The Flash S02E15 “King Shark” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Benjamin Raab, Deric A Hughes
Director: Hanelle Culpepper
Essential Plot Points:
- Everyone is distraught at Jay’s death but with all the breaches closed there’s no way to follow Zoom to Earth 2 and take revenge. So the team reluctantly get on with their lives.
- Wells warns Barry and Cisco not to tell Iris, Joe and Caitlin about their Earth-2 doppelgängers. They agree, but their resolve has, of course, gone out the window within 42 minutes.
- Cisco fears Caitlin is turning into Killer Frost but she says her aloof manner is just
bad acting… sorry, her trying to deal with Jay’s death.
- King Shark was apparently not killed after the events in “The Fury Of The Firestorm” (S02E04). Instead he was taken to an ARGUS facility where Amanda Waller had plans to “weaponise” him. But Waller is now dead so ARGUS’s new boss, John Diggle’s wife Lyla, is left having to work out what to do with a giant, human/shark hybrid who’s not taken well to conditioning and still wants to kill the Flash.
- Then he solves her problem by escaping, because Lyla hasn’t yet managed to employ ARGUS grunts with an IQ bigger than their shoe size.
- So King Shark is on Barry’s trail, which is especially inconvenient when Barry is trying (and generally failing) to bond with newfound brother Wally.
- When King Shark attacks the West’s house Barry has to vanish so he can be the Flash and fight the human-Sharknado. But Wally just thinks Barry is a coward who hid under the bed.
- Eventually Barry beats King Shark in a wonderfully over-the-top riot of special effects depicting the Flash creating an electrified whirlpool in Central City docks (or something).
- Barry apologies to everyone for being a grump since he came back from Earth-2 then vows that they’re going to defeat Zoom.
- Meanwhile on Earth-2 Zoom returns to his lair with Jay’s body. He takes off his mask… and reveals that he’s Jay too! Or maybe Jay-2. Or maybe Hunter Zolomon. Or maybe Jay-3 to Jay-52. Or maybe a Kree shapeshifter (oh, hang on… wrong continuity). Whatever, there’s bound to be some twisty-turny reason why a guy who looks like Jay finishes the episode carrying the body of somebody else who looks like Jay, and mutters, “Well, this is a complication.”
This is a unique for the Flash. Never before has the villain-of-the-week been the best thing about an episode. Zoom has been one of the best things once or twice but he’s an ongoing villain. Usually the villains-of-the-week are mere ranty obsessives with minimum backstory and a gimmicky grudge (“They used to say I stank, but now I am Skunk-Man I will make them ALL stink – bwah-ha-ha!”). Mark Hamill came close to breaking the mould as the Trickster but he was a rare exception. On the other hand, King Shark absolutely dominate the episode here even though he has even less personality than the usual villain-of-the week. To be fair, he’s less of a villain and more of a B-movie monster or dwarf-kaiju. But the episode sensibly side-steps his limitations and plays to his strengths to deliver an exciting series of action sequences that are the undoubted highlights of an otherwise rather pedestrian episode.
That’s the other reason King Shark rules here. He hasn’t really got much competition. After all the Earth-2, arc-plot-heavy shenanigans of the past few weeks, this episode is a bit of a chance for the main characters to regroup, catch a breath and deal with some simmering personal issues. Which is good for them but a little underwhelming for the audience. Barry is all mopey again; Caitlin has turned into into a (figurative) block of ice; Wally gets wound up by everyone telling him what a great guy Barry is; Joe tries to build bridges… It’s all decent enough character drama but having it all in one episode feels a little stodgy.
After King Shark is defeated, for example, we get three heart-to-hearts in a row. There’s Joe telling Wally that no one thinks Barry is better than he is; then Caitlin tells Cisco that acting like a frozen haddock is her way of dealing with grief; then Barry apologises to the group for being a misery. It’s like the old days of Smallville when the villain was defeated about 30 minutes in and then you had to endure 15 minutes of couples kissing or breaking up. After a while you become immune to the emotion.
Besides, none of the personal tales this week have much impact nor feel like they’ve moved on that much over the course of the episode. There’s nothing particularly bad here; it’s just that there’s little to remember here either.
Except that awesome man-shark.
- King Shark is ’king great. Well, effects-wise anyway. Like most Flash villains he has the personality of stale prawn cracker but he looks magnificent and the effects are very, very impressive for TV (compare them to some of the shoddy CG in Once Upon A Time this season).
- The final twist in the Zoom reveal is a hell of a, “Hang on…!?” moment. With this show there’s all sorts of possibilities about what it could all mean so let’s not jump to obvious conclusions.
- Although neither Digg not Lyla has much to do it was fun to see them interact with Team Flash and carry on the “running” gag from Digg’s previous guest appearances on the show.
- Cisco becoming irritated that no one from alternate universes seems to trust his competency:
“Hey, you set the right distortion scope, right?”
“Oh, for real? Okay. You know what, we’re gonna play a game here. It’s called, if you’re from Earth-2, you’re gonna be quiet, okay?”
- Too many heart-to-heart scenes in a row. Each in itself is fine, but cumulatively they become a little wearing.
- King Shark’s attack on the West house is slightly comical, and the damage he’s shown to cause looks like it’s going to take more than a few brooms to fix. Surely fixing an entire roof is going to take some considerable time?
- After two weeks of fun playing Killer Frost Danielle Panabaker delivers one of her blandest, least convincing turns as Caitlin yet. She gives every impression of being entirely bored of the role. There’s a chicken/egg vibe going in here: does Panabaker give lifeless performances because the writers rarely give her anything decent to do, or do the writers rarely give her anything decent to do because she gives lifeless performances? To be fair she is supposed to be “cold” in this episode, but you that shouldn’t translate as merely “blank”.
- Dear lord ARGUS grunts are dim, aren’t they? What the hell possessed them to switch off King Shark’s security grid? Surely one of them’s heard the phrase, “Playing possum”?
- Can Wally please hurry up and become a speedster because all the foreshadowing (“Ain’t nobody faster than me!”) is becoming a little heavy-handed.
And The Random:
- Ben Raab, one the co-writers on this episode, used to be a comic book writer, but runs on The X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and Excalibur back in the mid ’90s. On TV he has been a co-producer and writer on Warehouse 13 and Beauty And The Beast.
- Was this gesture on purpose when Barry was saying goodbye to Wally after the cup-stacking scene? No wonder there’s ill will between them.
- King Shark does not have a human alter ego in his comic book incarnation; he was born a humanoid shark called Nanaue, the son of the Shark God (first appearing in Superboy Vol 4 #0 in 1994). However, the TV alter ago – Shay Lamden– and origin story mentioned here originated in the Flash Season Zero comics that were published alongside season one of the show. However, in those comic it’s Shay Lamden from Earth-1 who becomes King Shark whereas in the TV series, Earth-1’s Shay Lamden is dead and the King Shark we see is from Earth-2. As a consequence, the Flash Season Zero comics have been retconned out of canon.
- King Shark was voiced by actor and screenwriter David Hayter, famous for providing the voices of the characters Solid Snake and Big Boss in the Metal Gear Solid video games.
- The “Ampullae of Lorenzini” – which is referenced in this screen shot but never mentioned in the dialogue – is the organ that sharks possess which enable the “passive electrolocation” that Caitlin mentions on the episode.
- Right, so how many Jaws references were there?
••• One of the ARGUS guys says, “I think Bruce has gone belly up.” Bruce was the name the crew gave the mechanical shark used during the filming of Jaws.
••• Cisco says, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger Flash,” misquoting the famous line from the film, “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
••• Cisco later says, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the suburbs…” which is a reference to the tagline to Jaws 2: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”
••• Wally says, “Jaws busts through your house like the Kool-Aid Man…”
••• Finally, Cisco says, “…cue the Jaws soundtrack.”
- Spielberg’s film doesn’t have the cultural-reference-to-sharks monopoly, though. Joe mentions a certain notorious Syfy franchise in his line, “I don’t suppose my homeowner’s insurance covers a Sharknado attack.”
- The truck in which Digg plans to transport King Shark is apparently made from promethium which is the same material that DC character Cyborg’s metal parts are made from.
Review by Dave Golder