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The Flash S1.21 "Grodd Lives review

Meet Grodd, the giant, mutant red herring cross-dressing as a psychic gorilla. As Joe points out in the episode, he’s actually little more than a crowd-pleasing distraction. A delaying tactic. A sideshow that allows the series to get all the Barry/Iris relationship angst out of its system before the big action in the final two episodes.

And you know what? The writers get away with it. Throw them a banana.

So yeah, we get a lot of Iris whinging in this episode about being left in the dark. She does go on a bit and it does seem a little “Me! Me! Me!” when Barry is trying to stop a villain from the future from killing his mother. Again. On the other hand, she does argue her case well and with a degree of logic. We haven’t always been kind to Iris while reviewing this season – and she does herself few favours having a temper that tends towards flouncing – but she has spent the past season being lied to by everyone, and that must come as huge slap in the face. Plus she’s right when she says she may have been useful if they’d trusted her; she proves that here, stepping in to save Barry, and who knows, she may have been able to prevent Nathan Bridge’s death.

However, when Barry whinges, “But you haven’t been completely truthful to me!” he’s on less sure ground. Moaning that she’s not admitting her true feelings simply sounds like an ego going into overdrive. Okay, she gave him a smacker in an alternate timeline but they were just about to be hit by a tsunami. Imminent death does odd things to people.

So at the moment it looks like the only way they’ll ever get married is after a drunken fumble in a Las Vegas hotel room, with an Elvis lookalike presiding, and lots of sore heads and regrets the next morning.

Familiar Skyscraper

Of course, whenever you see a gorilla climbing a skyscraper (what, it’s not a regular occurrence in your life?) you have to think of King Kong. But we were also distracted by the fact this particular skyscraper appears to have moved from Metropolis. It’s the same building used for the Watchtower in Smallville, from where Chloe coordinated the embryonic Justice League.

The bickering never drags the episode down, though. There’s a lot of it, sure, but it’s rationed sensibly throughout with Grodd providing the fun and action in-between. The fact that his main function is to keep Team Flash busy while Eobard grows a moustache to twirl excuses the fact that a lot of action doesn’t really make sense. Why on earth mind-control Eiling to steal gold? Why psychically attack Barry during his initial encounter with Eiling? Why capture Joe and not Barry? Why speak through Eiling when he’s imprisoned at STARlabs? Oh, that’s why – he hasn’t actually got a real plan. He’s just playing with them. Always a handy, anything-goes plot device.

And in this case that means Grodd can stomp and roar and slug it out and generally provide the fireworks. It means that Cisco (and even Joe) can make ape quips and look foolish with bananas. It means Barry can find out that the same tricks don’t work on every villain. It means Caitlin and Cisco find the confidence to speed-invent without Wells’s help. It means Iris can use Barry’s love for her to save him, then throw it back in his face.

It means this is a show that can take a whole bunch of clichés and somehow make them feel fresh. Once again the show’s effortless charm, self-effacing wit and energy lift everything to the next level. The plot mechanics may not always be invisible but they mesh together with deft, graceful efficiency.

Wells has lost any sense of humanity he had left this week. While he doesn’t fall into the usual villains' trap of revealing his plans to Eddie (who, to be fair, would probably glaze over at the first mention of temporal flux) he does produce a few good, interesting rants. Mainly about genealogy, which is quite some feat outside of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? It’d be a shame, though, if now that his secret is out he becomes your standard supervillain.

The bottom line is, not an awful lot actually happens in this episode in terms of the overarching season plot – it simply had to get some necessary housekeeping done in terms of Barry and Iris’s relationship – yet it never feels dull. Then again, how could any episode with a mutant gorilla be dull?

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Best Line

Gorilla Grodd: “Grodd hate banana.” (Just like in the comics!)

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52-Spotting

You’ll have to take our word for it as it’s not clear from the screen grab, but there’s a 52 in the corner of the monitor screen that shows brain activity.

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Illiterate Journalist

Iris: “So the red, that’s Barry?” Caitlin: “Yes.” Iris: “And the blue?” Caitlin: “It’s Grodd.” You have to forgive Iris for triumphing against adversity as a journalist who can’t read!

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Lax Security

Blimey, you’d think if you have a superhero hanging about in costume with his hood down as often as STAR Labs does, you’d make sure a warning light or something would come on when his BFF wanders in off the streets.

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Geek References 1

Another avalanche of movie references this week and it’s not just Cisco this time. Joe kicks off by name-checking a James Bond classic.

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Geek References 2

Then Cisco mentions The Exorcist. Joe responds, “You and your movies,” but he’s one to talk this week!

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Geek References 3

The first of two Planet Of The Apes references this week (but then, the episode does feature a super-intelligent ape).

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Geek References 4

Alligators refers to the 1980 horror film Alligator, CHUDs refers to the 1984 horror film CHUD (in which is stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller), and ROUSes is a reference to the Rodents Of Unusual Size in Princess Bride (1987).

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Geek References 5

Um, where was the sewer scene in Jurassic Park?

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Geek References 6

Yeah, you get the idea by now…

The Flash airs on Sky 1 in the UK and the CW in the US on Tuesday nights.

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