THE FLASH Review 3.14 “Attack On Central City”

Team Flash fights armoured apes and ensemble bloat.

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Last week’s “Attack on Gorilla City” set up a handful of spinning plates; some narratively sound, but some slightly less so. Harry Wells and his daughter Jesse Quick are now hanging out on Earth-1, where Jesse hopes to move to be with Wally West. Barry showed mercy to Solovar the gorilla, former ruler of Grodd’s Earth-2 Gorilla City. Grodd himself got a hold of Earth-19’s Gypsy and forced her to open a portal to Earth-1 in the hopes of invading it, and in the middle of all this we still somehow found time to have a brief sit-down with Barry and Iris, as she expressed her admiration for The Flash as a hero. All of these dimension-hopping threads come flying back this week, making for an episode that is, at its worst, overcrowded and lacking in focus. At its best, however, it’s a reminder of The Flash’s morality and everything that keeps this team together.

H.R. Wells, the Harry counterpart from Earth-19, is a well-meaning idiot. That idiot part is easy to focus on, as Harry immediately does by … spitting into his coffee mug, but H.R.’s celebration of Earth-19’s “Friendship Day” is a reminder of what he brings to the show’s dynamic. Whatever skills these people may have, it’s their inherent goodness and desire to help that makes them a part of the team. It’s why Tom Felton’s Julian (unfortunately absent from this episode despite how good of a foil he’d have made) works as an external element attempting to osmose. He’s highly capable, but learning to be a good person is what it takes to be a part of Team Flash. The team is still somewhat begrudging of H.R., who they’re no longer keeping around entirely by choice (it’s still somewhat mean, although nothing in comparison to how his doppelganger treats him), but his cards and decorations provide them the opportunity to reflect on what they mean to each other as a starting point for the oncoming conflict.

That conflict materializes in the form of a returning Gypsy who, under the psychic influence of gorilla king Grodd, attacks the team amidst their celebration of friendship. She’s promptly captured and asked to set the record straight but has no recollection of recent events, and since Grodd’s mind-control doesn’t extend beyond the walls of the multiverse, that leaves only one possible solution. A gorilla war has already come to Central City.

Elsewhere, Grodd and his army look on at the concrete jungle from their wooden one, and Grodd soon takes control of an army general with access to military weaponry. His timely distraction for Team Flash – taking control of Joe West and almost making him shoot himself! – is also what allows the Team to figure out his next move, accessing Joe’s memories so they can track down the general and shut down a nuclear bomb. At this point, having magnets strapped to his head to see what a telepathic gorilla is up to is just another day at the office for Papa West, as it is for Cisco to be projected into the future to see where the gorillas will attack. Boy, if you think that’s dense and comicbook-y, Cisco also travels to Earth-19 to retrieve Gyspsy for assistance by convincing her to see the good in herself, and while we’re there we also get a look at the Earth-19 Flash seen in Grant Morrison’s Multiveristy, The Accelerated Man.

This probably isn’t the last we’ve seen of Earth-19’s mysterious speedster (he’s a blank canvas in the comics, so it’ll be interesting to see what the show does with him), but before our Tuesday nights get packed with even more speedsters, we get to see Barry, Wally and Jesse team up to take on a hundred or so armoured Gorillas, a battle they know they’re going to lose. Thankfully, Cisco and Gypsy show up with someone who has the biggest bone to pick with Grodd, his pissed-off predecessor Solovar, resulting in a building-hopping battle between the two armoured ape kings. Man oh man.

This proves to be the best possible solution for Barry, who’s been wrestling with just how to dispense with the gorilla menace, and ended up flirting with the idea of killing Grodd once and for all if it meant keeping Iris and his city safe. The Flash is the kind of hero who shouldn’t kill, but having doubts about his M.O. (and having them subsequently put to rest by the people who believe in him) is part of what makes this show work. Not killing isn’t just an individual decision, but a team effort born out of belief.

What’s more, the reinforcement of Barry’s Gorilla City mercy comes back full circle when Solovar tries to finish Grodd. After being convinced what makes him a hero is his empathy and compassion, he tries to impart the same lesson on the former patriarch, promising Solovar that he needn’t worry about his Earth-1 nemesis from now on. Not only is The Flash convincedtake a significant stand against taking a life, he inspires others to follow his example.

All of this works! While the series is bursting at the seams at this point (I’ve lost count of how large Team Flash currently is, though the ensemble scenes are still impeccably staged), “Attack On Central City” does a fine job of balancing all of its elements and devoting enough time to each of them, though the only one it can’t salvage - despite its great structure - is the confounding Wally/Jesse romance. Sure, it exposes Harry as both understanding of his daughter’s independence as well as even more of a dick than before (Implying you’re dying so Wally will convince Jesse to leave? That’s lower than Eobard Thawne would’ve sunk!), but these are two people who barely know each other, and it doesn’t even feel like they have any kind of connection. Jesse certainly hasn’t been given enough room to develop as an individual character, so there’s really no interpersonal dynamic to be found, but now she’s not only moving to Earth-1, she’s even moving in with Wally!

On the other hand, it’s great that we’ll have one more speedster, as well as one more girl on the team. The show hasn’t ever really dropped the ball when it comes to balancing its humongous main cast (it’s like if everyone on Mad Men was always in the same room at the same time), though it’s hard not to be concerned about whether or not they can keep it up in the long run. It’s going to be especially challenging now that Big Belly Burger has hired Savitar as its take-out boy, but hopefully the journey to the finale will be a measured jog as opposed to a full-on speedster sprint, allowing everyone time develop. Fingers crossed.