[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 7]
Grodd giveth, and Grodd taketh away. After his previous appearance on The Flash left his fate unknown, leading fans to believe that his story may not have been as substantial as hoped, the super-intelligent gorilla has returned. It's an inopportune time given Barry's injuries, but thankfully, the return of some worn out story beats and conflicts can't dampen the fun of seeing the team members try on new roles in the field.
In "Gorilla Warfare", written by Aaron and Todd Helbing, Barry (Grant Gustin) is struggling to heal from having his back broken, but gaining the use of his legs isn't the only hurdle he'll have to overcome. Luckily, he gets some much needed help from his runaway dad Henry (John Wesley Shipp), which he'll need if he's going to defeat Grodd with the help of the rest of his team.
It would be hard to measure the collective sigh of relief released by fans when the new and improved version of Grodd was first revealed, taking what the producers call a more "realistic" approach to the giant gorilla that pays off compared to the more comic book-y creation originally seen. The plotline that brings Grodd back into the story is just as pleasant a surprise (if not totally original), as are the responses and strategies employed by the S.T.A.R. Labs team to deal with him.
Again, the idea that Grodd is working to produce more intelligent/psychic Apes like himself is understood and consumed just about as quickly as the problem is dealt with. Still, bringing such a fan-favorite and potentially problematic villain to town while Barry can't actually run to stop him was an interesting choice on the writers' part. It turned out to be a job for Grodd's "father," Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), allowing different members of the team to show their value - while offering a handful of solid comedic and dramatic beats.
On top of showing that Earth-2's Wells is starting to grow closer to his teammates, the story also revealed further knowledge about the 52 breaches between the parallel worlds. Now that Wells knows where each will head - allowing him to send Grodd somewhere he won't pose a threat to himself or others - the writers have opened up entirely new doors of science fiction storytelling. But it's hard to know how much praise they deserve without knowing how they'll cash in those chips this season.
When Barry needs a pick me up, there's nobody who can deliver it like his father, Henry. The scenes between the two are as heartwarming and well-executed as ever, and the added twist of Joe's (Jesse L. Martin) mixed feelings when remembering he isn't Barry's real father is pitch perfect. Unfortunately, the return of Henry Allen still throws into sharp contrast the show's most confusing fumble this season: why Barry's father decided that being released from prison meant he should see his son less in the first place.
Not to dwell on the past, but it's hard to avoid asking the question when his presence so clearly helps Barry push himself to new levels of confidence. It also has to be stated that Barry doubt himself in the field, only to be smacked back into action by a loved one screaming that he should "overcome his fears" and that "he can do this" into his earpiece has been beaten to death. Sure, it worked for the first season and in the fallout of season 2's opening disaster. But at this point, the writers are flirting with Barry becoming less likeable, since he's so unwilling to be courageous.
We're not there yet, but "Gorilla Warfare" probably had less scrutinizing viewers wondering why Barry needed a boost beyond saving his best friends from a massive gorilla. If nothing else, these occasional hiccups highlight the quality of the rest of the show's writing (especially outside of the superheroics).
A Change of Pace
All things considered, "Gorilla Warfare" was a step back into the groove for the series as a whole, with too many small laughs, exhilarating moments, and story beats to scratch the itch of sci-fi superhero fanatics. Barry's downcast mood might have been a little familiar - especially considering how many millions of fans Grant Gustin won over with his charm alone - but The Flash continues to succeed in balancing multiple plots with an effortlessness that every comic book TV show should aspire to.
And for fans of DC Comics, this episode delivered in spades. Besides doing Gorilla Grodd more justice than ever, and offering a tease of Gorilla City in the jungles of Earth-2, the arrival of Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) ahead of Legends of Tomorrow will keep everyone talking. It's still promotion of a new CW series, but its treatment delivers the same message as the rest of this episode: being a superhero is hard work... but it's a lot of fun, too.
The Flash returns next Tuesday @8pm with "Legends of Today". Watch a preview of the episode below: