With great power comes great responsibility, and without a great support system, that great power can become an instrument for chaos and destruction. The opening minutes of “Versus Zoom” offer a glimpse into a life experience not unlike one integral to Barry Allen that happened to Hunter Zolomon.
Barry’s mother was killed in front of him, but he found a new family in Joe and Iris West who helped him through the worst time in his life.
Hunter Zolomon also saw his mother killed, shot to death by his own father (who placed a familiar helmet on his head), before he was carted off to Earth Two’s Central City orphanage. None of his relatives wanted him, and he entered a seemingly bleak new home. He was alone, and so Zoom was born.
And “Versus Zoom” pits the two similar yet wholly unique speedsters against one another again as Barry and the team find a way to open a portal to Earth Two. It all starts with Barry using the new tachyon converter to increase his speed by four times his usual pace, which is faster than even Zoom, according to Harry. (The tachyon brace on his chest also leads Barry to temporarily jump dimensions, though Supergirl viewers will have a good idea of where he went.)
Now the only hurdle they face is reopening a portal between their Earth and Earth Two, a conundrum for which Barry thinks he has a solution. Cisco’s Earth Two counterpart Reverb had control of multidimensional energy, so feasibly Cisco should be able to control that energy as well. And if Reverb could tap into the energy connecting the multiverse, so too can Cisco, and thus, if he gains control of his powers, he could feasibly create a new portal.
It’s a plan Harry wants no part in. Zoom has nothing of his own to care for, but he will go after anything and anyone they love. Harry wants to focus on finding his daughter; he doesn’t want to reintroduce the man who kidnapped her to their current home. He even goes to ask Joe for help in forcing Barry to abandon this notion. (He’s also asked Joe to be on the lookout for his daughter.)
Joe says he can’t. Not that he doesn’t want to, because he sees the whole idea as folly as well, but once Barry is stuck on something, he won’t shift his focus. So, if anything, Joe wants Harry to help Barry — Joe believes he’ll be much safer with Harry’s help.
His conversation with Joe convinces Harry to pitch in, and he finds both Barry and Cisco at, as Cisco describes it, a “Patch Adams nightmare” of an abandoned hospital where they’re hoping to tap into some of that interdimensional energy. Harry has rejiggered the frequency of Cisco’s Vibe glasses, and though Cisco is hesitant at the prospect of what’s to come, he puts them on and goes to work.
Cisco harnesses the energy, beginning to open a tear between the worlds, one that Zoom finds on his own Earth. Whether Cisco senses the danger waiting for them on the other side or not, he stops the portal from fully opening, rips off the glasses and runs away, demanding they never ask him to do this again.
Cisco’s initial hesitance clearly got to him, and Barry tries to figure out the root of the problem back at base. He suspects it’s Zoom getting in Cisco’s head, but it’s not Zoom at all. It’s Reverb. He worries about the parallelism of their lives. He’s strong with the force, as is Reverb, and he’s concerned that should he tap into his full potential just as his doppelganger did, he’ll turn to the dark side.
Barry promises him that won’t happen because he has friends, a full family, that he can rely on, which is something Reverb didn’t have. Barry could easily have let all his new powers go to his head, but the support of those around him who helped him grow into a caring person prevented him from taking the path that Zoom or Reverb did.
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So Cisco agrees to do it again, but before they do, a bit of previously siloed information leaks to the whole group. As Barry comforts Caitlin over seeing Jay/Hunter again, she says there was no Jay on their Earth, and instead there was Hunter. That name piques Harry’s interest, who fills the group in on Hunter.
On Earth Two, Zolomon was a serial killer (rare for that Earth), an infamous murderer convicted on 23 counts. He was locked up in an asylum (The Earth Two version of that abandoned hospital) where the attendants locked him up in some serious Hannibal Lecter-like gear and forced Hunter to undergo electroshock therapy. He naturally was in the midst of some shocks when the particle accelerator went off on that Earth, giving him the speed powers he used to the horrifying extents the group knows well.
NEXT: Zoom demands a trade. [pagebreak]
Knowing who Hunter is allows them to also tap into his backstory, including the truth of what happened to his parents. The group uses this to their advantage as Cisco commits to opening the portal. Zoom jumps through with ease, calling Barry unwise for allowing him to return. Barry responds by having Zoom chase him through the city, the added tachyon power allowing Barry to stay ahead of his foe.
The two make their way to STAR Labs where Barry baits Zoom to follow him into their shooting range. Their, Zoom chases Barry until he’s stopped by a cardboard cutout of his father. He runs again and finds one of his mother, and the emotional disturbance in the midst of his devious ways gives Barry the upper hand. The scarlet speedster uses the leg brace gun to root Zoom to the spot.
The two have a quick conversation after Zoom takes his mask off, as Barry describes how they knew about who he was and how he was Zoom. Barry tries to tell Hunter that Caitlin was working to save him and even made a cure, but it was only temporary, Zolomon spits back at him. He needs the speed force to survive, and he doesn’t care who he kills to get it. The guilt of causing that much pain was taken from him long ago, but he believes it’s time for him to take what he’s here for in the first place.
He breaks the leg brace and speeds off; Barry’s unable to find him… until they return to the West household.
The strength of family, and how the absence of it can completely change a person’s life, is central to “Versus Zoom,” and Joe faces his own family issues in the episode. Barry clues him into Wally’s current predicament, as Joe’s biological son can no longer afford a room at his college. He’s not looking for someplace to live. He’s looking to live at Joe’s.
(Barry helps him crack this tough mystery while another West receives advice of her own. Iris chats with Caitlin about her planned date with Scott, the editor of her paper, which she ditched at the last minute. She couldn’t bring herself to do it, and Caitlin suspects it’s because of her feelings for Barry. Iris is weighing the impact of destiny, which includes her and Barry being married on Earth Two, as well as a sign from the future saying they’re married. They may be meant for each other, and she’s now seriously considering whether now is the time to make that future a reality.)
So Joe, being the consistent father of the year he is now two years running, makes a place for Wally in their home, if he’ll have it. Of course Wally takes the chance to live with his own father for the first time, but Zoom uses the proximity of the West family to his advantage. He takes Wally and demands Barry’s speed in exchange for the young West’s life.
The whole group tries to come up with some plan of rescuing Wally, but Barry sees only one possible option — to give up his speed. Joe doesn’t want him to, but Barry says it’s his own choice to make, and that they do anything for family, a choice Zoom has not had to face.
Cisco vibes into Earth Two and gives Zoom the message that Barry is willing to make the trade, and so Zoom appears back at STAR with Wally in tow. He releases Wally first (who then flees with Cisco at Joe and Iris’ behest), and then agrees to relinquish his speed.
Harry reconfigures what he used to originally sap Barry of his speed force to channel into Barry running on the treadmill in the lab. As they prepare, they ask Hunter a few questions about his plans and he’s surprisingly forthcoming. The Jay they saw killed was no speed mirage. He went back in time and found another version of himself, even convincing that version to die for the cause (or so he says).
He made the decision to kill the other him once all of the breaches were closed to offer the shock to the system they needed. Unfortunately, they receive no answer about the man in the mask at Zoom’s hideout (he tells them they wouldn’t believe who it was if he told them, so let your speculation continue until it is ultimately revealed).
Once the chatter comes to an end, Barry steps onto the treadmill and runs, runs, runs, until his speed is completely taken from him. Zoom immediately injects himself with the force, soaking in the power before he slams Barry against the wall prepared to vanquish him.
It takes Caitlin calling out to the humanity in him to make him stop. Her describing him as a monster (which he remembers his mother saying to his father), doesn’t hurt either, and so he lets Barry go, instead picking up Caitlin as he leaves.
And he leaves the team with not just one less member, but also with a speedster who has no speed.