After last weeks’s intensity, “Gorilla Warfare” might feel somewhat minor. It isn’t a bad episode, though. Gorilla Grodd is always a welcome presence on The Flash because, somehow, the CGI villain manages to carry a potent mix of menace and pathos.
The episode also digs into the differences between Harrison Wells on Earth-1 and Earth-2, which are fascinating. But unfortunately, it doesn’t link back to the Zoom narrative. Seven episodes into the second season, the show only works in occasional spurts. I still enjoy it, but the craftsmanship seems surprisingly leaden.
“Gorilla Warfare” primarily focuses on the reappearance of Gorilla Grodd. Never a fan of subtlety, Grodd has been killing lab technicians to steal a variety of serums. After he uses his mind-control powers to kidnap Caitlin, we discover the extent of his plan. Grodd’s growing intelligence comes with deeper self-awareness and, unfortunately, the pangs of solitude. He doesn’t want to take over the city or build an army or kill Barry Allen. He is lonely, which is why he asks Caitlin to create more hyperintelligent gorillas. He wants a family.
Like Caitlin, I empathize with Grodd. He may be a murderous, superpowered gorilla, but he can feel unloved just like the rest of us. (Only The Flash can get me to write a sentence like that with a straight face.) Kudos to the effects wizards who created Grodd. There are moments when he looks genuinely baffled and sad.
After nearly dying at the hands of Zoom last week, Barry can barely walk — which means he won’t be able to save the day on his own. His body heals incredibly fast, of course, but the psychological trauma of Zoom’s beatdown still lingers. It’s clear that Barry hasn’t lost his speedster powers, but he has lost faith in himself. He’s not powerless; he’s depressed. This brings up a lot of questions: If Jay lost his powers after encountering Zoom, why didn’t Barry lose his? Why didn’t Zoom kill Barry? Where is Jay anyway? Did he go back to Earth-2?
Team Flash’s plan to save Caitlin is highly questionable: Earth-2 Wells (as grouchy as ever) will don the Reverse-Flash costume, then try to trick Grodd into thinking that he’s Earth-1 Wells. Before the mission, Cisco tests him to see if he can properly impersonate his counterpart. (I love how Cisco continues to call him Harry.) Earth-2 Wells is cold, distant, and far too prickly to be confused with Earth-1 Wells — until he repeats the line that he said before he killed Cisco in an alternate timeline last season. Wells has been an interesting character this season and I refuse to believe he isn’t hiding something.
Though Grodd sees through Wells’s impression, it distracts him just long enough for Cisco to free Caitlin. They escape, but the Grodd problem still hasn’t been solved. If they can’t just force him back into hiding again, what should they do to get rid of him? Joe thinks he should be killed. Caitlin disagrees. (I do, too.)
Meanwhile, Joe’s encouragement leads Barry to dwell on the memories of his fight with Zoom. He tells Joe that he feels like he failed to be a hero. Why would the people of Central City still look up to him now? Iris knows exactly what he needs during this crisis: his other father. Barry’s childhood was undeniably heartbreaking, but he’s lucky to not have two incredibly kind, smart men that he can call “dad.”
Henry is a welcome presence in the episode, but his story line highlights the ways The Flash has struggled with emotional dynamics this season. Henry’s decision to leave is never fully explained, which seems like an odd blind spot. After all those years in prison, why doesn’t he want to spend time with his son? Also, his advice to Barry veers into after-school special territory. The Flash needs to do much more than believe in himself.
With the help of Wells, Team Flash puts together a new plan to stop Grodd. Barry lures him to another breach, which leads to a remote gorilla sanctuary in Earth-2. He’ll finally have a home. Wells and Cisco handle the technical aspects of the plan, Caitlin uses her kindness to connect with Grodd, and Barry’s renewed superspeed provides the last push into the wormhole. It’s a fun end to a generally delightful, if slight, episode. And now, the gang has figured out a way to lure Zoom into another fight: If they close every breach except for the one below STAR Labs, he’ll come to them.
Though we don’t get to see all that much of Earth-2’s Gorilla City, it still left me momentarily breathless. The Flash has never been afraid to embrace the Silver Age zaniness of comics, and somehow, it doesn’t feel like pandering. My expectations for this season have been high — and I’ve been a bit annoyed by time spent setting up Legends of Tomorrow — but I still enjoy this show. Gorilla Grodd is a major reason why, and I doubt we’ve seen the last of him. He’s too important to not appear again.
In the episode’s other story line, Barry lies to Patty about being sick. When she questions his story, he tries to smooth things over by saying that his father is in town — and he didn’t want to discuss that. Barry needs to be careful. He’s a terrible liar and this can only last for so long. Patty’s concerns make sense — after all, he is lying — but she does teeter on overbearing territory. They’ve only been dating for a brief period.
Speaking of that, Cisco finally gets to go on his date with the lovely Kendra Saunders. When she touches his hand, he sees a vision of what he believes is a man with wings. (Of course, comic-book fans know who Kendra will become, so there isn’t much suspense there.) Stunned by the vision, Cisco freaks out and bails on the date.
To make up for ghosting on her, he surprises Kendra after work with an oddly endearing basket of goodies. They kiss … and then Cisco realizes that she is the person with wings and an awesome costume. Hello, Hawkgirl!