The Flash recap: Run, Grodd, run
The past is very important in superheroes stories. Often it’s what creates, drives, and/or haunts the superheroes. Zooming out even further, the genre is obsessed with the past. Just look at how the Arrowverse just adapted Crisis on Infinite Earths and filled the crossover with faces from DC TV and movies past (there’s that word again), or Frank Miller’s understandable influence on many of DC’s big-screen properties. That’s not a bad thing on its own, because there’s a difference between remembering and honoring the past, and being beholden to it (the crossover definitely fell in the former). Tonight’s episode of The Flash is all about that. Written by Kristen Kim and Joshua V. Gilbert, the cheekily titled “Grodd Friended Me” explores how the past can be a weight that holds you back and the importance of breaking free, accepting change, and moving forward (always).
At the top of the hour, Barry is struggling to make sense of the post-“Crisis” world. His parents’ graves has been relocated; Hartley Rathaway, a.k.a. Pied Piper, is once again Team Flash’s enemy and can fly now(!); and Cisco is out touring the world, meaning Barry is left with Chester and Kamilla as the voices in his ear while he’s out in the field. It’s a lot of change to handle, and he just wants something familiar, which why is he snaps at Chester, wh tries to help improve Barry’s Gideon device.
After tinkering with Gideon some more, Barry decides to test it out and immediately passes out, then wakes up in a mind-scape — specifically, Grodd’s. Our favorite psychic gorilla has been trapped in a Team Flash-induced coma since his fight with King Shark, and now he wants out. Unfortunately, the only way out of the mind-scape is via a gate guarded by Solivar, a.k.a. the Gatekeeper, so he needs Barry’s help to defeat him.
Barry doesn’t trust Grodd because of every terrible thing he’s done over the past six years; he’s so concerned with the past that he doesn’t even consider Grodd may have changed. As show of good faith, Grodd frees Barry from the cage and restores his powers. Instead of helping Grodd, though, Barry lightning-punches him and then zooms off to the gate, where he comes face to face with Solivar. Unfortunately for Barry, Solivar won’t let him leave and easily defeats him.
At this point, Frost, Chester, and Kamilla have discovered Barry’s unconscious body in the Speed Lab and figured out that he’s trapped in Grodd’s mind-scape — which isn’t a good thing. According to Caitlin, Grodd’s mind-scape can’t handle both consciousnesses and will crumble from the strain, killing both Barry and Grodd. Chester realizes his brief tinkering with Gideon caused this and runs off, ashamed. Frost chases after him and urges him to come back and help them save Barry to make up for his mistake. But Chester is too scared because of a lesson he learned when he screwed up a school project as a kid.
“In the real world, people like us, we don’t get a second chance,” his teacher told him after refusing to let Chester make up for his mistake. This one line is pretty affecting because The Flash rarely, if ever, acknowledges race head-on like this. It’s refreshing. Caitlin’s response is great, too: “I understand some of the stuff we do in here has nothing to do with the real world, but I’m offering you a second chance because you deserve one. We all do.” It’s a moment that recognizes superhero comics can acknowledge real issues and potentially be a balm for some of those harsh truths.
Meanwhile back in the mind-scape, Grodd tells Barry that he’s changed since being trapped and finally sees the error of his ways. Again, Barry doesn’t believe him, but then Grodd explains he simply wants to be free so he can go live in Gorilla City, which is the only place he’s ever felt truly happy. Something about that strike a chord with Barry, and he realizes that he needs to let go of the past and stop trying to keep things the way they were before the Crisis. That epiphany also gives him the solution for beating Solivar this time around. “We need to run forward, not backward… by fighting together,” he says. Or to borrow Pop’s old mantra, “Forward, always.”
Cut to Barry and Grodd returning to the forest to face Solivar. This time around, Grodd and Barry fuse minds to become Gorilla Flash. I’m 100 percent convinced that we only got this episode because some writer pitched this visual, everyone loved it, and they all worked backward to figure out how this could become an entire episode. And you know what? I don’t care because watching Grodd speed around with lightning trailing behind him is awesome. Short shorty shorter: Gorilla Flash defeats Solivar before the mind-scape crumbles, and Chester overcomes his own past and plays a pivotal role in separating their minds before they return to the real world.
So the day is saved! Once back in the real world, Barry welcomes Chester to the team and asks him to QB from the Cortex while he speeds off into the field to confront Pied Piper again.
Tonight’s episode also features some major twists when it comes to the season’s villains. First, it’as revealed that Eva created Not-Iris and is essentially controlling her in the world, although Iris doesn’t know. Iris simply believes that Eva is scared to try anything because of her past failures. Meanwhile, Nash tries to fix things with Allegra, who got angry after finding out her doppelgänger was his daughter/ex-employee. Unfortunately, Sherloque Wells appears to Nash before he can do that and with Reverse Flash-red eyes warns Nash that “He is coming.” Reverse Flash is coming back!
Wall of Weird:
- Joe tells Not-Iris he can’t help her with Joseph Carver because it would violate police procedure. So Iris stands Joe up for lunch, sneaks into his office, and steals the files. Cold.
- “Run, Grodd, run,” says Barry, urging Grodd to fight back against Solivar. Love to hear it.
- I truly love The Flash’s commitment to doing one Grodd episode a year. Like, this is why this show exists.
- I also love how the Arrowverse can’t help redeeming villains. Grodd joins the list of Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Damian Darhk, and several others.
- For the record: This is the third version of Hartley Rathaway. He was first a villain and then became an ally after Barry messed with time in season 2.