[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Flash season 3, episode 14.]
Things got a little wild last week on The Flash when Barry and the gang traveled to Gorilla City on Earth-2, coming face to face with their fearsome leader, Solovar, and the villainous Grodd. After narrowly beating Solovar in single combat, Barry unwittingly made it possible for Grodd to assume control, paving the way for the mad ape to lead an invasion of Earth-1!
Which brings us to tonight's episode, 'Attack on Central City' -- written by Todd Helbing, Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes, directed by Dermott Downs -- in which Grodd and his army of gorillas descend on the city. Their arrival will undoubtedly be a surprise for Team Flash, seeing as they thought they managed to not only escape Gorilla City but remove the means for Grodd to follow them -- namely, Cisco and his ability to open portals between different Earths. But for reasons which will surely be explained in tonight's episode, another portal-hopper, Gypsy agrees to help Grodd, opening a portal directly from Gorilla City to Central City.
With an army of super smart gorillas attacking, it'll be all hands of deck as Barry, Wally, Jesse and Cisco suit up to protect the city. Will others, like Caitlin or Julian, join their fight? And what of Solovar? He may have lost his battle with Barry, but if there's anyone who wants to see Grodd defeated, it's Solovar.
Round Two: Solovar VS Grodd
After arriving on Earth-1, Grodd and his army of gorillas take it slow, content to try and start a nuclear war rather than attack outright. The Flash is, of course, fast enough to stop the missile launch, and the whole scenario simple delays the inevitable -- a gorilla attack on Central City. And once that attack in underway, with the three speedsters -- Flash, Kid Flash, and Jesse Quick -- battling a mass of large, armored gorillas, the sequence is underwhelming, never quite living up to the hype.
What is enjoyable, however, is the opportunity for Solovar to reaffirm his position as leader of the gorillas, delivering a real smackdown in his battle with Grodd. Unsurprisingly, when it comes to digitally recreating a fight between two giant gorillas the effects work looks excellent, free of the burden of needing to believably recreate human movement. And while Solovar's last minute arrival may seem a bit too neat of an ending to the gorilla's attack on Central City, it does open the door for Solovar and his apes to return as allies for The Flash, something which has long been the case in the comics. After all, with the threat of Savitar still looming, Barry may need to call on Solovar for a favor sooner rather than later. (Side note: Can we seriously get Grodd VS King Shark? Pretty please?)
"Battling Darkness With Honor And Hope"
Thematically, 'Attack on Central City' explores a core ideal of not only The Flash but the whole line-up of DC/CW shows -- what makes a hero. In this episode, Barry must decide to what lengths will he go to protect his city. To stop Grodd, he may have to kill him, using the harsh rule of ape law -- "kill or be killed" -- to remove Grodd from power and stop his attacking army. But as several characters remind him throughout the episode, that isn't the kind of hero Barry is. Green Arrow and others may have resorted to killing their enemies in the past, but The Flash isn't a killer, he's a hero who finds another way.
It's Harry (easily the wisest of Barry's many Wells mentors) who really nails this, telling Barry: "I look at you out there battling the darkness with honor and hope and I'm reminded there's always another way." Finding that other way is what makes The Flash a hero, it's what makes him an inspiring figure to those around him. The gorilla attack payoff in this episode may underwhelm, but Barry's solution does not, forming a plan with his friends that allows them to stop Grodd without killing him.
Needing to weigh his options and find a means of stopping Grodd that doesn't mean killing him is also clearly a decision that works as forshadowing. Earlier in the season, Flash managed to stop Savitar without killing him, but as we all know, that decision might end up having dire consequences (and for Iris in particular). Harry warns him that "saving one life doesn't justify taking another," but what if the life he's trying to save is the love of his life?
It's About Time
Capping of what was a positively lovey-dovey episode of The Flash, with everyone from Jesse and Wally to Cisco and Gypsy getting in the mood, Barry makes a move that's been a longtime coming -- he proposes to Iris. The moment is a culmination of a relationship that's been seasons (and timelines) in the making and it's just as effortlessly adorable as we've come to expect of Barry and Iris.
Yet, while not surprising in the least, Barry choosing to take their relationship to that next level does come with a touch of foreboding. They're no closer to preventing the grisly future in where Savitar kills Iris, and while, sure, they shouldn't live their lives in fear, proposing to Iris could very well seal her fate. She's obviously important to Barry and for reasons beyond being his girlfriend and now fiancé -- Iris helps to ground Barry, she helps him stay true to himself and remain that hero filled with "honor" and "hope." Remove her from the picture and Barry could go dark -- very dark.
The two-part event of 'Attack on Gorilla City/Central City' wasn't the strongest pair of episodes The Flash has produced, but with beats of exciting action and good humor (Joe's deadpanning and the interactions between Harry and H.R. in particular), the event is mostly enjoyable. More than anything, what's been achieved across the span of these episode is that everyone now has more at stake ahead of their final encounter with Savitar. Relationships have been deepened, making every member of Team Flash open to being exploited and manipulated. And in next week's episode, it looks as if Savitar will begin climbing back into their lives by doing just that.
The Flash season 3 continues next week with 'The Wrath of Savitar' @8pm on The CW.