Thursday, 2 March 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E14 - 'Attack On Central City'

The previous episode of The Flash had raised expectations fairly high, for me. Perhaps too high, as it turns out – since, on reflection, there is simply no way that the show's budget could have stretched far enough to give us the large-scale invasion that we had been led to believe was coming. It is, after all, the same issue that has often cropped up, on this series. The CGI work that has gone in to creating some of the more outlandish villains to put in an appearance (Grodd, himself, most prominently – but, also, King Shark) has always been very impressive, for a television budget – but, the actual screen-time devoted to these characters has also, always, been kept to a fairly conspicuous minimum.

It's been perfectly understandable, of course – and, in the past, I have been perfectly happy to cut the series a little slack. It was, after all, very impressive that they would even be willing to make the effort. Unfortunately, while it is all well and good to cut the creator's a little slack, it seems that, at this point, they should also be aware of their own limitations. If, for example, the series did not have the budget to show us something as demanding as an army of CGI gorillas attacking a city, then they should not have created a situation where that is exactly what the audience was expecting to see.

Much like with the previous episode, Grodd and his army of intelligent gorillas were kept to the side-lines for much of the episode – but, unlike with the previous episode, it just wasn't quite as forgivable. Both the previous episode, and the opening moments of this one, had raised expectations beyond what the series was capable of achieving. As a result, by the time we finally get around to Grodd's attack on Central City, it turned out to be little more than a short sequence of Grodd's army walking up a street (with many of the background gorillas clearly being the same model, reused again and again), before they are stopped by the three Speedsters. Then, the episode's final confrontation turned out to be a very brief, one-on-one, battle between Grodd and Solovar, who had been brought over from Earth-2 by Cisco and Gypsy.

The CGI work was as impressive as it has every been, of course – but, unfortunately, there was just no real sense of danger or excitement to Grodd's whole invasion. In the end, I actually found myself a little annoyed that I had been led to believe that there would be. Honestly, when the most dramatic moment that an episode based on this sort of premise can manage does not feature Grodd, at all (and, instead, centres on Barry frantically punching in number codes, to stop a missile launch), then it feels as though something has gone wrong.

Fortunately, while the central conflict of the episode might have been a bit underwhelming, there was still plenty to enjoy about this episode. As with so many previous episode, it was the moments of character interaction which proved to be the most entertaining aspect of the episode. Gypsy's surprising reappearance, at the end of the previous episode, created more opportunities for the sort of flirtatious antagonism with Cisco that had been so entertaining during her first appearance.

Along with this, Harry's complete contempt for his double, H. R. Wells, provided the episode with many of its most humorous moments (with the moment when Harry spat toothpaste into H. R.'s coffee being a clear stand-out) – as was H. R.'s continued good-natured attitude in the face of this contempt. Honestly, it really is remarkable to see how well these two characters play off of each other, considering that they are both played by the same actor. Harry, Wally, and Jesse also shared some strong scenes, throughout the episode, as the young couple finally attempt to confront Jesse's father with the fact that she had decided to move to Earth-1.

Most importantly, though, it remains a very impressive feature of this series to see exactly how seriously a character like Grodd is treated by the creator's. At a glance, of course, a super-intelligent, telepathic, gorilla would seem like the perfect example of comic-book absurdity (and, to be honest, that is a part of the appeal of the character, for me) – but, despite that, he has also, always, been allowed to exist as a very genuine threat. Even though his army, and the planned invasion of Central City, remains frustratingly pushed to the side for much of the episode, that remains the case, here. Everything from his mind-control of both Gypsy, at the beginning of the episode, and Joe, a bit later, to his plan to kidnap a military officer in order to gain access to missiles was genuinely clever – and, it all showed exactly how potent a threat Grodd is capable of being.

Honestly, if this had been an episode centred around Grodd, alone, it would have made a much better impression on me. It's really just a shame that it none of it really measured up to what the episode had initially seemed to promise.

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