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The Flash did everything wrong last night

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Until last night, Zoom was something the older Flash would tell the younger Flash about to make him eat his vegetables. All that changed when Zoom finally showed up in the flesh to square off against Barry Allen. And well ... it didn't go so well.

Let's just say that Patty Spivot might need to find a new dance partner at the Policeman's Ball.

Last night the team at S.T.A.R. Labs did something deeply stupid: They tried to lay a trap for the Flash's transdimensional nemesis, Zoom. To do it, they enlisted the help of Linda Park (Malese Jow), Allen's ex-girlfriend and Iris West's coworker at Central City's largest newspaper.

Initially, the idea was just dumb enough to work.

Early in the episode Dr. Light, the metahuman from last week, broke free from her cell by turning invisible and hacking into S.T.A.R. Labs' security system, all during Cisco's lunch break. Clearly we've all underestimated the good doctor, but instead of going after her in force, Barry decides to use the clothes she left behind to disguise his ex-girlfriend (who is her doppelganger, mind you) and lure Zoom to Earth 1.

What follows is a cute little training montage where Cisco builds Park some Iron Man-esque laser gauntlets, and the whole team tries to teach her to control her pseudo-powers in a Flash-themed kill house — complete with Flash and Cisco cardboard cutouts. A few short circuits and a poorly timed high-five later, and Park is just barely competent enough to shoot starlight out of her fingertips and chew gum at the same time.

With her confidence waning, Barry makes the unusual decision to visit her late at night and reveal his secret identity. Now that she's part of the inner circle, Park has the boost she needs to play the part.

It's a strange move, and one that makes Park even more of a target than before.

The Flash Enter Zoom

That next evening, with West and Dr. Harrison Wells from Earth 2 lying in wait with tranquilizer darts filled with a special speed-inhibiting solution, Flash and Park square off in a pretty hokey approximation of a staged showdown. Barry takes the fall, Linda-as-Dr.-Light offers up his Flash emblem to Zoom by throwing it through a nearby wormhole, and ... Nothing.

The trap never springs, because Zoom never shows up. The entire effort was a complete waste of time.

Just think though, for a moment, how far out on a limb Barry and company are at this point? Pretty damn far, if we're being honest.

Where's Dr. Light? "I dunno. She's invisible now." Well, what about all that one-off techno stuff Cisco built into the Flash emblem you just tossed into another dimension? "Well, I mean ... It'll probably turn up somewhere I guess." But hey, didn't you just put your ex-girlfriend in between you and the most powerful badnick in, like, the 52 known worlds? "I guess so, but why are you being so critical, bruh?" Where's Jay Garrick? "Who?" Where's The Flash from Earth 2!? "I guess maybe he's getting a mojito around the corner. Caitlynn, didn't you see him last?"

It should come as no surprise that at the end of the episode, after putting so much at risk, it all comes back to bite Barry in the ass.

The Flash Enter Zoom

In the last 15 minutes of the show Zoom shows up, snatches Linda Park off the street, and heads straight to the roof of S.T.A.R. Labs and tosses her off. Barry whizzes down, generates counter-rotating tornadoes by waving his hands and delicately places her safely on the ground, and then squares off with Zoom.

It was a cold open to a long-awaited fight, but the first blows definitely deliver — unlike Cisco's shirt this episode.

Barry starts off by running circles around the lab, generating the biggest lightning bolt he's ever hurled. He posts up and chucks it straight at Zoom ... who plucks it out of the air, does a dainty flip and sends it right back where it came from.

Flash goes down. But Wells is there, dart gun in hand, to save the day! Only Zoom grabs the slow-moving projectile out of the air, pauses to gloat and then slams it through Barry's chest.

What follows is a terrifying sight, with Zoom ranging all over Central City at top speed dragging Barry's lifeless body by the throat. First to the newspaper for his photo opp, then to the police station to threaten the cops, and finally back to S.T.A.R. Labs to off Barry in front of his coworkers.

In the episode's final moments, while Zoom is revealing his lofty plans to kill the Flash and dominate Earth 1, Cisco finally shoots him in the neck with the speed-inhibiting serum. Zoom, seemingly unfazed by the properties of the dart, is nonetheless undone. He drops Barry and speeds away.

The Flash Enter Zoom

It's bad times all around, but at least the Flash will live to fight another day.

Trouble is, when he wakes up from his coma, Barry can't feel his legs. Starting next week, the Flash can't run.

While it was nice to only have the one plotline to wrap our heads around, the drama of this episode fell surprisingly flat because of how it came about. It would have been nice to see the S.T.A.R. Labs team build on their work of the previous episodes this year, to see them acting like a skilled group of metahuman hunting professionals pitted against a foe worthy of their talents. But last night, all they did was nod approval at Barry's bad ideas and try to pick up the pieces after everything went wrong.

For such an important episode this season, I was hoping for a bit more to grab on to, more of a reason for me to care about these do-gooders.

Now, I'm just hoping the writers don't spend too much of next week's episode with Barry on the sidelines.

Want to catch up on the rest of The Flash's second season? Click here!

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