The Flash – Season 6 Episode 13
“Grodd Friended Me”
The Flash brings back Gorilla Grodd when Barry becomes trapped in his mindscape with a limited amount of time to escape.
Gorilla Grodd is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive visual achievements this show has given viewers. Grodd and King Shark are impressively rendered CGI creations that serve as a reminder of how talented the visual effects team when at their best. The prospect of seeing either of these characters return is always exciting on a purely visual level.
The writers seem to be constantly having difficulty finding reasons to keep bringing Gorilla Grodd back. His last appearance strongly suggested that he was far beyond redemption hence why he has been trapped within himself at A.R.G.U.S. to hopefully never plague Team Flash again. Suddenly he is reformed and reaching out telepathically to Barry to try and prove that to him so that Barry will help free him.
I wish I could say this was something different but villains reforming and having to convince Barry that they’ve changed is a really common plot so the only difference here is the presentation. To save money, Grodd appears as people close to Barry so that he can make his case and try to gain his support. It’s a necessary conceit on a TV show with a limited budget to ration the appearances of a full CGI creature. Grodd’s mind control abilities and the mindscape setting lend themselves to substituting Grodd while still getting the point across.
It’s used reasonably well within this episode though not as well as it could have been. The best example is when Grodd uses Joe to appeal to Barry’s forgiving nature in order to convince him that he has genuinely changed. Grodd speaking through manifestations of people Barry knows was a great opportunity to use them to embody different aspects of his personality. Jesse L. Martin plays Grodd with regret and empathy where Danielle Panabaker and Tom Cavanagh took turns to deliver passionless dialogue designed to do little more than explain the situation. The one on one nature to Barry interacting with the manifestation of Joe allowed for more focus on the emotional grounding of the conversation which made what was being said easier to invest in. It makes sense that Barry would be more inclined to trust Joe but Barry flipping from not believing Grodd’s claims that he had changed to believing him happens too suddenly and is an uncomfortable contrast to how resistant Barry is to the idea before this point. When Grodd appears as Joe the words spoken are far from strong enough to believably change Barry’s mind. Grodd even challenges Barry on why he has changed his mind and Barry gives a less that satisfactory answer about letting go of the past in order to make this conflict in some way relevant to what Barry has been dealing with since Crisis resolved.
Barry’s arc in this episode is supposed to be around accepting that he’s in a new and unpredictable reality that has changed in a lot of small ways. His encounter with Hartley Rathaway aka Pied Piper along with running into the path of an oncoming train serve as a reminder that the world he now lives in isn’t the world he knows. The suggestion that Barry is having difficulty acclimating to the post Crisis reality is handled well here with the unfamiliar voices in his ear, an altered layout to the city and certain things he isn’t prepared for. It’s jarring to have this so prominently addressed so long after Crisis ended. It looks as if Barry has only just realised that the world has changed which he should have been painfully aware of the abundance of changes before this point. Having the emotional focus be around his inability to find where his parents are buried is a good idea and Grant Gustin plays the emptiness felt by Barry not having access to the memorial of his parents.
This would have actually informed a far more acceptable reason for Barry to choose to help Grodd. It would have made more sense had his mind been changed when Grodd told him that his mind was unaffected by the Crisis changes. Helping him at that point becomes a difficult decision founded on the idea of an acceptable risk on his part. If he wants to know what has changed then he has to risk freeing Grodd from his mental prison. It would have made more sense than suddenly trusting that Grodd had changed. There’s also the fact that he can’t deal with the manifestation of Solovar on his own as a natural motivation. A combination of these would have made more sense than accepting that Grodd had changed. Barry finding it within himself to trust Grodd could have come later once Grodd’s mind is freed from the mindscape.
Barry merging his brain pattern with Grodd to make them a match for Solovar is a pretty dumb idea but it’s cool to see Grodd and Barry become their own version of Firestorm and having Grodd be the latest to gain Speedster powers. The fight itself looks good enough though it’s ridiculous that Solovar is able to get the upper hand despite the obvious advantage that super speed gives Grodd. The fact that this takes place in a mindscape is basically irrelevant as the stakes where the fight is concerned appear identical to how they would be in the real world.
Grodd asking for a second chance and being granted one does tie into the arc assigned to the returning Chester P. Runk. Barry makes Chester feel less than welcome especially after Chester tinkers with Barry’s Gideon interface which leads to Chester feeling that he doesn’t deserve to be on the team because one of the first things he did was accidentally put Barry’s life at risk. Frost amusingly points out that endangering Barry’s life is something that everyone on the team has done at one time or another. She encourages Chester to make up for his mistake by helping to save his life which he inevitably does and finds himself accepted as a part of the extended team.
Chester’s return was something I really liked about the episode. Brandon McKnight plays him with an abundance of manic personality that is tempered by deep-seated insecurities. The scene where he becomes introspective and talks about an instance in his childhood where he was denied a second chance was really well performed and brings in a brief example of race inequality as a reminder that it is a thing that still exists and it can profoundly affect someone. One thing that is consistent on Team Flash is that people are granted second chances so Chester is in the right place to build his confidence and find a way to be useful.
Frost is the right person to encourage Chester to work towards redeeming herself as she knows better than most how it’s possible to be given a second chance. Her brief villainous leanings are something she was able to put behind her in order to refocus her attention in a more positive direction. Having her take on the role of a tough love life coach for new members of the team has its ups and downs with this being one of the better examples.
Unfortunately the plot that Frost, Chester and -for some reason- Kamilla are attached to isn’t all that good. It falls into the standard trap of trying to build tension by having characters reading screens in increasingly raised voices to indicate that the situation is worsening. There’s no logic to it, no baseline for what is actually going on and a complete lack of threat associated with it because it is literally people reading screens and saying nonsense. Kamilla even points out what tends to happen in these situations which allows the episode to be self aware especially when combined with Frost pointing out that everyone has endangered Barry’s life at some point but drawing attention to mistakes that the show tends to make while doubling down on them doesn’t justify using the tired tropes. In theory it was a good idea to have an unconventional Team Flash backing Barry up but outside of Chester they were used so poorly.
Fake Iris is still at large and struggling to keep a calm head when things don’t go her way. She gets angry at Joe when he’s unable to share information with her and tricks him into being absent from his office so that she can steal the information. There isn’t much more to say about Fake Iris beyond that though it is revealed that she is being controlled by Eva which starts to clear up how the villain story will progress in the second half of the season. It’s no surprise that Eva’s frustrated reluctance is all an act and that there is more to the situation than she’s letting on and I’m interested to see how this progresses as the interactions between Eva and Iris are very watchable if lacking in substance.
The mystery of Nash’ connection to Allegra also receives some answers when he admits that the girl in the photo is a -sort of- former employee of his rather than his biological daughter. His behaviour indicates that there is far more to that than he’s letting on so I’m guessing we’re heading towards a plot where he struggles to accept the fact that this Allegra isn’t his Allegra and that there was some sort of familial connection through adoption or something like that. Tom Cavanagh is playing it well and Kayla Compton gets more in touch with her character in each passing episode so it could lead to something interesting. The reveal that Nash being haunted by visions of other versions of Harrison Wells has some connection to the Reverse Flash makes for a decent enough shock and opens up another mystery to be explored but also raises concerns as it hasn’t been that long since The Flash built up Eobard Thawne as the end of season bad guy so it feels far too soon to return to that Well (Wells?) if that’s what is to happen.
An uneven episode that has all the ingredients to be something better but doesn’t quite manage to put them together properly. The Grodd plot is a fairly standard villain reform plot that doesn’t play out in the most logical way. Barry very quickly goes from dismissing the very notion that Grodd is capable of redemption to complete acceptance that he has changed in a way that isn’t at all believable. It would have made more sense for Barry to see helping him as an acceptable risk because Grodd is aware of what has changed in the wake of Crisis. There’s also the fact that Barry’s unable to escape the mindscape without his help. A combination of these two would have made more sense than Barry accepting that Grodd had changed. The action sequence where Barry merges his brain pattern with Grodd to make them a match for Solovar is cool enough but suffers from the usual issue of the speed powers not being used effectively in order to create jeopardy. Chester’s return and role within the episode is one of the strongest aspects of it. The character is used really well, has a lot to offer and has a decent enough arc. His insecurity around deserving a second chance is well performed and adds a brief reminder that race inequality is an ongoing problem that can destroy confidence. Frost being the one to encourage him to redeem himself is fitting and a good use for that character. The plot that Chester and Frost are connected to is the usual nonsense of reading screens in increasingly raised voices in order to manufacture tension. It doesn’t work because there’s no logic to it and no baseline for what is actually going on. There is some self awareness within the episode around this and the fact that Team Flash are often accidentally putting Barry’s life in danger but addressing a problem while still displaying it doesn’t forgive it.
Fake Iris doesn’t do much in this episode other than get angry at Joe before lying to him in order to sneakily steal information from him. Her connection to Eva is revealed which clears up some of the villain plot and confirms Eva’s frustrated reluctance as being an act. Iris and Eva’s interactions do make for engaging watching so I’m intrigued enough to see how this will progress. The mystery of Nash’ connection to Allegra being progressed to the reveal that the version of her he knew wasn’t her daughter does add to the intrigue around this and the strong acting from Tom Cavanagh as well as Kayla Compton makes this something worthy of attention. Revealing that Nash having visions of other versions of Harrison Wells is connected to Reverse Flash in some way is concerning as it wasn’t so long ago that Reverse Flash was being set up as the end of season villain.
- Grant Gustin’s portrayal of Barry’s emptiness around not knowing where his parents are buried
- Jesse L. Martin’s Grodd portrayal
- a cool action sequence
- Chester P. Runk making for an engaging presence with plenty of depth
- Frost being well used as the one to encourage Chester to make up for his mistakes
- further intrigue added to the Nash/Allegra plot
- Barry’s quick acceptance of Grodd being reformed
- bringing nothing new to the reformed villain plot formula
- another plot where tension is built through looking at screens and raised voices
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