Season 2, episode 18 (“Versus Zoom”) of The Flash was rife with frustration, both mine and the characters. It did give us a disturbing glimpse into Jay’s backstory, drawing a neat little parallel between what might’ve happened to Barry, if Joe (the ever-fabulous Jesse L. Martin) hadn’t taken him in as a child.
But back to Jay: his real name is Hunter Zolomon (Teddy Sears). He witnessed his father kill his mother and ended up in an orphanage run by the cousin of Trunchbull from Matilda. Eventually, he became…a serial killer. So, okay, Hunter had a messed up life, before getting superpowers. And he’s crazier than I originally thought. But witnessing his childhood trauma did humanize him a little bit. We’ve all got baggage. His just involves him looking like the unibomber and Jim Carrey had a baby.
This entire season of The Flash can basically be summed up by this. Everyone: Barry, no. It’s a bad idea. Barry: But I have to. Then, Barry does the thing (it does help that Grant Gustin manages to pull this off with charm.). This episode is no exception. After Wells repeatedly tries to warn against doing so, Barry is hellbent on opening a breach to Earth 2 to stop Zoom’s reign of terror.
It turns out that Cisco (Carlos Valdes) can use the Force—sorry, he can Vibe—and reopen a breach. Pretty awesome, right? After a conversation with Joe (who basically admits that Barry is more stubborn than a three-headed goat), Wells fashions some Vibe-enhancing sunglasses, since Cisco is having some issues…performing. *ahem* But what I love about this is Wells is fully aware of Barry’s bullheaded nature, and his dry delivery is hilarious: “Okay, Barry Allen, then I’m going to do what I can to make sure you don’t get killed.” It’s a fantastic line, and I’ve loved Tom Cavanagh since Ed.
However, Cisco thinks back to his counterpart on Earth 2 and worries, “It’s not Zoom. It’s me. … It’s like, right now, I’m Anakin Skywalker. … But if I start opening breaches into other worlds, … what if this is how I become Vader?” Oh, sweetie. We’ve all been there. There’s not a person on earth (or Earth 2!) who hasn’t wondered at how easy it can be to become the worst version of ourselves. It’s a touching concern, and it’s…so very Cisco. Barry takes a moment to assure him that it’ll be fine. Nothing can go wrong. They’re a family.
Except, family turns out to be everyone’s downfall. After the breach opens, Zoom/Jay/Hunter slips on through. Barry, wearing enhanced Tachyon technology—a nice tie-in to Supergirl and how he ended up on her earth—begins to race through the city and then the lab, with Zoom on his heels.
They pause in a room strewn with random cardboard cutouts of Hunter’s parents. It’s an effective tactic for about three seconds. Barry launches into the most ill-advised monologue, which allows Hunter to un-hobble himself. His eyes go full Supernatural demon as Hunter spits, “You can’t stop the darkness.” It’s not, “From beneath you, it devours,” but it’s close enough.
Hunter turns the family bond against the team, kidnapping Wally (Keiynan Lonsdale). Poor Wally. He’s just moved in to Joe’s, after having moped about money and college for a bit. Joe, in a fit of blindness so acute it was maddening, didn’t even think to offer his son a place to say. Barry had to point it out. Joe’s usually smarter than that, so I don’t know why he needed to be told.
Regardless, the inevitable happens: Hunter will exchange Wally for Barry’s speed. He’s got Wally stashed with the “man in the iron mask” (please be Leonardo DiCaprio. Please be Leonardo DiCaprio…). But this raises a question for me. Does that means Hunter somehow went back through the breach that Cisco opened? If so, how? I’m not quite sure of the technical aspects there. The man in the mask was on Earth 2, right? And he stashed Wally with him, so…what?
Once Hunter arrives and hands over Wally, the fun begins. By that I mean, Wells promises to one day wipe the smug expression off of Hunter’s face, which YES PLEASE. Barry gets hooked up to a device that will capture his speed and hits the treadmill for the most depressing run ever. Wells makes a point of saying that it will capture all of Barry’s essence if it’s calibrated correctly. So, it stands to reason that, perhaps, Barry didn’t give up all his red lightning, but only time will tell.
Hunter really reaches peak crazy/villain in this episode, as he rabidly spews that he doesn’t care how many people have to die, just so he can live. There’s no remorse. There’s no humanity. Until…Caitlin. In a fit of metahuman adrenaline, Hunter begins to strangle a now defenseless Barry, and she pleads with him to stop. She passionately appeals to his feelings for her, and Danielle Panabaker sold the hell out of that scene.
Maybe a little too well, because it ends with Hunter dashing off like Koopa—and she’s Princess Peach. I’m curious to see what Caitlin does and if, perhaps, there’s a sliver of good left in the fastest monster alive.