Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Flash Season 3, Episode 13: Attack On Gorilla City

This week, on a batsh*t insane The Flash. Barry and the Star Labs Gang go back to Earth-2 for some sweet Gorilla City action!

When Arrow premiered way back in 2012, it was a fairly realistic superhero show, not unlike the relatively grounded Christopher Nolan Batman movies. I wonder if anyone watching back then ever imagined that within just five short years, the show would spawn a wonderfully interconnected universe, full of speedsters, flying women, time traveling spaceships, parallel worlds and intelligent telepathic gorillas?

Doubtful. But I'm glad The CW's going there! If only the DC movies were as much fun as their TV shows.

This episode strains the effects budget almost to its snapping point, as it gives us a fully realized city inhabited by intellgent gorillas. You can see a few seams here and there, but overall everything looks amazing.

Wally and his gal pal Jesse Quick are finally reunited at last this week. The episode desperately wants us to believe they're a tragic young couple destined to be together, but separated by dimensions. 

Trouble is, none of this was ever set up. Sure, they mildly flirted a bit last season, but that was the extent of it. In fact, Jesse apparently didn't even care enough about Wally to stay on his Earth! So why is the tragedy and drama suddenly ramped up to eleven in this episode? None of it seems earned.


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last time, Jesse Quick (of Earth-2) travels to STAR Labs for help. She says her father Harry has been kidnapped by Grodd and is being held deep in the jungle inside Gorilla City. Jesse sees HR and mistakes him for her father, until she realizes he's only a hipster doofus who just happens to look like him. 

Barry explains that one of the future headlines has to do with an attack by Grodd. He says if they travel to Earth-2 and rescue Harry, they can prevent Grodd from attacking, which will hopefully change the future and alter Iris' fate. He asks Cisco and Caitlin to go with him. For some reason, Julian insists on going as well.

Jesse wants to come too, but Barry tells her to stay on Earth-1 and help Wally with any crimes that may pop up while they're all gone. Wally, who's happy to see Jesse despite the circumstances, excitedly shows her he's now a speedster as well. Unfortunately his newfound powers seem to upset her.

Cisco vibes the group to Earth-2. They track Harry's wristband, which apparently has a sensor in it. They find the tracker on the ground, but no Harry. Barry realizes it's a trap, just as they're all shot with knockout darts.

Back at STAR, Wally and Jesse are having a puzzlingly awkward conversation, when they're alerted to a bank robbery in progress. They speed to the scene and Wally easily catches and subdues the robbers. He asks Jesse to stay on Earth-1 with him. She tells him she can't, as her father needs her.

On Earth-2, Barry and the Gang wake up in a Gorilla City dungeon. Barry tries phasing through the bar of his cell, while Cisco tries to create a breach. Unfortunately something's dampening their powers. Harry then enters the dungeon and tells them they need to stop Solovar, the leader of Gorilla City, from taking over Earth-1. They realize that due to the TV budget, Grodd has taken telepathic control of Harry and is speaking through him. Harry then collapses and the actual Grodd appears, saying they either kill Solovar or their world will be destroyed.

Later Solovar visits the dungeon, and Barry offers to fight him. Cut to a sweeping shot of the camera sailing over Gorilla CIty and its huge arena. Inside the arena we see Barry facing off against Solovar, as thousands of angry gorillas watch. The fight to the death ensues, and apparently Solovar must have superspeed as well, because he hands Barry's ass to him several times. Barry finally gets the upper hand (literally!) by vibrating his hand and punching Solovar in the gut, which knocks him out. Barry then says the standard, "I won't kill him!" line so common in these types of scenes, and is escorted back to the dungeon.

Grodd/Harry then tells the Gang that Solovar was never a threat to Earth-1. Grodd's plan was for Barry to defeat Solovar to show Gorilla City he was a weak leader, so he could take over himself. Grodd brought them here so that Cisco can open a breach to Earth-1 and attack it with his gorilla army. For some reason, Grodd then takes his leave.

The Gang then tries to figure a way out of the dungeon. Cisco says if he was dead, he couldn't form a breach and Earth-1 would be saved. Amazingly, he asks Caitlin to kill him with her cold powers. She wisely declines, but has an idea.

Back on Earth-1, HR gives Jesse a Patented The CW Pep Talk™ about going for your feelings or something. Jesse takes his bromides to heart and tells Wally she wants to be with him.

In Gorilla City, Grodd returns to the dungeon and finds Barry lying dead on the floor. He enters the cell and notes that Barry's body is cold to the touch. Convinced he's dead, he drags Barry's lifeless body out of the cell, throws it on a pile of bones and leaves. Once Grodd's gone, Barry vibrates himself out of the frozen state that Caitlin secretly put him in with her cold powers. Barry then lets the others out of their cells. He speeds the Gang— including Harry— out of the city, where Cisco opens a breach and they return to Earth-1.

Back at STAR Labs, Jesse's reunited with Harry. He sees HR, and wonders why he's still a part of the team even though he's not a scientific genius. Good question, Harry! Jesse mentions to Wally that she'll tell her dad she's staying on Earth-1 after he recovers a bit. Julian admits to Caitlin that he went to Earth-2 not because he's a "thrill seeker," but to keep her safe. He asks her out to dinner, and she accepts. Barry tells Iris that they've changed the Grodd headline, which is one step closer to saving her.

On Earth-2, Grodd now rules Gorilla City. He sits on a throne, wearing battle armor. Gypsy stands before him, and Grodd orders her to use her powers to open a portal to Earth-1.

• At the end of last week's episode, a dimensional breach appeared in STAR Labs and Jesse Quick of Earth-2 jumped out, saying her dad Harry had been captured by Grodd.

Um... how'd Jesse open a breach? I thought the Gang closed off all fifty two of the breaches to Earth-2 last season. Surely they didn't leave one open, or Grodd would have just used that one. Does Jesse have the power to generate breaches herself? Or did she use some piece of tech that her dad invented? Or are the writers desperately hoping the audience doesn't stop and think, "Heyyyyy... how'd that happen?

• Last week Barry told Iris that he'd do everything in his power to alter the future to make sure she doesn't die at Savitar's hand. Then Jesse appeared and he suddenly decided it'd be fun to bugger off to Earth-2 for a little side trip. Wha...? Doesn't seem very responsible of him to travel to another dimension while he's supposed to be protecting his girlfriend, does it? Who's more important to him, Harry or Iris?

The writers attempt to explain this little glitch this week, by having Barry note that one of the headlines he saw in the future read, "City still recovering following gorilla attack." Barry assumes this means that Grodd is involved, and believes that if he stops the attack, he'll be one step closer to changing the future and saving Iris. Hence the field trip to Earth-2.

The writers know I'm watching...

• When Julian finds out that Barry and the others are going to Gorilla City, he practically squeals like a little schoolgirl.

Julian: "Where... where are you going? Are you going to Planet of the Apes?"
Barry: "No, it's just a city of them, okay? Will you cover for me?"
Julian: "Are you going to Planet of the Apes?"
Barry: "I'm not going to Planet of the Apes, OK?"

Wondering why Julian's so giddy over the concept of a planet ruled by apes? Well, that's because this scene's a fun little shoutout to 2011's Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, in which Tom Felton, aka Julian, played the part of Dodge Landon.

By the way, the name "Dodge Landon" is an homage to the original 1968 Planet Of The Apes. In the film, George Taylor's (played by Chartlon Heston) fellow astronauts were named "Dodge" and "Landon."

In Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Felton also repeats a couple of Taylor's iconic lines, saying, "It's a madhouse!" and "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"

And that's one to grow on!

• Julian covers for himself and Barry by telling Captain Singh they're going to a morphology conference in Bludhaven.

Bludhaven is another of DC Comics' fictional cities. It was the former home of Dick Grayson, aka Robin, aka Nightwing. In the Arrowverse, it's near Star City, and has popped up several times over on Arrow.

• On Earth-1, Wally and Jesse foil a bank robbery at the O'Sullivan Bank.

As we all know by now, The Flash writers love to name streets and buildings after comic book creators. I googled the name O'Sullivan, but couldn't find any connection with The Flash comics. If it is a reference, it's an awfully obscure one.

• Wally's puzzled by Jesse's odd behavior toward him. After much digging and questioning, she finally admits the reason she's been acting so aloof is because she never hears from him.

Jesus Christ, Jesse! You realize the two of you live in separate dimensions, right? It's not like Wally can pick up a phone and call you.

• Barry and the STAR Labs Gang arrive on Earth-2 and begin searching the jungle for Gorilla City. Suddenly they're all shot with tranq darts and pass out.

Years and years ago I read a Flash comic in which he was poisoned by a supervillain. My memory's a bit foggy, but I seem to remember that either his super fast metabolism burned up the poison, or he used his superspeed to vibrate it out of his body. Something like that.

Too bad TV Flash doesn't have that same ability when he's tranquilized (TWICE!) in this episode.

• Extreme Nitpicking Time! I know all the names in this episode come straight from the comics, but "Solovar" is confusingly similar to "Savitar." Much like "Sauron" and "Saruman" in The Lord Of The Rings.

• Keith David (not David Keith!) lends his impressively gravelly voice to King Solovar.

• Tom Cavanagh gets to play yet another version of Harrison Wells in this episode. This time it's a Wells who's possessed by Grodd. Cavanagh does a pretty amazing job too, speaking in a more guttural manner and even changing his body language to sell the idea that Grodd is speaking through Wells.

I've lost count of how many different versions of Wells he's played by now. At this point it's gotta be at least twelve or fifteen.

• This episode must have stretched the effects budget to its absolute limit. Those awesome, sweeping vistas of Gorilla City were truly amazing, especially for a weekly TV series! They rivaled effects I've seen in high profile theatrical films! Kudos to the effects team!

In fact all the Arrowverse shows continually push the boundaries of TV special effects. I grew up in an era when rubber monster suits and obvious miniatures were considered state of the art, so I appreciate the time and effort they're putting into these shows to make them look as good as possible.

• The last time we saw Grodd (in the Season 2 episode Gorilla Warfare) he looked a little... well, let's say rough. Something definitely went wrong with the CGI rendering, and he came out looking like he was either wet or using too much product in his fur.

I'm happy to report that the effects team managed to work out the kinks, and the gorillas in this episode are all much improved, with realistic looking fur.

Those gorilla scenes ain't cheap though! That's why, for no apparent reason, Grodd decides to possess Harry and speak through him for the bulk of the episode! Sticking Tom Cavanagh in front of a camera and filming him is cheap. Rendering a realistic CGI gorilla with fur is not.

You could practically hear the producers saying, "Welp, we've got enough money for four Grodd scenes, but there are ten in the script. What... what if we had him talk through someone? Like Wells? Yeah, he can use his telepathic powers to talk through Wells, and we'll save a fortune!"

As cheap and obvious as that shortcut was, it's actually a pretty clever solution to a limited effects budget!

• Another obvious sign of the budgetary limitations Barry and the Gang spend the majority of the episode sitting in a jail cell set, instead of taking in the sights of Gorilla City.

This is a TV show after all, not a theatrical movie, so I'm willing to give 'em this one.

 During the big gladiator fight, why does Solovar get a shield and a weapon, but Barry doesn't?

 When Grodd reveals he betrayed the Gang and plans to invade Earth-1, Barry says, "You planned this all along." Grodd replies, "Yes. Father taught me well. Always think ahead. And I had plenty of time to think in cages built by you and then by Solovar."

I'd completely forgotten about it, but way back in Season 1, we learned that Harrison Wells (who was secretly the Reverse Flash) and General Eiling performed genetic experiments on Grodd.

There's a nice little bit of irony here, as Grodd sees Harrison Wells as his "father," and is now the one controlling him. Yes, this is not the same Wells who experimented on him, but he's the next best thing.

 Back on Earth-1, Jesse asks HR for relationship advice. HR says, "I mean, I know that telling your dad that, you know, you're... you're switching Earths, that's gonna be a difficult conversation to have, but one that you've to go for... if you want to be happy. But that's, you know, just my opinion. What do I know? I'm just a handsomer guy than your dad with a song in his heart. Good luck, Jesse."

Yes, it's always difficult to tell your father you're "switching Earths!" And was that "But that's, you know, just my opinion" line supposed to be a The Big Lebowski reference?

 So the Gang's escape plan involves Caitlin freezing Barry "just a little," to make him appear dead. Grodd then enters the dungeon, sees Barry's allegedly lifeless body, drags it out of the cell and then conveniently leaves. Barry then revives himself and frees the others.

Well, that was certainly a lucky break! Good thing for the Gang that for some reason, Grodd dragged Barry out of the cell. What if he'd just looked into the cell and said, "Huh. The Flash is dead. Oh well!" and then just left? Would Barry still have been able to escape then?

And why did Barry need to get out of the cell anyway? According to him it wasn't the cell that was dampening his power, but Grodd himself. Once Grodd assumed Barry was dead, he'd most likely stop using energy to dampen his now non-existent powers. So Barry didn't need to be outside the cell as long as Grodd thought he was dead. Confusing!

 Apparently Grodd uses his psychic powers to dampen the powers of Barry and Cisco. Oddly enough, Caitlin's still able to use her cold powers to freeze Barry "just a bit." I guess she can still use her powers because Grodd doesn't know she's a meta and isn't dampening them?

Too bad no one thought to just have Caitlin freeze the bars of the cell until they shattered so they could escape that way.

 At the end of the episode, a presumably mind-controlled Gypsy (who we met in Dead Or Alive) stands before Grodd, as he orders her to open a breach to Earth-1.

OK... if he somehow knew about Gypsy and had her waiting in the wings as a backup plan, then why'd he need the Flash and the STAR Labs Gang? Why not just use Gypsy from the start and begin his invasion?

Is it because he needed Barry to defeat Solovar, so the other gorillas would follow him?

• This week's best lines:
Iris: "Just please don't do anything stupid."
Barry: "You mean like voluntarily going to a city of super apes?"

Julian: "Want some water?"
Caitlin: "I'm okay, thanks."
Julian: "It's important to stay hydrated on a parallel Earth."

Barry: (realizing Grodd is speaking through Harry) "Grodd."
Julian: "What? That's Grodd the gorilla? He's talking through Wells? That's a... a thing?" Cisco: "Yeah. Yeah, sort of trips you out at first, but trust me, you get used to it."

Grodd/Harry: "As trespassers... you will be sent to the arena... and executed."
Julian: "What? How about a signpost at the front? 'All trespassers will be executed.' That wouldn't be the worst idea, would it?"

Cisco: "Speedster versus super gorilla. Best worst video game ever."
Cisco: (to Barry) "I got a plan for you. It's all about the speed punches. 
Julian: "Speed punches. Come on, Barry."
(Barry tries speed punches against Solvar, which fails miserably)
Cisco: "Change of plan, Barry. It's all about the running away."

Harry: "
You guys all came for me?"
Cisco: "A city of evil genius apes. Sounded like fun."
Harry: "Well, I don't deserve it, but... thank you, Snow; thank you, Barry, Cisco... (noticing Julian in his over the top attire) Indiana."

Cisco: (paraphrasing Charlton Heston) "Time to warp out of this madhouse!"

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