In the year of our Lord 2019, the mere fact that an episode is titled “King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd” shouldn’t make me as excited as it does. I mean, we have Doom Patrol traveling through alternate dimensions via a donkey’s mouth; Legends of Tomorrow, well, being legendary weirdos; and of course, Grodd has been part of The Flash’s world since season 1 and the show has engaged in its fair share of comic book weirdness. And yet, it did. In fact, I think the episode actually lived up to the excitement I had when I actually watched it.
Part of me is surprised that the “King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd” actually worked. This definitely feels like an episode that was born out of “wouldn’t it be cool if King Shark fought Gorilla Grodd” before the actual story was formed. However, the resulting episode, which was written by Eric Wallace and Lauren Certo, is solid, and more importantly, stands out as one of the strongest outings of the season because it is just tangentially related to the Cicada storyline but still feels relatively essential. Additionally, it also marks Jesse L. Martins’ long-awaited and welcomed return from medical leave.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the episode.
We begin in media res with a snarling Gorilla Grodd barreling toward King Shark as the Flash and XS lay paralyzed on the ground. Then, the action jumps back 12 hours, and we find Team Flash hanging out in the Cortex as Cisco announces that he has finally finished the metahuman cure. However, there isn’t much fanfare because everyone knows that there’s a “but” coming since they’ve been through this before — and there is. Cisco and Caitlin explain they need to test it on someone before they use it on Cicada. But there’s one problem: There aren’t any metahumans who would say yes to trying it out. Well, Barry realizes there’s one…
Cut to Team Flash paying A.R.G.U.S. a visit to see Lyla and ask if they can talk to King Shark. In case you forgot, this King Shark, a.k.a. Shay Lamden, is actually from Earth-2; however, he’s found a friend in his Earth-1 doppelganger’s wife Dr. Tanya Lamden, who has been working on a technology to help his brain become more human than shark. In fact, she can now communicate with him via something called a telepathic crown. Unfortunately, King Shark isn’t feeling too talkative today because when the team asks him if he’d want to take the cure, he rages out, removes the crown, and swims away.
The team is eventually able to track him down and force the telepathic crown on his head; however, that doesn’t stop King Shark from crushing Cisco with his hands. Seeing no other option, Barry injects King Shark with the metahuman cure, thus breaking the teams’ one rule: Not to use it as a weapon. Barry doesn’t feel guilty about his actions, though, because his trip to the criminal underworld taught him that he doesn’t need to be so precious about keeping the Flash’s hands clean. Cisco and Caitlin, on the other hand, are pretty pissed off about his decision.
The one person who isn’t complaining about what Barry did is Shay, who is pretty happy to be back to normal — at least temporarily. It turns out that the cure wasn’t strong enough to suppress all of the dark matter in his body, so the team just needs to come up with a stronger dose to get rid of the tiny bit that’s left in his brain.
Next: The fight we’ve all been waiting for
One of the episode’s best surprises is how much time it spends trying to deepen the relationship between Shay and Tanya. Early on, Sherloque picks up on the fact that Tanya has indeed fallen for her husband’s Earth-2 doppelganger; however, Tanya keeps her distance from Shay after he transforms back into a human because she’s afraid to acknowledge her feelings. So, Sherloque, who knows a thing or two about what it’s like to fall for someone’s doppelganger and how difficult this whole love thing is, pushes her to embrace how she feels. So, Shay and Tanya end up making out on the balcony of the lounge. Honestly, Sherloque playing matchmaker may be the season’s best use of him so far, even if it did lead to some vomit-inducing lines like, “They say every sunset is unique. Do you think it’s true?” which is what Tanya says to Shay.
Caitlin and Cisco realize that King Shark freaked out earlier because something was messing with his frontal lobe. As if on cue, both of them immediately turn on Barry, who was trying to apologize for his actions, and blast him with their powers, before handing over the telepathy crown to the baddest gorilla in the multiverse: Gorilla Grodd.
How did our favorite primate escape A.R.G.U.S. custody? Well, it turns out that everyone’s favorite secret governmental security organization lost power for one second during DeVoe’s Enlightenment, which was all the time Grodd needed to place a psychic command in a guard’s mine to release him when the time was right. And apparently, that time is now because he wants to use the telepathic crown to control everyone in Central City.
The Flash and XS head out to stop him, and bust out the good ol’ sonic punch to do so; however, that fails, and Grodd uses his increased powers to freeze them in place. Seeing no other option and wanting to make amends for his past deeds, Shay decides to transform back into King Shark (via a blast from Cisco, which does science stuff that involves dark matter) and breaches to confront Gorilla Grodd. And just God, this fight is beautifully rendered. It looks less video game-like than most of The Flash’s mostly CGI-d fights, and it’s a total blast to watch. The Flash knows how to stretch that CW budget. In the end, King Shark wins (with a lightning recharge from the speedsters).
To make sure nothing like this ever happens again, A.R.G.U.S. decides to put Grodd in a medically induced coma to keep his powers at bay, and King Shark returns to his underwater cell at A.R.G.U.S. However, he’s not alone, because Tanya is sitting right by the viewing glass watching her love swim his heart away (The Shape of Water jumped out!) While I wasn’t completely into their love story because it was so cheesily written, I appreciated the fact that the writers tried to flesh out Shay and Tanya, which isn’t something they do for most guest-characters.
While all of this awesome King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd excitement was going on, Iris was busy dealing with her own problems. Joe, who is finally back from his trip to Tibet with Wally, realizes that his daughter is still pretty shaken by the last episode’s time loop drama. So, he decides to show her that she is not powerless and gives her a boxing lesson. God, I loved watching these two bond, and their scene together with the punching bag was a great reminder of the warmth Martin brings to the show.
Wall of Weird:
- After all of this, Barry decides that they should offer the cure to Cicada instead of forcing it on him.
- “Ok, the Flash museum just straight up got a lot of things wrong,” Nora, when she realizes that speedsters aren’t immune to mind control.
- The Flash recap: Nora goes through many timeline resets to save Team Flash
- The Flash recap: Barry and Ralph go undercover as criminals
- Superhero Insider: Arrow, Supergirl return with major shake-ups to the status quo
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