‘The Flash’ Review: ‘Gorilla Warfare’ Is a Modern King Kong With Grodd
Recap and review of The Flash – Season 2 Episode 7 – Gorilla Warfare:
One of the things I find charming about The Flash is that it tends to play out like an action-packed afterschool special, with morals about believing in yourself, and how teamwork and friendship are everything. This week was no different. But there was an added layer of morality to “Gorilla Warfare” that made this episode more compelling than most: how do you help a villain whose reason for lashing out is loneliness?
Maybe that’s a gross oversimplification of Grodd’s issue here, since he’s not only suffering from crushing loneliness, but from the memory of the horrific experiments that were performed on him. In many ways, this episode is a modern day King Kong, with Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) getting abducted early on, resulting in Caitlin coming to identify with the giant ape. It’s a bit of an on-the-nose direction for the storyline to take, although we avoid outright cliche with it. I mean, it’s not as if Grodd climbs the Empire State Building with Caitlin in his hands or anything. That said, some of the story beats are similar, namely the climax. Grodd’s reason for abducting Caitlin is to force her to create more apes like him, noting that she was always kind to him, and would be the likeliest person to help him now that his “father” is dead. This leads to a plan that is clever but poorly-executed, as Wells (Tom Cavanagh) masquerades as his Earth-1 self in order to convince Grodd to let Caitlin go, only for the gorilla to realize he’s being played when Wells can’t keep up the charade.
Ultimately, the only way to stop Grodd is for Wells to help open up a rift that will transport Grodd to a place on Earth-2 where apes of his kind can roam free. And so it all culminates in a climax that echoes King Kong, in that Grodd’s affection for Caitlin proves to be his undoing. Basically, Grodd is lured into the rift when Caitlin arrives to stop him from killing Barry (Grant Gustin). Barry is able to recover, build up momentum, and use his massive speed punch to send Grodd the rest of the way through. It places him in what looks like a crude, Mayan civilization in the middle of a rainforest on Earth-2, and while the implication is that this is not the last we’ll see of Grodd, it’s also not the first we see of any other similarly intelligent apes either. So was Wells lying about sending Grodd somewhere he could be with others of his kind? Bringing Grodd back this early in the season would seem like a stunt if it weren’t heading somewhere in the narrative, so I imagine we’ll see Grodd again sooner rather than later. But how, and at what capacity? This episode asked more questions than it answered. Yet I’m excited just the same, since this is a show that always delivers big payoffs. So I’m curious to see how this all ties in to where the show is headed.
But outside of the modern King Kong tale, we continue the story in which Barry must recover from his near-death encounter with Zoom, which is easier said than done. Barry’s confidence has taken a major hit, since he now feels Central City no longer views him as someone who’s capable of protecting them. It’s an immediately relatable internal conflict to anyone who’s ever suffered a high-profile failure, and the effectiveness of the storyline is bolstered considerably by Gustin’s acting. This isn’t the usual Barry pity party, it’s an angst rooted in self-doubt about his ability to stop evil from holding sway over the city — and the people — he loves. Granted, the story itself, in which we learn that Barry’s physical disabilities as a result of his fight with Zoom are all in his head, hews a bit close to cliche territory. But I feel it still tells us a lot about Barry’s character, in that he takes this all so seriously, and so personally as a duty, that he’s incapable of separating the psychological component of heroism from the physical act of performing heroic acts. It’s a strong character story that’s reinforced by the reappearance of Henry (John Wesley Shipp), who serves the old Wells role of giving Barry the requisite pep talk he needs to rediscover his sense of confidence.
Of course, this is different from pep talks he’s received from Wells or Joe (Jesse L. Martin), in that Henry relates the horror of his own experiences as a man wrongfully convicted of murder. It was one of the stronger scenes of this season, as Henry details what it was like to slowly lose the faith and support of everyone he loved over the course of the murder trial, until the only option he had to survive was to embrace the horrific opinion they all had of him. Well, that and cling to the hope represented by 11-year-old Barry, who never stopped believing in his dad’s innocence. Henry knew if he could survive others viewing him as a failure who murdered his wife in front of their son, he could survive anything. By the same token, being seen as a human, prone to human failings, can be a learning experience for Barry. No man is infallible, not even the fastest man alive. It’s a wonderful lesson, and it ties into the climax, when Barry finally reclaims his confidence and his powers, and is able to send Grodd through the rift. The first half of this season seemed intent on illustrating the ways in which Barry isn’t prepared to defeat Zoom. It seems that now begins the tale of his comeback, in which we see him gradually become prepared for the fight ahead. And that has the potential to be a great growth story.
“Gorilla Warfare” is just as strong for what it tells us about the character of Wells, who proves to be a man of determination himself, who isn’t nearly the stone-hearted hardass he seems to be, bonding with Caitlin over a discussion about how best to help his daughter. We also get more from Cisco (Carlos Valdes), who gets a “vibe” from Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee) that reveals her future fate as the hero Hawkgirl. These are all smaller character beats in the grand scheme of things, but they’re all part of a narrative fabric that helps The Flash feel like one of TV’s most dramatically cohesive shows. We get Iris (Candice Patton) agonizing over whether or not to tell Joe the truth about the existence of his unknown son, while Barry learns to trust Patty (Shantel VanSanten). Both storylines are very slight, but it adds to the sense that this is a real ensemble, and that every character matters. There’s no wasted motion on The Flash, and “Gorilla Warfare” is one of the best representations of this principle.
But what did you think of The Flash, Season 2 Episode 7, “Gorilla Warfare”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Flash, read our review of last week’s terrific “Enter Zoom”!