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Flash Recap: Grodd Lives
May 9, 2015 By Trevor Richardson
There were a lot of high points in last week’s episode of The Flash, but the only one that really matters heading into “Grodd Lives” is Iris West finally deducing that Barry is the Flash. In the beginning of this episode, we see her fishing for facts about Barry’s secret as she basically interrogates him about the disappearance of her boyfriend, Eddie Thawne. Eddie was taken by The Reverse-Flash and is still missing, despite Barry scouring basically the entire city. Barry wants Iris to keep the police out of it because, put simply, Harrison Wells/The Reverse-Flash is way out of their league.
Iris doesn’t trust Barry right now. She feels betrayed, lied to, and let down, which is, let’s face it, a bit of a trope when it comes to people discovering their buddy has superpowers. At this point, it would be more daring or unexpected to have someone like Iris just respond practically with support and understanding. What would that look like? Iris says, “I get it. I’ve seen movies. If you tell me, you put my life at risk. I just can’t believe you’ve been living with the pressure of this whole double life while listening to me talk about my stuff.” Then maybe she finds out that pretty much everyone else in the world knows and she gets mad at all of them instead. Seriously, just once I would like to see someone find out they know a superhero and respond by going, “This. Is. Awesome. Is there a Flash Cave?”
After apologizing a thousand times and leaving Iris at the police station, Barry heads over to STAR Labs and chats with Cisco about Wells’ secret cameras that were used to spy on them the past few months. Cisco apparently has plans for them, but all we know for the moment is his golden rule, “Never waste good tech.” They get a ping on their own surveillance system, and yes, I think the irony of that was lost on most of us, and Barry rushes to the gold reserve to stop a bad guy with big guns and armor faintly resembling amped up paintball gear. When a fight appears imminent, Barry instead gets hit with a painful hallucination, almost a memory, of doctors flashing lights in his face and apparently performing tests. When it becomes apparent that the man in the armor is also feeling it, the villain flees and Barry returns to Caitlin for a check up. Now, right away, anyone who knows their Flash lore and the title of this episode is thinking Gorilla Grodd just put the whammy on these two. Why is a different story, but Grodd is a telepathic and telekinetic ape who, in the comics, was imbued with super intelligence and special powers by an alien crash-landing near his home in Africa, and these images look very much like the memories of a creature that has spent a lot of time in laboratories and cages. We have already seen that Grodd was the subject of testing and experimentation by Harrison Wells and his old pal General Eiling. Put it all together, and it seems clear that Grodd, possibly from the sewers that are currently his home, just hit these two with a mental projection of what it feels like to be the proverbial lab rat.
All of that is conjecture at this early stage of the show, and as Caitlin gives Barry a clean bill of health the team, now down a member since their mentor is now outed as an uber bad guy, looks at surveillance footage of the encounter as Barry and the armored thief fight their disorientation. Barry says the all-important phrase, “Maybe we both got whammied,” allowing for one of the cooler moments, and more intense entrances Iris West has ever been granted in this series.
“Then you know how it feels,” she says, stepping into the room with hands in her pockets like an old film noir detective.
Barry freezes, a look of panic on his face that, among the obvious thoughts, is also likely screaming, “Why don’t we ever lock that front door when I’m in the red getup?”
As usual, a high-stakes, high-drama moment in this show is invariably followed up with a laugh. This is just something that separates The Flash from Arrow. In Arrow, when the love interest walked in, scowling mad for having to learn a secret this way, they would cut to an emotional debate probably in Club Verdant and there would be a lot of head shaking and halfway storming out. What does this show do instead? We go to Cisco and Caitlin who say that listening in is none of their business. To which the two of them have a rapid, hilarious exchange that basically amounts to “but the Flash is our business and Iris did just find out that Barry is the Flash, therefore, by the transitive property, Barry and Iris’ conversation is our business.” Pretty thin logic, but also totally hilarious.
The scene with Iris and Barry plays out about like you would expect. Iris has a lot to process and a lot to be upset about after learning that Dr. Wells is the “man in yellow” and he took Eddie for mysterious reasons, that Eddie knew Barry’s secret and didn’t say anything, and that Barry wanted to tell her right away but was talked out of it by Joe. You get the feeling that, more than any of it, she storms out because she’s mad at her father because, in times like this, people tend to focus their anger on the thing that is most in their control and she can totally go have it out with her dad and probably win. She can’t save Eddie. She can’t go punch out Thawne. And she can’t really do anything to Barry but scold him. But she can let her dad have it and then some. Which is likely a forthcoming scene.
Of course, as she marches out of the lab. the eavesdropping Cisco and Caitlin pretend to look busy in the worst way possible. Cisco grabs the telephone and says the glorious filler line, “Yeah, if we could have another shipment of the…computers…that’d be great.”
We get a brief scene with Eddie and Wells, but other than just reminding us that they are in this show, it doesn’t really do much. Eddie is a prison and Wells isn’t telling him anything.
Iris, meanwhile, is already on Barry’s case, learning that Barry’s mentor is not only the man in yellow but also the man who killed his mother seems to have fallen under that category of “attacking things that I can control” so she responds in the only way she knows how: investigative reporting. This is interrupted by the arrival of Joe and the impending emotional showdown.
Poor Iris, the hits just keep on coming. Joe says the trite, and totally expected, “I was just trying to keep you safe,” to which Iris retorts that as far as excuses go, that one is getting old. Joe said the same thing when she wanted to be a cop, the same when she wanted to date Eddie. He’s been saying it all her life. Joe, trying to defend his point of view, drops yet another bomb on Iris when he tells her that Well is a dangerous man, a cop killer, who even killed her colleague, Mason Bridge. Remember, as far as Iris knows, Mason Bridge skipped down with a woman. So not only does she have to cope with the fact that Bridge was murdered, she has to face the fact that her dad and her friends covered this murder up. No matter the reasons, which were good ones, they did cover up a murder.
Iris says the best thing she could in this situation, it’s something other characters have alluded to and it’s even something I’ve included in past episode recaps where the police were concerned. Keeping people in the dark does not make them safe, it makes them unprepared and vulnerable to attack. To Iris, if she had been clued in, she could have been a help, not a hindrance as has been the case in the past. Most importantly, she could have known what was out there coming for her.
Remember how I said that Iris was going to try to win her argument with her dad because it’s kind of the only one she can win right now? She definitely doesn’t pull any punches. The coup de gras comes when she says, “What I’m saying is what happened to Eddie is your fault.”
Joe gets called back to the situation with the gold reserve and the guy with the really big gun. While transporting some of the gold, the police get hit again. The Flash shows up and makes short work of the masked thief, body checking him into the truck to let off a little steam from his very bad day. When they unmask the would-be robber, Barry and Joe are equally shocked to see the vacant face of General Eiling. For those who don’t remember, the last time he and Barry crossed paths, Wells got Eiling out of the way by serving him up to Grodd. Most of us assumed Eiling was a goner, but it looks like Grodd had more sophisticated uses for the old general.
Eiling has either had his memory wiped or is under some intense hypnotic suggestion, or both, at the hands of the telepathic gorilla. Of course, the good guys don’t know about all that yet. To them, they just see an old nemesis standing in his cell like a robot, completely unresponsive to the bullet wound in his shoulder or anything else for that matter. We got a little crossover reference from Cisco who says that he called Argus and they report Eiling has been on administrative leave, but Diggle’s wife Lyla says that’s just a coverup for the fact that Eiling has been missing for three months.
When Barry asks Eiling if he knows who he is, a grizzled, almost mechanical voice responds, “Flash.” Then adds, “Eiling not here. Eiling bad.” This is clearly Grodd talking through Eiling’s body. He then says, “Caitlin. Caitlin good.” Indicating that he is extremely familiar with the team, but what is unclear is if Grodd knows them personally or if he is reading their minds right then and there.
Finally, after a few more passes, they cut to the chase, and Eiling declares, “I AM GRODD.”
Cut to old video footage of Caitlin hanging out with a gorilla in a cage marked “Grodd.” As expected, Grodd knew Caitlin from before. Caitlin explains that Eiling and Wells were working to expand cognitive abilities in soldiers, but they did not know that Eiling was attempting to create psychic abilities in his men. At this point, it appears that they are going to just retconn the whole alien spaceship, Gorilla City, super-powered ape thing out of the story and just go with lab experimentation and the tried and true accelerator accident. It might make sense, but it also takes some of the fun out of a classic Flash baddie.
Cisco, of course, makes a nerdy King Kong reference which the team promptly ignores and then goes on to discuss brain scans and scientific evidence pointing to the fact that the accelerator definitely created a meta-gorilla. Joe surmises that Wells is using Grodd as a distraction, that he didn’t just put a stop to Eiling’s experimentation on the animal for moral reasons, but for practical ones. Keep in mind, he is from the future and would know about Grodd’s history with the Flash. He also has a personal connection to Grodd as the man who saved him and we might be looking at another super villain team up already in the works.
Iris shows up, clearly with some of her anger behind her and ready to work, and explains that there have been reports and rumors of animal attacks in the sewers. Cisco, of course, has to drop a few more pop culture references, playing for laughs, “CHUDs, ROUS’s…am I the only one who watches movies around here?”
With Iris’s facts and a plan in place, Barry, Cisco, and Joe head to the sewers to look for Grodd and the source of the power that has Eiling under its control. They plant flares along the way like the proverbial breadcrumbs and you have to figure that those are going to be disappearing directly. It’s a little trick about TV that you can’t unlearn once you learn it, every second of a story counts as they are always crushing to get things in under the allotted time. If they take the time to have a main character say something like, “Cisco, light these flares, they’re our way back,” it probably means it’s going to be important to the plot later on. As the gang moves down a tunnel, a creepy shadow passes in front of the camera and it seems pretty clear that we’re done with the talking about things part of the show and it’s time for action.
Iris is leaning against a wall behind Caitlin. We need to do some more talking, folks. Pay no attention to the super-powered monster gorilla in the sewer. This is more important. To sum up, Iris says thanks for getting to be part of the team. That’s pretty much it. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Gorilla fight already in progress.
I really enjoyed the way they used the tunnels as a set piece to depict Grodd’s intellectual evolution. In a few short steps, you see his wall drawings evolve from scribbles into his own name, into cartoonish demons, and eventually higher math. This is promptly followed up by a splash and a growl, to which Cisco makes a Jurassic Park reference and I think I have to call it on the pop culture gags. From now on, your limit is three per episode, kid, five is too much. It’s crossed the line into hacky filler instead of delightful comedy.
Grodd, clearly with the upper hand in an environment he is used to, makes short work of the team, blasting Barry with another mental projection and launching him across the sewer before dragging Joe away to his lair. This leads to a brief, but fantastic exchange between Joe and Grodd. First off, Grodd walks upright like a man instead of on his knuckles like a typical Silverback Gorilla. That was a nice touch. Next, they opted to have him project his voice into Joe’s head rather than speak with an actual voice as he has done in past animations like the Justice League Animated Series. This played down the cheesiness of a giant evil gorilla while upping the creepy factor. Add to that the fact that he’s forcing Joe to point a gun to his own head and Joe is pretty much crying and begging for his life and you get what is top to bottom a really flawless scene. Then there’s a gag with a banana that insults Grodd, as well it should, and he marches back into the shadows.
In this scene, we also learn that Grodd thinks of Wells as his father, that Wells is not with Grodd as Joe had hoped, and that Wells apparently hates guns, which is what prompted Grodd to let Joe release the weapon. When Grodd leaves, Joe is left alone in the catacombs and we cut to a scene at STAR Labs.
The team catches Barry up on the stakes, reminding the folks at home that he can’t just rush in to save the day this time or he’ll just get hit with another telepathic whammy, or worse, become a slave like Eiling. He asks for another miracle gizmo to protect his head, which you may remember from comics and stuff that this is exactly how they have defeated Grodd in the past. Cisco and Caitlin seem discouraged. Iris does more scolding, pouty, judgmental type stuff and marches out, saying they have this whole lab and Barry’s superpowers and they can’t, you know, do a little thing as simple as rescue two different men from two completely different super-villains that happen to be two of the smartest, strongest, most nefarious baddies the Flash will ever face. It’s not like she’s asking for too much, right?
When Barry and Iris have it out in the hallway, Barry tells her to blame him for all the lies, not Joe. They go around and around about the usual trust issue stuff until Barry puts the kibosh on the whole thing when he accuses Iris of being dishonest too. She has feelings for him that she’s been denying and he knows it. He knows it because in an alternate timeline they shared a kiss and in a future newspaper they share a last name. They’re meant to be together and she’s been lying about how she feels. They part ways and Barry goes to check on his friends, who I suppose are supposed to have miraculously figured out how to disrupt telepathic abilities in the time it takes two millennials to tear into each other and bail.
Meanwhile, back in the quasi-Legion of Doom, Eddie is still strapped to a chair and Wells is still treating him like garbage. He explains that the Thawne family is populated by champions, world changers, and geniuses, the only exception on the family tree is one lonely detective who leaves an unimpressive life and “doesn’t get the girl.” Wells shows him the image of the future newspaper with the byline “Iris West-Allen” and punctuates the rant by tossing Grandma Agnes’ ring into shadows. Eddie looks crestfallen and I suppose it is interesting to think that he may end things with Iris because of something a bad guy said, not something Barry, Joe, or Iris had to say. Or, this might be one of those “causal nexus” things Cisco was talking about where he tries to change his future and winds up making it come true. We shall see.
Caitlin and Cisco have, of course, already whipped up a new gadget to fight Grodd. It’s a headband that uses magnets to block “foreign neural stimuli,” basically, it’s a nifty new gadget that lets us move ahead with the story, don’t think too hard on it. Barry and Iris share a few slightly warmer words and Barry speeds away.
There is a lot of dramatic set up involving Cisco using the steam vents to direct Grodd to a specific spot so that Barry can do his supersonic punch that worked so well on Girder. The music ramps up and everything looks like it is going to go really well right up until the moment that Grodd simply catches Barry’s fist and tosses him like a toy. As Flash and Grodd duke it out, the all-important headset keeps popping off and I have some notes. Maybe next time, they put a chinstrap on that thing or, at minimum, like a little bungee or something. Having to keep putting it back on before getting whammied by ape thoughts is not practical. But these are the kinds of things you’d expect when you make a sophisticated piece of technology in six minutes.
After Barry gets put through a brick wall, the headset goes offline and Barry is now in even more trouble. As he gets bombarded by Grodd’s telepathy, it’s actually Iris that comes to the rescue, giving him something else to focus on through the pain. Grodd gets tricked into jumping in front of a train and Barry wins again.
The last few minutes of the episode are spent mending fences, making apologies, and getting all the secrets out in the open. Now that there are no longer any main characters in the dark, the Flash will be working with a totally new dynamic and next season will likely be a very different show. Wells is out, Iris is in, and the deck has been suitably shuffled.
Barry releases Eiling and I have to admit to feeling grateful that Clancy Brown will still be in this show from time to time, either in a villain role, or possibly an anti-hero role as they team up to deal with Harrison Wells. But for now, Grodd is still out there and Eiling is on the trail.
The search for Eddie continues, Barry and Iris know how each other feel, but have agreed to table that out of respect for their missing friend, and in many ways this felt like a new beginning. Most importantly, in the final cut scene of this episode, Wells claims to have what he needs to go home. He fires up what looks like a tunnel or subterranean runway, presumably for him to get up the necessary speed to run home to his own time. It’s possible that, for the foreseeable future, Wells will be out of the show as of the season finale. I’m looking forward to that finale for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the alleged character reveal of Hawkgirl leading up to the new spinoff series, “Legends of Tomorrow,” which will not only expand the DC television universe, but will likely introduce aliens into this storyline. As the man said, good things come to those who wait.
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