‘The Flash’ Gets Into Some Serious Monkey Business With ‘Grodd Lives’
If The Flash titled its episodes like Friends, this one would have been called “The One Where Iris Finds Out”. But it’s not, so it’s called “Grodd Lives” instead. What many of us watching this show all season have been waiting for finally happened, this time without any time travel shenanigans undoing the reveal. I’m of two minds here: Of COURSE I’m happy Iris is finally on the inside, but in no way did the show justify waiting this long to do so.
Since I’ve beaten the latter horse to death over the past few months, let’s focus on the positive: Iris was awesome tonight, and I’m even willing to overlook the “love conquers telepathy” ending in which her voice coaxed Barry from the path of an oncoming train. That’s how much I enjoyed her new function in the show. It’s simply more fun to have someone like Iris dealing with the troubles of the week rather than existing obliviously on the sidelines. Sure, The Flash tried to have its cake and eat it too by having Iris call out everyone tonight for their secretive nature all season. But “keeping the female love interest in the dark in the name of safety” is such a tired trope that her speeches tonight felt less like “catharsis” and more like “too little, too late.”
Whoops, I promised I’d be positive, so back to that. One of my favorite moments of tonight’s episode happens near the end, when Barry tries to buck up Cisco’s spirits. He notes that the three of them managed to save Joe from Grodd without Wells’ help. “Actually,” says Caitlin, “It was the four of us.” And she’s right! Iris’ journalistic skills allows the show to use her to provide exposition as needed, in addition to having emotional ties to everyone in the field. It just makes a ton of sense to have her as part of the core crew. “Maybe I could have helped you and Barry put the bad guys away instead of being in the way,” she tells Joe at one point, proving that, if nothing else, Iris reads the comment sections on weekly episodic reviews.
Iris even got to partake in an epic “Joe cries” scene, the inclusion of which takes every episode up a notch in terms of overall quality. Rather than avoiding Iris, Joe can now engage with her, which comes in handy after a particularly harrowing encounter with Grodd in the sewers. Things go from amusing (“I can’t believe I’m down here in the sewers looking for a supernatural gorilla”) to terrifying (Grodd forcing Joe to point the gun at himself) very quickly, and it was unique in terms of the depiction of danger in the universe of this show. Sure, we’ve seen Joe encounter plenty of metahumans, but those encounters have been fairly brief and often showed Joe exuding at least some bravado. Here, even though the actual screen time was short, the overall effect was that Joe was down there way, way, way too long to emerge psychologically unscathed. Overall, this was a great episode for Jesse L. Martin.
As for Grodd himself? Well, it’s 2015, which means TV special effects are at an all-time high and reasonably priced to boot. That didn’t translate into the All Grodd All The Time Power Hour, but holding back Grodd for as long as the episode did actually worked in the long run. (Think of it like Jaws revealing the shark only near the end.) Having a mind-warped Wade Eiling serve as the “voice” for Grodd was another way to establish presence without millions of pixels needing to fill the screen. But we got some nice close-up VX work as Grodd mentally communicated with Joe, followed by the insanely cool one-two combo of “failed supersonic punch” and “Grodd accidentally taking the downtown train mid-leap.”
More onscreen Grodd would have been welcome. But come on! The Flash just included a ten-foot telekinetic gorilla in primetime television during sweeps! Nerdy beggars can’t be nerdy choosers.
While all this was happening, Eddie and Harrison were off in their own boring chamber piece. The former tried to goad the latter into giving up information, and the latter (suddenly super into eyeshadow) telling the former that he’s The Reverse Thawne in terms of historical importance. The entire episode is based on the idea that Grodd is distracting Barry and company from Harrison’s plan, but that also meant we occasionally checked in on Harrison prepping for next week’s episode and offering little of interest in the present. He has the “key” to go home, but ostensibly still needs Barry’s speed to get there. Even if he doesn’t get home, Eddie now knows that Barry will marry Iris in the future, unless that knowledge somehow CHANGES the future, and oh look, I’m getting time travel nosebleeds again.
If nothing else, “Grodd Lives” suggests how the show could function without Wells as part of the weekly ensemble. Switching him for Iris is hardly a one-to-one swap, but the idea of Cisco and Caitlin stepping up their game is fun, as is Barry’s centrality to the group as a whole. He wasn’t just a hero near the end: He was a leader. Putting Iris in there will help provide a non-scientific voice that’s still tied into a vast amount of Central City information, and provide ample romantic tension between Barry/Iris/Eddie to boot should the show choose to go that route. (It’s also possibly Harrison imparts a “gift” to Eddie that helps him make a mark in history before the season ends, but let’s see where the last two episodes take us before prognosticating any further.)
“Grodd Lives” is another strong installment in an overall excellent first season. There have been bumps in the road, but its biggest flaw has now been fixed, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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