Synopsis of 2×06: Team Flash uses Linda’s resemblance to Dr. Light to set a trap for Zoom; Barry decides he really likes making out with Patty.
I started off “Enter Zoom” a little disappointed in The Flash. The In Media Res opening followed by a title card saying “Sucha Sucha Time Period Earlier” is one of the most consistently lazy ways to open a screenplay. It’s artificial tension, usually something obviously telegraphed and is almost always completely unnecessary. It shows you have no faith in your script’s beginning, that you think it’s slow, so you cheaply inject an action sequence or gun pull from later in the script to the top of the bill.
There are effective ways to do it, of course. Hannibal Season 2 used this to great effect, and the sophomore year of Breaking Bad used a consistent presence of mysterious images to keep the level of mystery high without giving away really anything. But there’s a good reason that on this season of Rick and Morty, when Morty is read what is supposed to be the most miserable screenplay, it begins with a gun pull before injecting in a “Three Weeks Earlier.”*
*The screenplay’s author is later killed for his sins against storytelling.
When The Flash pulled this card, especially with Dr. Light, who was pretty solidly knocked unconscious at the end of the last episode, I was disappointed, because I know this show can do better. But I was forgetting one thing: This is The Flash.
The Flash looks at your clichés and laughs. The Flash knows the expectations it set up for you when it gave you that little teaser. The Flash knows that it is going to turn those expectations right the hell on their head. The Flash is playing you like a fiddle. Like the big, dumb fiddle you really are.
Here is a brief list of all the times The Flash played with fire tonight:
- It introduces a masked, anonymously evil bad guy with a raspy voice.
- It has its protagonist hang out with two of his former love interests for much of the hour.
- It introduces wacky slapstick in the middle of a very serious situation.
- In [Dumb] Media [Stupid] Res
Here is a subsequent list of all the times it got burned:
- None times.
The aforementioned slapstick revolves around Joe and Caitlin convincing Cisco to use his burgeoning Vibe powers to figure out what Harry is all about. So far in his tenure, Harry has been distant, surly, and unpredictable. He arrived out of nowhere, looks exactly like the series’ primary villain thus far, and has driven a wedge into the beautiful rock formation of Team Flash. He drove away Jay. We like Jay.
So Cisco hops on the case, yielding about the same amount of success Cisco normally yields from anything that isn’t capital letter Science. His attempts to touch Harry and thus “Vibe” him are priceless, consisting of a “Good job, buddy” shoulder pat and dripping motor oil on Harrison’s work like this is a high school comedy and he’s causing a diversion. What he vibes* isn’t anything new for the audience, but it brings Harry’s true intentions to light for the rest of Team Flash at a time where the absence of this information would have resulted in a very face-punched Harry Wells. Everything’s on the table now and the fate of Jesse Quick hangs in the balance. Trapped in a literal cage. By a scary man beast.
*Tom Cavanaugh deserves this week’s honorary Flash Emmy for making compelling the screaming of the phrase “What did you Vibe?!” multiple times.
The main flux of “Enter Zoom” (a title which implies that Barry intends to see Zoom exeunt, pursued by a bear) is the ol’ switcheroo caper. Linda Park’s Earth-2 doppelganger Dr. Light escapes S.T.A.R. Labs captivity in record time by manipulating her light power to the far end of the soft spectrum and turning herself invisible. Cisco (who didn’t really think this maneuver through) unlocks the cage and Dr. Light escapes naked into Central City, likely soon to return.
Barry, suddenly in a mad Zoom-catchin’ mood, sparks up the bright idea of having Linda masquerade as Dr. Light and fake their way into getting Zoom to show himself. Most of Team Flash wonders exactly when Barry sustained this debilitating head injury. Harry is wholly on board. What follows is the best shooting gallery sequence since Men in Black.
Episode director J.J. Makaro keeps the camera moving and the pace at a wonderful zip (though I suppose much of that zip is to be attributed to The Flash’s consistently whipcrack editing staff). Every character gets more than their fair share of reaction shots and characters bits. I’m particularly fond of Cisco’s weird hobby of making art department quality cardboard mockups of everyone in his spare time.
Although it’s an ensemble sequence, the camera stays framed consistently on Linda, and justifiably so. This is her story, her chance at redemption for what her doppelganger has done. Malese Jow has always been winning, but this is her finest hour to date. Her naivety in the face of these truly terrifying odds comes through full speed. Jow is funny, cunning, vulnerable, and filled with surprising depth in what breaks down to a masquerade caper episode, a plot type perfected by Ocean’s Twelve (an opinion I am alone in possessing). When Barry reveals himself as the Flash to her as one final bit of encouragement, her reaction is priceless and real.
Barry himself feels terrible about the whole situation. He’s contending with the unfillable hole left inside a person when they are motivated by revenge for long enough. Whether or not Eddie took down Reverse-Flash, that wouldn’t have been a quick answer to years and years of anguish that have been with Barry since he was a kid. It’s a feeling of intense emptiness, the same kind that alcoholics feels and try to fill with their vice. It drives a person to do nasty things, like put in danger someone they once cared for greatly.
The handling of Barry’s former love interests this year has been perhaps its most stellar aspect. Iris, once purported as Barry’s true love, is still very much on the scene but is far from the drag that former love interests ordinary prove to be. She has yet to opine for Barry. She’s met Patty Spivot and likes her immensely. And Iris’ main confidant this season has been Linda, another of Barry’s exes, a risky relationship that continues to yield better and better dividends. Their relationship is a real, supportive, professional one in the Leslie Knope/Ann Perkins mold.
Neither could care less about the others’ history with Barry, almost as if their lives don’t revolve around a man. The Flash (and the Flash) is in a great place romantically. Patty could end up being Barry’s true love and we would be just fine. And Barry could eventually find a future newspaper and propelled him to go back to Iris and it wouldn’t feel forced. Iris and Linda are just part of the gang now. At least, here’s hoping Linda becomes part of the gang. I mean, she knows Barry’s identity now and she’s got the drive. Team Flash could use some Linda Park, especially now that Zoom has arrived.
Zoom is a miracle. In a trio of startling sequences, The Flash delivers a truly terrifying presence. I am scared stupid by Zoom. He is faceless. He hides his identity behind a black mask with a mouth like Nolan’s Scarecrow. He sports The Flash’s iconography but none of his humanity. In the perfect syncopation of costume design, clever framing, and performance (in the voice of Tony Todd), Zoom has indeed entered. Possibly in as great a way as he ever could.
Zoom doesn’t just play with Barry’s beaten body, he takes it on tour. He gives a speech in three parts to three different groups of people who all get the gist of it without needing the full speech to understand that this guy means business. He waltzes into the newspaper and hoists up Barry’s body for the world to soon see. He strides into the police station and tells the CCPD their power is moot before catching a hail of bullets and slowly draining them out of his hand like so much harmless beach sand. He stands in the heart of S.T.A.R. Labs, paralyzes Barry in front of everyone, and only doesn’t kill him because of some quick acting from Cisco.
Zoom has entered. And it’s going to take one hell of a bear to make him exeunt.