[Flash] Recap • 314 Attack on Central City

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The Flash Recap: Attack on Gorilla City
By Chancellor Agard for ew.com

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With the introduction of so many new baby speedsters this season (Wally, Jesse), it’s been easy to forget that Barry is still closer to the beginning of his superhero career than the Flash we’re familiar with in comics. He might be mentoring Wally, but he’s still learning how to be hero, too, which is clear from the many frustrating mistakes we’ve seen him make recently. In tonight’s episode, Barry learns one of the most important superhero lessons as he faces off with Grodd and protects his city: Heroes always find another way.

When the episode opens, we find Team Flash enjoying their latest victory against Grodd: Barry is busy showering Iris with love because he thinks he managed to change the future; Wally and Jesse decide to tell a surprisingly chill Harry about Jesse’s decision to move to Earth-1; and H.R., embracing his inner Martha Stewart, covers S.T.A.R. Labs with Friend’s Day (Earth-19’s Valentine’s Day) decorations despite Harry’s objections. But before the good times can really roll, Gypsy comes through a breach in the speed lab and attacks Team Flash. Thankfully, Harry takes her down with his fancy gun.

Gypsy wakes up in a pipeline cell and has no idea how she got there. The last thing she remembers is tracking a breacher to Earth-2’s Africa. That’s when Team Flash realizes that Grodd was controlling her and must have used her to travel to Earth-1. At that very moment, Grodd and his army are casually yet menacingly hanging out on a cliff overlooking Central City. This is a frightening prospect not only because Barry can’t seem to defeat Grodd for good, but because this means that he didn’t change the future and Iris’ life is still in danger. Realizing the severity of the situation, Cisco asks Gypsy to help them fight Grodd, but she says this isn’t her fight and just asks Cisco to let her return home, which he does.

The team asks Cisco to vibe the future to figure out where Grodd plans on attacking so they can launch a preemptive strike. While Harry and Wally get to work on upgrading Cisco’s vibe gear, Harry heavily implies that he’s dying from some illness but makes Wally promise not to tell Jesse because he wants her to follow her happiness to Earth-1. Once they’re done, Cisco does his thing and finds out where Grodd plans on attacking.

Flash, Kid Flash, Jesse Quick, Joe, and the SWAT team head out to the location of Grodd’s impending assault on the city, but it never comes. Instead, Grodd launches an even more personal attack against the Flash. Grodd, who knows Barry’s weaknesses, takes control of Joe’s mind and compels him to kill himself with his own gun. PRAISE BE TO THE SPEED FORCE, Barry is fast enough to push Joe out of the way before the bullet pierces his skull. I’ll admit that the possibility of Joe dying was the scariest part of this episode, and the scene succeeds in making Grodd feel even more threatening despite the fact that his physical presence is kept to a minimum (probably for budgetary reasons) until the very end of the episode.

Team Flash realizes that Grodd was trying to distract them, but they have no clue from what. Thankfully, Harry provides yet another deus ex machina. Like Gypsy, Joe got a glimpse inside of Grodd’s head while he was under his control, so Harry suggests they use magnets to recover those lost memories, because science! Meanwhile, Jesse finds Wally brooding down by the pipeline. Wally tells Jesse it might not be a good idea for her to move to Earth-1 and lets slip that her father is dying. To Wally’s surprise, Jesse isn’t sad but pissed off at her father.

Upstairs, Harry is putting the finish touches on his memory-retrieval thingy when Jesse marches into the lab and confronts him about lying to Wally about being unwell (jokes!) just to stop her from moving to Earth-1. This has the likely intended effect of injecting some much humor into the situation, which is welcome in an episode with several Brooding Barry scenes. After Jesse storms off, Cisco and the rest of the team tease Harry about what just happened as he turns on the device, which puts Joe into a trance and allows him to draw a portrait of the man he saw in Grodd’s head.

While the team tries to identify the man Joe drew, Barry comes close to reaching Oliver Queen levels of moodiness. His fear about losing Iris if he can’t stop the invasion causes him to ponder the unthinkable: killing Grodd. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time Barry has actually considered killing an enemy. It makes sense that Barry would consider it here because not only is the fate of Central City at stake, but so is Iris’ life. And we know Barry is willing to do anything to protect his loved ones (and protect himself from feeling the pain of loss ever again). Thankfully, Barry has people in his life who are willing to talk him off of a ledge like this one.

First, there’s Iris, who unfortunately falls back into cheerleader/superhero whisperer mode in this episode and tells him that her life isn’t worth any solution that requires Barry to compromise himself like that. However, that doesn’t do much to change his mind. Later, Harry finds out what Barry is considering and tells him it’s a stupid in a beautiful speech that reminds Barry what it means to be a hero and reminds us of the appeal of superhero stories: There’s always another way, and heroes find it. That’s why they’re so inspiring both to us and to the citizens they protect. The Flash was so easy to love in its first season because hope and optimism were at the center of the story, and it’s nice to see the show return to its roots in these past two episodes.

With H.R.’s help, Team Flash identifies the man in Joe’s drawing as a high-ranking general with access to nuclear weapons. It just so happens that Grodd just took control of his mind and made him activate several nuclear missiles. The Flash speeds off to the base and discovers that the only way to stop the launcher is to figure out the abort code by trying every numerical combination until he finds the right one. To be honest, I’m not sure if the tension in the scenes comes from the story or from the fact that I was dreading the Berlanti-verse setting off yet another nuclear bomb (probably the latter), but Barry thankfully finds the code in time. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to put a halt on Grodd’s plans, and he prepares his army to actually attack the city this time.

The Flash, Kid Flash, and Jesse Quick head to the streets to face Grodd and his army, though their plan mainly consists of biding time while Barry finds another way to take down Grodd. See, Cisco jumps over to Earth-19 and asks Gypsy to help them fight Grodd again. This time, however, he appeals not only to the part of her he’s convinced likes him, but also to the part of her that wants to be a hero. Gypsy acquiesces, infusing more optimism into the episode, and helps Cisco recruit Solivar, who travels back to Earth-1 with them to kick Grodd’s butt in a video game cutscene-esque CGI battle of gorillas. The battle ends with Barry asking a triumphant Solivar to show mercy by leaving Grodd on their Earth and returning with his army to Earth-2.

Having beaten Grodd, Harry accepts Jesse’s decision to stay on Earth-1 and returns home, and Gypsy returns to Earth-19, but not before planting one hell of a kiss on Cisco. From there, Iris returns home and finds the apartment covered in more candles, roses, and food, and Barry, who decides to live in the present, gets down on one knee to propose — but we don’t see her answer. Meanwhile, Wally goes a Big Belly Burger run for Jesse and ends up running into Savitar, which can’t be good.

Although I didn’t find tonight’s episode as exhilarating as last week’s, I thought it did a pretty good job of picking up the threads of part one, particularly when it came to the importance of hope. It’s been a while since the show has embraced the optimism of its premise, so it was nice to see both Barry and Gyspy step up to the plate. Furthermore, I loved Harry and H.R.’s interactions, as Harry spent the entire episode reminding H.R. that he wasn’t a genius. There was something weird about Tom Cavanagh’s portrayal of Harry, who was grumpier than usual, but that’s a quibble. Cavanagh is one of the show’s best assets, and he makes H.R. work through sheer force of will.

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