After Barry ran into the past in The Flash’s fifteenth episode, “Out of Time,” the show hit a disappointing lull that lasted three weeks, and was a clear result of killing time before hitting the Reverse-Flash story head-on. Once it did, however, The Flash delivered a string of its finest episodes and looks primed to end its strong first year with a bevy of high notes. Last night, “Grodd Lives” put a semi-pause on conniving Harrison Wells’ plan to return home, but the hour was able to avoid the trappings of previous stall episodes thanks to a fantastic villain.
Gorilla Grodd is one of The Flash’s oldest foes, and his appearance on the show has been teased throughout this season. When the villain was first hinted at, it was nothing more than a fanboy tease, but gradually more and more was shown and it was apparent that Grodd would play a crucial role—but when that would be was unclear. Once the relationship between Harrison and the telepathic gorilla was established, the likelihood of Grodd appearing this season grew exponentially, and it was precisely that relationship that allowed it to come to fruition. Though the show did not play up the idea of Harrison turning Grodd loose on Central City to distract Team Flash, merely a few throwaway lines to the effect, that’s what we are to believe happened. The lack of connection was certainly a detriment to the flow of the show coming off last week’s Harrison-centric hour, but those failings were easily covered thanks to the sheer exhilaration of finally seeing Grodd for more than a scene. And, once again, the writers didn’t shy away from the character’s comic book roots.
It could have been easy to introduce Grodd as a highly intelligent gorilla with superb strength, leaving the other aspects of his powers for down the road (or absent, entirely), but instead the writers chose to introduce the villain’s psionic powers immediately. In fact, we didn’t see Grodd for the first third of the episode, but an armored goon under his control that turned out to be General Eiling. Grodd’s telepathy was the crux of the episode, really, as he used this ability to get into the heads of both Barry and Joe, and it served as the element that the Scarlet Speedster had to overcome. While the showdown between Grodd and The Flash won’t rank among the show’s best fights, seeing the villain as a legitimate threat to our hero is exciting for the future. Particularly because Grodd has only just been born. Like many of the villains on The Flash, Grodd is the result of the particle accelerator explosion, whose burst of energy activated the cocktail of serums Eiling injected Grodd with. At this point, his powers are still in an infant state (as is his speech), and he will only get stronger and smarter with time, a frightening (but exciting, for the viewer) scenario considering Barry had to use trickery, plus a train, to stop Grodd in this initial battle. Visually, the entirely-CGI gorilla impressed. One of the main hang-ups about The Flash before the show premiered was how it would handle special effects given a tight CW budget. Those concerns were quickly put to rest, but the idea of an entirely CGI character is a different beast. Thanks to smartly placing Grodd in a dark lair, plus some legitimately well-done effects, the villain looked perfectly fine throughout the episode. It’s not on the level of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but it’ll do fine.
The other major movement in “Grodd Lives” was the result of Iris’ deduction last week that Barry is The Flash. Much of this first season has, poorly, cast Candice Patton aside with weak explanations by both Joe and Barry that her exclusion was for her own safety. Last night, Iris finally got some scenery to chew on and she, rightfully, let her father and Barry have it. It was great to see Patton given the opportunity to fume, and equally nice to see the writers admit through her that Joe and Barry’s plan to keep her safe was bullshit. While her being the voice in Barry’s ear, allowing him to push through Grodd’s telepathy, was soapy, it was an important step for her becoming an official member of Team Flash. Hopefully, now that all secrets have been aired, she will continue to play a more integral part and no longer be forced to the fringes.
The Flash’s current hot streak may be its best run of the season, thanks to both the well-crafted Harrison Wells storyline and the writers’ continued focus on portraying classic comic characters the right way. This was just a Grodd appetizer, but it was a delicious one. I can’t wait to see what the character will become and what the writers eventually do with him, but that’s exactly what I’ll have to do. There are only two episodes left, and still lots on the table for Team Flash and Harrison Wells. The show has been building to this moment for 21 episodes and if the last three weeks are any indication, the finish will be fittingly fast and ferocious. If I can’t have Grodd, the Reverse-Flash is the next best thing, so bring it on.
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.