The Flash 1.21 Review: Grodd Lives (Spoilers)

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Grodd is good.

This past Tuesday, the Flash finally faced off against one of his biggest adversaries in the comics world. There’s been a lot of build-up to this showdown and many an expectation to meet. Some were skeptical (me) that the whole thing would fall apart due to the sheer ridiculousness of the villain. Amazingly, not only does this episode manage to excel despite everything set against it (and even despite some minor character annoyances *coughIRIScough*), it continues the winning streak of the past few episodes, even without the momentum of the Reverse Flash.

This latest episode mixes things up a bit right from the start with a voiceover narration from Iris instead of Barry. She discovered the Flash’s true identity in last week’s episode and she is having a kaleidoscope of conflicting feelings about it. Apparently, voiceovers are the best way to cope with these emotions; (if it’s good enough for ‘The Wonder Years’ it’s good enough for Flash) I might have to give it a shot someday. Her anger and frustration with Barry for keeping her in the dark will play a big part in this episode, and not always for the better, but more on that later.

Barry and Joe meet with the Central City Police Captain to discuss Eddie’s whereabouts. Despite Barry’s super abilities, he hasn’t been able to locate any sign of Eddie ever since he was kidnapped by Dr. Wells. Ah, sorry. I mean Eobard Thawne. Iris confronts Barry and tries to not-so-subtly guilt him into admitting he’s the Flash. Barry dodges her every attempt, and then has the gall to go for the ‘We’ll find Eddie’ tactic. Iris is so not having it, but she lets it slide…for now. A confrontation is a-brewin’. And we all know how much Iris loves her confrontations.

Elsewhere, a truck loaded with gold is attacked by a guy with a bazooka who dresses like a character from Mortal Kombat. The Flash arrives to take him down, but both are incapacitated by strange visions, which feature doctors and a weird operation of some sort. You know, typical flashback material. Back at STAR Labs, Caitlin examines Barry to figure out what exactly was going on with the weird hallucinations, but his brain is looking nice and shiny. Barry makes a throwaway comment about how his brain got whammied and then Iris shows up and spouts one of the most bizarre, poorly worded responses you can possibly imagine:

“I guess we both got whammied.”

Yup.

As if that line wasn’t bad enough, she pulls the whole “Nice to see you, Barry…or should I say…the Flash” dialogue card. I was waiting for the obligatory ‘DUN-DUN-DUN’ musical cue. The one-two punch of awful dialogue was starting to make ME feel whammied. And not in a good way.

Also, how did Iris manage to sneak into this top-level facility without any security systems going off? Which also begs the question…with Dr. Wells out of the picture, who’s keeping STAR Labs afloat? Caitlin and Cisco? Perhaps these questions will be answered at another time.

Anyway, Iris totally goes off on Barry while Caitlin and Cisco use the security cameras in the next room over to eavesdrop on their argument. They totally try to justify it by re-emphasizing that they’re required to keep apprised of the Flash’s situation at all times, and it’s adorable. Seriously, you two can do whatever you want and I’ll always support you.

Iris tells Barry she’s not angry at him, but she’s disappointed and I’m starting to feel like this episode is a little too focused on this reveal. Yeah, I know it’s a big deal and everything, but the problem is that Iris hasn’t been the show’s best-developed character. In fact, she’s arguably the weakest and she’s spent most of her screen time complaining from the sidelines. The revelation of Barry’s secret identity doesn’t do her character any favors; she still comes across as petty and selfish.

Barry reveals that both Eddie and her father know that he’s the Flash and that they were trying to keep it a secret for her protection. That is the last thing Iris wants to hear and she storms off while Caitlin and Cisco not so subtly try to pretend they weren’t eavesdropping. (“Yeah, if we could get another shipment of the…computers…”)

After all this Iris melodrama, I couldn’t have been more thrilled that the next scene focuses on Dr. We—uh, I mean…Eobard and Eddie. Eobard is up to something evil and sinister and he dishes out some classic bad guy monologues while Eddie offers quippy responses that seem a bit too casual for someone whose life is in danger. Tom Cavanagh continues to be a delight, relishing the opportunity to play the villain. I really hope the writers keep him around. It’s starting to feel like they might kill him off by the season’s end and that would make me so sad. (Sidenote: is he wearing dark eyeliner in this scene to make him look more evil?)

Back with the melodrama, we get a lame family scene between Joe and Iris. He gives her the whole “We were trying to protect you” spiel while Iris gives shocked responses to redundant information. (“Wells killed Barry’s mom?” “Wells killed my boss?” “Wells wears evil bad guy eyeliner?” etc.) She gets all whiny about how Joe should have let her know Barry was the Flash and then she starts blaming him for not letting her know that Barry loved her.

Hold up. Wait a minute. Are you serious right now, Iris? You couldn’t tell that Barry, the guy who has been so overtly fawning over you for as long as you’ve known each other, had a thing for you?? I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I really do try to give Iris the benefit of the doubt, but then she has to go and say something stupid like this.

She takes it a step further and decides to blame Joe for Eddie’s kidnapping too. *Sigh*. Okay, listen up, Flash writers. You really need to devote some serious time and energy to making Iris just a tad bit more likable if you expect us to care about her. I mean, she’s supposed to be the love of Barry’s life, but she acts like such a punk. Why would Barry be so fixated on her when he has someone like Caitlin in his circle? Makes him look like a major idiot.

Around this point, the lame melodrama is broken up with a pretty great action sequences that gets the pace up and running again. Joe and the Flash manage to capture the Mortal Kombat cosplayer and reveal his true identity: General Eiling! Wait, what?? What’s he doing here?! They take him back to STAR Labs and notice he’s acting a little…off. He answers their questions with slow, broken sentences; his voice is deep and unsettling. (“You guys have seen The Exorcist, right?” says Cisco.) Finally, someone gets smart and asks General Eiling who he really is. He answers in his uber-creepy voice: “I. Am. Grodd. Fear me.” You got it, pal. But, who is Grodd exactly?

Caitlin and Cisco give Barry the lowdown, showing him surveillance footage of Grodd. (“Oh. So…Grodd is a gorilla…?”) Turns out General Eiling and Dr. Wells had teamed up years ago to perform experiments on this gorilla in order to develop psychic super soldiers. Grodd managed to get loose when the reactor exploded and no one had seen him since.

“And I think we all know what happens when a super intelligent ape escapes captivity.”

We sure do, Cisco. We sure do.

Now that the gang knows General Eiling is being psychically controlled by a giant, nutty gorilla, they decide to take the most logical course of action: head down into the creepy sewers to confront the beast. Of course, Iris shows up to ruin the fun and spends most of the following scene stating the obvious and contributing next to nothing. Hey, at least she’s consistent.

The sewer sequence is pulled straight from the pages of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ and Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Mimic’ and that’s meant to be a compliment. The dark, damp setting and the low-key lighting does a superb job of making the viewer uneasy. There are even creepy chalk drawings on the wall, indicating Grodd’s developing intelligence.  Where did he get the chalk? Who cares? The point is weird drawings always make creepy scenes creepier.

I’ve got to admit, I was a little nervous about how the writers would introduce Grodd into this world. Sure The Flash may be absurd and fantastical but it’s also managed to stay relatively grounded. We’ve never seen anything along the lines of giant, psychic gorillas. But the creative team handles the build up perfectly with some genuinely creepy moments and some perfectly timed humor – Joe brings a banana along, just in case. Also, this line: “If I hadn’t seen Jurassic Park, I wouldn’t be nearly as frightened right now.”

Grodd finally makes his move, knocking Barry unconscious and snatching Joe. Joe’s encounter with the beast provides us with our first good look at the character and the effects department has outdone themselves again. Their work blows away similar CG effects in multi-million dollar blockbusters; I can’t believe they pulled it off. (Though it might explain why the budget has only been able to afford lackluster talent for the lesser villains) Grodd uses his mind control abilities to mess with Joe’s head, forcing him to turn his gun on himself. After Grodd releases him from his psychic grasp, Joe pulls a total idiot move and offers Grodd the banana in the hopes that it might appease him. Instead, Grodd gets right in Joe’s face and says one of the best lines in the entire episode:  “Grodd. HATE. Banana.”

Brilliant. I nearly gave this moment a standing ovation. Gorilla Grodd has arrived, ladies and gentlemen, and I am a total convert. Get me a poster, a t-shirt, and a stuffed Grodd to snuggle with.

While Joe is busy being terrified out of his mind, Iris is back to her old shenanigans, blaming everyone she possibly can about anything she can possibly think of. Okay, yes, I understand she does have some justification for her erratic behavior. After all, both her boyfriend and her dad have been kidnapped by maniacs and Barry’s been lying to her for the past year; she’s got a lot on her plate. Still, that doesn’t give her any excuse to behave so abhorrently. It’s difficult to muster up any interest in what she has to say or to even be concerned for her due to the shoddy development of her character.

Meanwhile, Eobard, who is clearly getting tired of all of Eddie’s snappy one-liners, drops a knowledge bomb in the hopes that Eddie will shut the eff up. Eobard shows him the news article that reveals Iris will be getting married to Barry instead. Poor Eddie is left to mull over the realization that he might have to play the part of Rick Blaine in this unfortunate love triangle. (I’m sure Eric Carmen’s ‘All By Myself’ is probably playing softly somewhere in the back of his head.) The reveal adds a nice little twist to what has been a mostly superfluous subplot in this episode.

So, armed with a dweeby looking helmet to protect him from Grodd’s psychic powers, the Flash returns to the sewers to perform a SUPERSONIC PUNCH on Grodd. But, Grodd doesn’t have time for these puny punches and, after deflecting it, (?!?! You can do that?!) he proceeds to beat the crap out of the Flash. The Flash tries to compensate with a flurry of superspeed punches, but again, Grodd isn’t having any of this nonsense and tosses him through a brick wall. A. BRICK. WALL. He has been tossed into an active subway tunnel and is now lying groggily on the tracks. What is even happening right now? How did I not realize how awesome this showdown would be?

Things aren’t looking too good for our hero at this point. Besides the whole getting tossed through a wall thing, his psychic deflector helmet is broken and Grodd is totally invading his mind. The Flash is incapacitated and to make matters worse, a train is coming. Come on, Barry! Pull it together!!

And now, FINALLY, Iris manages to do something besides stating the obvious and/or complaining. She gives Barry a pep-talk to bring him back to his senses. It works. He draws Grodd out into the path of the oncoming train and that’s the last we’ll ever see of that monster!

…or is it?

The episode concludes with some nice, little bow wrapping. Barry and Iris finally have a chat about their feelings for one another and Iris admits she doesn’t know if they’ll ever be anything more than friends. More importantly, we see Grodd climbing up a building in the background and I am sure he’ll be coming around to play again before the season concludes…if the budget will allow for it.

So, aside from all the lame Iris stuff, Grodd Lives managed to satisfy in nearly every way. It’s a bit of a shame that the Eobard Thawne/Eddie plot had to get shoved to the sidelines, but Grodd deserved the focus this time around and he was more than worth the wait. We’ve only got two episodes left to go and I couldn’t be more excited to see how it all wraps up.

(Image Source: IGN)

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8.0 Excellent

I never thought for a single second I'd be remotely impressed by a giant, psychic gorilla battling a speedy hero in red spandex, but The Flash has proven me wrong. Another superb episode brings us closer to the big finale. Bravo, gentlemen (and ladies). Bravo!

  • ACTING 8
  • WRITING 8
  • DIRECTION 8
  • EXECUTION 8
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About Author

One of Shawn Eastridge's earliest memories is sneaking out of bed during naptime at the age of 4 to watch Superman II for the first time. Between that and repeat viewings of Back to the Future and Return of the Jedi, his life has been a downward spiral ever since. Shawn loves all things movies, music, books, video games, and TV and he will find any and every excuse to discuss all of these things as often as possible. He's been writing film reviews for the past seven years and has a Bachelor's Degree in Cinema/Television. He hopes to one day get paid to discuss all the things that make him geek out on a regular basis. He is currently the full-time Social Media specialist for a trade association. His all-time favorite TV shows are Freaks & Geeks, Arrested Development, Breaking Bad, The X-Files, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, Undeclared, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Spaced, and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

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