TV

The Flash: Season 2, Episode 5 - "Enter Zoom"

Gregory L. Reece

When Zoom parades the Flash's fallen body around Central City in the latest episode of The Flash, I know that the hero is going to rise again; it's still a gut punch.


The Flash

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
Cast: Grant Gustin, Shantel VanSanten, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Malese Jow
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 5 - "Enter Zoom"
Network: CW
Air date: 2015-11-10
Amazon

The Flash began this season on a mostly happy note. The hero's hometown of Central City threw a big party in the hero's honor in recognition for all he had done to save the city from the threats of Reverse Flash. Even though Barry (Grant Gustin) felt that he should be sharing the honor with others -- particularly Ronnie Raymond (Cedric Yarbrough) who gave his life in defense of the city -- and the ceremonies were interrupted by the rampaging threat of Atom Smasher (Adam Copeland), it was nice to see Barry onstage receiving the accolades and credit that he deserved. As icing on the cake, the episode ended with a party to celebrate the release of Barry's dad (John Wesley Shipp) from prison.

This week's episode couldn’t have been more different. In what was arguably the darkest and most effective episode of The Flash to date, "Enter Zoom" offered up stark images of a beaten and broken Flash that were made even more shocking by the fact that the memories of the first episode's mostly upbeat story are still fresh in mind. "Enter Zoom" seemed more like a season ending cliffhanger, or at least the last episode before a mid-season break, than like the fifth installment of the still-young second season. But The Flash has never been a series that liked to hold things back. The creators seem to realize that with 50 years of comic book stories as their inspiration, there’s no reason to move slowly. If the Flash is the fastest man alive, then The Flash is the fastest moving show on television.

"Enter Zoom" hits all the right story beats. Barry's relationship with Patty (Shantel VanSanten) continues to heat up. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) employs his new superpowers in order to shed light on the motivations of Earth 2's Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh). Team Flash recruits Linda Park (Malese Jow) to don the costume, and take on some of the powers, of her look-alike, Dr. Light, in an attempt to lure the evil Zoom into our world. Linda's training and apparent failure at setting the trap for Zoom was typically fun and entertaining, just the kind of light-hearted take on superheroics that make this show such a pleasure week after week.

The finale, however, was devastating.

The Flash's conflict with Zoom (Tony Todd) was beautifully staged, a comic book battle brought to life. It was clear from the very beginning that this was a battle that Barry was going to have a hard time winning, but the special effects and choreography sure made it seem like he was trying his hardest. The Flash fought hard and intelligently, but after this battle there is no doubt that he is no longer "The Fastest Man Alive".

The battle was the most brutal that we have seen in this series, a harsh and lightning-fast conflict between the Scarlet Speedster and a man in black. In a particularly terrifying moment, we see Barry's broken body. Then Zoom parades the crumpled hero around Central City, his defeat in sharp contrast to the heroic pose he struck on the dais just a few weeks before.

This was clearly the Flash's darkest hour so far. He suffered a devastating and humiliating defeat.

The Flash is a mostly sunny series, and I don't expect that to change. So I feel pretty confident that Barry is going to bounce back from this even stronger than before. But, with that in mind, the makers of The Flash deserve a world of credit for being able to pull off such a remarkably dark episode in a series that is noted for its optimism.

Of course, for this old comic book fan, images of a fallen Flash are always going to offer an emotional punch in the gut. There have been a lot of superhero deaths through the years. Captain Marvel led the way in 1982 in Jim Starlin's classic The Death of Captain Marvel. Heroes like Wolverine, Captain America, Robin, Supergirl, and Jean Grey followed. Superman was famously killed by the villain Doomsday back in 1992. But none of those deaths ever had as much impact on this reader as the death of Barry Allen.

The reinvention of the Flash as Barry Allen, replacing the earlier Golden Age Jay Garrick, marked the beginning of the Silver Age of comic storytelling and set the stage for the reinvigoration of DC and the birth of Marvel. In 1985, when DC was resetting their fictional universe in the pages of Marv Wolfman's and George Perez's Crisis on Infinite Earths, the death of the Flash was, therefore, an appropriate, if shocking, way to mark the transformation that DC was looking for.

In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry literally ran himself to death in order to save all of existence. His death allowed the old DC multi-verse to be reborn as the new DC universe. Running as he did, through time, meant that the dying Flash appeared as a ghostly vision to other heroes, serving as a warning of what was to come.

I will never forget seeing him die right before my eyes in that comic book. I will never forget the sense of innocence lost when I realized that the Flash, one of the biggest characters in the DC canon, a member of the Justice League, a regular on Saturday morning television when I was a kid, had died.

"There's hope. There's always hope," Barry says at the end. "We must save the world."

When Zoom parades the Flash's fallen body around Central City in the latest episode of The Flash, I know that the hero is going to rise again. But in my gut, in my gut it still hurts.

With "Enter Zoom," The Flash has proven that this show can not only transform the bright four-color pages of light-hearted superheroics into good television, but that it can also bring the serious side of superhero drama to the small screen.

10

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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