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No animals were harmed in the making of last night's Flash

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

After last week, I was pretty sure that The Flash had run out of road. But the team at S.T.A.R. Labs keeps finding ways to make me smile. This week, all it took was a 14-foot tall, psychic gorilla.

By the end of the episode I was rooting for the big fella, even though he did some pretty awful things. And I'm also back rooting for The Flash. Why? Because not even a few missing plot points — and a couple of conspicuously absent characters — can put me off when the show has this much heart.

Yes, we still don't know where Jay Garrick is, and I'm beginning to wonder what happened to Firestorm. But at least this week we got Grodd.

Turns out he's lonely. And murderous.

You may remember Grodd from the show's first season. He's a gorilla, and the victim of Earth 1 Dr. Harrison Well's mind-control experiments. He's been gone for a while now, but that begs the question: Where, exactly, does a giant gorilla hide for most of a television season? I don't know, but last night he kidnapped Caitlin Snow.

It set up a classic King Kong scenario. Grodd even did us the favor of putting his lair atop a skyscraper in Central City. But Snow is wicked smart and no helpless victim. Her and Grodd share a history, and Snow gets him to open up about why he's captured her.

Turns out he's lonely. And murderous.

It's revealed that Grodd killed a handful of scientists to get a hold of a small stockpile of mind-enhancing chemicals, and then captured Snow in hopes that she could use the chemicals to make more creatures like him. Only then would Grodd have someone he could relate to.

The episode works because of the tender moments Snow shares with the big ape, but also because Barry Allen has to rebuild himself inside and out in order to save the day.

When we last left our hero, he was a cripple. Flash's transdimensional nemesis, Zoom, had kicked the tar out of him and dragged his limp corpse around Central City to gloat. The encounter broke Flash so badly that he lost all feeling in his legs. While his metahuman regenerative powers would allow him to run again before the episode is over, the damage he suffered didn't just affect his body.

Flash's defeat at the hands of Zoom shamed Barry so badly that not even a pep talk from Detective Joe West can bring him out of his despair. That's when Iris plays her trump card, calling in Barry's father Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) to shake our hero up. Soon, Barry confides in Henry how he no longer feels that the people of Central City can depend on him.

Flash Gorilla Warfare

Henry knows a thing or two about shame. He reminds Barry how he spent years in prison for a murder he didn't commit — the murder of the woman he loved more than anything in the world — and how it cost him the confidence of everyone he'd ever known.

"How did you get past that?" Barry asked. "By accepting it," his father said. "If I could embrace that, and learn to believe in myself again, I could do anything."

And what gave Henry the power to embrace that shame? Knowing his son was out there still believing in him.

"Now I’m going to give that power back to you," Henry said in one of last night's more touching scenes. "No more monsters can take that from us."

The episode also featured two climactic battles. The first was between Earth 2's Dr. Harrison Wells, who disguised himself as Reverse Flash in order to rescue Snow. The gamble worked and, while the costume freaks Barry out, it's an opportunity for Wells to earn back some trust with the team at S.T.A.R. Labs.

The second, final battle pits The Flash against Grodd. Using Snow for bait, the team lures Grodd toward one of the 52 portals scattered around Central City. With one mighty punch, Flash is able to knock Grodd into the trap, sending him to the safety of a gorilla preservation on Earth 2.

But is that preservation filled with a sentient race of civilized apes? Apes that will rise up and invade Earth 2, upsetting the balance of power in that alternate dimension? Yes, it clearly is. But odds are that won't be a problem until next season.

Meanwhile, Cisco and Kendra Saunders finally went on a date, which means two very important things happened last night. First, we finally got to see what Cisco would wear on a date. Second, Cisco got to vibe on Saunders, catching a glimpse of her alter-ego Hawkgirl not once, but twice.

The question remains, however: Which Saunders is Hawkgirl? Is it the Saunders Cisco is dating here on Earth 1? Or is it another Saunders somewhere else?

I have a feeling we'll find out before The Flash and Arrow air their crossover episodes on Dec. 1.

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