The title doesn’t lie. This episode does eventually get around to giving us the promised bout we’ve been waiting for: King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd. But for its first half, at least, what should be a respite from all things Cicada and a throwback to the Silver Age shenanigans that made us fall for The Flash in the first place is instead another angsty go-round about the metahuman cure and how it should be used.
The cure is, at last, complete, but it needs a test subject. It has to be a volunteer, obviously, because we’ve all agreed that the cure is never to be used as weapon, right? (Oh, we’re definitely circling back to this point later.) Enter King Shark, formerly known as the Shay Lamden of Earth-2, and now under the care of Dr. Tanya Lamden, widow of the Shay Lamden of Earth-1. (It’s been a while, but the Earth-1 version is no longer with us because his version of the dark matter mutation riddled his body with tumors rather than turning him into a cool shark-man.) Tanya has developed a telepathic crown allowing her to communicate with King Shark, but something goes awry with the device as a burst of feedback sends him swimming away.
When Tanya and Cisco give the crown a boost at STAR Labs, they are able to lure King Shark back to the wharf, where he attacks the waiting members of Team Flash and is on the verge of eating Cisco when Barry hits him with the cure unannounced. It works: King Shark is transformed back into human form, and Tanya—egged on by a nosy Sherloque—is forced to grapple with the feelings she’s developed for her late husband’s doppelganger. Cisco and Caitlin aren’t happy about Barry’s unilateral decision to use the cure, and here’s the part that completely infuriates me.
For weeks now, Team Flash has been talking about using this cure to take down Cicada. All of a sudden, however, there’s no acknowledgement of this whatsoever. Instead Cisco and Caitlin insist that “we all agreed the cure would never be used as a weapon.” Well, no, you didn’t! I mean, at first you did, and then Barry came up with the plan of using it on Cicada and everyone went along with it. I was expecting the big ethical debate about this weeks ago, and it never happened. I’m truly baffled by this whole turn of events. Are the writers gaslighting us? And for once, I’m actually on Barry’s side of an argument. I mean, King Shark was about to eat Cisco, although as we find out, it wasn’t his idea.
Yes, King Shark was under the control of everyone’s favorite psychic gorilla, Grodd. Turning Cisco and Caitlin against Barry, he is able to make off with the crown, which enhances his own mental abilities to the point where he’ll be able to control everyone in Central City. Once Grodd enters the picture, the episode picks up considerably. Now the string of recent stripped-down episodes makes more sense: they were saving the special effects budget for this one. Granted, the CW still isn’t in a position to spring for photo-realism when it comes to super-gorilla on mega-shark fisticuffs, but the cartoonish images are still a hoot, particularly once Grodd starts Donkey Kong-ing his way up the scaffolding.
That Shay Lamden has to make the choice to revert to King Shark knowing that he’ll probably never be human again lends an unexpected pathos to the proceedings, but the real emotion this week comes courtesy of the return of Joe West. The idea that Joe just went off to Tibet with his infant child for months never really made any sense—something the writers may have realized, as they graft on the additional explanation that he needed that time to heal from the damage Cicada had done him. Whatever the reasoning, it’s good to see Jesse L. Martin up and about again, as Joe tries to help Iris past her fears of going to the office by getting her to hit the heavy bag.
As always, the hour ends with another plan for stopping Cicada. This time it’s Barry coming up with the idea to ask Cicada if he’d like to be cured. I did not throw anything at my TV, but only because I still need it.
- Why does King Shark wear giant pants? It can’t be easy to swim in those. Couldn’t he at least find some oversized trunks?
- One fun aspect of the Arrowverse’s longevity on the CW is the way that formerly mind-blowing things like the existence of multiple Earths populated by doppelgangers have just become commonplace knowledge by now.
- Another favorite image: Grodd bouncing down the parking garage like he’s fallen into a pinball machine.
- Flexible superhero ethics: Using the cure on Cicada against his will would be bad, but putting Grodd in a medically-induced coma forever is evidently fine.