Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 14: Attack On Central City

This week on The Flash we get the conclusion to the epic two part Gorilla Grodd saga, in Attack On Central City.

Well, on second thought, maybe "attack" is too strong a word. It's more like a light skirmish against the city, as Barry and the Gang sit around wringing their hands and sitting around waiting for Grodd to finally appear in the last ten minutes of the episode.

It would have been awesome if the episode had been forty two minutes of nothing but human vs. ape warfare, but that was never going to happen on a network TV series. The CW just doesn't have the cash to pull off something like that. So we got a very scaled-down, economy-minded battle instead.

And you know what? I'm OK with that! The various Arrowverse shows are often much more ambitious than their budgets will allow, and that's fine. I appreciate their passion and enthusiasm, which makes me more forgiving when their reach exceeds their grasp.

This week we also get the classic "Should A Superhero Ever Kill?" trope, as Barry contemplates offing Grodd to prevent any more of his murderous rampages. Would killing him make Barry a hero, or drag him down to Grodd's leve? It's a question comic fans have been debating for decades, and there's never been a definitive answer.

The moral waters are muddied even more in this episode, when you consider the fact that Grodd's not human. Would killing an animal be wrong? Even one that's intelligent? Barry also has an extra incentive to kill Grodd in this case, as doing so would alter the future and possibly save Iris' life.

In the end, Barry of course chooses the heroic route, and finds another way to beat Grodd, courtesy of a well-written pep talk given to him by Harry.

For some reason this is a Valentine's themed episode, which is timely as it aired on February 28. I'm betting the writer's planned for it to actually air on the 14th, but it was delayed due to The CW's dodgy stop/start scheduling.


The Plot: 

Barry cooks breakfast for Iris at superspeed, which doesn't make any sense. At STAR Labs, HR decorates the Cortex for Friend's Day, the Earth-19 equivalent of Valentine's Day. He passes out handmade "friendship cards" to the entire Gang, including his Earth-2 doppelganger Harry, who can't stand him.

Jesse tells Wally they really need to inform Harry that she's moving to Earth-1. They nervously approach him and break the news, expecting a blowup. Oddly enough, Harry remains calm
 almost too calm  and takes the news surprisingly well, saying all he wants is for Jesse to be happy.

Back in the Cortex, Cisco and Caitlin discuss their love lives. Caitlin insists that she and Julian (who's curiously absent this week) are just friends. Cisco mopes, saying he's doomed to be forever alone, prompting Caitlin to give him a Patented The CW Pep Talk.™ Suddenly a breach opens, and Gypsy jumps out. She begins firing blasts at everyone, even managing to pin Barry against a wall (I guess he forgot he has superspeed). Luckily Harry's on the case, and shoots her in the back with a blaster, knocking her out.

Gypsy wakes up in the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail, with no memory of how she got there. The Gang determines she's been mind-controlled by Grodd, who most likely used her to open a breach to let him, and his entire gorilla army, into Earth-1. Cut to Grodd and his entire gorilla army on Earth-1, as they stand on a mountain overlooking Central City.

Grodd somehow scrambles the STAR Labs satellites so the Gang can't locate his army. They decide that Cisco could vibe a bit into the future to find out where Grodd will attack. Cisco points out that when he "future vibes," he can only see things Barry saw there. Harry says he can help with that by souping up Cisco's Vibe glasses to "widen his scope." Meanwhile, Cisco tries to get Gypsy to help. She says when she was possessed by Grodd, she saw horrible, disturbing images of the destruction of Central City, and wants to hightail it back to Earth-19 immediately. Cisco's disappointed that she won't help, but lets her go.

Meanwhile, Wally helps Harry modify Cisco's glasses. He says he's surprised that Harry's OK with Jesse moving. Harry says he wants what's best for her, and implies he's dying. Naturally since this is The Flash, he tells Wally to keep his illness a secret from Jesse. Harry gives Cisco his modified glasses. He vibes into the future and determines Grodd will attack at the intersection of State and Oakhill.

Cut to the Gang and the CCPD at the intersection, tensely awaiting the arrival of Grodd's army. Suddenly Grodd begins speaking through Joe, threatening to destroy Central City and eventually the world. He then forces Joe to raise his gun to his head and fire. Barry finally remembers he has superspeed and shoves him back just in time, as the bullet grazes Joe's forehead. Barry realizes this was all a distraction, and Grodd plans to attack elsewhere. Grodd then possesses Air Force General Matthew McNally, who drives to a nearby nuclear testing base and enters

Back at STAR Labs, Caitlin patches up Joe. Harry asks if he remembers anything while being possessed by Grodd, but Joe says no. Harry says there's an Earth-2 procedure he could use to look into Joe's memories and possibly determine Grodd's plan. Joe reluctantly agrees to the experiment. Wally can't keep his trap shut, and tells Jesse that Harry's dying. She angrily confronts her dad, who sheepishly admits he said it just to keep Jesse on Earth-2 with him. Barry tells Iris he's tired of his friends getting hurt because of him, and plans to kill Grodd to end his threat for good.

Harry places a cobbled-together helmet onto Joe's head. He begins sketching a man's face, which the Gang determine is General McNally. Just then alarms go off inside STAR Labs, indicating a nuclear missile launch is imminent. They realize Grodd's going to nuke Central City!

Barry speeds away to the base and sees a missile launcher's been activated. Cisco tells him it can only be shut down by punching in a five digit code on its keypad. Unfortunately no one knows the code. Barry uses his superspeed to manually enter every possible five digit combination (!), shutting down the launch with one second to spare, of course. Back at STAR Labs, Harry gives Barry a Patented The CW Pep Talk™ (wow, two in one episode!), telling him he hopes he doesn't kill Grodd, as "there's always another way." Yeah, well, you just lied to your daughter about dying, so maybe Barry shouldn't listen to you right now.

Cisco then vibes to Earth-19 (which is punishable by death!) to try and try to talk Gypsy into helping again.

On Earth-1, Grodd and his army march on Central City. The three speedsters (is that like The Three Amigos?), Barry, Wally and Jesse, attack. Somehow the gorillas put up a good fight, knocking the speedsters off their feet, which makes absolutely no sense, but whatever.

Suddenly a breach opens. Cisco and Gypsy leap out of it, along with special guest star Solovar, who's apparently recovered from his gladiatorial combat last week. Solovar attacks Grodd in an epic and expensive CGI fight sequence. They scramble up the side of a building and fight some more. Solovar gets the upper hand, and throws Grodd off the building. He lands on the pavement far below, but oddly enough doesn't splatter like he ought to. Solovar then jumps the same distance down, and is somehow perfectly fine. Solovar starts to kill Grodd, but Barry says no, he'll handle him. Solovar says whatever, and turns to the gorilla army. They kneel before Zod, er, I mean Solovar, acknowledging him as their leader again.

Gypsy then opens a breach to return Solovar and all the gorillas to Earth-2. Back at STAR Labs, Barry says Grodd is now in custody at A.R.G.U.S., where I'm sure he'll never, ever escape and pop up again in a season or two. Cisco flirts with Gypsy, who plants an epic kiss on him and says he couldn't handle her. She then goes back to Earth-19.

Later at their apartment, Barry proposes to Iris. She's gobsmacked, but of course we'll have to wait until next week to hear her answer.

In the final scene, Wally and Jesse watch TV together. She says she could go for some Big Belly Burgers, so Wally speeds off to grab some. On the way he sees a blinding flash of light, and Savitar appears. He runs toward Wally as we smash cut to black.


• As the episode opens, Barry uses his superspeed to cook a huge breakfast in seconds for Iris. Um... the writers know that just because Barry moves around the kitchen at lightning speed, the food's not going to cook any faster, right? He can flip pancakes at a thousand miles an hour if he wants, but they're still gonna take several minutes to cook.

• What happened to Julian this week? When Cisco asks Caitlin where he is, she replies, "He's taking care of some family matters in London." That was awfully sudden! Didn't he just return from Earth-2 with the Gang a day or two ago? Did he leave for London the second they got back?

I'm wondering if Tom Felton wasn't available for filming this week, or if it was yet another case of The CW's budget rearing its ugly head? Maybe after rendering all those CGI gorilla shots, there wasn't enough money left over to pay an extra guest star?

• Grodd's helmet is very similar the one General Ursus wore in Battle For The Planet Of The Apes. Coincidence, or homage?

• Caitlin suggests using the captured Gypsy to help fight Grodd. Jesse says, "Yeah, but how do we know whe's not a Grodd sleeper agent?" Cisco then pipes up and confidently says, "She's not. I checked her out."

Um... how did he do that, pray tell? Did he walk up to her and say, "Hey, are you a Grodd sleeper agent?"

He does mention something later in the episode about being able to vibe feelings, but still...

• Why isn't Caitlin's power-dampening pendant lit in this episode? Were the gorilla effects so expensive they couldn't afford a battery for her?

• When Harry tells Wally he's dying, he says not to say anything to Jesse about it. Sigh... even though Harry's actually lying about his health, he's still suggesting Wally keep yet another HUGE SECRET from the rest of the cast. Doesn't anyone on this show ever learn that that only leads to disaster?

Later we learn that Harry's not actually dying, but only said he was to try and trick Jesse into going back to Earth-2 with him. Man, that's a pretty dick move, even for Harry!

Jesse's pissed at Harry for lying to her for a few seconds, but apparently forgives him and the matter's dropped and never brought up again (even after the gorilla invasion is over). I think I'd be a bit more outraged if either of my parents ever pulled a stunt like that!

• When Cisco vibes into the future, he looks around trying to figure out where he is. As he does so, his breath is visible in the cold night air. Does that seem right? He's not physically travelling into the future. His body's still sitting in a chair at STAR Labs. He's just sending his mind into Barry's memories. Once he's there he should be like a ghost, or immaterial spirit.

• We all know by now that The Flash writers love to incorporate names of comic creators into any street address or building. In this episode the Gang thinks Grodd's going to attack at the intersection of State and Oakhill. There's also a General Matthew McNally, who travels to Fort Reynolds nuclear missile base.

I googled the hell out of these names and addresses, but as far as I can tell they're not Easter eggs, and have no connection to any DC Comics. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

Earth-19 Watch: This week we learned that Earth-19 has "Friendship Day," which is much like our Valentine's Day. They also have the movie Rocky, which is apparently very similar to our version. They also have Star Wars, but their movie features Luke Starkiller, not Skywalker. Oddly enough that was Luke's name in George Lucas' first draft of the script, but he changed it because it sounded a bit too ominous for a hero. Earth-19 also has Weird Al Yankovic, but there he's a renowned poet, not a writer of parody songs.

• When Grodd possessed Joe, his voice drops several octaves, becoming a deep, rumbling growl. I wonder if that was actor Jesse L. Martin's real voice there, or if they electronically lowered it in post?

• Grodd tries to make Joe shoot himself in the head, but Barry uses his speed to save him. Barry then asks Joe if he's OK, and he replies yes. NOPE! Joe just fired a handgun an inch from the side of his head. In all likelihood he's going to be partially deaf for the next several hours.

• Ready for some EXTREME nitpicking, above and beyond the call of duty? OK, here goes. When Barry realizes Grodd set up a diversion, he says "Every time I think we've beat him, he comes back stronger, smarter, and more dangerous. He's evolving."

Sorry Barry, but individuals don't evolve. Populations evolve. Individuals can only mutate, and then pass those changes onto their offspring. As a scientist, he should know this.

See, I told you it was extreme!

• Barry shuts down the nuclear missile launcher by manually punching in every possible five digit combination on the keypad. 
Lucky for Barry and Central City that the launcher's computer didn't lock him out after three incorrect tries.

By the way, Harry says there 90,000 possible combinations of five digits (provided the numbers can repeat, i.e. "55555"). I checked and that's absolutely right! Well done, writers! The correct code turns out to be 45127, which I assume means Barry only entered a little more than half the possible combinations.

• When Cisco vibes to Earth-19, we see Gypsy interacting with a speedster. It's never mentioned in the episode, but according to the producers that was the Accelerated Man. Apparently he's the Flash of Earth-19.

I'm assuming he'll pop up again later, most likely in the season finale. There's no way they'd have gone to all the trouble to casting someone and creating a costume for a five second appearance. I don't want to get too spoilery here, but there are rumors floating around that the Accelerated Man may be played by someone we've seen on the show before...

The Accelerated man is actually from the comics, where he really does live on Earth-19. The comic book version of that world is very "steampunk." Little else is known about the comic version at this point. The TV costume looks to be a spot-on recreation of the comic version, so well done!

• Sometimes I wonder if the writers remember what "superspeed" actually means. In this episode Gypsy somehow manages to hit Barry with an energy blast and pin him against the wall. One would think a man called "the Flash" could easily dodge her blasts, or race across the room and knock her out while she's blinking.

Later during the all-out gorilla attack, Barry's knocked into the side of a cab by Grodd's shield. Wally and Jesse are also flung aside like rag dolls by several gorilla (not guerilla) soldiers. 

How the hell is any of this possible for people who can literally move faster than the human eye can see?

I get that the writers need to level the playing field a bit, else it would be impossible for any villain to ever beat Barry and every battle would last just under a second. 
Still, there's got to be a better way to go about this.

• Sadly, there's a big chunk of this episode that we don't get to see. Cisco vibes to Earth-19 and finally talks Gypsy into helping. The two of them then apparently vibe to Earth-2, enter Gorilla City again, ask for an audience with Solovar and somehow talk him into coming with them to Earth-1 to kill Grodd.

Now that's an episode I want to see!

• So Grodd's thrown from the top of a thirty story building, lands on the pavement below and is gravely injured. Solovar then jumps from the exact same height, performs a Superhero Landing™ and is just fine. Got it.

• Want some more REALLY EXTREME nitpicking? At the end of the episode, Wally and Jesse are in the West home, watching Casablanca on a widescreen TV. Oddly enough, the picture fills up the entire screen. Hmm...

Casablanca was released back in 1942, back when most movies were filmed in what's known as "Academy Ratio." This means the picture has an aspect ratio of 1:33 to 1, which is just slightly wider than it is tall. 

If Wally's watching this movie on a widescreen TV, then there should be black bars on either side of the picture. Since there are no bars, Wally must be one of those philistines who stretches the picture to fit their screen, resulting in characters who look like they're three feet wide. I now hate Wally, and he deserves nothing but my scorn.

See? I told you it was REALLY EXTREME!

• I feel like I've mentioned this before, but I honestly can remember. This episode reminded me of something— when I was a kid, like seven or eight years old, I would hear the term "guerrilla soldiers" on the news now and then. Every time I'd hear it, I would of course imagine a squad of actual gorillas wearing army uniforms, brandishing guns and fighting overseas. 

I remember asking my dad how the army trained these "gorilla soldiers." He laughed and tried to explain the difference between "gorilla" and "guerrilla," but I was too young to understand. I was bitterly disappointed when I finally learned that a guerrilla soldier was just a guy.

• This week's best lines:

HR: (to Harry) "Toothbrushing.You go front to back? Cause I'm a small circles kind of guy.
I wonder how the other Wells brushes his teeth?"
Harry: "The murderer?"
HR: "I'm fascinated by the subtle differences between us, you know? And the not-so-subtle ones."
Harry: "Like what? Like the fact that I'm a genius and you're a moron?"

HR: "You know what I got to do? I got to take some lessons from that guy in the green elf suit over there in Star City, what's his name? Green Arrow!"

Barry: "Any sign of him yet?"
Cisco: "Not since you asked 30 seconds ago."
Barry: "Okay, he's a giant gorilla, who's probably leading an army of giant gorillas. How can you not find him?"

Cisco: "Don't tell me you're gonna run away from this."
Gypsy: "I never run."
Cisco: "Then stand and fight with us. We need you."
Gypsy: "You need me? Are you trying to Luke Starkiller me?"
(I'm not entirely sure here, but I think she's referencing the part in Star Wars where Luke tries to talk Han into helping the Rebellion attack the Death Star)

Joe: "Hold on. Y'all want to put a bunch of magnets against my skull to look into the mind of a psychotic, murderous ape?"
Harry: "Yeah."
Joe: (resignedly) "Fine."

Barry: "No matter what I do to stop Grodd, he just keeps finding new ways to attack, new ways to destroy, and Iris doesn't think I should, but the only way this ends is if I kill him."
Harry: "Kill him. That might be the most idiotic thing I've ever heard you say."
Barry: "Wait, what?"
Harry: "Iris is right. If you don't want to listen, go ahead, keep being an idiot."
Barry: "I don't understand."
Harry: "Don't. Kill. Grodd."
Barry: "Harry, you of all people should understand. I mean, you would have killed to save Jesse. You were gonna kill Zoom."
Harry: "Barry, there's a thousand things I've done that I'm not proud of. Some of them recently. Every time I do one of those things, it makes it easier to do it the next time. I look at you, out there battling the darkness, with honor and hope, and I'm reminded there's always another way, always. Killing Grodd is not your answer. Saving one life doesn't justify taking another. Find the other way."

Joe: "I don't know about y'all, but I don't ever need to see a super-smart, telepathic gorilla again."

Caitlin: "Whatever good was in Grodd is gone. As far as I'm concerned, they can throw him in the same cage as King Shark."
Cisco: "Mm, I'd pay money to see that fight."

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