[Review] The Flash (2014) – 1×21: “Grodd Lives”

Kevin and Bethany are done monkeying around this week. Grab a banana and your tin foil hat, because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash.


BETHANY

This week, on the Flash: VINDICATION.

At a certain point, this episode became the only reason I stayed on with the recaps. I was looking forward to writing about this. Watching wasn’t so bad, the first time through, but as I got deeper into analysis the show made me angrier and angrier. There were several episodes where I just didn’t want to, and had to force myself through.

Finally, as was inevitable, the truth has emerged, and consequences to follow.

Spoilers under the cut.

There are big lies. Big lies, they always lead to little lies. More lies.

I have been there. And it’s the little lies that are the worst. Because they are the ones that you dig up later.

Hours later. Days, weeks, months, years later. Even when you think you’re over it, you come across something new and you’re bleeding again, where nobody can see. The wound reopens and is fresh again, no matter how healed over you thought it was.

Lying to her about what happened to her mentor, about what was wrong with him, that lightning madness horseshit, all of this stuff she’s going to uncover one lie at a time, and each time it’s going to remind her all over again about the really big one.

She is angry, with every right to be so. And while there’s the occasional attempt to explain, mostly Joe and Barry let Iris be angry. Acknowledge that she has a right to her anger. Barry even admits that even though Joe told him not to tell Iris, that it was still Barry’s own decision. He could have defied Joe. Both Joe and Barry acknowledge that they were in the wrong. (Even Caitlin fesses up to her lie about Ronnie though, really, that was more of an “it’s personal” kind of thing, and Iris seems to be cool with it.)

I do like how seamlessly Iris gets worked into the team, because it showcases what a fucking tragedy it was that Iris had not always been there. She is a powerful addition, and what a fucking shame that it took us twenty-one episodes to see that.

Even in her anger, Iris is incredibly fair to Barry and Joe. (Possibly too fair.) She insists, to her Dad, at the end, that there be no more lies. She tells him “love me by giving me the truth, whole and untarnished” (paraphrasing) and he agrees.

To avoid some spoilers here, we’ll come back to this later.

Iris ends the show still upset, and when Barry asks what happens when he gets Eddie back, she says “I don’t know.” And nobody can fault her for that.

It’s not that she doesn’t love Barry. Her talking Barry through a psychic attack by a homicidal gorilla demonstrates that. But her trust has been broken, and she doesn’t know what lays ahead. And, honestly, that’s fair.

Oh, yeah, Grodd was in this one.

Here’re some bullets, because there was some fun in this.

  • Joe, kidnapped by Grodd, offers him a banana.
    • GRODD HATE BANANA!
    • Well, yeah, fair enough.
    • I really do wish Grodd had an ape friend. Maybe a certain Librarian could be a stabilizing influence.
    • I mean, sure, the Librarian has a bit of a sore spot around being incorrectly labeled, and he gets a little…protective of books (though that’s really a trait of librarians and not great apes).
    • But he’s earned a lot of respect around Ankh-Morpork and is generally accepted in places of business, because he understands how to make a well-timed point and doesn’t go off half-cocked (and he always stands his round).
    • Far better the Librarian than Eobard/Wells, is my point.
    • In fact, if there is fanfic of this anywhere please hit me up.
  • We see glimpses of Eddie with Eobard/Wells, and I have to give props to the makeup department.
  • Eddie does, in fact, look like he’s been chained to a chair for a number of days without food or showers and, honestly, looks like he smells like a garbage heap.
  • Understandably.
  • Wells also looks subtly more…off. It’s a slight lightening of the area around his eyes that does it (or possibly just darkening the rest of his face). It just makes him look a little bit manic. I actually think they started it at the end of last episode, but I got some better looks at him in this one, and yeah, he looks like a guy who’s been staying up for days on caffeine and manic energy alone. (Eddie is probably not eating because Wells is not eating, and Eobard/Wells is not eating because, probably, eating would slow him down and make him sleepy. My dad does the same thing when he’s long-distance driving.)
  • I just realized I compared a comic book villain to my dad. But, in my defense, it’s just a habit of men with a certain type of drive.
  • (Actually I did it because Dad loves puns.)
  • I will say that if you’re going to secretly transport gold in a real ice cream truck with music included, you should damn well carry some ice cream.
  • Makes your cover look better.
  • Not that it matters, in the end, but it definitely was a lot more noticeable than selling kids some rocket pops and choco tacos for a couple of minutes.
  • (Choco tacos were one of the best things I discovered on an ice cream truck.)
  • (And, unlike Drumsticks, they were hard to find in stores – but you can get them now, at least where I live)
  • (Of course I’m now, tragically, lactose intolerant. Sigh.)
  • Was it just me, or was this kind of a…well, I just wish Grodd had gotten his own episode. I mean, the parts with him were great. There were just, uh, a lot of distractions.
  • An angry psychic gorilla is really enough to carry an episode, I do think, and the parts with him were definitely thrilling.
  • Do they ever mention the part where Grodd is way bigger than he used to be? He’s embiggened.
  • Of course, when dealing with metahumans (and meta-apes) sometimes these sorts of things happen, I suppose.
  • Gorillas are big, but he started out a normal size for a gorilla, and now he is…like, several feet taller and a couple hundred pounds heavier, I’d say.
  • Joe’s legit pants-shitting terror when being screamed at by a really big, really angry, really smart and vengeful primate, for example.
  • Seeing Joe cry in fear is a thing I 100% Do Not Want, and it definitely Sold It.
  • That was some A+ acting.
  • They don’t capture him, in the end, and Cait points out that it’s probably for the best, given that they don’t really have the facilities to hold something that big, strong, angry, and psychic to boot.
  • Though that does mean that there is still a big, strong, angry, psychic gorilla loose in the city somewhere.
  • Eh, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Maybe he just wants a hug?


KEVIN

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating that this episode was so satisfying, even without the full personal resonance that Bethany describes.

Every time we see the heroes say “I lied to you to keep you safe,” even when their loved ones are justifiably angry about it, they still acknowledge that maybe the heroes were right to do so.

Iris Motherfuckin’ West does not hold that view. Iris Motherfuckin’ West reads both of them the riot act, and it is glorious. It is everything that I’ve ever wanted in these kinds of Secret Revealed scenes.

Because, as we’ve said over and over again, not telling Iris the truth has actually put her in more danger. It’s true of those other stories where this plot point is dropped in favor of clean resolutions, and it’s especially true here.

It’s important to note that after Iris finds out, she gives Barry one more chance to come clean to her of his own accord. Would she have forgiven him easier if he had admitted it in his lab, instead of her dropping the big bomb right in the middle of the Cortex? It’s hard to tell, and we’ll never know, because it doesn’t happen. She’s willing to let him redeem himself, one last time, and he doesn’t take the opportunity.

COUNTDOWN TO CATHARSIS: ZERO, BABY

Like Bethany, I think that Grodd could have carried this whole episode by himself, but we’re only three – now two – episodes until the end of the season, and there are plot threads to wrap up. It’s weird, because while this could have been placed earlier (what with the layering and setup Grodd receives way back in Episode Five), it’s also true that he’s currently best used as a distraction, to keep Team Flash (and us, the audience) from knowing that Harribard is keeping Eddie underneath S.T.A.R. Labs.

(Which easily explains why Barry can’t find hide nor hair of either of them. Because they’re still there.)

That said, Grodd is a massive presence, and I’m not just talking physically. He’s dynamic, he’s nuanced, he’s not pure evil but he’s also not peaceful in the slightest – it’s telling that if “Father” had not instructed Grodd to keep Joe alive, Joe’d be dead.

Bethany covered all the other nuances of the main plots, so let’s go right to the scattered thoughts and tiny details.

  • Iris is good at her job. There’s a lot that a dedicated investigative journalist can bring to a team of scientists and engineers, and that’s shown here when she pulls up public rumor and newspaper tips to figure out where Grodd is hiding. It’s something that has been dropped a bit in current episodes, where her power is simply to be the “heart of the group”, but let’s not forget that she’s combat trained, doesn’t take no for an answer, and can probably give Lois Lane a run for her money.
  • Grodd’s theme is full of jungle drums.
  • This is not the first time that Clancy Brown has faced off against Gorilla Grodd.

Having watched the episode above, knowing the context here is actually less fulfilling.

  • Casual nod to Lyla Michaels, at the time a highly-placed executive and agent of ARGUS, and also part-time helper to Team Arrow through her husband John Diggle. We last saw her interact with Team Flash in Arrow Episode 3×08, “The Brave and the Bold”, the second half of this season’s crossover.
  • We’ll actually get to see her on The Flash next season!
  • Harribard tormenting Eddie with what can only be the truth just hurts. Eddie is, as stated, a Good Guy, and my Flash guru has previously lamented that the writers made her “sympathetic to a Thawne”.
  • Speaking of my Flash guru, when I got to this episode the first time around, she made a point to tell me about how Flash love interests, especially Linda Park and Iris West, have always been the lightning rods to guide their speedsters home. Barry rides the lightning, but Iris keeps him grounded.
  • A big thing with superheroes finally telling their loved ones is the first time they change in front of them. Barry’s is no different. Maybe under better circumstances…
  • Captain Singh really likes working with the Flash. I’ve discussed this before but it’s just a really neat detail. Central City citizens, historically, love their hero way more than most other cities, with the possible exception of Metropolis.
  • Okay, say what you want, but Grodd catching the Supersonic Punch in midair was just absolutely badass. And we’ve established that Barry is going well over eight hundred miles per hour here.
  • Seriously. Lightning in the eyes as Barry prepares to do something badass will always be my absolute favorite special effect.
  • SCIENCE. SIBLINGS.

Kevin O’Shea is a writer and part-time municipal historian. You can find him on Twitter (@osheamobile), Tumblr (osheamobile), or searching eBay for inexpensive Optimus Primal figures.

Bethany the Martian is an abuser of parentheses and works in the Pizza Mines. She can be found on Twitter (@martianbethany) and on Tumblr (bethanythemartian).

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