Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Flash Season 6, Episode 13: Grodd Friended Me

This week on The Flash, we get yet another dreaded "It's All In Your Mind" storyline, as Barry spends most of the runtime trapped inside the brain of his old enemy Gorilla Grodd.

At first glance, Grodd Friended Me feels like nothing more than a filler episode. And it is to an extent. But it's also laying some important groundwork for the rest of the season. Take Grodd, for example. His appearance here might seem superfluous, but given the fact that in the comic he's intricately linked to the Black Hole organization, suddenly his presence takes on new meaning.

That said, the Mirror Dimension scenes in this episode are most definitely filler. I was all onboard with this storyline when it first appeared, but it's starting to drag it on way too long. That becomes evident this week, where the two brief Mirror Dimension scenes progressed the arc about an inch and a half. They definitely need to wrap this up soon, before the audience stops caring about whether Iris escapes or not.

The show's Patented The CW Pep Talks® get a real workout in this episode, as we get no less than three of 'em this week. Iris gives yet another one to Eva McCulloch, Barry gives one to Chester, and he even gives one to Gorilla Grodd, for frak's sake! Pace yourselves, writers!

Lastly, this week the producers announced that Chester P. Runk and Allegra have been made official members of The Flash cast. Wow, that's exactly what this show needs more characters to mishandle. They can't even properly service the ones they have now (Ralph, Cisco and Cecile all sit out this episode!), so of course it only makes sense to bring in some more!


The Plot:
Barry takes a bouquet of flowers to lay on the grave of his late parents, but is puzzled when he can't seem to find the cemetery. Just then he gets a meta alert and calls STAR Labs. Kamilla and Chester P. Runk (of all people) answer the comms. When Barry asks what the hell, Kamilla says everyone else is busy or away (!). He tells her he'll handle the situation on his own.

Barry speeds to a jewelry shop, which is being robbed by Hartley Rathaway, aka the Pied Piper. This puzzles Barry, as last he knew Piper was an ally. Barry yanks off Piper's sonic wrist gauntlets, thinking this will render him powerless. Piper says the gauntlets are only a backup, and emits a high-pitched shriek that allows him to fly off. 

Chester tracks Piper to a nearby street, and Barry follows. As he looks around, a train speeds from behind and he's barely able to phase through it in time. Barry says there's never been a train on that street before, but Chester disagrees, saying it's always been that way. Barry realizes the Crisis changed a lot more things than they originally thought.

Back at STAR, Barry asks Gideon to catalog everything that was changed in the Crisis (just how she would know this is left to our imaginations). She calculates for a few seconds and says there are 3.725 trillion changes to Earth-Prime. Kamilla and Chester enter as Barry bustles about the lab at superspeed. Chester sees this and realizes Barry's the Flash.

Chester notices Barry's trying to make a mobile version of Gideon from an earpiece, and begins tinkering with the device, saying he can amplify and improve it. Barry snaps at him, telling him it's sensitive equipment and he's not part of the team. Chester looks hurt and sulks away. Kamilla tells Barry that Chester idolizes the Flash and was just trying to help.

In the Mirror Dimension, Eva McCullogh tells Iris she was working on a prototype machine on the night of the Particle Accelerator explosion, but never finished it. Iris urges her to complete the machine, hoping it'll get them out of the Dimension. Eva doesn't think she can do it, so Iris gives her another Patented The CW Pep Talk®.

At the Citizen, Nash Wells shows Allegra a residual particle catcher he built (?), and says he needs her help to charge it up. Suddenly he sees an image of Sherloque, accusing him of being a liar. He shakes his head and gets Allegra to charge the device with a UV blast. This causes a small explosion for some reason, knocking them both to the ground. 

As Allegra picks herself up, he sees Nash has dropped a photo on the floor. She picks it up and notes the photo features him standing with what appears to be her. She says she always thought there was something creepy about his interest in her, and storms out.

Back at STAR, Barry puts on the Gideon earpiece and activates it. He immediately passes out, and when he wakes he's locked in a cage. He tries to phase out of it, but has no powers. Caitlin (not Frost) enters, along with Harrison Wells. Barry realizes he must have traveled to the past somehow, and tells Wells he'll stop him no matter what.

Mirror Iris visits Joe at CCPD, and says she heard he has sensitive new info on McCulloch Tech CEO Joseph Carver. Joe says he does, but can't share it— not even with her. Mirror Iris is pissed and snaps at him, then composes herself and says she understands. She invites Joe to lunch at noon and then leaves.

At STAR Labs, Frost returns from a trip to ARGUS, and finds Barry unconscious on the lab floor.

At a different STAR Labs, Barry looks around his cage as Caitlin tells him to use his "signs." He catches his reflection and realizes he's a gorilla— Gorilla Grodd, to be exact, who was once a test subject at STAR. Suddenly he hears Grodd's voice in his head, saying he's still in an artificially-induced coma at ARGUS, but is somehow conscious as well. Grodd says Barry put him in ARGUS, so he wants him to know what it's like to be in captivity.

Barry tells Grodd he got what he deserved after hurting so many people. Amazingly Grodd admits he's right, and says he's confronted his crimes and wants to repent. Grodd says the neural inhibitor on his head has a "gatekeeper" in it, and he can't escape it without Barry's help. As a show of faith, Grodd appears and opens the door to Barry's cage. He says his powers are restored as well. Of course Barry doesn't trust Grodd, so he speeds out of the cage and punches him unconscious.

Back in the real world, Frost hooks up Barry to Sherloque's brain machine and sees he now has two sets of brainwaves— his own and Grodd's.

Barry speeds through a jungle and comes upon an energy portal. He figures that's the way out of his trap, but unfortunately it's being guarded by the Gatekeeper that Grodd spoke of— which looks exactly like Solovar. He tries vibrating through the massive albino gorilla, but his powers don't work on him. In the real world, Barry's body begins convulsing.

Frost somehow figures out that Barry's mind is linked to Grodd's, She says eventually Grodd's "mindscape" will collapse, and if Barry's still in there when it does he'll die. Chester realizes this is a result of him tweaking the earpiece earlier, and he leaves. Frost chases after him and says they've all endangered Barry's life before, so not to feel bad (!). She says Chester deserves a second chance and asks him to help save Barry.

Joe calls Mirror Iris and says he thought they were meeting for lunch at noon. Mirror Iris says it slipped her mind and she's on her way. We then see she played Joe, and is actually sitting at his desk downloading the Carver info onto a flash drive. Pret-ty sneaky, Sis!

In the Mirror Dimension, Eva finishes her device, but says they can't use it. When Iris asks why, Eva plunges her arms through the mirror and into the real world. Her skin instantly begins blistering and burning before she pulls them back in.

Grodd tells Barry he thought he'd be able to defeat the Gatekeeper. Barry still doesn't believe him, and thinks he was just trying to get him killed. Grodd says if that happens, they'll both die. Grodd tells Barry that Gorilla City— which was once on Earth-2— is now on Earth-Prime. He says he just wants to go home and live in peace with his own kind.

Barry finally realizes Grodd's telling the truth. He says the two of them have to fight together in order to defeat Solovar. He takes Grodd's hand, and the two are bathed in Speed Force Lightning as their bodies merge. Speedster Grodd then attacks Solovar and slams him to the ground.

In the real world, Frost sees that Barry & Grodd's brainwaves have synced, and if they're not separated soon they'll both die. Chester says it's possible to separate them, but he'll have to modify the earpiece again. Frost give Chester a 
Patented The CW Pep Talk®, saying she knows he can do it. He gets to work.

Speedster Grodd & Solovar continue battling it out. Eventually Solovar gets the upper hand and pins Speedster Grodd. Suddenly Speedster Grodd phases through Solovar and punches him across the jungle. He then heads for the portal. Chester completes the device just as Speedster Grodd jumps thorugh the portal. Barry wakes in his own body.

Later at STAR, Barry tells the others that Lyla Michaels of ARGUS has agreed to let Grodd out on probation (with a tracking monitor implanted in him, just in case). Barry apologizes for being short with Chester, and realizes he was just trying to help. Chester tells Barry he did a scan of Central City cemeteries, and found Barry's parents' graves. Kamilla gets a text from Cisco, saying he's coming home soon.

In the Mirror Dimension, Iris bandages a jittery Eva's arms. She goes off to get more first aid supplies, and Eva's demeanor completely changes. She marches over to the mirror, where Mirror Iris is standing on the other side. Mirror Iris asks what the hell, and holds out her burned arms. Eva holds up her hands and heals Mirror Iris' arms. She says she's buying them time.

Nash returns to the Citizen, hoping to clear things up with Allegra. Suddenly Sherloque appears before him. His eyes glow as he says, "He. Is. Coming."

• I honestly don't have much to say about this episode. Much of it takes place in Grodd's mindscape, which makes it tough to nitpick. I'll do my best though.

• I don't think I've pointed this out yet, or if I did I've already forgotten. The Black Hole organization (that Iris was investigating before she was yanked into the Mirror Dimension) and its leader Joseph Carver comes straight from The Flash comic.

In the comic thought, Black Hole was investigating the Speed Force, trying to figure out a way to weaponize it. The Arrowverse version seems to be researching the Mirror Dimension instead.

Also in the comic, the secret head of Black Hole turned out to be Gorilla Grodd. That makes me wonder if his appearance here isn't just filler, but setup for a "surprise" revelation? Maybe his alleged redemption isn't what it appears after all?

• Barry gets a meta alert and radios STAR Labs to find out what's going on. He's surprised when his call is answered by... Kamilla and Chester! Kamilla explains that everyone else is out, so the two of them are manning the comms.

Jesus Christ! What's the matter, they couldn't find two random strangers off the street to come in fill in? 

OK, I get why these two are here— to remind the audience that they exist. But in the world of the show their presence makes zero sense. Kamilla's a photographer, and is unlikely to know how to work the high-tech devices inside STAR Labs. And while Chester has the smarts, he isn't a member of the team. 

If the comms really need monitored, then it oughta be done right. You can't just have the entirety of Team Flash buggering off on personal errands whenever the hell they feel like it. Barry needs to set up a schedule so that someone competent is monitoring comms at all times. 

By the way, why isn't Nash keeping an eye on things? Back in Marathon he promised Cisco he'd fill in for him at STAR while he was gone. I guess he was lying about that.

 Barry confronts Hartley Rathaway, aka the Pied Piper, who thanks to the Crisis is once again a villain. Barry thinks he has Rathaway on the ropes, but at the last second he lets loose with a sonic blast that propels him skyward. Barry watches him zoom off and says, "Great. He can fly now."

Wow. Just what The Flash didn't need a reference to The Rise Of Skywalker.

• At one point Barry works in the lab, attempting to update Gideon. I love the fact that he's using his superspeed to zip a full ten feet across the room and back. How much time could that possibly have saved him? Half a second?

• Barry asks Gideon to catalog all the changes to Earth-Prime that were brought about by the Crisis. She calculates for a bit and announces she's detected a whopping 3.725 TRILLION CHANGES! Several things here.

First off, Barry and the other six Paragons rebooted the Earth after it was destroyed in Crisis On Infinite Earths, Part Three. Looks like they did a bang-up job! This brave new world they willed into existence only has 3 trillion differences from the old one! Jesus Christ! They're lucky there's still an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere, and gravity isn't ten times normal!

Secondly, how the hell is Gideon detecting all these changes? Barry remembers Earth-1 because he traveled to the Dawn Of Time, which protected his memory of the past. I'm pretty sure Gideon didn't tag along with him, so she was rebooted along with rest of the Universe. As far as she's concerned, the current state of Earth-Prime is the way things have always been. So again I ask... how is she comparing the new Earth with the old?

Back in Marathon, Cisco announced he was going on a walkabout for a few weeks in order to discover all the changes caused by the Crisis. But this week Barry simply asks Gideon to list all the anomalies, and she does so in approximately forty seconds! If it was that simple, why didn't Cisco think of it? Obviously his little errand was a hastily-written excuse to give actor Carlos Valdes a few weeks off.

One last thing about this scene before I thankfully move on. When Barry asks Gideon to search for Crisis changes, she does so, occasionally updating the process by stating, "Calculating... calculating."

Note that Barry stands and listens to this for less than ten seconds before audibly groaning that it's taking so long (to discover 3 trillion changes!). I love this little moment, as it's exactly the way a speedster would react! Barry can move so fast he can literally stop time, so it makes sense that ten seconds would feel like an eternity to him! Well done!

• Welp, chalk up another hit for Barry's "secret" identity. In this episode Chester blunders into the lab and sees him using his superspeed. I say it practically every week, but at this point why does Barry even bother with the mask?

• Man, Frost was quite the scientist this week, wasn't she? When Barry falls unconscious, she examines him and instantly deduces he's inside Grodd's mind. She also begins spouting complex technobabble like, "In a mindscape, the host transmits neural signals to the guest's primary motor cortex. If we can sync up with those neural transmitters, I think we can communicate with Barry."

I'm assuming she's tapping into Caitlin's mind here, and pulling all this esoteric knowledge from her? She has to be, since up to this point Frost's scientific know-how has been pretty much at zero.

• Back in Marathon, Cecile asks Mirror Iris if she's informed Joe of her Black Hole findings. Mirror Iris says she did, but Joe didn't act on it because he'd "have to launch a RICO investigation to pursue a conspiracy like this."

At the time I pointed out that RICO stands for "Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act," and is a federal law. As such, Joe wouldn't be able to open such an inquiry, as he's just a city cop.

Looks like the writers still haven't learned this simple fact. In this episode, Mirror Iris tries to get Joe to hand over all his info on Joseph Carver. Joe refuses, saying, "This Carver case has become a RICO investigation. I have to report directly to Chief Singh. We have to do everything by the book."

Um... sorry, Joe, but Chief Singh's a city cop just like you! And as such he has no jurisdiction over a federal operation like RICO.

• Why does Nash set up his residual particle detector inside the Citizen office? Wouldn't it have made infinitely more sense for him to do something like that at, oh, I don't know... STAR FREAKIN' LABS? You know, the place that contains all kinds of high tech devices he could probably use? The place he promised Cisco he'd keep an eye on, while he was away?

And why is it that every time we see Allegra, she's chilling in the Citizen office? Even when Iris isn't there she's hanging out. Does she live there now?

• Pop Quiz! One of the actors in this scene is pregnant. Can you spot which one it is?

C'MON, GUYS! You're not even trying here! They literally stuck poor Danielle Panabaker in a flouncy blouse and said, "Yeah, that oughta hide her rapidly expanding belly!" Jesus Christ!

If you're not gonna stick her behind a console or have her carry a box or something, then at least have the good sense not to film her in profile! I'm just a guy in the Midwest who works at a shoe company, and even I know better than that!

• What do you do when you're directing an episode that prominently features a giant telepathic gorilla, but you can't afford the costly CGI FX needed to depict him in every scene? Why, you simply have him take over the minds of the human cast and speak through them, of course! Cheap, easy and budget friendly!

This isn't the first time The Flash has done this, by the way. It happens pretty much every time Grodd appears in an episode.

• What's scarier than a giant, telepathic, intelligent gorilla? A giant, telepathic, intelligent gorilla with speedster powers! Fortunately this is all taking place in Grodd's mind, and not in the real world!

• Once Grodd absorbs the Speed Force from Barry, note that there's a Flash symbol burned into his chest. Why? Eh... because why not? They thought it would look kewl, I guess.

• After Barry merges with Grodd, Frost manages to contact him. She tells Barry, "According to my scans, if you exit the mindscape with your brainwaves still merged, you'll end up in one body." When Kamilla hears this she utters a very Cisco-like interjection, saying, "Brundle-Flash. Gross."

I wonder how many people in the audience even understood that reference? The Fly came out a whopping THIRTY FOUR YEARS ago, long before the average age of the typical Flash viewer.

• Nice touch: At one point in their battle, Grodd's pinned down by Solovar. Barry, who's hitching a ride inside Grodd's mind, encourages him with a Patented The CW Pep Talk®. He tells him, "Now get the hell up and Run, Grodd, Run!"

Am I gonna have to start a separate Run, Grodd, Run counter now?

• After Barry's saved, a grateful Chester says, "Oh, thank Rao!" At first I wondered how the hell Chester could possibly know about the Krypton God— especially since that planet doesn't exist in the universe of Earth-1. But then I remembered that after the Crisis, we're all one big happy Universe! Earth-38, where Supergirl lived, is now part of Earth-Prime (and always has been, as far as its residents are concerned). So it's entirely possible that Chester could have heard of Rao and decided to affect a belief in the deity.

• For several weeks now,  Nash has been hallucinating a parade of various past versions of Harrison Wells, who taunt and admonish him. This week he sees a vision of Sherloque, of all people. At the end of the episode, Sherloque's eyes begin glowing as he warns Nash, "He. Is. Coming."

So what the hell's going on here? This is just my theory, but I'm guessing that when the Multiverse was merged in the Crisis, the energies or "souls" of all the various Wellseses were somehow preserved. Now they're all being absorbed by Harrison Wells, aka Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse-Flash. And he needs Nash's physical body in order to become whole and manifest himself on Earth-Prime. 

Stay tuned to see if any of that is right!

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