“Is that what you think a hero does? Forces other people to do what you want them to do?”
Finally returning from its late winter hiatus, The Flash swings for the fences as, after Cisco presents the meta-human cure (only needing a human test subject to verify the efficacy), the team has to face off against the ‘Simian Svengali’ Gorilla Grodd. Once again, the mind-controlling mammal looks to dominate the human denizens of Central City. Fortunately, this time Barry and Co. have an unexpected ally in King Shark. And, as the title implies, the epic smackdown between shark and gorilla is a CG treat (for network television, that is), but the action can’t quite bring the ho-hum story, filled to the gills with an overabundance of scientific mumbo-jumbo, to a certified Flash status.
After weeks of toiling in the shadows—and sometimes absent from the show—Cisco is ready to test the meta-cure on a human subject. Expedient development of the cure aside, the cure could change the lives of so many people that never asked for their powers. But with such a potentially potent weapon against metas now in hand, it’s imperative that the afflicted make their own choices and not have it forced upon them. There is an overriding theme in “King Shark vs Gorilla Grodd” revolving around the concept of choice. Early on, when King Shark (real name Shay Lamden) goes stir crazy before the gang can get his permission to be a test subject, Barry uses it on him in an effort to save Cisco from harm. And while it does work, both Cisco and Caitlin rail Barry for forcing the cure on Lamden. The conflict between the trio is one of the better aspects of the episode. Though Barry thinks he did right by Cisco, the latter questions his friend on whether that was a split-second decision or was his mind already made up?
Not to get overly philosophical, but choice is a powerful concept and is often amplified in our superhero dramas. Whether it be characters like the Winter Soldier, who had his choices taken away, to someone noble like Steve Rogers keeping the truth from Tony Stark, the choices we make can have crippling effects on our relationships. Of course, they can also strengthen them and making the right choices often build the trust necessary to weather the storm of conflict that every relationship will ultimately face. As for the cure itself, while Cisco’s idea is a good one, how long before nefarious types—whether they be straight villains or governmental agencies—get their hands on a cure and use that to their advantage? It’s bound to happen and, while the potential use of something should not prevent it from being explored, one should ultimately take precautions.
Woven through the themes of choice and CG meta fights, is the return of Joe West. While his character was off finding himself in Tibet with his newborn babe and Wally, West’s absence had been due to Jesse T. Martin’s back injury. The limited time he was onscreen, Joe provided Iris—now feeling the powerlessness of Cicada knowing who she is—with the fuel to move forward, to not let the fearsome Big Bad break her. It wasn’t an overly ambitious arc but Joe returning to the fold will plug in some of those holes The Flash has had to deal with in his absence.
Again, while there was nothing really groundbreaking, “King Shark vs Gorilla Grodd” was a fun ride, heavy on action but light on the season’s overall story arc. With that said, the emphasis on choice and how it ties into the newly developed cure will be a major factor down the line. As Barry presents the idea to Cisco and Caitlin about offering Cicada the cure, he says “Everybody deserves a choice to be whoever they wanna be—that includes our enemies.” The obvious retort to that is when does a person’s actions negate that privilege of choice? Deep thoughts…one that will no doubt be explored another day.
- Expanding a bit more on the choice theme, the hero is often presented as the one who allows choice while the villain (or antagonist) is the one who makes the choice for others. In a perfect world, that’s an easy divide. But we all know that our world, nor those of our heroes, is quite that black and white. A hero’s job is to save others and if that sometimes requires sacrificing someone else’s choice to do wrong, is it truly bad? Of course, the more you cross a line, the easier it becomes. Both sides of the argument are valid and the only certainty in it is that each situation is unique. If Barry or the others are faced with the choice of saving someone’s life or permanently removing Cicada’s meta-human abilities, isn’t it their heroic duty to make that choice?
- While I’m a fan of Gorilla Grodd, the execution of his motives seemed too rushed. Yes, they’ve done two-parters with him before but, for such a complex and interesting villain, giving him a one-shot like this was a bit disappointing. Granted, the fact that his powers are still growing (as they put him in a medically induced coma) hint that he’s not gone for good, I expected a bit more from a Grodd appearance.