The Flash: 3.14 Attack on Central City
The biggest issue any superhero TV show is going to face is the budget. The long-running nature of a TV series can add depth to a character's story in a way that even the best movies can fail to capture (the fallout of Captain America: Civil War works because we've watched these superheroes over several films, whereas Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice failed in many respects because it didn't have that). Superhero TV shows can add villains and heroes that a movie or series of movies just can't include (will we likely see Firestorm or Killer Frost or even Grodd in the DC cinematic universe? Probably not). But movies can add grand spectacle because they have the budget for the big alien invasion / floating city and army of killer robots that The Avengers movies added). TV has to be more restrained, particularly when it has 23 episodes to fill as opposed to the visually stunning Legion with eight.
To be fair, The Flash does considerably well, as does Supergirl, Arrow and Legends Of Tomorrow. But there is also the sense that what the writers, producers and directors want to achieve and what they actually get, is something quite different. And that was mostly evident in Attack On Central City that, while still proving to be a good episode, couldn't deliver on its premise. That army of armoured apes led by Grodd glimpsed at the end of last week's cliffhanger? Well it was less attack and more a skirmish in a street. We got one fake out (though undeniably cool scene) where Grodd could control of Joe's mind and tried to force him to shoot himself in the head, while the gorilla attacked a general. But that was it until the end. That army? Conveniently hidden in a local (Vancouver) forest until that final march into the city which resulted in little more than a car or two being tossed across the street.
It's a shame, because this could have been the highlight of the season so far, rampaging armoured gorillas assaulting the city, causing destruction in their wake (as the headline from the future suggested) while an underwhelmed Barry, Wally and Jessie tried to hold them back. Whizzing around the gorilla army and getting beaten down was definitely not the showdown we were expecting. As for Gypsy, the episode went for the obvious answer; manipulated by Grodd into opening a portal and then attacking team Flash in Star Labs. At least the chemistry between her and Cisco is still a lot of fun and it was great to see her almost aggressive kiss after he finally convinced her to help them by bringing in Solovar to fight Grodd and lead the gorilla army back to Earth 2.
As for Solovar v Grodd, the special effects as they fought over the side of the skyscraper was a little dodgy. Last week's arena battle between the Flash and the white-haired gorilla looked spectacular, but the budget effects were noticeably here, taking the edge of what should have been a gripping showdown. But then, the attack on the city had already come to naught so there wasn't much to redeem it anyway.
On the positive side, Grodd remains a much more formidable baddie on the mental scale. Taking control of a powerful metahuman like Gypsy, almost getting Joe to blow his brains out while simultaneously using it as a distraction to capture the general and then nearly launching a devastating missile attack that would have levelled Central City made him a formidable threat even his physical actions didn't amount to much. For that reason I'm glad he's still alive and putting him in the same Argus facility as King Shark surely is the premise for a formidable team up episode next season?
The big plus this episode was not Grodd and his army of gorillas but the delightful pairing of two Wells and Tom Cavanagh was a delight as both grumpy, manipulative Harrison Wells and the chirpy, 'Friends Day' card giving HR, who decked out Star Labs in a lovely Valentine's Day style paper lanterns. The scene where he handed out cards to everyone was just adorable. Cavanagh has the brilliant ability to make both versions of the same character so very different and every moment he was on screen, he brightened up the episode. Even the sub plot of Jessie telling her father she wanted to stay on Earth 1 with Wally didn't end up being cloying thanks to Harrison's manipulation of Wally (I'm dying) and his sincere love for his daughter.
After the underwhelming conclusion to Grodd's 'Attack on Central City', at least we got a decent cliffhanger, with the return of Savitar to spell trouble for an unsuspecting Wally. It was surprising because it came quicker in the season than expected; I just hope the show can build the momentum to the finale which is still 9 episodes away...