[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 6]
After a week in which the cast seemed to be re-treading familiar territory and teasing familiar twists, this week's episode of The Flash headed the opposite direction, revealing the monster that has been keeping to the shadows up to this point. And after the terrifying damage he deals in just a few short minutes, viewers and comic book fans alike will be wishing he had stayed there for good (in the best way possible).
In "Enter Zoom", written by Gabrielle Stanton and Brooke Eikmeier, Barry (Grant Gustin) and the gang decide to turn the tables on Zoom by using their own Linda Park (Malese Jow) as bait - and Barry is forced to admit that his drive to take on the speedster has as much to do with Eobard Thawne as anything else. Sadly, his moment of clarity is cut short when Zoom beats him to a pulp, dampens his speed, and paralysed him from the waist down. A rough week, all things considered.
A New Light
Knowing just how serious the weeks (days?) ahead will turn out to be for Barry, it was a wise movie finding time for levity before then. It might be ill-advised for other shows to partake in a slapstick training session when lives are on the line (and a killer escapes custody), but it's a credit to the showrunners that in the world of The Flash, a sense of humor isn't ignored or cast aside in favor of melodrama. In hindsight, the laughs and fun of Linda's target practice likely softened fans up for the blow that would come later, so the sequences threw more punches of its own than first appears.
The sequence also worked to pay off a villain and subplot that came off as somewhat uninspired in the previous episode. As a result, "The Light and The Darkness" functions best when seen as the first half of a two-episode story, with most, if not all of its story beats and reveals only coming to fruition with "Enter Zoom." It's a pleasant surprise, even if it meant a low before the high.
Make no mistake: viewers will have a hard time remembering any part of the show set before Zoom's arrival, and the writers' decision to have him reveal himself to the physically weakest (and arguably most expendable) member of the cast brought an added threat. Fans had previously voiced concerns about season 2 of the series relying on yet another evil speedster, and while those concerns are still fair, "Enter Zoom" shows that the villain - from voice to costume - isn't so much an enemy as a monster. Removing the mouth or eyes from a villain would usually be seen as giving them less to work with, but that's not a problem here.
Again, the new twists on superspeed combat don't pay off in as elaborate a fashion as we would hope (Barry's zero gravity breakthrough lasts a matter of seconds), but the overall impact drives home the point that fans can never know what to expect, going to a darker place than even comics have. Seeing a Reverse-Flash break the hero's back, and hold his bleeding form out for all his friends and fellow citizens to see is something new, and will undoubtedly get the wary viewers back on board.
Harrison's Secret is Out
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of "Enter Zoom" focuses on Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), whose recent sinister ulterior motives were teased... again. But by siding with Barry and trying to eliminate Zoom to save his daughter, he showed that his goals - and his morality - really do align with the rest of our heroes (for the time being). Maybe now fans can start reinvesting in his character, assuming hell truly be someone to root for for the foreseeable future.
In a perfect world, the number of characters and subplots that had to be put to bed before Zoom took the spotlight could have been handled a bit more gracefully, and this episode does help lift the previous one's efforts now that we know what stage was being set. And by delivering a speedster who is too chilling, terrifying or monstrous to allow fans time to wonder who's under the mask, the writers may have a villain able to match the mark set in the show's debut season. Assuming Barry can ever walk again (we feel that's a safe bet).
The Flash returns next Tuesday @8pm with "Gorilla Warfare". Check out a preview of the episode below: