The Flash isn't too interested in the outlandish strength that comes with superpowers. Instead, it focuses on the ways people grapple with those powers. We've seen metahumans produce gleeful destruction, fall prey to their base desires, and sometimes, even be heroes. At the midpoint of "Trajectory," as Barry considers taking Velocity 9, Harry defines the cost of the speed-enhancing drug: "You lose a chunk of your humanity every time you compromise your values." Barry's values hinge upon a sense of justice, integrity, and empathy. But is that enough to help him stop the mysterious female speedster wreaking havoc on the city?
I figured the new speedster wasn't a metahuman, but someone who got her hands on Velocity 9. When she races into the lives of Team Flash, they're still reeling from Jay's apparent death at the hands of Zoom. Barry is determined to become faster.
After his training leads to mixed results, Cisco suggests they get "turnt" at a club to unwind (Cisco, don't talk like that. It's bad, even for you). That's how Barry, Cisco, Caitlin, and the underage Jesse head out to take their minds off the tough road ahead, with Iris and Wally joining the party too. Their fun night is pretty much obliterated when Trajectory, the female speedster who named herself, swipes everyone's money and runs away at a speed Barry cannot match. Trajectory is cocky, brash, and more than a little violent. In other words, she's the antithesis to the most obvious suspect: Eliza Harmon (Allison Paige), a sweet scientist at Mercury Labs whom Caitlin turned to while creating Velocity 9. Caitlin didn't give Eliza the entire formula — and her unassuming demeanor may not scream villainy — but it's clear from the jump that Eliza is Trajectory.
I was surprised, though, when the episode introduced her character's Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic. Trajectory is a separate personality, a voice in Eliza's head that sometimes takes over. She is fueled by an addiction to Velocity 9, which we learn in a mishandled sequence that deploys harsh lighting, canted angles, and ridiculous close-ups before Eliza looks in the mirror to see Trajectory.
I do wonder one thing about Velocity 9, especially given the revelation at the end of this episode: What are the drug's limits? Sure, it makes speedsters incredibly fast, even faster than Barry (although he hasn't reached his full capabilities yet) at the cost of cellular degeneration. But does it allow someone to tap into the Speed Force? Does it let you travel through time? Where is the line drawn?
Back to Trajectory. Desperate for more Velocity 9, she bursts into S.T.A.R. Labs looking for a fix. (Evergreen note: S.T.A.R. Labs needs way better security.) Trajectory traps Barry in the pipeline — what a cruel twist of fate! — then hurls Joe through glass and uses his gun to threaten everyone else. She smartly sets her sights on Jesse, which pressures Harry and Caitlin to create more Velocity 9. Even after she gets it, she makes sure to shoot up Jesse with a pure dosage first; Jesse immediately starts foaming at the mouth. Apparently, Velocity 9 doesn't just turn people into addicts; it also wrecks their moral code.
Trajectory is pretty obnoxious. I usually like this sort of brash, jokey female villain — à la the DC animated version of Livewire or Harley Quinn. But the character's motivations aren't too clear: She needs Velocity 9, but why does she decimate a bridge with innocent people on it? Just because it's fun? Barry shows up in the nick of time, whisking everyone to safety. After the bridge collapses between him and Trajectory, Harry tells him he needs to hit Mach 3.3 to make the jump. Will he be able to meet the goal he couldn't during his training? Yes, of course. But he isn't able to reason with Eliza, who is utterly ruled by her Trajectory persona. She shoots up more Velocity 9 and speeds off. This last run is very brief: Her lightning turns blue moments before total cellular degeneration, and she disintegrates before Barry's eyes.
All in all, "Trajectory" provides a slight but fun storyline that further underscores why Barry is such an amazing hero for Central City. When faced with people trying to kill him, he's kind. He always lends a hand, even when a closed fist is offered in return. I wish we could say the same for other superhero adaptations.
We also get to spend more time with Iris's new boss/editor, Scott, who was introduced before the hiatus. He's as good-looking as he is hellbent on proving that the Flash is a fraud. When Trajectory gets confused for the Flash, he jumps at the chance to run a hit piece and assigns it to Iris. Apparently, Iris has a lot of game because she stalls by asking Scott to join her for coffee to discuss the piece. Things get weird, though, when Scott starts flirting and acting like it's a date. Hold up, dude. Aren't you her boss? Isn't this a sexual-harassment suit waiting to happen? The flirtation is doubly weird because of an earlier moment between Iris and Barry, in which she jokes that he needs to promise not to dance like Cisco if they ever get married. It's a questionable choice to tease the Barry/Iris relationship — referencing both their married doppelgängers and the fact that they're supposed to be married in the future — all while laying ground for her new love interest. Nevertheless, I'm always happy to see Iris (and her envious wardrobe) given some shine. She's shocked when it becomes clear that Scott thought their coffee meeting was a date, but still subtly opens the door for more by telling him his issue with the Flash isn't a deal-breaker.
The episode's major interpersonal dynamics happen between Harry and Jesse. Thanks to the metahuman tracker Harry insists she wear, Jesse hears a recording of him discussing the lengths he's gone to save her from Zoom's clutches, including killing a man. (Remember the Turtle?) This revelation changes how Jesse sees her father. He's no longer a brilliant scientist, but a cold-blooded murderer who puts her well-being ahead of anything else. Even after he once again saves her — when Trajectory shows up to S.T.A.R. Labs with a blood transfusion to get the Velocity 9 out of her system — she still doesn't forgive him or even see his perspective. Jesse is being way too hard on Harry. Would she rather be dead? She has an incredibly simplistic morality. Good and evil aren't always easily delineated, even in a world as bright as The Flash. Unbeknownst to Harry, their now-strained relationship pushes Jesse to leave town for Opal City. It's probably not a good choice: She has no ID, no source of income, no connections, and doesn't understand how Earth-1 works. (She does learn that Senator Knowles on Earth-2 is Beyoncé here, which is a great start.) Maybe she'll go off to wherever Henry Allen is since he left prison and seemingly vanished from Barry's life.
Trajectory's final moments end up providing Barry with a spark of thought. He continues to muse over how her lightning turned blue, ultimately putting the pieces together about Zoom and Jay. "Zoom is dying," Harry realizes. Jay was also dying. Then Cisco reveals he's been having vibes about Zoom whenever he gets near Jay's helmet. His vibes provide no context, just Zoom in a darkened room — another weird choice this episode makes. When Cisco grabs onto the helmet he has another vibe. He sees Zoom take off his mask, revealing his true identity as Jay Garrick.
I'm glad the show didn't draw this out for too long. Of course, there are still plenty of questions left to answer: Who is the Man in the Iron Mask? How is Hunter Zolomon involved? As the Flash rounds into the final stretch of the season, "Trajectory" definitely pushes the story into an interesting direction. Poor Barry. Another would-be mentor has proven himself to be a villain.