‘The Flash’ Review: Barry & Iris Address the Elephant (Well, Gorilla) in the Room in ‘Grodd Lives’
Recap and review of The Flash – Episode 21 – Grodd Lives:
It seems like one of the more common tropes in superhero fiction is that when the love interest finds out her loved one is really the superhero, she invariably gets mad about it — even though it strains credulity that they’d get so uncontrollably angsty about it in the first place.
The Flash gives us one of the more interesting takes on this when Iris (Candice Patton) finally finds out that Barry (Grant Gustin) is The Flash. Instead of reacting with enthusiastic surprise, Iris doesn’t even struggle to keep her feelings of scorn at bay. She feels wronged by Barry, and by Joe (Jesse L. Martin), and while I have no trouble siding with her when she calls B.S. on the “We were just trying to protect you!” argument, since I don’t think Iris knowing about The Flash’s true identity would necessarily imperil her any more than she would have been already. But I feel she has less of a case when she tries to argue she deserved to know the truth. Whether best friends or not, Iris was in no way entitled to that information, and I think it’s a major mistake on the part of the show to have her force the issue so sternly. It simply makes her less likable, if only because we, as the audience, have had 20 episodes to see just how badly Barry wanted to tell her, and how badly he wanted to let her in on every aspect of his life. In short, we’ve spent so much time on Barry’s side that it can be hard to see Iris’s side of the equation.
And yet, the central argument is still compelling, since it forces Barry to defend the choices he and Joe have made, as Iris’s self-appointed protectors. I certainly get why she feels patronized by their actions, but I also see where Barry is coming from when he tells Iris she needs to stop blaming her dad for keeping her in the dark. It’s not like they didn’t have a good reason for keeping it a secret, when you factor in how many times Iris has been put in jeopardy this season. Hell, had Barry not arrived when Wells (Tom Cavanagh) abducted Eddie (Rick Cosnett), Iris very likely would have been killed. And that’s just one situation. A situation in which Iris didn’t even know Barry’s secret! Sure, maybe knowing that Barry was The Flash wouldn’t have put her in any greater danger, but people have already used Iris’s connection to The Flash in the past, and logic dictates they probably would (or will) again. Hence, Barry and Joe aren’t exactly far off the mark to be afraid for Iris’s safety.
Naturally, this is all a very long way in getting to the point: the scenes between Barry and Iris are the best of the episode. Throughout the course of “Grodd Lives,” the best friends address the elephant in the room, exploring how this secret fundamentally alters their relationship. Iris feels as though she doesn’t know Barry at all anymore, whereas Barry feels Iris has been keeping secrets of her own — namely, that she does, in fact, have feelings for Barry. This character conflict is looped into the overarching threat of the episode, as Joe is abducted by Gorilla Grodd, who’s been left as a tortured, telepathic being, thanks to the combination of General Eiling’s (Clancy Brown) experiments and Wells’s Particle Accelerator explosion. Grodd views Wells as his father, and Wells exploits this relationship by getting Grodd to create a distraction for The Flash and his team, in order to buy him more time to finish whatever project he’s working on in his secret warehouse. It’s a straightforward plot, with Wells serving as far more of a villain than Grodd, who’s menacing but also pitiable. Of course, few are more pitiable than Eddie this week, as Wells keeps him captive in the warehouse and tortures him with details about how insignificant he’ll become in the coming centuries. Not only will he never get the girl (showing him the byline for the future article that confirms Iris marries Barry), he’ll be the only Thawne to have faded from history, as just about everyone else on the family tree will be renowned for one reason or another. It’s hard not to feel awful for Eddie, just as it’s difficult not to feel bad for Grodd, even while the beast is threatening to use mind control to force Joe to shoot himself (in a scene that shows just what a valuable asset Jesse L. Martin is to this show).
The climax, in which Barry must fight Grodd despite all of his techniques being functionally useless against him, is an exciting one, but also poignant: Barry struggles against the mind control techniques Grodd employs, just as Eiling struggled to break free when Grodd, at the start of the episode, is forcing him to don a mask and commit robberies as a distraction. Cisco (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) struggle to be useful to Barry without Wells, but they’re essentially powerless to help him once Grodd destroys the mind control-blocking headset they manufacture for him. Instead, it’s Iris who breaks Barry out of his funk, getting him to focus on her voice and snap back to reality. Ultimately, Barry is able to pull Grodd in the path of an oncoming subway train, and escape with Joe. Although Grodd is still on the loose, Barry has saved the day — but not without Iris, who essentially proves her worth as an ally to Barry. Even Caitlin and Cisco admit that they couldn’t have done it without her, and this more or less suggests that it might have actually behooved Barry to have told her the truth sooner. Maybe she doesn’t have the technical know-how that Caitlin and Cisco do, but as Barry explains in the episode’s most poignant scene, it doesn’t mean Iris hasn’t still been a part of every single moment of his life since becoming The Flash. She’s in his thoughts every single day, driving him, giving him courage and purpose, and serving as someone upon whom he can pin his hopes. And that’s got to be worth something. For her part, Iris acknowledges that while things are weird, she does have feelings for him. But, as Joe predicted last week, Iris is someone who commits when she makes a promise, and so she doesn’t even want to consider being with Barry until they get Eddie back. After that? “I don’t know,” Iris tells Barry. But for now, that’s better than nothing.
“Grodd Lives” is another unsurprisingly solid episode, and it takes us a step closer to the season finale, as Wells completes his project by inserting a small cylinder into a console, lighting a long tunnel that looks a bit like a second Particle Accelerator. “Time to go home,” Wells declares, as the episode comes to a close, but how he plans to accomplish this is beyond me. Regardless, The Flash provided enough intrigue and poignancy to compel interest in the final two episodes of the season, and that’s a credit to just how uniformly strong this show has been since its debut. Put simply, I can’t wait to see how The Flash wraps up this season.
But what did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!
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