The Flash did it. It actually did it. It brought an evil, talking gorilla with psychic powers to primetime TV, and made it work better than it had any right to. But what’s most amazing about “Grodd Lives” is that Grodd himself wasn’t the best part of the episode — Iris West was.

I know it sounds insane. But The Flash finally brought Iris into the SuperSTARS team — more specifically, in a timeline that wasn’t promptly erased — and it almost instantly transformed her into a compelling character, while also providing some actual chemistry between her and Barry for the first time ever! Ah, but why merely tell you when I can recap it for you?

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Having finally realized it’s Barry underneath the Flash’s mask, Iris narrates the episode’s introduction, and it’s clear she’s not happy that Barry has been hiding this to her — something she confirms when she tracks him down at the police station and angrily asks Barry if he knows why the Flash hasn’t found Eddie yet. Barry looks sheepishly away and shuffles off to STAR Labs, just in time to suit up for a masked gunman who attacks a gold shipment across town. Seems like an easy task, until Barry suddenly gets images of being horribly operated on shoved into his head, and the gunman gets away.

Barry returns to the lab, but he’s immediately followed by Iris, who finally sees the Flash unmasked. She confronts Barry first, followed by her dad Joe, and basically gets caught up on everything — that everyone knows the Flash’s identity but her, even Eddie knows, Joe forbade anyone from telling her, Wells is the man in yellow and has Eddie, etc. While it’s nice to finally have Iris brought up to date, what makes these scenes so great is Candice Patton. She plays Iris as angry and hurt and betrayed while never being overwrought. She acts like a real human being would, furious but not melodramatic which is honestly not usually one of The Flash’s strong suits. When Barry and Joe start muttering about how they didn’t tell her to protect her, Iris demands to be told how that was supposed to work; obviously, neither Barry nor Joe have an answer. And when Joe finally (and very quickly) confesses he was wrong to not tell her, Iris refuses to accept his apology, because it isn’t worth anything — if Iris hadn’have an answer. And when Joe finally (and very quickly) confesses he was wrong to not tell her, Iris refuses to accept his apology, because it isn’t worth anything — if Iris hadn’t realized the truth on her own, her father obviously wouldn’t have told her. It’s practically impossible not to be on Team Iris now, because she’s completely justified in all of her anger.

Luckily for Barry and Joe, they’re saved when the Central City Gold Reserve needs to ship a lot of gold, and which will presumably mean the return of the masked gold thief. And return he does, even though the gold is semi-cleverly hidden in an ice cream truck, but luckily the Flash punches the dude before he can get his brain whammied. And the person under the mask? Why, it’s none other than General Eiling (played by Clancy Brown), who Wells had given to Grodd all those episodes ago.

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Eiling is given a Lab cell, but he isn’t talking… or moving… or anything, really. But as the SuperSTARS soon discover, Eiling has been possessed by Grodd, their former test gorilla who was filled with drugs as part of Eiling’s faux super-soldier programs, was saved by Wells, and who escaped when the particle accelerator went kablooey. When Grodd announces his name via Eiling (in what is pretty much a perfect evil sentient telepathic gorilla voice), Cisco and Caitlin figures out pretty quickly what happened to their old lab animal, and realize they have a meta-gorilla on their hands — one that can control people like Eiling, send mental attacks like he did with Barry, and may even have telekinetic powers. But where is Grodd? Awesomely, bringing Iris in on the team immediately pays off. Because as a reporter, she’s heard about mysterious animal attacks occurring in the sewers, which allows Barry, Cisco and Joe a place to start hunting for their new foe.

The group discovers Grodd’s drawings and writings, and realize the gorilla has been continually getting smarter. Joe also reveals that he is scared of regular gorillas, which turns out to be pretty important because when Grodd attacks, Joe completely loses his mind. Not that Joe would have been of much help anyways; Grodd immediately whammies Barry, tosses him around with telekinesis and then kidnaps Joe, forcing Barry to flee and bring Cisco back to the lab where he has to tell Iris that he’s lost both her father and her boyfriend.

While Cisco tries to rig up a headgear doohickey that will protect Barry from Grodd’s psychic ape whammies and Barry tells Iris maybe she’s been hiding a secret or two as well, Joe is absolutely terrified that he’s being held prisoner by a giant gorilla that can project its thoughts into his mind. Seriously, no one on The Flash or Arrow has ever been more scared of anything that Joe is of Grodd, and it’s actually fascinating to see the normally-in-control Joe finally face a situation he just cannot deal with in the slightest.

Once the doohickey is ready and a tracker Cisco managed to shoot Grodd with comes online, Barry is off for round two. Cisco is somehow able to control the steam in the sewers to lead Grodd into a certain tunnel, all so Barry can do one of his super-sonic punches. If you’re asking how Cisco can control sewer steam from STAR Labs or why it takes a tracking beacon several hours to start working, well, I have to admit “Grodd Lives” may be one of the most plothole-ridden episodes of The Flash ever. One example is that Grodd somehow manages to catch Barry’s fist as he’s running towards him at top-speed for a super-sonic punch. How is this possible? I don’t know. All that I know is that I can overlook a lot of plotholes when I’m being entertained with something as awesome as Grodd managing to catch Barry’s fist as he’s running towards him at top-speed for a super-sonic punch, then tossing him through a subway wall, breaking the head doohickey.

Grodd immediately starts the whammies, but again Iris saves the day. She starts giveing Barry a motivational speech, so he can focus on her voice, and ignore Grodd’s telepathic attacks. Hokey? Very much so. But it’s so awesome to have Iris on board and immediately turn into an key member of the SuperSTARS that I’giveing Barry a motivational speech, so he can focus on her voice, and ignore Grodd’s telepathic attacks. Hokey? Very much so. But it’s so awesome to have Iris on board and immediately turn into an key member of the SuperSTARS that I’m fine with it. Once that’s done, all Barry has to do is lure Grodd into the path of an oncoming subway train, and this monkey’s gone to heaven! Okay, not really, but I couldn’t resist — but Barry does have to let Grodd escape in order to take the still traumatized Joe to the hospital.

All that’s left is for the SuperSTARS to realize they can still save the day without Wells helping them… but possibly not without Iris. Iris and Barry talk some more, and while Iris is still hurt, she’s not going to throw a temper tantrum or give him the silent treatment.. However, Iris says there can’t be any talk of romance until Eddie is found, because she lives with Eddie and loves Eddie and breaking up with him while he’s kidnapped by a madman from the future is incredibly awful, and not something Iris would do. Because Iris is great.

Seriously. All it took was this episode and not only am I an Iris fan, I can actually see why Barry would fall for her. For almost the entirety of the first season, her character has simply had nothing to do other than be lied to and sit on the sidleines; “Grodd Lives” finally gives her a chance to reveal her strength of character, her maturity, and really, her overall awesomeness. Welcome to the SuperSTARS, Iris. It’s long overdue, but better late than never.

Assorted Musings:

• If you’re wondering what Wells and Eddie are up to, well, Eddie is not falling for anything Eobard says, because it all sounds insane, while Eobard is taunting Eddie while making a glowy doohickey. Eobard/Wells says that Eddie is the only member of the Thawne family history has forgotten, and that he “doesn’t even get the girl” — showing him the newspaper of the future, with a byline by Iris West-Allen. That sucks the wind out of Eddie’s sails. And Wells finishes the doohickey, which he ominously claims is the key to him finally getting back… to the future.

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• Grodd’s CG model is pretty rough — he occasionally looks like Optimus Primal from Beast Wars — but the fight in the sewer is mostly dark, and most of the fight scene is shot in such a way to pretty giving to obscure a lot of Gross, while not seeming too cheap or being a cop-out. Basically, it’s very well done for being made on an undoubtedly tiny CW budget.

• If you’re wondering why the hell Grodd bothers to steal gold and kidnaps Joe instead of killing him, the STARS figure out that Wells told Grodd to distract them after he fled last episode — committing a series of crimes, and forcing them to search for their friend, as opposed to just finding his body somewhere. Grodd also refers to Wells as “father” a few times to Joe — which means not only is he loyal to Wells, Grodd also already hates the hell out of Barry Allen.

• Caitlin snags the line of the episode: “I thought [my fiancé Ronnie] died in the particle accelerator explosion. Turns out he just caught on fire.”

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• Cisco actually brings a banana to hunt Grodd in the sewer, because Cisco. When Joe is captured, he tries to give Grodd the banana because that’s how out of his mind with fright he is. Grodd is unamused.

• Despite being great for almost the entirety of the episode, Iris unfortunately has the worst line of the night, when looking at a computer screen of Barry getting ready to super-sonic punch Grodd. On the readout, there is a red dot that is clearly labeled FLASH and a line leading to a blue dot, also clearly reading GRODD. Big letters. Impossible to mistake. But Iris asks, “So the red dot is Barry… and the blue?” I have to assume the computer screen graphics were added in post, well after the scene was recorded. Still, ugh.

• Next week, it’s a showdown between the Flash and Wells, and Barry’s bringing a few or his rowdy friends to Central City. And somehow, this is only the second-to-last episode of the season. What the hell with the finale bring?!


Contact the author at rob@io9.com.