Synopsis of 2×07: Barry is on the slow road to recovery as Grodd returns to mind control Central City once more.
When it comes to baddies, there are some definite advantages to bringing back the good ones. While acknowledging the inevitability of diminishing returns (Is there anything new to be squeezed from the Joker at this point?), there is something special about bringing back a quality foe for another go-round. One of the infinite number of reasons the original Star Wars trilogy stands head and whole body above the prequels is the consistency of villains. By the time we reach Return, Darth Vader and the Emperor have become such a looming, unstoppable force that even the uneven climax of Jedi is made substantially more impactful because of our history. Could you imagine a world in which Harry Potter swapped out bad guys every book?
The Flash is particularly good at building villain history because it makes its foes personal to more than just Barry. Yes, the Scarlet Speedster has his own dynamic with Weather Wizard, Prism, et al, but he’s not the only member of Team Flash with an axe to grind. Linda has some very understandable unfinished business with Dr. Light. Cisco has a running history with Golden Glider. Patty possesses a (still unexplored) grudge against Weather Wizard. Elements like these keep these encounters fresh and make The Flash more of a true blue ensemble than it has any right to be.
Grodd is only making his second appearance in “Gorilla Warfare” and already his history on The Flash is strong. After being teased for much of the first season, his emergence from the shadows in “Grodd Lives” was a stunner, and left a real impact on the crime fighters of Central City. Caitlin was close to Grodd before the accident with the particle accelerator. Her relationship with Grodd is one of softness, like Ann Darrow and Kong in King Kong, or if your dog became hyper-intelligent and started possessing supporting players from Lost. Joe was kidnapped by Grodd during their last go-round. His fear at the great ape’s return is very real, very funny, and totally based in character history.
The Grodd of “Gorilla Warfare” is not the Eobard Thawne pawn he once was. He’s a sympathetic outsider, an amalgamation of Quasimodo and The Phantom of the Opera rolled up in furry muscle and made very endearing despite his penchant for scientist murder. His quest is not vengeance, or to destroy the Flash. He just wants someone, anyone like him. When he kidnaps Caitlin, all he wants is for her to make another Grodd, someone for him to relate to. Perhaps a Bride of Frankenstein if she’s feeling up to it.
It’s been almost a year and a half since the explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs and for that time Grodd has been on his own. His only companion has been a diabolical mastermind from the future who only wanted to use him for the muscle he wields. Most of his time has been spent in his “bachelor pad” in the sewers. Netting himself a friend or lover is the natural request for him to make.
Caitlin is torn. She knows Grodd has become twisted since the accident with Dark Matter, but she still remembers the ape she cared for during his period of experimentation at S.T.A.R. Labs. She doesn’t want to help, but what choice does she have? There is a giant, mind-controlling ape in her bell tower that won’t take “No” for an answer.
Barry can’t help her. He’s still in recovery from his embarrassing triple-Voldemorting at the hands of Zoom last week. His super healing factor is speeding the process along, but the problem is more in his mind than in his back. Barry has the Yips. He can’t perform because he’s in his own head. Zoom shattered his confidence. Barry has never been so thoroughly thrashed, and he was held up as a battered puppet at not one- not two- but three public hearings.
The longer Barry’s tenure as the Flash, the more people will come to look up to him. That’s a lot of pressure for someone who was an affable scientist until he was struck by one very inconveniencing bolt of lightning. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but maybe a hero shouldn’t meet their fans. It becomes too personal, the idea of letting them down. Suddenly a failure becomes not just letting yourself down, but letting down those who look up to you.
The whole process is playing hell with Barry’s relationship with Patty. Barry’s been M.I.A. for a week as of the start of the episode, and Patty isn’t buying his story that he’s sick, Patty being, of course, not a complete moron. Something like what Barry is going through is hard on a new relationship. This other person is the one that is supposed to be there for you, but when you barely know a person like Barry and Patty, it’s hard to be that rock. How can you support something you don’t know?
After Barry gets up a bit of gumption, he goes to talk to Patty, telling her that his extended absence was time spent away with his father. He couldn’t tell her about it because of his father’s public history. Patty asks Barry to ensure her that she can trust him and Barry brushes it all away. They kiss. It’s honestly the only letdown of a killer hour. Lying in a relationship is no joke.
It’s a huge violation of trust. Patty is all too forgiving of her new boyfriend’s weird behavior. I was convinced going into the scene this would finally be the time that Barry comes clean about is Flashiness to Patty. It’s incoming. And soon. We all know it. Patty is nothing if not trustworthy and particularly interested in metahumans. Just do it, Barry. You’ll thank me later.
Barry can’t yet lean on Patty for recovery, but he certainly can lean on his father. The biological one, not the Joe one. At Iris’ behest, Henry Allen makes his triumphant return to Central City to give his son the push forward he needs. He asserts that Barry needs to accept his shortcomings. Coming to terms with his negative feedback is the only way to move on from it, to take it in stride and press on forward with your own life.
The elder Allen was always a great rock for Barry, even when he was locked behind bars for much of the boy’s life. His sudden disappearance at the top of the season was strange, but it does make his reappearance all the more special. Barry has enough father figures as it is (four by my count), so the change is understandable for streamlining purposes. Here’s hoping this can be Henry Allen’s use going forward: a wise word and a winning smile toward the son he wish he could have raised. It’ll probably make you cry.
Luckily enough for Caitlin, while Barry is dealing with all of this Harry Wells himself decides to step in and save the day. Slipping on the Reverse-Flash costume of his predecessor, he concocts a plan to sneak Caitlin out by masquerading as the other, decidedly more sinister Harrison Wells. It’s going well until Grodd points out that the other Wells would have just given orders, and never asked for permission. It’s bad news for the plan but great news for Harry’s character, don’t you think? Cisco slips in to save Caitlin and the trio make their triumphant escape with Barry in their earpieces (in a clever role reversal I hope gets tapped on again).
Harry is now firmly a part of Team Flash. He begins the episode with the quick plan of ditching Earth-1 and heading back to 2 before realizing he can do more damage to Zoom by funneling him in here and picking up a heroic role he hasn’t adopted up until this point. I find the parallel between Harry’s decision to stay and Jay’s a few weeks ago to be striking as the two don’t exactly see eye to eye. But perhaps these similarities can bridge the gap and spell the return of Jay Garrick sooner rather than later.
In the end, Grodd is pushed through a portal to Earth-2 and dropped in an African habitat for apes who were experimented upon. Caitlin is panged by guilt, but this ultimately is a bit of Grodd getting what he wanted. He is surrounded by those like him now, though surely most of them can’t talk. But Grodd will teach them. And the next time we see Grodd he’ll be leading an army of gorillas back through the portal to Earth-1.
I, personally, cannot wait.