Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Flash skimps on special effects, undermining Grodd's return

Tom Cavanagh
Tom Cavanagh
Photo: Bettina Strauss (The CW)
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Grodd episodes are always great in theory, but they don’t always work out that way in practice. There’s an obvious reason for this; the technology necessary to bring Grodd and his fellow super-gorillas to life is expensive and time-consuming, so The Flash often has to find ways to do these episodes with as little actual gorilla action as possible.

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In the past that’s involved keeping Grodd hidden mostly in shadow and springing for a few brief set-pieces that inevitably look more cartoonish than the rest of the show. In “Grodd Friended Me,” the budget is kept down by keeping Grodd offscreen for as long as possible. The hour begins with Barry’s attempts to catalogue the major changes in the post-Crisis world. He can’t find the cemetery where his parents are buried, he doesn’t know where the train routes are, and villains who became heroes in one variant timeline are now back to being villains again (in this case, Hartley Rathaway’s Pied Piper, whose powers are no longer confined to his gloves).

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Since STAR Labs has largely been abandoned by the regulars, the B-team of Kamella and Chester P. Runk are holding down the fort. (The rotating supporting cast has been expanding so often lately that I’d completely forgotten about Runk.) Barry is trying to get Gideon to narrow down the list of changes to the most pressing ones, but when Runk tweaks Barry’s earpiece in an effort to speed up the process, he inadvertently turns the volume up too high and Barry is zapped into what appears to be an alternate reality. Caitlin is there, and Thawne-as-Wells, and they have Barry locked in a cage for some reason. When he catches a glimpse of his reflection in a water bowl, he sees why: he’s Grodd.

Efrat Dor
Efrat Dor
Photo: Dean Buscher (The CW)
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More precisely, he’s trapped inside Grodd’s mind via the neural inhibitor the super-gorilla is wearing in his induced coma at ARGUS. Grodd insists he’s changed and simply wants to return to his life in Gorilla City, but Barry isn’t buying it. Since Grodd is speaking through Thawne and Caitlin (and later Joe), the production budget also isn’t buying it—in this case, “it” being the costly special effects work needed to bring Grodd to life. In the second half, we finally get some gorilla action as Grodd convinces Barry that his perception of the Crisis even within his coma has led him to see the error of his ways. (A montage of his past misdeeds consisting of old footage is another money-saver this week.) The payoff, in which Barry and Grodd fuse into one speedster Gorilla in order to take down the gatekeeper in the form of Solovar as the mindscape crumbles around them is the highlight of the episode, cartoony effects and all.

Some clarity emerges in the Mirrorverse storyline, as Iris and Eva continue their efforts to escape. Although Eva has built a duplicate of the machine that opened the barrier between the worlds in the first place, it’s useless to them, as she demonstrates by turning it on and shoving her arms through the mirror, badly injuring them in the process. In our world, Mirror Iris is having a hard time keeping her cool, even blowing up at Joe (Who blows up at Joe?) when he won’t share information on Joseph Carver with her. It comes as no huge surprise that Eva’s panicky persona is all an act, and that she and Mirror Iris are working together—quite closely together judging from Iris’s identical arm injuries.

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“Grodd Friended Me” flirts with being a better episode than it turns out to be. A lot of it feels reheated from earlier seasons, from Barry’s realization that a villain can have a change of heart to Runk’s arc, which even Frost calls out as business as usual: pretty much everyone on Team Flash has accidentally almost killed Barry at one time or another, so what’s the big deal? As far as Runk goes, it’s a nice stab at real-world relevance when he tells the story of his science fair project gone awry and the “old school brother” of a teacher who warned him not to ever expect a second chance. So far, though, Runk’s persona is a bit too “try-hard Cisco,” so it’s good news to hear the real thing will be back soon.

Stray observations

  • Nash’s secret is blown when Allegra finds the Polaroid of him with her doppelganger. Like most of us, Frost assumes Allegra is the double of Nash’s daughter, although he insists she’s just an ex-employee.
  • Oh, and Nash keeps seeing Wells variants or remnants, except it looks like they’re actually Thawne-as-Wells variants or remnants, what with the glowing red eyes and warnings of impending doom.
  • Just in case anyone missed it, the title “Grodd Friended Me” is a parody of the CBS series God Friended Me, which is a real thing and evidently still on the air.
  • If that wasn’t enough dated internet lingo for you, Frost also has to figure out how to “slide into Barry’s mind DMs.”
  • No new episode next week, but Wally “Kid Flash” West returns on March 10.
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My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.

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