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"HOW DID I BECOME GRODD?"
Last season's Grodd-centric episodes worked around the immense, mind-controlling meta-gorilla, using him as a plot device and Flash foil, but nothing more. "Gorilla Warfare" works with Grodd, diving into the psyche of the big guy, examining his wants and fears and establishing him as an authentic character. It's exciting and revealing, and makes the big action set pieces with Grodd that much more meaningful. And the beast looks TREMENDOUS, magnificently realized on a visual and empathetic level. Grodd is both terrifying and heartbreaking here, and Caitlin's reaction to him is perfectly in tune with that dichotomy.
The episode makes Caitlin even more likable than she's ever been before, which is saying something. Her earnest desire to help Grodd is reasonably coupled with her understanding that he's a problem that must be dispensed with, and she navigates the episode, in which Grodd spirits her away like she's Ann Darrow and he's King Kong, with a wonderful balance of sympathy and wisdom. Caitlin is such a deeply kind character, as well as resilient and fun and very, very intelligent, and I'm with everyone who's said that Killer Frost better be an Earth-2 version of Dr. Snow, because I couldn't stand seeing this warm-hearted, level-headed woman turn into a supervillain, no matter how badass she might look. But as honest as her intentions in regards to Grodd are, she's probably not alone when she tells Cisco her actions feel like a betrayal. Odds are, Grodd's going to feel the same way, and it's likely his return will capitalize on that feeling.
Cisco's also deepening as a character this season, managing his Vibe powers with surprising composure and proving himself to be a pretty suave date, to boot. (His Princess Bride recitation would make any girl - or Hawkgirl - melt.) In fact, Season 2 is offering us organic and layered development for nearly all of our characters, especially Harry, whose transformation from Harry to Harrison was made pretty literal in this week's episode. It's a delight and a damn PhD course in performance to watch Tom Cavanagh do Tom Cavanagh, especially with coaching from Cisco: "This time, up the creep factor, like, a lot more, and make it a little more sincere." Is there any better description of Season 1 Harrison Wells than "creepy and sincere"? And Cavanagh only needed to barely modulate his tone and brow to convert himself from grouchy Harry to creepy and sincere Harrison. The character has spent most of Season 2 on the periphery, but Cavanagh is The Flash's undisputed and not terribly secret weapon, and the show can only benefit from using him more.
It's a good thing that all of the other characters are landing with so much resonance this season, because our protagonist, sadly, isn't. It's clear the writers want to darken and mature Barry's arc somewhat, understandably since no one can be sunny all the time after everything he's endured. And it's certainly not that Grant Gustin can't handle a gloomier narrative, because he's plenty adept with the material, but it doesn't feel like the material is deserving him yet this year. It's almost as if the writers can't quite stand to keep Barry sad, so they throw these challenges in his lap and then yank them away before they really matter. "Gorilla Warfare" is the most egregious example of that trend - the episode starts with Barry hobbled, bitter and ashamed, and ends with him cheerfully saving the day because his dad gave him a very mild pep talk. If "Conquer your fears, son. Believe in yourself" is all Barry needed to hear to overcome his trauma, I have trouble believing his trauma was all that bad in the first place.
Barry's treatment of Patty is similarly frustrating - has he learned nothing from Iris? Pushing her away at this point makes no sense, and his smirky, smart-assy response when she tells him she needs to be able to trust him wasn't a great color on Barry. Patty's laying herself bare, and Barry doesn't even have the grace to look chagrined that he's keeping such a major secret from her. It makes sense that The Flash can't reveal his identity to every woman he dates - particularly when The Flash is as much of a lady-charmer as this Barry Allen - but Patty's on the meta-human task force. She's already on his team, working towards the same goal he is: Central City's protection from those negatively affected by the particle accelerator blast. If she can't handle the truth, who can?
But these are moderate complaints that I believe will be managed in due time, because The Flash writers have demonstrated, time and again, that they know how to treat their characters. After Eddie and Ronnie gave their lives to the singularity, after Barry chose not to save his mom, after Zoom mortified Barry and made him powerless in front of all of Central City, he's allowed to have a few issues. Luckily, he's surrounded by the greatest friends and family on Earth-1, and there's little doubt they'll help him through the shadows.
Coolest moments this week:
"FATHER NEVER ASK. FATHER TAKE." Harry's Harrison impersonation convinces everyone except Grodd, who's far too intelligent for such a trick.
He's too smart for any trick, actually, which is why Team Flash's final move only works because Grodd, on some level, knows he can believe Caitlin when she tells him to trust her. And what a scene, as Barry whooshes around Central City, builds his momentum and pushes Grodd into the breach! Amazing effects there.
And then we get the briefest glimpse of Gorilla City at the end of the episode, and it rules. More on that in Derek's Flash Facts, up next!
Cisco Lloyd Doblers Kendra and it is the cutest. I'm enjoying these two, although I know it's going to be a necessarily brief romance.
"What up, Bar?" I love the way Joe handles Barry, the only person who can get through to him when Barry's feeling mean. It's understandable that Joe feels inadequate next to Henry Allen - especially as context for the upcoming reveal of his own son - but I'll never subscribe to the idea that Henry is more a father to Barry than Joe.