Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Iris Finds Out! When Fans Of The Flash Discover "Grodd Lives!"

The Good: Excellent character work, Engaging plot development, Cool special effects, Decent acting
The Bad: Minutiae
The Basics: The Flash makes a series of powerful revelations that cannot simply be undone with time travel in "Grodd Lives."

The first season of The Flash has been building well to a number of big important events in the life of Barry Allen. Ironically, with the revelation of the identity of the Reverse Flash, the series is forced to stall to reach its climax with the impending season finale. Still, in one of the more engaging twists for The Flash, the episode that has the characters regrouping more than progressing becomes an opportunity for the characters to grow, reflect and catch up to the audience. "Grodd Lives" is the episode that the characters restructure their team and it is a strongly Iris-centered episode, which (more surprising than anything else) works masterfully!

Picking up shortly after "The Trap" (reviewed here!), which climaxed with the capture of Eddie Thawne by Harrison Wells and a spark that clued Iris into the truth about Barry, "Grodd Lives" does an excellent job of maintaining the sense of consequence to the crimes that occur around Central City while introducing one of the most formidable villains from The Flash's mythology. When the adversary of the week is a psychic gorilla with a vengeance, the writers and producers seem to have an uphill battle for credibility and to combat the potentially ridiculous villain (which it is not, because the special effects are awesome!), "Grodd Lives" does an excellent job of focusing on the essential characters from The Flash instead of the Villain Of The Week.

At the Central City Police Department, Captain Singh tries to get Joe and Barry to investigate and thwart a series of gold heists. Iris visits Barry in the lab and gives him leading information, which leads him to lie to her. When visiting S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry is tasked to stop the latest gold robbery and when he tries, he collapses because his head is filled with horrible, violent images (which also seem to disable the would-be robber). Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry is given a clean bill of health by Dr. Snow, before Iris walks in and it becomes impossible for Barry to deny his alter ego. While Iris expresses her anger over being lied to, Barry and his team try to figure out what happened when Barry encountered the gunman. After Joe meets with Iris and comes clean about Barry and Eddie, Joe joins a team for the next big gold shipment in Central City. The shipment is attacked and The Flash thwarts the gunman . . . who is revealed to be General Eiling.

Eiling is not under his own control; his brainwaves match those of an old S.T.A.R. Labs experiment. Wells and Eiling experimented upon a gorilla, Grodd, who became a meta-gorilla after the particle accelerator accident. Joe, Cisco and Barry enter the sewers to try to find Grodd (hoping he will lead them to Wells and Eddie) and in the process, Joe is captured and Barry is psychically invaded by Grodd again. Cisco devises a defense against Grodd while Joe is tormented by the gorilla (and Eddie is manipulated by Wells). On a mission to rescue Joe, Barry must square off against the giant, psychic gorilla who might easily be the match of The Flash!

"Grodd Lives" works on a lot of levels and the only one that comes to mind as a real shortcoming is the basic plot. The idea that Grodd has been living in the sewers since the accelerator accident is not a bad one, but the characters in The Flash are once again undermined by the basic plot. Joe, Cisco and Barry go into the sewers with no real plan and no defense against Grodd. Why they risk Barry being wounded or taken over by Grodd is ridiculously stupid. Similarly, the device Cisco designs to stop Grodd from getting into Barry's head after Grodd has already mentally assaulted the Flash twice is a fine and sensible idea. But how stupid is Barry Allen for not putting it *under* his cowl?! The Flash gets knocked around at super speeds pretty constantly; why wouldn't Cisco's tech just fly right off his head?! Putting the device under the cowl on his Flash costume makes more sense than wearing it like a crown that can be forseeably flung off.

That said, one of the big potential criticisms of "Grodd Lives" is Iris's place in the episode. I disagree. Iris has been lied to constantly for a year and in "Grodd Lives," the truth comes out. She is understandably confrontational and while the potential is for the episode to seem soap opera-like, Iris actually expresses herself with a fair amount of maturity and an exceptional amount of realism. Iris reacts like a real person and while it might not be incredibly satisfying to watch, it is satisfying when one takes time to reflect upon it. What else could viewers expect of Iris? If she accepted that everyone she knows and loves lied to her to protect her, the result would have been underwhelming. The argument would be that rationally she could accept that truth, but emotionally, it would be much more difficult to accept. The episode's writers toe the line and land on exactly the right notes.

The lines would have been whiny or underwhelming were it not for the performance by Candice Patton. Patton is wonderful as Iris and she does a great job of portraying the original indignant aspect of the character in her first scene in the episode. This is one of the few episodes that relies upon Patton's performance abilities instead of just relying upon her pretty face or dressing her up well to keep the viewer watching and Patton absolutely rises to the challenges. "Grodd Lives" might bring viewers in with the wow factor of an awesome computer generated gorilla, but it is Candice Patton who steals every scene she is in with her ability to express emotional depth for Iris.

The final shot of Grodd might be pointless and Clancy Brown's role in the episode might be unfortunately minimized, but "Grodd Lives" raises the bar for The Flash and makes viewers believe that the series is going somewhere and the talents involved in it have the ability to make the journey a compelling one!

For other works with David Sobolov, check out my reviews of:
"Fallout" - The Flash
Star Trek Into Darkness
"In A Mirror, Darkly - Part II" - Star Trek Enterprise

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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