‘The Flash’ 2×18 Review: ‘Versus Zoom’ (aka A Tale of Two Speedsters)

When it comes to The Flash and Zoom – to Barry Allen and Jay Garrick, or Hunter Zoloman as is his given name – we’re presented with two speedsters that couldn’t be more different. Barry is the representation of heroism while Garrick is the representation of evil at its core. And yet there are certain similarities between the two foes that you can’t ignore.

With “Versus Zoom” we were presented with a direct parallel between both speedsters as we witnessed how similar both Barry and Jay’s childhood tragedies and stories were.

We were reminded of Barry’s past as we caught a glimpse of young Barry watching as his mother was murdered right in front of him by an unseen force we know as Reverse Flash. Barry’s father urged him to safety, and we ultimately saw as Barry was taken in by Joe and Iris West and given a loving environment. In contrast, we witnessed as a young Hunter Zoloman witnessed the murder of his mother at the hands of his father, which was traumatic in itself, but then throw Hunter into an orphanage that appeared to be anything but welcoming.

Two different young boys. Two different environments. Two different speedsters.

When it comes down to it, you’re ultimately the product of your environment. This episode proved that. As Zoom told Barry, he was one wrong turn away from being Zoom himself. Barry didn’t want to believe it, but that’s because of the way that he was raised.

Think about it, what might’ve happened if Barry – following his mother’s death and father’s imprisonment – had been sent to an orphanage or been raised in an unloving foster home instead of the loving environment that Joe West provided him? Would Barry be the well-rounded and heroic Barry we know today? There’s no way to know for sure, but chances are that Barry wouldn’t be who he was today had it not been for his circumstances.

The same can go for Hunter – what might’ve happened if Hunter had been taken in by a loving family instead of being sent to an orphanage where he grew into a serial killer? Would Hunter have grown into this monster that we call Zoom? There’s no way to know for sure, but chances are Hunter might not have grown into Zoom had it not been for his given set of circumstances.

Garrick wasn’t wrong when he told Barry that they were more alike than he knew. That things very much could’ve worked out the other way around – where Hunter is the hero and Barry is the villain. If the circumstances had been switched we could have a very different story being told here.

In “Versus Zoom” we saw Barry actively seeking Zoom out as he now felt prepared to face him given his increased speed with the tachyon device that made him faster than Zoom. With some help from Harrison Wells, Cisco was able to reopen a breach that allowed Zoom through.

Barry had gotten what he wanted. He played a game of cat and mouse that brought Zoom right where he wanted him. Then Barry used Zoom’s past against him, flashing cardboard cutouts of his father and then his mother to distract him while Barry shot him with a device that immobilized him.

For a moment it appeared as if Barry had won – that Zoom had been captured. But then it’s as if it suddenly dawned upon us, the writers, and Zoom himself that it was much too early for Barry to defeat him seeing as we still have five episodes remaining this season. So Zoom escaped and then returned Barry’s favor as he then used Wally – part of Barry’s family – as leverage against Barry. Wally for Barry’s speed. And Barry agreed.

Barry, understanding that it wasn’t wise to turn on his deal with Zoom, then willingly surrendered his speed to the device that Wells had crafted earlier in the season, and Zoom then proceeded to inject himself with Barry’s speed.

Barry, being devoid of his speed force and back to being an ordinary human, was left defenseless and Zoom immediately went for Barry’s throat. Caitlin pleaded with Jay to let Barry go; that if there was any part of the man that she had known left in there that he would let Barry go. Eventually he succumbed to Caitlin’s pleas, but not before taking her away from the team in the process.

One of the questions heading into this episode was: Is Barry ready to face Zoom? In fact, I wrote an editorial on it. As I predicted, Barry was not ready. He might’ve possessed the speed – which he now lacks – and the courage, but he got cocky in the end and underestimated Zoom, which ultimately resulted in Barry’s second loss to Zoom and now left without his speed.

But Barry had to lose. Barry had to experience this – super speed and all – to understand that it’s not just about being faster. It’s about being smarter. It’s about understanding your nemesis and outsmarting them. That’s what Barry will ultimately learn in the end as we wind down with these final five episodes of the season.

WHAT’S ON OUR MINDS

Barry Has Lost His Speed, But Learned His Lesson

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Well things certainly took a turn for the worst with Barry agreeing to give Zoom his speed in exchange for Wally’s life. While Barry might’ve been able to become faster than Zoom earlier in the episode, he failed to understand that it’s not all about speed when it comes to beating Zoom. So lesson learned. Now to the question at hand: How long until Barry gets his speed back?

Is Caitlin the Closest Thing to Zoom’s Weakness?

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While Zoom might be a monster perhaps even monsters have a weakness. We saw Zoom’s distractions of photos of his parents, but it was Caitlin’s presence and her bargaining with Jay at the end to let Barry go that we caught a glimpse of something within him that hints that perhaps Jay really did feel something for Caitlin. There had to be a reason that Zoom kidnapped Caitlin and took her back to his lair on Earth-2. Perhaps he knows that she’s his weakness, and he doesn’t like that.

Iris is Ready to Be With Barry

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While WestAllen has been a gradual and sometimes infuriating journey, it seems as if the end of season two is gearing up for Barry and Iris’ long-awaited foray into romance. While we’ve known Barry has been ready to be in a relationship with Iris, it’s been Iris that hasn’t been able to get there given that she was still hung up on Eddie. But after Barry delivered Iris a message from past Eddie, it seems as if Iris is ready to move on…with Barry. And we couldn’t be more excited.

Cisco Grapples With the Force

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Cisco is one of us. He uses pop culture references when talking about his life in a way that makes it universally understandable. Case in point when he was talking to Barry about the fight within him as he compared himself to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Here Luke was drawn to both sides of the Force, as Cisco feared that he would become like his Earth-2 doppleganger and feel a pull to the Dark Side and be lost forever. But once again, it’s about your environment. Our Cisco is surrounded by people that love and care about him, and he shouldn’t worry.

Wally Becomes Part of the Family

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While Wally was introduced as Joe’s son in the midseason finale, it’s been a gradual journey toward Wally becoming acclimated with the West clan of Joe, Iris, and Barry. But this episode served as a significant step forward as Joe offered Wally a room to stay in while he’s at college. It prompted our first “dad” remark from Wally that hit us right in the feels.

NEXT TIME ON ‘THE FLASH’

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.

What were your thoughts on “Versus Zoom?”

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