“It’s Grodd! Grodd’s Back!”
Alright, let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way: any episode that followed the insane climax of last week’s episode of The Flash is going to be a little disappointing. Fortunately the writers figured out a great way to soften that inevitable let down by giving fans what they’ve been clamoring for: more Grodd. Thanks to tonight’s episode “Gorilla Warfare”, not only did we get the return of everyone’s favorite Psychic Simian, there was also a great tease to the future of the character.
While Grodd hasn’t embraced his full villainous potential as of yet, “Gorilla Warfare” showcased the sheer technical skill of the crew working on The Flash. As with his last appearance in Season 1, Grodd is absolutely amazing in scale, detail, and time on screen; but where he really shines is the show’s ability to convey Grodd’s emotions. Sure, he’s an impressive giant with intricately generated fur and fluid action, but the fact that we’ve been able to see a full range of emotions has been simply mind-blowing. It was no surprise that season one’s “Grodd Lives” got the Emmy nod for “Outstanding Special Effects” and I think that between this and King Shark, it’s only a matter of time before The Flash takes home the award.
From a storytelling point of view though, Grodd’s sequel wasn’t quite as spectacular. Grodd, lonely and isolated, has continued to evolve thanks to the strange mind altering chemicals he had been exposed to combined with the accelerator accident. This isolation has driven him to create a family of super-intelligent telepathic gorillas. To make this happen, he has gone on a crime spree that culminated with him kidnapping Caitlin so she can create a whole new liter of uber-apes. In the end though Grodd was defeated and transported to the african jungles of Earth 2 where, apparently, other intelligent apes live. While the plot was fine, it felt “by-the-numbers” just so the writers could have a proper threat to move Barry through his fear of putting back on the red suit. It made sense, and it had to be addressed, but in the end I wish it was some other bad guy.
With that in mind though it created a great setup for one of my favorite “this is so ridiculous” concepts in The Flash: Gorilla City. Seriously, this is one of those things you don’t expect to see when you hear your favorite comic book is getting adapted for TV or Movies. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. With Gorilla City firmly established, we can expect the next appearance of of our misguided ape to feature King Solivar and the constant battle he fights against Grodd for dominance of Gorilla City. I can’t wait.
Flash Fact: Gorilla City first appeared in The Flash during the late 1950s. The result of a strange alien spacecraft that crashed deep inside the Congo, Gorilla City is the home of Super-Intelligent Apes with telepathic abilities. Using their superior technology they have hidden themselves from being detected by the outside world. Grodd is a militant upstart who challenges Gorilla City’s King, Solivar, for control over their society. After numerous run in’s with Barry Allen, Grodd is eventually defeated and the citizens of Gorilla City befriend “The Fastest Man Alive”.
Let’s get back to Barry though shall we? I have to say, I really disliked some of the choices the writers made this week. After the coda of last week’s episode focusing on Barry’s apparent paralysis, to have him almost fully recovered by the title card seemed to undercut the drama that was built up. While it’s true Barry is a fast healer and would inevitably walk again, I feel it was a waste of some potentially great story elements as “The Fastest Man Alive” was stuck in the same wheelchair as his arch nemesis. While I didn’t expect this to last long, I did expect at least a week or two with Barry out of commission.
Instead, the focus seemed to be on the emotional damage Barry suffered at the hands of Zoom. In that regard, it was very much a standard 40 minute episode that felt like a paint by numbers project than a really organic story that is the hallmark of the Flash. To be fair though, it felt like the writers knew that they were stomping all over well worn territory so they found a way to inject the story with The Flash‘s persistent optimism: the return of Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp). By using Henry’s story of wrongful conviction to help Barry see his way through his current ordeal, the writers were able to turn back on that “Dad Factor” that became such a hallmark of season one. The on screen rapport between Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp is a phenomenal resource that took a boring a predictable story beat and made it very watchable if only for the performances on screen.
I hope this signal’s the return of Henry Allen in a greater capacity, but the way things are going, I think it might be a setup to his inevitable murder by the hands of Zoom. Add on to that the whirlwind of internet rumors that Henry from Earth 2 is Zoom and you can see why people are drawing this conclusion. I hope they’re wrong though. My vote is that it’s still Eddie in some new form, but that’s for another day.
If we had to single out one actor this week, it would really have to be Tom Cavanagh. His performance as the cranky and irascible Wells has become the highlight of every episode. His slow, albeit reluctant, attachment to his new allies is poetry in motion. Instead of writing of characters, you can see how Wells is trying to be a hero. When you pair that with his willingness to put on the Reverse-Flash costume in order to fool Grodd, you get a chilling performance of a man who is just as calculating as his Earth 1 counterpart but still has a moral center. Basically, you’re conflicted as hell, and it makes for amazing TV.
There was also some traction on the romantic front as Cisco began to court Kendra and discovered her past (or is it future) as Hawkgirl. While it’s unclear if this version of Hawkgirl will have been reincarnated over thousands of years, it’s crystal that we’re going to learn about it sooner rather than later. My only gripe is that it feels unfair to give Cisco such a great pairing only to have the actress leave for Legends of Tomorrow. Will that preclude her from coming back and guest starring on The Flash? Who knows? I hope not. Cisco is charming, goofy and deserves some stability in the romance department, especially after pulling that boss move from Say Anything!
Flash Fact: Hawgirl is a character mired with conflicting origin stories. In order to bring them all into cohesion it was decided that Hawgirl and her male counterpart Hawkman, were reincarnated lovers who were unjustly killed in the times of Egypt. Cursed to find each other only to die again and again in a vicious cycle, Hawkgirl fights her fate and inevitable tragic ending by shunning Hawkman. While it seems to have worked in the interim, both know it’s only a matter of time before they fall in love and are killed, too soon, by the cosmic wheel of fate
That brings us to the Barry/Patty subplot. Let’s just cut to the chase. Barry sucks at keeping a secret identity and should already come out and tell her. It’s a retread of the Barry and Iris issues from season one and feels tired because Patty is a lot smarter and clearly cares for Barry. Add on the fact that Joe keeps freezing out the only other person on the Metahuman Task Force when dealing with metahumans and you have a storyline that is becoming burdensome. Listen, writers, Patty works. She’s an amazing addition to The Flash family and is exactly what we need. Stop putting Patty in a corner. No one puts Patty in a corner.
Regardless, you tie together all of these elements and you get an episode that was watchable, entertaining, and visually impressive – if a little predictable. By setting up a future with Grodd coming back as the leader of an Ape Empire and the continuing evolution of Wells, Patty and Henry Allen we got some really great foundation for future episodes. Now let’s get back to the problem of Zoom, someone’s gotta stop that guy.