friend of The Flash might consider: he asked the speedster to change the past.
Of course, Barry refused, which left Hunter with no option but to change the past himself. As fate would have it, he went about solving his problems in the same way that Eobard Thawne did years before (or centuries in the future, technically). By trying to replicate the powers of The Flash, he got much, much more than he bargained for. He left his wheelchair and normal speed behind, becoming faster than any speedster before.
Seeing the parallels between his own history and that of Eobard Thawne – a.k.a. ‘Professor Zoom’ – Hunter decided to accept his fate, along with a signature yellow suit of his own. Shortening the villain’s title to simply Zoom, he set out to terrorize Wally as Eobard had terrorized Barry. By now, everyone will hopefully realize why the announcement that “Zoom would be coming” to season 2 of The Flash led many comic fans to expect Hunter Zolomon would be under the mask when he did.
With Zoom continuing his plot against Barry Allen, Harrison Wells, and the rest of the S.T.A.R. Labs team, the sudden arrival of the man actually known as Zoom in the comics has led some to connect the dots – even going so far as claiming that the show has revealed the identity of the monstrous speed demon. While it’s possible, we’re not totally convinced Zolomon’s appearance is anything more than a nod to the fans.
Why It Might Not Be What It Seems
The speculation from fans and fan sites has spanned a wide range of claims, so first things first: at this point, The Flash isn’t following any comic book story to the letter, origin or otherwise. That’s not a complaint, either, since the writers and producers have shown a unique talent for tweaking, borrowing, or re-imagining iconic characters and comic book moments in an effort to make them something new.
That guarantees that devoted fans can still enjoy the show episode to episode without predicting an entire season – but it also means the most obvious answer isn’t usually the right one. In fact, it seems more likely for the writers to misdirect their audience, relying on the bursts of excitement and anticipation that name-dropping a character like Hunter Zolomon encourages to do the work for them.
In other words: if the villain of the season is Zoom, and the comic book version appears reading a book in a park, it’s not in the show’s character for the men to be one and the same. To be honest, it’s almost certainly too obvious to at this point… and it’s not all that interesting, either. Especially considering all of the actual character work, friendship, betrayal, and tragedy that made Hunter Zolomon hasn’t even been touched upon on the show thus far.
Is it possible that Jay Garrick’s doppelgänger is really Zoom in disguise? Absolutely. Could the coming episodes work Hunter Zolomon into the cast, or Central City Police Department? We would be delighted to see it. But is it likely that the show would burst its biggest mystery with no fanfare, in the middle of a secondary scene, knowing fans would make the most obvious connection immediately? That, we’re not ready to accept yet.
Still, that doesn’t explain what plans for Hunter Zolomon the writers do have, so what would you like to see from the character? Do you think he was introduced as an actual hint at stories on the way, or just a throwaway cameo to give a famous comic character a new origin in the TV universe? 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.