As exciting as it was to learn that The Flash would be paying a visit to Gorilla City this season, the prospect warranted a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, it was only two years ago that Grodd made his first appearance on the show, and the limits of a weekly television special effects budget were evident in the fleeting, shadowy appearances of the CGI creation. The Flash production team has pulled off some impressive eye candy on its CW scratch over the first two and a half seasons, but are they really up to the task of pulling off a full-scale city of apes?
The answer, as you know by now, is “not really,” but I’m glad they went for it anyway. The episode has enough going for it that it’s easy to forgive some of the visual shortcomings. The events of this week were set into motion at the end of the previous episode, when Jesse Quick arrived on Earth-1 to alert our heroes to the kidnapping of Harry Wells by Gorilla Grodd. She stays behind with Wally to protect Central City while the away team of Barry, Cisco, Caitlin, and Julian (uninvited and looking like a tool in his Indiana Jones hat) vibe their way to the parallel Earth on a rescue mission.
Here’s how you know the producers had to cut corners in every possible way in order to bring us the show’s big set piece: Most of Team Flash’s time in Gorilla City is spent in the woods on the outskirts of town or in nondescript holding cells. (Our glimpses of Gorilla City in full are limited to a few videogame-like shots of its stone walls and giant gorilla statue.) The gorilla-rendering time is further reduced by having Grodd speak through a human surrogate, but this proves to be a stroke of genius: that surrogate is the kidnapped Wells himself, meaning that Tom Cavanagh gets yet another character to play. (Let’s see, that makes it: Earth-1 Wells, Thawne-as-Wells, Earth-2 Harry, HR, and Grodd. Missing anyone?) Cavanagh’s ape-like jaw movements and guttural, halting speech pattern are as convincing a representation of Grodd in human form as we could hope for.
Grodd’s plan is to have Barry defeat Solovar, the leader of Gorilla City, so that Grodd may take his place as the ruler of apes and lead an attack on Central City. Solovar, an albino gorilla voiced by Keith David, fears the human invaders and challenges Barry to a fight to the death in the arena. The green-screen seams are really showing during this sequence—not for a second is it convincing that Barry and Solovar are surrounded by thousands of cheering gorillas—but their duel is brief enough to limit the distraction. The teamwork required to engineer their escape (by having Caitlin use her powers to freeze Barry long enough to fool Grodd into thinking he’s dead) is refreshingly free of the usual interpersonal drama and trite pep talks, and Harry’s reunion with the group is both amusing and oddly sweet.
By comparison, the events back on Earth-1 are rather pedestrian. The only real action involves Wally and Jesse breaking up a bank robbery (and even there, Wally does all the work in the blink of an eye). Instead, we’re meant to recall that Wally and Jesse comprise a great interrupted romance, separated by dimensions. Well, that’s not quite the way I remember it; they had a nice little flirtation going toward the end of season two, but if Wally has spent the intervening time pining over Jesse’s absence, we haven’t been clued in. Still, this subplot does provide the opportunity for HR to give his best shot at fatherly advice, and he’s not so bad at it.
“Attack On Gorilla City” was never going to deliver the full-on comic book version of the title location, so it’s pointless to gripe about the weekly version of The Flash not having the budget of a Planet Of The Apes movie (not even Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, the cheapest of them all). The closest it comes is the closing scene, with Grodd and his troops clad in full battle armor, having found a way to invade Central City after all. The story has not yet been fully told, and we’ll have to wait until next week to find out exactly how much ape mayhem this show is really prepared to deliver.
- So…if Grodd had Gypsy as a back-up plan all along, why bother bringing Team Flash to Earth-2 at all? (Yes, he still had to defeat Solovar, but surely he could have just breached him to another Earth altogether with Gypsy’s help.)
- “Why is he still here?” Harry’s befuddlement at his counterpart is pure Cavanagh gold.
- Yeah, that Julian and Caitlin romance is totally happening. Oh well.
- “Are you going to the planet of the apes?” “It’s just a city of them.”