Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Flash 2x16 Review: "Trajectory" (Just Say No to Speed Drugs) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]


Original Airdate: March 22, 2016

After a month away from Central City, we rejoin our favorite metahuman-fighting team and... not much has changed, really. While it feels like forever since The Flash was on our TV screens, I think only a short period of time has passed in-universe because everyone is pretty much as we left them. Barry and the team are still trying to find ways to increase his speed so that he’d have a fair chance against Zoom, Jesse and her father are still getting used to their new Earth, Caitlin (and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the team) is still dealing with the loss of Jay, and everyone’s pretty tense about the vague prospect of opening up another inter-dimensional breach that could lead them to Zoom.


With everything else on their plate, the last thing Team Flash needs is to deal with yet another speedster (seriously, how many more of them can there be?) Unfortunately, when the whole team — including Jesse — goes out for drinks and dancing, their night of fun is cut short by the appearance of a very zippy, yellow-electric blur. This new speedster seems to be more about petty thievery than taking over the world and is initially innocuous, yes — but the mystery of someone existing who is actually faster than Barry and isn’t Zoom? That’s strong enough to distract the team from their “big picture” plans and whatever relaxation they were trying to enjoy in the first place.

During the process of figuring out how someone could get Speed Force powers without a particle accelerator explosion or an alternate universe access point to crawl through, Barry learns about the Velocity-9 formula that Caitlin and Harry had been keeping secret. Considering that Barry’s been working non-stop at trying to get fast enough to defeat Zoom, he’s pretty angry about them keeping what seems to be a fairly effective booster from him. Other people get to use Velocity-9, and it’s clearly more powerful than Barry’s natural speed abilities, so why can’t Barry take a couple shots and conquer Zoom once and for all?

Because, it turns out, there is no safe method of cheating one’s way into super speed. When Team Flash decides to track down anyone who could have the means to reverse-engineer Velocity-9, Caitlin leads them to Dr. Eliza Harmon. At first, it looks like Eliza’s perfectly normal and totally not a thieving speedster — but, it turns out that Velocity-9 doesn’t exactly leave its users feeling refreshed and level-headed. Dr. Harmon’s not only hearing voices and talking to what she perceives to be another person (actually just her “Trajectory” super-identity) but, upon using her engineered Velocity-9 serum, gains a new, fun, evil personality.

(Said evil personality also comes with a weird desire to be the fastest person ever, and to brag a lot about being the fastest person ever — seriously, between Zoom and Trajectory, here, what’s up with villainous speedsters wanting to prove they’re faster than everyone else? Why is that a worthy goal? So what, people, you’re fast. No one’s going to give you a freaking medal or anything, you know? You can’t compete in the Olympics because of the speed drugs.)

All throughout this storyline with Trajectory and Velocity-9, Barry is angsting about using the speed drug himself just so he can defeat Zoom. He’s very gloomy about it, because season two is the season of Gloomy Barry. He knows the dangers of Velocity-9 because Caitlin tells him it’s dangerous, and also because he can totally see that the serum is driving Eliza insane. Still, he’s tempted to use it because he’s been working so hard to get faster, to no avail. He has to beat Zoom for the sake of all Earths, and he has to be faster than Zoom, but he can’t get faster naturally... so, would the dangers of Velocity-9 be worth it? If the end goal is good enough, right enough, heroic enough, does that negate the sacrifices and the damage that’s done in the process of achieving said goal?

The question of “How far will you go for the greater good?” parallels with Jesse (Quick? Chambers? Wells? What’s her last name, does anyone know?) finding out that her dad murdered people to rescue her from Zoom. Harry’s actions led to the safety of his daughter, but he had to sacrifice a piece of himself — his morality, his values, his recognition of right and wrong and, ultimately, his relationship with Jesse, who leaves town at the end of the episode — in order to get her back alive. Likewise, the use of Velocity-9 might make Barry fast enough to defeat Zoom and save a lot of lives, but the drug rips a part of its user away each time it’s used, in a way that goes beyond simple illness.

Speaking of Velocity-9 ripping away its user: the climactic fight with Trajectory almost ends with Barry talking some sense into poor Dr. Eliza Harmon, only to have her choose the drug over... uh, well, life. She takes one last shot of a highly pure version of Velocity-9 and runs away, generating a blue lightning like the speed-lightning that always surrounds Zoom. As she’s running, Trajectory is literally ripped apart until she’s nothing but blue sparks and bits of costume for Barry to find later and stare at, forlorn.


After witnessing Trajectory’s speed-lightning turn blue like Zoom’s, Barry gets the idea that maybe Zoom uses a Velocity serum. This vein of thought leads to the team thinking about the illness that coincides with Velocity-9 (and its numerical predecessors and, presumably, any theoretical serums that could come after it) and how Zoom must have been searching for a cure, which was why he went after Barry, whose powers came from “naturally” tapping into the Speed Force, rather than a drug. Then comes the realization that they did know one person who had used a Velocity and gotten sick, and started searching for a cure: Jay.

Cisco, meanwhile, had been vibing Zoom throughout the episode in little, weirdly-lit flashes that never really showed much of anything. He admits this to the rest of the team. Barry — probably acting out all his frustrations with Zoom and Velocity-9 and the whole multi-Earth mess — smashes the glass case containing Jay’s stupid helmet and hands it over to Cisco. In a bit of narratively perfect serendipity, Cisco does vibe more than the few glimpses he’d been getting before and actually sees Zoom remove his mask, revealing himself to be Jay Garrick.

I think this reveal would have been a lot more exciting for viewers if the show hadn’t already spoiled the whole Jay/Zoom thing in “King Shark”, but the “vibe vision” scene is still nicely shot and it’s really the reaction of Team Flash, after Cisco tells them what he saw, that sells it. Everyone is too immediately shocked by the idea that someone they trusted could be Zoom that they haven’t thought through all the possible explanations offered by their knowledge of the multiverse. Barry even ends the episode by running off to the edge of a cliff and shouting at the sky. Not sure why that was his reaction but hey, we all do strange things in the face of emotional turmoil.




Other Things:
  • “Maybe plummeting to your death is the motivation you need.” Cisco should be a motivational speaker.
  • “You’re gonna be fine, I’m eighty percent sure of it. Seventy-six. Like, a strong seventy-two, I can’t stop, Caitlin, help.” I usually hold back on over-quoting a single character in these bullet points but Cisco was so good this episode that I’m not going to bother.
  • “‘Why’d you have to bring those drones along, Cisco?’ Oh, I don’t know — you’re welcome, everyone!” See what I mean?
  • You guys, BeyoncĂ© is a senator on Earth-2.
  • Very basic things we still don’t know about Jesse: her last name, her actual age (under 21, apparently), who her mother is.
  • Harry won’t let his daughter go out with a bunch of HERO NERDS. He’s really committed to that “strict father” role, huh?
  • Cisco just angrily staring at the rude couple making out at the bar was amazing and exactly what I would do if I ever stepped foot in a club, which I would never do but whatever...
  • “This is Wally, he’s my... foster — or step... adopted — my new fr—this is Wally, he’s my new friend.” Such perfect delivery.
  • Cisco dancing. Just... holy crap, Cisco dancing. I used it as this review’s single GIF for a reason.
  • There was also a B-plot for Iris, involving her weirdly anti-superheroes boss and flirting. This plot can be summed up accordingly: Iris! Do not date your boss!
  • “What blood type is she?” "PZ negative." "Yeah, that's not a thing on this earth, man!"
  • Uh, now that we know that Jesse’s got a weird Earth-2 blood type I’m really not so sure she should be wandering around on her own?

1 comment:

  1. Loved this episode! Thanks for reviewing it. And Cisco dancing was the best scene in the entire show. I also don't think Iris should date her boss, it seems like she's asking for trouble.