After six episodes that have taken The Flash further into the unknown than ever before, the second season continued as a familiar and decidedly furry face emerged to cause trouble for Barry Allen and Team Flash in “Gorilla Warfare” on Nov. 17. With Barry still recovering from the broken back inflicted on him by Zoom in last week’s “Enter Zoom,” he spent most of the episode in Star Labs trying to deal with his limits as a speedster while Caitlin and Cisco ventured out into the field.
The return of Grodd the telepathic gorilla worked well enough in “Gorilla Warfare,” and The Flash should be commended for finding a way to make such a ridiculous villain feel anything but silly. In fact, one of the best moments of the episode came at the very end when Grodd arrived on Earth 2, surveyed the new land of gorilla utopia, and roared in fury that he’d been denied his vengeance on the Flash.
No, the problem of “Gorilla Warfare” did not come from the gorilla. The problem was that the episode lacked any sort of multidimensionality to add scope or severity to the action of the script.
“Gorilla Warfare” should have been a fascinating character study as the temporarily crippled Barry Allen is forced to take a backseat on the action and look at what the Flash really means to the city instead of just himself. Instead, “Gorilla Warfare” completely failed to give a point-of-view to the citizens of Central City who had only last week seen their hero dragged bloody and broken through major hubs of activity.
“Gorilla Warfare” neglected to show the people of Central City disappointed or fearful or concerned after Zoom’s zoom of shame with Barry. As such, Barry’s moping about failing the folks of his city felt more like a teenager wallowing in self-pity because he couldn’t run fast rather than a hero watching his home suffer in his absence and altruistically aching with the need to give them reason to believe in him again. There was no perspective on the situation outside of Star Labs, and the ensemble at Star Labs desperately needed a foil from Central City to ground them in some sort of reality in which the repercussions of big episodes such as last week’s “Enter Zoom” affect more than just Barry’s morale.
It’s not that there wasn’t time for a look outside of the circle of friends at Star Labs. There didn’t need to be a two-minute press conference attended by a crowd of Central City citizens rending their garments and gnashing their teeth. Even a few seconds of news footage reporting public unease with the Flash not being seen since the incident with the mysterious new speedster would have helped. Heck, Iris is a reporter. She could have quietly filled Joe or Caitlin or Cisco and therefore the audience in on the fact that people are nervous. That could have even worked to justify Joe pushing Barry beyond his limit on the treadmill.
The Flash has always had a problem with finding a way to do enough showing to balance the telling when it comes to the pseudoscience, but neither showing nor telling anything at all concerning the public’s point-of-view of Central City in the aftermath of what occurred with Zoom and what crippled Barry turned an episode that should striven to maintain the terrifying momentum of the previous episode into a standalone that brought the acceleration to a stop. As the show delves into more complicated issues than it had in Season 1, it needs to maintain a sense of depth and dimensionality so that the fantastical phenomena can remain rooted in a plane of emotional realism. If audiences are going to suspend their disbelief, then they need something to believe in.
Overall, “Gorilla Warfare” was not a bad episode of television. It was just not nearly as good as it could and should have been after the thrilling final act of the previous installment. Hopefully, The Flash will find a way to incorporate the status quo of Central City with the action of the crew at Star Labs so that the stakes are high enough to justify their fears as well as their actions. If the show is going to explore multiple universes, it needs to establish real emotional dimensions on at least one of them.
The Flash airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.