THE FLASH Review 1.21 “Grodd Lives”

How a giant gorilla solved THE FLASH's Iris problem.

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"Sometimes my incredible love for you, it blinds me, and I forget what a brilliant young woman you are, how you're capable of making your own decisions."




How to choose between two such perfect quotes, two precise distillations of why "Grodd Lives" is an all-timer episode of an all-timer series? After the non-stop momentum of the past few episodes, "Grodd Lives" could feel like a roadblock on the path toward resolution of the Harrison Wells (I can't yet bring myself to call him Eobard Thawne) storyline, particularly since Wells and Eddie were relegated to only a few minutes of screentime this week. But Grodd is such a monstrously compelling villain - with ties to Wells that could come into play in the larger arc in upcoming episodes - that his introduction can be nothing but a boon to this show. 

But it's not the only boon: Iris' discovery of The Flash's identity last week seems to have addressed every issue viewers have had with the character. She's no longer shuttled to the side of the action, contributing nothing because she's given no opportunities to contribute. She rightfully takes both Barry and Joe to school for their presumptions regarding her safety - "Did you ever stop to think that looping me in would keep me safe? That if I knew what was going on out there, I could prepare for it?" - and the moment she's a part of the team, she assists in a way no one else can. She takes on Wells' former role as the advocate in Barry's ear, the person who can talk Barry through his panic, supporting him through incomprehensible peril so he's able to come out the other side stronger and better. Barry may have lost his mentor, but who better to support him in times of danger than his lifelong best friend?

And Joe - an almost perfect character in every other way - has made countless decisions that were not his to make in the name of protecting his daughter, but now that she knows the truth in spite of him, he can acknowledge to himself that it was never in Iris' best interests to keep her in the dark. "Daddy, I know that everything that you do is out of love. So love me enough to always tell me the truth." Beautifully said, Iris. 

And similarly, the last scene between Barry and Iris strikes a lovely balance: the scene offers enough romantic hope to keep the 'shippers happy, but is far more grounded in honesty and in the history of the two characters. Whether Iris and Barry end up together - and of course we're meant to believe that they are, as even poor Eddie has now seen that telling byline - feels immaterial. What matters is that their wonderful friendship remains intact, and is now completely free of deceit. 

Incredible, then, that such a character-heavy episode takes place alongside the reveal of a superpowered, telepathic gorilla the size of a planet. Even though Grodd is a computer-generated ape created on The Flash's puny budget, every moment we spend with him packs a punch. So much of that is due to a never-better performance by Jesse L. Martin - Grodd may not look real, but nothing could feel more genuine than Joe's utter terror upon seeing the beast. Grodd's backstory offers a lot of pathos to the plot, so that we pity Grodd almost as much as we fear him. And Barry's battle with Grodd provides stakes higher than most of his confrontations with meta-humans. No matter how fast or strong The Flash may be, he just looks so tiny next to Grodd. 

And of course Grodd's connections to General Eiling allow us a re-introduction to Clancy Brown's gruff general, never gruffer than when he's speaking for the gorilla himself. I hoped his conversation with Barry upon release would touch more on the ethical quandary that is the metahuman prison, but instead all we got was an assurance that the prison soon won't be enough. 

And finally, though we only spent a few, brief moments with Wells this week, his somersault into full-blown villainy is as delicious as we could have ever hoped. Though I miss Cavanagh's tender wisdom, he's selling wild-eyed evil as well as he ever sold gentle guidance. It's not hard to understand how Grodd could think of him as FATHER - Caitlin, Cisco and Barry can all say the same. In the remaining two episodes of The Flash's first season, we'll see what happens when that father faces off against his surrogate children.

Coolest moments this week: 

Every single moment with Grodd. Okay, you want me to pick one? When he catches Barry's supersonic punch like it's a softball and then whips our little hero through a brick wall. 

Caitlin and Iris share a few terrific moments this week, and hopefully we'll see their friendship develop further. Caitlin makes me cheer when she reminds these clueless boys, " was the four of us."

Caitlin has so many great moments this week, in fact, including her nosy eavesdropping rationale with Cisco. But nothing made me laugh harder than "CAITLIN. CAITLIN GOOD." "Oh! Uh, thank you?"

I want to be movie buddies with Cisco. I bet he could program one hell of a marathon.