The Flash – Season 1 Episode 21
At last we get to see The Flash square off against the psychic Gorilla Grodd after several teases throughout the season.
There’s a strong argument for this episode serving as filler given how close we are to the end of the season and the momentum that was gained on the Reverse Flash storyline last week and I can see where that might come from but I think this episode was a lot more necessary than a seemingly unconnected villain plot initially appears.
First of all, this was an important episode for Team Flash who have to operate without Wells for the first time since the season began. Without him they aren’t quite the well oiled machine that they normally are and they seem to lack a sense of leadership with each member of the team making it all up as they go along. Since it seems unlikely that Wells will be around next season it makes a lot of sense that we should see the beginnings of how they will take care of business without him.
I also like that things happen that interrupt the mission they are all focused on. It’s a big world and stuff happens. This probably isn’t the best example of that since the villain story is actually connected to the main story but I’ll come back to that later in the review.
A big change in this episode is Iris dealing with the knowledge she has of Barry’s identity as the Flash. I found her reaction to the knowledge to be very real and very human. At first she wasn’t sure whether to let on that she knew at all and recognised that their friendship would never be the same again. She is completely devastated that everyone she is close to has lied to her face for so long under the pretense of protecting her. As she quite rightly says nobody should be making that decision for her and it really hasn’t protected her before now. If she had known then she could prepare better instead of fumbling around not knowing what’s really going on.
On the same token I can see Barry’s point about keeping his secret from her. He keeps coming back to the point about trying to protect her but I think on some deeper level he was worried that she would see him differently and not in a good way. I don’t think for a second that Iris would tell his secret to anyone and I don’t think that Barry was ever concerned about that but on some level he will be worried about how that will change her perception of him.
I felt really sorry for Iris as she learned more and more as the episode progressed. There was a sort of dark humour in people forgetting that she didn’t yet know everything. Barry casually tells her that Wells is the Reverse Flash and Joe tells her that Wells killed the journalist investigating him. The look on Iris’ face when she is told these pieces of information is actually really difficult to watch, she is clearly starting to realise the sheer volume of lies she has been told over the course of the season and doesn’t know what’s real any more. It’s a very human reaction and it’s easy to relate to it. For all my chatter about being annoyed with Iris in previous reviews I am actually fully on her side here. What can I say, the girl makes some good points. There was a little bit of her spoiled princess persona when she got on at Joe for not telling her about Barry’s feelings for her but as Joe quite rightly said that’s not his secret to tell. I’ll give Iris a pass on that one as she was clearly having a tough time emotionally and not thinking as clearly as she could.
This episode finally lets Barry and Iris have some really honest conversations about what has been going on. Barry brings up the fact that she has feelings for him as well as he knows from his changing the timeline which she admits to. I like how maturely she handles this by reminding Barry that it’s beside the point and that she lives with and loves Eddie. What happens after he’s safe is a question mark but for now she’s not prepared to make any decisions involving betraying him. She can be more than the entitled princess that she normally comes across as.
Having her fold into Team Flash this week worked really well as it allowed her to express her distaste but also come to understand what they do. Her reaction to Joe being in danger helped to ground it all and I like that she didn’t feel as helpless as she usually seems. Her information managed to set them on the right track. I also really liked her discussion with Caitlin where the truth about Ronnie comes out. Iris’ reaction suggests that she realised that was none of her business so top marks to her in this episode for sure.
Now onto the main event. Gorilla Grodd was just fantastically executed and I have no real issues with it. Given the limitations of CW TV budgets the fact that they managed to have him at all is amazing but to have him look as convincing as he did is nothing short of spectacular. Naturally the episode goes with the less is more approach to make it work but playing up the horror angle with the dimly lit and claustrophobic sewer setting was a great decision. Grodd’s appearance was built up to and didn’t disappoint when it happened as well as culminating in a really cool action sequence. Iris being the voice that brings Barry around after the psychic onslaught is a little cheesy but it works in the context of the show and gives us another look at their close relationship.
He’s not just a brutish gorilla either. Some work was done to establish him as a character. It’s interesting that he hates General Eiling -who he mind controls to steal gold for some reason- for experimenting on him but regards Wells as a father figure. It just goes to show you how manipulative and charismatic he is.
The episode develops Grodd with comparatively little screen time in some really clever ways. My personal favourite was seeing his scribblings on the sewer wall getting progressively more coherent as they went on. It was a clever way of showing how much he was evolving and how much he would continue to evolve. His communication was still somewhat rudimentary but there’s a real sense that he’s learning and has more development to come. Adding the air of tragedy to his character with the emotionally scarring experimentation was a nice touch. He was more than an empty CGI construct and I look forward to subsequent experiences.
Grodd’s appearance being as a result of Wells needing to buy some time to finish his new particle accelerator was a clever way of keeping it connected to the main plot. Grodd was nothing more than a distraction to let Wells finish his plan and at that it definitely succeeded.
One thing that is unclear is why he captured Eddie beyond needing to taunt him. I suspect it’ll become apparent soon but for now it’s left ambiguous. The situation did lend itself to some really interesting discussions between Wells and Eddie over Eddie’s role in the future. It can’t be easy to hear that you’re historically worthless but at the same time important since descendants go onto greatness. I also felt really sorry for him when he finds out that Barry and Iris are apparently destined to get married. Are we about to see a season 2 that deals with temporal destiny?
Tom Cavenagh is definitely having a blast playing Wells as unburdened by the pretense of keeping things hidden any more. Wells gets to be himself and feels liberated by the prospect. There’s a certain glee to the way he talks as if he has been bursting to do this for a long time.
The use of Ealing as Rainbow Raider felt a bit redundant. I think the plot could have functioned without him as it all came across as tacked on. Grodd could have been introduced some other way and Eiling’s importance to the creation of this creature was a little underplayed. I also thought that Cisco was overdoing it with the movie references, it wasn’t that difficult to understand what was going on.
Complete aside here but was that the same CGI model used for the Watchtower in Smallville. It sure looked like it! Comparison shot is below the rating.
A really well put together and entertaining episode that could serve as filler but manages to be integral to the DNA of the series.
Iris’ reaction to the knowledge of Barry’s secret was very well done and felt very real. There was a real humanity to the whole thing as Iris contemplated the scope of the lies she has been fed all season. She’s clearly devastated and makes a lot of solidly convincing points about why keeping this secret was a bad idea. The argument of keeping her safe doesn’t fly here as she has been in danger many times so it was good to see this all thrown out there.
Grodd was used really well and I’m very impressed that he was made to look so believable on a TV budget. His appearances were brief and the setting was dark but considering the limitations it worked beautifully. It felt like an event when he was seen and playing up the horror angle in building up to it was an inspired choice. Cisco’s constant monster movie references were a little irritating though.
I like that Grodd was more than a brutish monster as well. Showing his evolution to intelligence through the scribblings on the wall and adding the sense of tragedy to his back story involving experimentation worked really well. It definitely made his appearance feel worthwhile and more than just a throwaway monster gimmick. His twisted relationship with Wells who he considers a father figure is really intriguing as well.
Wells is in something of a holding pattern this week as he works to complete his plan as well as taunts Eddie about how historically unmemorable he is. It seems that he exists to make it possible for more important men to exist. That can’t be easy to hear and finding out that he and Iris don’t end up together must be pretty awful for him as well. Naturally Grodd’s appearance was to distract Team Flash and give Wells time to finish his plan so it tied nicely into the overall story.
General Eiling’s return as Rainbow Raider as controlled by Grodd was a fairly pointless addition and Grodd’s introduction could have been handled some other way. It’s a minor niggle but it’s such a small one given how well put together this whole experience was.
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