NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Flash” are present in this review
The Flash took a break from its ongoing Black Hole investigation in favour of continuing the examination of some of the big changes on Earth-Prime this week, which also happens to include the return of a fan-favourite antagonist. “Grodd Friended Me” provides a clever and subversive new conflict for the ever-dangerous Gorilla Grodd, who remains in a forced coma at A.R.G.U.S. on Earth-Prime, whereupon he traps Barry in a mental prison, to ask for his help. Meanwhile, the rest of Team Flash balances helping Barry with dealing with their own drama in the real world, while Iris and Eva continue to try and devise ways to escape the mirror world.
The core storyline between Barry and Grodd is pretty inspired, not only re-interpreting the latest battle between these two powerful beings in the Arrowverse, but also finding a clever way to tie into Barry’s ongoing drama in the fallout from Crisis on Infinite Earths. After Barry finds himself unable to locate his parents’ graves, only to soon after learn that Hartley Rathaway/Pied Piper has re-emerged as a villain in Central City, with extra strong powers and a renewed sense of menace to boot, Barry becomes overwhelmed with trying to cope with the changes to Central City on Earth-Prime. Gideon even calculates that there have been trillions of changes on varying scales from the old Earth-1 history on Earth-Prime, which Chester tries to help by tweaking one of Barry’s configuring apparatuses, only to leave Barry in a coma as a result.
This coma puts Barry in a mental cage, with Caitlin and the original Harrison Wells, a.k.a the disguised Eobard Thawne, interacting with Barry as if he’s a gorilla. Naturally, it’s not long before Barry learns that he’s in Grodd’s mind, at which point Grodd contacts Barry directly, saying that he wanted Barry to understand his pain. What looks to be an antagonistic attack at first however eventually gives way to an impassioned plea by Grodd, who claims that he has had time to reflect while his thinking was restored, and now regrets his former actions. Grodd wants to be set free, insisting that he’s changed, and to Barry’s amazement, Grodd is even fully aware of the events from Crisis on Infinite Earths, including having the knowledge that Gorilla City now exists on Earth-Prime. Despite these revelations however, Barry refuses to admit that Grodd has changed, initially knocking Grodd out again, only to be stopped by a mental representation of Solovar, the gatekeeper that’s preventing Grodd’s escape from his mental prison.
While that’s going on, Chester and Nash face their own subplots of regret in this episode, though honestly, neither of them work terribly well. Allegra blows up at Nash after discovering the photograph of her doppelganger in Nash’s pocket, which is completely inexplicable, and not actually resolved in this episode proper. This stinks of a filler storyline, simply because Allegra and Nash had nothing worthwhile to do this week. Nash hallucinating Sherloque Wells is far more interesting, with Sherloque continuing to taunt Nash, while also continuing to tease the inevitable return of Thawne to Earth-Prime. Chester, meanwhile, makes some speech about not being able to screw up because he’s a black man, but this falls completely flat, and feels like a massive overreaction to an honest mistake. Sure, Barry’s in danger, but like Frost says, everyone on Team Flash has inadvertently put Barry in danger at some point, and it truly is a rite of passage by now. Chester’s remorse feels too overblown, and yet too easily resolved, to be truly believable.
Fortunately, Team Flash nonetheless comes together to help Barry escape Grodd’s mental prison, culminating with the inspired idea to have Barry and Grodd merge minds, and fight the Solovar avatar together. Seeing Grodd wield the powers of The Flash is pretty cool too, even if it’s a little bit dragged down by The CW’s low-budget CGI work. Still, Barry and Grodd ultimately prevail, and thanks to some help from Chester, Barry and Grodd separate minds at the proper time, allowing Grodd to go to Gorilla City on probation, while Barry can safely return home to his friends. Chester at least effectively earned his place on Team Flash through this save, but honestly, Chester’s conflict would have worked better if he was simply struggling with Barry’s disapproval, rather than having some weird racial meltdown. Barry apologizing to Chester and admitting that he’s simply having trouble figuring out the new history of Earth-Prime is a good resolution though, particularly when Chester reveals that he determined the new location of Barry’s parents’ graves for him, which is a pretty nice gesture.
Finally, Eva and Iris continue to languish in the mirror world this week, as expected, while the fake ‘Iris’ continues her own mysterious agenda all the while. This time, ‘Iris’ tricks Joe into stepping out at the CCPD precinct, so she can access information related to Black Hole, without Joe’s knowledge. This initially seems as if it’s for a Central City Citizen story, but it turns out that a hell of a twist was in store here… At least, if you’re not an avid DC Comics fan, in which case, you probably saw the twist coming. After Eva reveals that she’ll be horrifically burned if she exits the mirror world with the aid of a machine she built, the real Iris is tricked into looking for bandages, at which point Eva reveals herself to be faking the injury, an injury that’s also temporarily branded onto the fake Iris. That fake Iris is actually taking orders from Eva, who, as it turns out, is staying in the mirror world on purpose, and is also trying to intentionally waste time there, so that the real Iris can’t escape. That’s a great turn, one that provides a strong character shift for an ongoing subplot that didn’t seem to be going anywhere at this point, specifically because the wasting of time in that subplot is revealed to be a devious part of the true villain’s plan all along.
So, it’s now looking increasingly likely that Eva is going to end up being the latest big bad for The Flash, with the real Iris probably about to unwittingly unleash her in dramatic fashion. For now though, we got an interesting new take on Gorilla Grodd to serve as the centerpiece of, “Grodd Friended Me”, even if the busy drama between this episode’s other characters worked to more mixed effect. The material with Eva and the real Iris is good, as is the ultimate method through which Chester finds his place on Team Flash, but Chester’s pity party feels too forced, and Allegra blowing up at Nash feels especially unnecessary. There are enough compelling story arcs going on without needing to force juvenile, CW-approved conflicts here. Regardless, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what’s next for this show’s enduring villains, especially as more surprise threats continue to make themselves known on the new Earth-Prime.
- Grodd's surprise reformation with Barry
- Chester finding his place on Team Flash
- Eva's sinister agenda being teased
- Allegra/Nash conflict is very forced
- Chester's overblown self-pity