In tonight’s episode of The CW’s The Flash, Barry Allen takes a back seat to the rest of the S.T.A.R. Labs team for the majority of the hour while he recovers from his disastrous outing against Zoom last week. That conflict left him with a broken back, the inability to walk, and a loss of his super-speed. The good news is that his rapid healing ability has fixed up his back just fine in less than a week; the bad news is that his confidence has taken a hit and has yet to bounce back. Tonight’s episode, “Gorilla Warfare” was mostly about Grodd’s return to Central City, but Barry battled his own personal demons along the way.
It seems like some DC Comics heroes only need a week or so to heal from a broken back (Take that Bruce Wayne!) but when their lack of self-esteem prevents them from doing their job, it doesn’t really matter how physically fit they are. That’s Barry’s issue throughout this episode. His powers are getting up to speed but the fact that Zoom beat him so soundly and showed off his defeat to all of Central City is something that Barry just can’t get over. Who could possibly help him get out of his funk when the entire S.T.A.R. Labs team, Joe, Iris, and even Patty can’t get him to budge?
Enter: Henry Allen, who’s apparently been camping and fishing in nearby Granite Peak National Park since his exoneration but stopped by to boost his son’s confidence at Iris’ request. In what might be a first for The Flash, I didn’t really feel the father/son moment between Henry and Barry in this episode. Mostly it just felt too convenient for Henry to pop in only when Barry’s confidence was bruised and not when his back was broken! It’s a nonsensical bit of writing that’s obviously dancing around some sort of budgetary or scheduling issues rather than anything that further serves the story.
It suffices to say that Barry’s confidence was restored thanks to a needed bit of heroism on the part of the Flash, but we’ll get to that in a moment. In another relationship storyline that was a little rough around the edges, Barry had apparently been keeping Patty at arms’ length with the excuse that he was sick, which is something the keen-eyed detective saw right through. What she didn’t see through, however, was another of Barry’s lies when he used his dad’s arrival as an excuse for not seeing her. How long will Patty remain one of the few major cast members who don’t know that Barry Allen is The Flash?
And speaking of secrets, we’re reminded in a brief scene – when the West and Allen families are catching up – that Joe might actually have an adult son that he knows nothing about. Iris knows, but she isn’t telling just yet, even though Joe flat out tells her that he wonders what it would have been like to have a son of his own all these years. It all makes for good drama, but secrets will out sooner than later. If nothing else, it’s an indication that this show is willing to slow down its pacing on some plots rather than burning through them as quickly as possible.
Now, onto The Flash portion of The Flash, which was pretty limited this week. Grodd’s screentime, however, was quite substantial. When pharmaceutical company workers start going into a trance and stealing neurotrophic drugs, with only strange gorilla hairs linking the crimes, the S.T.A.R. Labs team quickly figures out that the super-intelligent giant ape has returned. Before long, Caitlin falls under Grodd’s mind control and is spirited away Fay Wray/King Kong-style to the gorilla’s new lair. What dastardly deeds is Grodd up to this time?
Basically, he just wants a friend. Remember that this version of Grodd isn’t far removed from the initial creation of Dr. Wells we saw in a previous episode, but his mental acuity and telepathic powers are maturing. He recruits Caitlin to learn about his own creation with the hope that these drugs can help to create more creatures like him. Complicating this plan are two things: one, Dr. Wells as Grodd knew him is dead and the current version of Wells (aka Harry) is focused on getting himself home; the other complication is that, as Cisco puts it, “I’m pretty sure one telepathic Grape Ape is more than enough for this city.”
So while The Flash is out of commission, the team plans to lure Grodd out of hiding by having Harry put on the spare Reverse Flash suit and disguising himself as Wells. While Grodd was distracted from the sudden appearance of his father, Cisco was be able to rescue Caitlin. It works more or less the way they drew it up, but Harry’s impersonation of Wells is (eventually) almost too good. As he chastises the gorilla for hitting him, Harry then mentions his old promise to give the city to Grodd one day. I’m pretty sure that Cisco had no knowledge of this promise and it didn’t appear to be part of Harry’s brief training. As we soon learn, Earth-2 Wells isn’t exactly on the up and up.
So Caitlin’s rescued but Grodd is still on the loose. Joe and the team plan to eliminate Grodd completely, but Caitlin feels bad for the gorilla since he was an unwitting creation of Wells. Henry, in his expert fatherly wisdom, offers up Flash as bait in another plan that aims to lure Grodd to a breach that will send him to a safe place on Earth-2. Things are going well until Barry’s flashbacks to his defeat at the hands of Zoom cause him to hesitate, and Grodd gets the better of him. Luckily Caitlin appeals to Grodd’s softer side in another King Kong reference and they trap Grodd in the breach … but it’s not strong enough. This time around, Henry provides the boost to his son’s confidence and Barry does his speed punch to knock Grodd all the way to Earth-2.
Before we get to a little bit more about what happens to Grodd in this episode, let’s tie up some other loose ends. Obviously Barry’s speed and confidence are back (even if he’s taking his dad back to the bus station after a short visit), so he should be in fighting shape for The Flash/Arrow crossover in two weeks. The team also has a plan in place to defeat Zoom once and for all; it includes closing the remaining breaches in Central City except for the one at S.T.A.R. Labs, through which they’ll force Zoom to appear. Hopefully things go a little more smoothly than they did last week since I don’t know how many times Barry can suffer a broken back.
Cisco, meanwhile, gets in on a little relationship action of his own when he takes Kendra to see The Princess Bride. But when he gets a vibe from her and sees Hawkman, it freaks him out and he leaves her alone at the theater. It’s not until the episode’s end that he brings her a basket of flowers and chocolate, and a digital version of the movie to watch together at the coffee shop. Taking a cue from Barry, Cisco also lies to Kendra about why he ran away from her the other night, but she doesn’t seem to notice or mind as she plants a kiss on him. He vibes once again and this time sees her as Hawkgirl, which seems to delight him quite a bit.
Okay, back to Grodd. On one hand, he’s a Frankenstein creation of a super-villain who’s been left without guidance in a world that’s strange and foreign to him. On the other hand, he’s kidnapping and murdering people to achieve his own ends, well-intentioned though they may be. Caitlin seems to be blinded by the unfortunate circumstances of Grodd’s origins while Barry is focused on the super-intelligent gorilla’s current behavior. Wells, however, appears to have his own plans for Grodd.
Though he says that Grodd is going to a tropical rain forest on Earth-2 where he’ll live among other free-roaming gorillas who were subjected to experimentation – and he’s not totally lying here – Grodd passes through the breach and arrives at a jungle valley. A huge gorilla is carved into the mountainside and a primitive village in the valley below is guarded by massive gorilla statues wielding spears. This is not Gorillas in the Mist; this is much closer to Gorilla City. I really hope that the next time we see Grodd, he’s fully come into his own as a leader of his people, an enemy to humans, and a nemesis to The Flash.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Pretty funny to see Barry in a wheelchair while Harrison Wells is slinging a backpack and gearing up for a fight. Bizarro world?
Gorilla Grodd: “Foolish human. I am Grodd.”
Barry: “Zoom destroyed me.”
Caitlin: “There’s no such thing as a Birdman, Cisco.”
Wells: “I’m continually amazed by the similarities between our two worlds.” Joe: “Why, you got talking gorillas there, too?” Wells: “Oh yeah.”
Henry Allen: “Keep that chin down, slugger.”
Grodd: “Repeat.” Caitlin: “You want me to make more like you? I don’t know how to do that.” Godd: “Learn.”
Henry: “Sometimes you just have to slow down to get back to where you want to be.”
Tom Cavanagh acting as Harry Wells acting as Harrison Wells with Cisco was pretty great. It’s the closest thing we’ve seen to the old Wells, especially since he’s wearing the Reverse-Flash suit.
Graffiti on the wall in Grodd’s lair: “Grodd Sad.” Poor thing.
Henry: “Things have gotten a lot more complicated since I got out of prison.”
After the events of tonight’s episode, can you blame Grodd for hating humans? I’m sure everything will be just fine now that he’s in a community of like-minded super-intelligent gorillas…