Season Three, Episodes Twelve & Thirteen — “Untouchable”, “Attack on Gorilla City”
By Jarrod Jones. There are two variations to The Flash‘s formula: there’s the episodic villain-of-the-week procedural, where we meet (and suddenly forget) some baddie ripped from the yellowed pages of the Scarlet Speedster’s comic book history, and the widescreen/splashpage epic, where payoff to a season’s worth of build-up (or more) finally arrives to knock us flat.
This week’s pair of episodes are a perfect embodiment of each: “Untouchable” was the procedural, certainly, while “Attack on Gorilla City” was a foot-stomping epic, an example of the show’s increasing confidence in painting on a cinematic canvas. For different reasons, both are incredibly fun.
In “Untouchable”, we find Barry and Team Flash have been working overtime to stop Savitar’s inevitable return, and Iris’ purportedly inevitable death. Det. Joe West is still in the dark about his daughter’s prophesied demise, but a visit from the nefarious *checks cast list* Clive Yorkin sets a sequence of events into play that make short work of Iris and Barry’s caginess.
Yorkin is a carryover from the first arc of Season Three, when Savitar and Dr. Alchemy were tossing out powers and agendas to anyone on Earth-1 who lost their metahuman abilities after the Flashpoint reality came to an end. Imbued with the ability to kill simply by touching something, Clive’s gunning for the Earth-1 doppelgangers who had a hand in imprisoning him during Flashpoint, but it’s all fairly incidental. Yorkin’s simply there to provide an imminent threat, and when he directs his death-paws at Det. Joe, Iris and Barry decide it’s time to come clean to their dad. Because, as long-time fans of The Flash will tell you: Secrets, secrets are no fun, because… well, y’know.
It’s a way for the show to address a lingering problem. For far too long The Flash has been taking advantage of its resident father figure; Joe’s been lost in the shuffle of The Flash‘s oversized cast for long enough that “love interest” has been about all the show has had time for him. (With no disrespect to Danielle Nicolet, who is lovely and I’m glad she’s on the show.) Iris and Barry (and by extension, Team Flash) keeping a secret from Joe is about the best this season’s got for Jesse L. Martin, even though his charisma is enough to brighten any room, and lest we forget, he’s a damn cop. Having Det. Joe more intricately embroiled in The Flash’s crime procedural is practically a no-brainer. And yet.
In spite of this “Untouchable” had some truly wonderful character-building moments — Julian’s learning how to work in a team setting, which opens up romantic possibilities with Caitlin (I don’t hate this turn of events), Wally needs to finesse his speed powers (specifically he needs to learn how to phase through solid objects, which gives his character a nice episode arc), and Cisco learns how to vibe through memories, which underlines how functional S.T.A.R. Labs can be now that 50% of Team Flash is metahuman.
But as good as The Flash is at procedural, it’s even better with the splashpage stuff. “Attack on Gorilla City” finds Barry faced with a frightening choice — killing a gorilla he’s never met to save Earth-1, or die and allow his planet to be overrun by a gorilla horde.
Of course, he’s getting his information from none other than Gorilla Grodd, so it goes without saying that Barry’s dilemma is informed by sketchy intel. Grodd, whose episode in Season Two was so good it made me wish we could have fast-forwarded to his next appearance, has only grown in sentience and strength. And he certainly hasn’t forgotten that The Flash and his co-horts dumped him on another planet just to get him out of their hair.
Grodd’s machinations have brought Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, and Julian (in adorable safari gear) to Earth-2 which, much to my joy, means Harrison Wells-2 is back. “Attack on Gorilla City” gives Tom Cavanagh an opportunity to pull double-duty — or triple-duty, considering Wells-2 has fallen under Grodd’s control. Cavanagh is seen grimacing through two monologues dripping with guttural gorilla speak. Cavanagh acquits himself admirably, because of course he does.
The dichotomies of Team Flash always become more intriguing once citizens from other Earths come popping in — case in point, Jessie Quick and Harrison Wells-19 have an awkward hug, Wally and Jessie reconnect after a long break (Wally hasn’t been returning her calls, it seems), and the sardonic Wells-2 gets to meet the prickly Julian for the first time. (“Indiana,” Wells-2 sniffs to Julian and his adventure gear.)
But it’s Gorilla City that has us glued to our couches. Speedster versus Super-Gorilla, Cisco says. Best-worst video game ever. The Flash has been building towards a sequence like this for some time, and while the Flash/Solovar gladiator battle is most certainly the most ably-realized comic book fight the show has had yet, it seems we’ll have to wait for the Grodd/Barry showdown until next time.
I’m not complaining, because that fight boasts some really clever shots, like Barry staring down a stampeding Solovar, followed swiftly by a droplet of blood glistening through the dust-choked daylight. Barry wins, but really, he loses, which is the only way for this two-night event to continue. Solovar is down for the count. The rise of Grodd can now truly begin.
“Huh. Somehow I thought Flashpoint would look a lot different.” – Cisco, ever articulating my thoughts.
Julian: “Do you often travel to other Earths?” Barry: (sighs) “When I have to.”
Caitlin: “We’re not going sight-seeing.” Julian: (produces his service weapon) “Neither am I.”
BEST MOMENT: Barry vs. Solovar. Even though our favorite sentient albino gorilla got the short shrift this week, it was his battle with The Fastest Man Alive that made me absolutely giddy. That it was so gorgeously realized and absolutely thrilling was just icing on the cake.
EPISODES’ MVP: I’m tempted to just toss this to the Harrison Wells of Earths 2 and 19, especially after Tom Cavanagh had to growl and scowl his way through two Grodd-infused monologues, but this pair of episodes saw Barry really take control of his superheroic identity. His battle with Solovar, followed by a speech to Gorilla City (“We call it mercy!“), had a Morrisonian strength to it, the best The Fastest Man Alive has been in ages.
– So Al Capone was once the Vice President on Earth-19. Makes you wonder who his running mate was.
– The owner of CC Jitters simply has to have insurance agents up his ass 100% of the time.
– So, who the heck is Clive Yorkin? Believe it or not, he’s a deep-cut Flash villain from way back. (His first appearance was in The Flash #270 in 1979.) And true to form, it was believed that his death-touch was responsible for killing Iris, so at least Clive’s consistent in his multimedia appearances.
– Seems like Caitlin has embraced her chillier attributes enough to coordinate her outfit with her ice-blue snowflake amulet.
– The weekly “I believe in you” speech fell on the shoulders of Tom Felton this week, and he did a pretty alright job with it. Good luck, Caitlin and Julian. You crazy kids better hope Ronnie Raymond is actually gone forever.
– Ew. I hope Wally got a tetanus shot after this episode.
– What is Barry and Iris taking down annually to be able to afford the entire Pottery Barn?
– Of course Julian would fall all over himself to drop a Planet of the Apes reference — Tom Felton co-starred in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
– Blüdhaven gets another Arrowverse shout-out this week: Julian tells Captain Singh that he and Barry are off to Nightwing’s old digs to take in a science symposium. These Bat-references are beginning to pile up.
– Who’s that white gorilla? That Solovar, benevolent leader of Gorilla City, and sometimes-wearer-of-capes. (He first appeared in The Flash #106 in 1959.)
– Speaking of Solovar, you cast Keith David to do his voice only to give half his lines to Cisco?
– How did Grodd get his damn dirty paws on Gypsy? Ain’t she from Earth-19?
7 out of 10
Next: “Attack on Central City”, “The Wrath of Savitar”, in two weeks.
Before: “Borrowing Problems from the Future”, “Dead or Alive”, here.