The Flash S02E07 “Gorilla Warfare” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Aaron Helbing, Todd Helbing
Director: Dermott Downs
Essential Plot Points:
- Physically Barry is recovering well from having had his back broken by Zoom, but mentally he’s back in the mope zone, worried that he’s not the hero Central City needs. Amazingly Joe fails to buck him up so Iris calls in the cavalry: his dad, Henry. That does the trick.
- Grodd’s back and he wants to make babies with Caitlin. No, hang on, this isn’t an HBO show: no bestiality is involved. He wants her to science up some more apes likes him. He kills a few scientists to get the chemical needs to make this possible.
- Harry pretends to be Reverse Flash (using Wells Mark I’s old yellow costume) to confuse Grodd (who thinks of Wells Mark I as dad) and get close enough to Caitlin to rescue her.
- Harry reveals that not all the breaches on Earth 2 are in Central City, like they are on Earth Prime; instead they are scattered across the planet. One, handily, leads to a sanctuary for intelligent gorillas on Earth 2.
- With Barry back in action, Team Flash lures Grodd to the relevant breach then forces him through it. Grodd arrives on Earth 2 and sees Gorilla City for the first time. If he’s ever seen Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes this can only end badly.
- Harry comes up with a new plan: close all the breaches except the one at STAR Labs, thus forcing Zoom to use that one, then have a trap waiting for him. One problem: he doesn’t know how to close the breaches yet.
- Cisco goes on a date with Kendra and vibes on her. He see a vision of a woman with wings. And we’re not talking Lil-Lets.
Two returning guests stars this week and one blasts the other off the screen. Not to be mean to John Wesley Shipp, but the CG ape was just about the only real reason to tune in for this episode. Henry Allen’s reappearance – and, indeed the whole “Barry wallows in self-pity” stuff – felt like a particularly trite rehash of a storyline we’ve seen many, many times before. This season the writers seem to be hoping that if they regularly swap around who’s giving Barry his “pep-talk of the week” we won’t notice they keep covering the same ground.
So in some ways this is an unusual episode of The Flash. The weekly action/adventure plotlines are usually among the flimsiest elements designed mainly to push forward arc plot revelations and character development. This week, though, the Grodd storyline eclipses everything; the perfunctory father/son chats, Barry’s moping, Cisco’s slightly unbelievable date dramas, Harry’ new plan. Only the redemption of Harrison Wells (which isn’t really redemption but be still needs to gain their trust) provides some good meaty character drama and Tom Cavanagh rises to the occasioneven if his increasingly truculent hair seems to be having a parallel drama all its own.
Thankfully, the action plot provides plenty of fine set-pieces to enjoy, backed up by some excellent effects. Caitlin and Grodd continue their King Kong/Fay Wray vibe with Ms Snow the most sympathetic to the gorilla’s softer side. (Although, considering the very ’70s-looking white trouser suit Caitlin’s wearing, maybe that should be a King Kong/Jessica Lange vibe.) Having Harry pretend to be Reverse Flash is a clever conceit, as it unnerves both Barry and Cisco and adds some tension as you wonder how comfortable he feels in the suit. Not very, it seems; but is he double bluffing?
To be honest, we hope not. It would be too obvious to have Wells turn out to be a villain again. Grumpy, reluctant hero Wells is far more interesting.
Fun and lightweight, “Gorilla Warfare” is enjoyable but worryingly flimsy in areas in which the show is usually strong. Barry’s return to full (physical and mental) health feels far too quick and easy but maybe that was a scheduling necessity; you’d hardly want him in a wheelchair for the big crossover event, would you?
- Grodd! Occasionally he’s a little bit “bendy CGI” but mostly he’s a very impressive creation for a TV show. The brief chase at the end as he follows Barry through Central City is especially good.
- Gorilla City looks great too.
- In fact, the action and effects are what lift this otherwise fairly standard episode. The pretty colours distract from the lack of real meat.
- Harry is huge fun to watch again, even though he’s softening. The scene with him mimicking Wells, saying the lines he said right before he killed Cisco, is disproportionately disturbing. It’d good to see Harry getting a decent amount of screen time, and his growing friendship with Cisco feels unforced and natural.
- Our first glimpse of Hawkgirl as Hawkgirl, sort of flying.
- The problem with bringing Henry in to give Barry a pep talk is that John Wesley Shipp is nowhere near as convincing in this type of scene as Jesse L Martin is. Plus, Henry’s argument is based on a spurious premise that mopey Barry would have pointed out immediately; Henry always knew he was innocent, whereas Barry doesn’t know that he’s not a failure. Instead of Henry just acting like pale imitation of Joe, the writers needed to find another way he could shake Barry out of his navel-gazing – tough love? By example? By nicking his wheelchair?
- Barry’s physical recovery seems far too easy too. Okay, he has superfast healing, but after last week’s cliffhanger (“I can’t feel my legs!”) having him on his feet in the very first scene here is a bit of an anticlimax.
- Okay, we can just about accept that, in a weak moment, Joe may have been insensitive enough to regret not having a “real” son in front of his daughter, but we can’t accept that Iris wouldn’t have made some sarcastic comment about, “So I’m not good enough?” to pull him back into the 21st century.
- The Cisco/Kendra romance is about as convincing as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent.
- A breach that leads to a gorilla sanctuary? How convenient.
- Why is Grodd collecting the chemicals he needs to create little Grodds before he asks Caitlin how to make mini-Grodds?
- The attempt to humanise Grodd is a laudable one but the script doesn’t develop the idea beyond lip service.
And The Random:
- Gorilla City first appeared in the DC universe in The Flash #106 (1959). It was originally located on the planet Calor but was unknowingly brought to Earth by Green Lantern. You may be wondering how anyone could relocate a city without knowing; just accept it makes sense in comic logic. Its new home was in Africa. In the comics, this is where Grodd came from.
- Cisco’s geek credentials have been seriously dented by his failure to use the phrase “rodents of unusual size” when listing why The Princess Bride is so great.
- “I know what I vibed,” says Cisco after his his first vibe of the episode, but we’re not sure he did know. “There was a man with these big…” We think the word you’re looking for is “breasts”. Good grief, lad, that is quite clearly NOT A MAN!
- That tower that Grodd’s using as a base look remarkably similar to the one where Chloe lived in the later seasons of Smallville.
- A lot of the locations seen on the map that Harry’s consulting have been established as locales in Central City in the DC comics universe over the years: Brookfield Heights, Chubbuck, Petersburg, Lawrence Hill, the Van Geld Opera House. But the Miliken Standard Corporation has us stumped. An in-joke, maybe?
- Cisco’s date with Kendra at the end of the episode seems to be a subtle nod to the John Cusack comedy romance movie Say Anything (1989) in which he use used a boombox held aloft to try to serenade Ione Skye. The song he uses is Peter Gabriel’s sublime “In Your Eyes”, which is also used on the soundtrack of this scene in the episode.
Review by Dave Golder