This episode of The Flash, “Grodd Lives,” proves that Iris West does not deserve the hate, and Grodd makes his first appearance as the CGI gorilla that eats up most of The Flash‘s budget (I think).
I received a bunch of very positive notes on Twitter for the previous recap. My ego expanded for a minute until I read that people were just happy that I was not writing Iris off. This concerned me a great deal that Iris was getting that amount of hate (some of which I knew of) because I couldn’t figure out what Iris really did to deserve it. It confused me (until it immediately didn’t); why does Iris West get all of this unwanted hate? What exactly has she done wrong?
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Love interests on comic book shows tend to get the most flack out of any characters on their shows for two reasons. For one, they tend to be some of the last people to find out the hero’s big superhero secret. And two, they tend to also be the ones to stand up to the hero the most. Otherwise, there would be little tension between the two of them. Recent examples include Felicity Smoak and Laurel Lance on Arrow (Laurel, by the way, became legitimately awesome this year and had a really impressive arc for the whole series) and Lana Lang from Smallville (though, in many cases, that was warranted).
So enter Iris West (wonderfully played by Candice Patton) on the show. She was the “love interest” but also Barry’s best friend in the world. A warm, kind and earnest person by nature, she’s literally the one true pairing for Barry Allen, who also exhibits these traits in spade. But she’s been bombarded with such ungarnered hatred. But what did Iris do to get this level of hate? She played her part as the love interest in the dark for so long, but she’s never been weak or stupid. She sought out the truth in her reporting jobs on The Flash, she’s strong in an underappreciated feminine way and the show has rarely reduced her to the role of damsel.
But it’s not hard to figure out why some people aren’t in love with Iris West yet: she’s “not what I pictured.” Translation: she’s not the red-haired, green-eyed white girl from the comics who is “strong” in only one particular way. If you look on the Internet, there’s a ton of thinly veiled misogynistic and racist criticisms of Iris West (and the actress portraying her) who deserves neither. Iris and the actress are gorgeous and talented and offer representation in an increasingly diverse TV landscape. If Iris’ journey was as poorly constructed in its first season as, say, the annoyingly self-righteous Laurel Lance, then we’d have an issue. But that’s not Iris’ story.
What I’m trying to say (and inform you) is that neither lady deserves those laced complaints. Was Iris’ storyline difficult at times? You betcha. It took a while for the show to flesh her out outside of being Barry’s bestie and Joe’s daughter, but they did. This episode proves why Iris is a compelling character and why, going forward, criticisms of Iris’ character are going to be a lot harder to find. Of course, you are completely entitled to like or dislike Iris West, but you should be able to back those reasons up. The regular standbys of “she’s weak” or “annoying” never cut it, frankly, and they certainly do not now.
Quiet simply, Iris is the MVP of this episode, stealing the show from a CGI gorilla for god’s sake. It’s amazing to see how Iris processes it all: carefully watching Barry as he lies to her for (hopefully) the last time, almost testing him to lie again. When she finally drops by S.T.A.R. Labs’ crappy security system, I cheer for her. Finally, finally, finally, Iris knows and she’s going to rip into Barry and Joe. Right?
No. Iris is a better person than I am/would be in that situation. What comes next is more surprising. Iris is angry that the two most important people in her life have been lying to her for months. She’s angry, disappointed and saddened that they didn’t believe in her enough as her own person to tell her the truth. Iris is left to be angry, but not bitter, instead researching the man in yellow to find Eddie. She assists with the whole Grodd fiasco. She even saves the day, fulfilling the empty void left by Wells to be Barry’s inspirer when Grodd gets in his head.
Again, there’s no reason (from what I can see) to hate Iris based on her actions in this episode and moving forward. Basically, #IrisWestDefenseSquad for life.
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Grodd is Here
Grodd’s arrival to The Flash is by no means a disappointment, though his brief visit has us hungry for more. The absurdity of a talking, psychic gorilla is not lost on anyone, but Grodd is a force to be reckoned with, if only for making Joe West so terrified. Grodd is released by his “father,” Wells, to distract Team Flash.
Quickly, Grodd uses a mind-controlled General Eiling to rob a bank to grab Team Flash’s short attention span. The crew is slightly clueless without Wells, as evidenced by the fact that they are still setting up base in S.T.A.R. Labs. Regardless, this lack of foresight gives them the ability to capture General Eiling and hold him in their super illegal prison for metahumans, where they can learn about Grodd.
Grodd is the product of a S.T.A.R. Labs and military experiment for psychic supersoldiers, which in general is never a good idea. When the particle accelerator exploded, Grodd finally gained those superpowers or something and escaped, only to live in the sewers ever since. Sorry if I sound bored, but there’s just so much exposition between Caitlin and Cisco in this scene that I dozed off.
Grodd is hardly boring — he’s down right terrifying. First, he has telekinetic and telekinesis powers. He’s also a giant gorilla. The CGI is aight and the show wisely keeps him in the shadows as a threat, but his first entrance on the show feels like only the tip of the iceberg for Grodd’s awesomeness.
— Another reason not to hate Iris: Barry and Joe’s very weak, very questionable comeback for lying to Iris all this time is that Iris lied about her feelings for Barry. First of all: NO. The two of you do not get to equate months of lying about Iris’ private feelings to their flat-out refusal to tell Iris the truth. Second of all: NO. Because Barry was technically lying to Iris about his feelings for decades. Double standards much?
— Wells wears guyliner and basically starves Eddie. He’s very busy doing evil things while Grodd is off distracting, so he’s the one to break it to Eddie that he and Iris aren’t going to end up together. I smell a supervillain story brewing.
— If you love, like, dislike, hate or are ambivalent about Iris West, I’d love for you to explain why in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter.
The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.
(Image courtesy of The CW)