[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 16.]
The previous episode may have left fans with one of the most shocking (and question-raising) cliffhangers of the series thus far, but those looking to see the new mysteries of The Flash unraveled will need to keep holding their breath. In place of an episode delivering on that set-up, audiences are given a new speedster villain, a new hint at the Jay Garrick mystery, and small character progressions in favor of plot resolutions.
In "Trajectory", directed by Glen Winter and written by Lauren Certo and Lilah Vandenburgh, Barry (Grant Gustin) and the gang take a break from the rigorous training enacted since the latest defeat at zoom's hands. But their hopes of taking an evening off are cut short when another speedster - a woman this time - shows up to start picking pockets - and is even faster than The Flash. Will his reputation be tarnished, or will he be able to win the villain over to the side of good?
A Change in Trajectory
As mentioned above, the biggest question on every fan's mind - what does the Jay Garrick Zoom reveal actually mean? - is, by the fact that the cast wasn't privy to the reveal, ignored almost completely. They're still filled in on the twist by the episode's end, but this week, the thieving speedster who, once again, leaves Barry in the dust is the main attraction. And it's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it's a welcome change of pace.
To be clear: the presence of yet another one-and-done villain isn't the refreshing part, but the injection of a super speedster for Barry to tackle who isn't tied to a massive mystery or season-long conflict. The culprit this time is Eliza Harmon (Allison Paige), a former colleague of Caitlin's (Danielle Panabaker) from Mercury Labs who managed to complete her own formula of Velocity-9, becoming a speedster, but demonstrating the risks associated with the drug that even Jay wouldn't exhibit.
As far as departures from the real stories, conflicts, and significant plots go, "Trajectory" is probably the best that can be hoped for. Glen Winter brings some added energy and movement to the proceedings, adding camera shakes, rapid movements and even an abundance of lens flares to match Trajectory'y erratic and dangerous motion, and Paige is able to play the unassuming lab tech and the chaos-loving villain equally well (and not giving in to the temptation of going a bit too far over the edge).
The saving grace of the shift is also what lets viewers sit back and just enjoy the show: Trajectory is a straightforward antagonist, and is treated as such. No pained origin story, no mustache-twirling monologue - just a girl who wanted speed to help her complete her research, and wound up exhibiting something of a split personality, driving her to steal, damage, and generally let loose where nobody could stop her. Even the split personality is restricted to just one scene, letting the character's evil shine through, genuinely willing to hurt, maim, or destroy anything in her way.
It may be hard to put much weight into the action sequences or even growth on Barry's part, considering how fleeting Trajectory truly was. Even so, her addiction was addressed in earnest by Gustin, and resolved the Velocity-9 plot thread (for now). But the big reveal came when Trajectory phased into blue lightning before being torn apart by deteriorating cells. Cue the link between Zoom's lightning and Jay's illness, and... the cast is right where the audience now sits, wondering how misleading the showrunners are prepared to be.
Coffee's Harmless, Right?
Unfortunately, the episode falters elsewhere. Let's be clear: the newcomer newsman determined to prove the city's superhero is truly a menace is a plot that has, likely, zero supporters left at this point. The new boss at CCPN Scott Evans (Tone Bell) fits that bill, making his presence in the series - and the strange romantic subplot with Iris (Candice Patton) - a bit of a question mark. What we do know is that after seeing Patton play a version of Iris that actually takes action intelligently on Earth-2, this is most certainly not what we hoped to see coming for her Earth-1 counterpart.
Elsewhere, the objection of Jesse Wells (Violett Beane) to leaving her friends behind on a planet where she was held hostage and nearly murdered is trumped, this time by her objection to Harrison Wells' insistence on keeping her safe at any cost. Her discovering that her father had killed to save her from Zoom's clutches could have driven a wedge between them, but she instead takes offense at the idea that he would do whatever it took to protect her. It's a weird choice, and a weak argument, but she thankfully takes a bus out of the show for the time being.
It certainly wasn't the return that fans had hoped for, but managed to deliver a hold-over episode without offending too greatly. At the same time, offering enough small clues to ensure fans that answers, or at least more clues, are incoming. Considering some of the bottle episodes (read: stalling episodes) the show has employed in the past, we'll take it.
The Flash returns with "Flash Back" on Monday @8pm on The CW. Watch a preview below: