Season 2, Episode 7 - "Gorilla Warfare"
Grant Gustin, Danielle Panabaker, Ciara Renée, Tom Cavanagh, Carlos Valdes, Jesse L. Martin, John Wesley Shipp
Regular airtime: Tuesdays, 8 pm
US: 18 Nov 2015
The latest episode of CW’s The Flash offers up a giant talking gorilla with telepathic powers in a story that is equal parts homage to King Kong and a throwback to the marvelously colorful early comic book days of Barry Allen’s Flash. “Gorilla Warfare” is both of those things, and a whole lot more. Gorilla Grodd (David Sobolov) is back from last season, and this time he’s using his telepathic powers to force scientists to provide him with the materials that he needs to create more of his kind. This is all in a bid to overcome his loneliness, a loneliness poignantly expressed by the graffiti that he ‘s scrawled on the wall of his lair: Grodd Sad.
Like King Kong, Grodd kidnaps a woman to help ease his loneliness, but in this case Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) is no Fay Wray, no damsel in distress. Instead, Grodd seeks out Caitlin because of her brilliant mind and her kind heart in hopes that she will be able to help him find the companionship that he longs for and to solve the mystery of how to grant intelligence to another gorilla. Likewise, the problem of the giant gorilla run amuck in Central City is not solved by airplanes and machine guns, but by twists that come right out of the rich comic book history of the Flash character. Let’s just say that the finale involves an alternative dimension and another Earth as well as a jungle city that seems to be the home of an entire population of companions for the super-ape, a city that comic book fans will recognize as Gorilla City.
Throw in a brief glimpse of the superhero known as Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée), and it is almost more than this old comic book fan could have hoped for. The Flash is so true to its comic book origins that I find myself wondering week after week how they are getting by with it. It’s not that I’m surprised that the larger culture that has mocked comic book storytelling for so long would accept all of these talking gorillas and alternative Earths and tune in week after week to watch them. That’s not surprising because, as a fan of these stories, I’ve always known that they were more compelling and entertaining than their high-brow critics would ever allow; I’ve always believed that given a faithful treatment on television, they would find a receptive and appreciative audience. I’m just amazed that all these talking gorillas and winged women make it out of the Hollywood board rooms, make it past the executives in suits that, in the past, would have surely wanted to make them more accessible and more believable and, consequently, ruined them on the way to the small screen.
Of course, comic books themselves have come a long way over the years in terms of the sophistication of the stories that they tell. When Gorilla Grodd was first introduced in 1959, in a story by John Broom and Carmine Infantino, the story was clearly aimed at a younger audience, an audience that was more interested in plot points built around super-heroics and pulp science fiction than fully developed human characters. But comic books have come a long way since 1959; they now feature some of the very best storytelling in any medium. Despite its bad rap, this is as true of superhero comics as of other types of narrative genres. When comic book creators combine super-heroics and pulp science fiction with genuine human characterizations, it’s a wonder to behold.
In a lot of ways, DC’s Flash comics have been leading the way with fun and slightly goofy but compelling storytelling marked by fully realized and realistic characterizations. I’m thinking especially of great runs on the character by the likes of Geoff Johns or Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. It’s that balance of goofy fun and interesting characterizations that make The Flash TV series so successful.
As a matter of fact, this episode is at heart an exploration of father/son relationships in this excellent cast of characters. Grodd’s relationship with his creator, Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), is a turning point in the plot. Likewise, a funny scene between the Earth 2 Wells and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) touches on a father/son relationship that ended in betrayal. And Barry’s (Grant Gustin) dark and near deadly encounter with Zoom (Tony Todd) in the last episode has left the Flash with more than physical scars, scars that can only be mended by conversations with his adoptive father, Joe (Jesse L. Martin), and his real dad, Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp).
Meanwhile, characters get pushed to their limits as Barry and Wells find themselves in reversed roles. For much of the episode, Barry is confined to Wells’ wheelchair because of injuries sustained in his battle with Zoom. Wells, on the other hand, puts on a superhero suit and goes to confront Grodd with only his wits as a weapon against the monster.
Amazingly, the drama never gets in the way of the zaniness, and the zaniness only ups the ante on the drama. It’s a story not just for the younger crowd, but for the rest of us as well. It’s a story, perhaps, best appreciated by someone like me, someone who first loved these characters when I was a kid but who has seen them grow and mature with me through the years.
“Gorilla Warfare” is all about a talking gorilla with telepathic powers, a woman with hawk wings, and a doorway that leads to alternative dimensions. It is also a carefully crafted human drama.