Despite previews suggesting a lighthearted shark romp, “King Shark” plays more like a gloomy hangover from Team Flash’s visit to Earth-2. In a way it makes sense that a pair of episodes featuring alternate versions of our characters would be followed by one in which the ”real” versions of those characters didn’t feel like themselves. And it also makes sense that guest stars from Arrow would show up on an episode in which Barry is at his most brooding and Oliver Queen-ish. As usual, however, The Flash isn’t at its best when it takes on the funeral heaviness of its CW sibling.
Those visitors from Arrow are Diggle and Lila, who have come to Central City in search of an escapee from an ARGUS facility. The metahuman in question is King Shark, responsible for the single most entertaining minute of the entire season back in “The Fury Of Firestorm.” Out of necessity, given the expense of the visual effects needed to bring him to life, King Shark can’t carry the entire episode, but at least he provides the opportunity for Cisco to make a lot more Jaws references (mostly lame ones, sadly). Like Grodd and Zoom, he’s more fearsome in fleeting moments anyway. The life-sized Flash lure makes for a good sight gag, and the high-speed chase on the ocean pays off Wally’s tossed-off one-liner about Barry walking on water earlier in the episode.
Ah, Wally. The writers haven’t quite got a handle on his character yet, have they? It’s easy enough for a new addition to the cast to get lost in the shuffle here, especially lately with all the comings and goings and multiple versions of everyone. Tonight’s episode took a stab at pulling him closer to the center of the action by setting up a sibling rivalry with Barry. It’s weird that’s there been so little interaction between the two up until now, but based on the results of Barry’s assist with Wally’s engineering project, maybe that’s for the best. Barry is in a funk since getting back from Earth-2, so we’re treated to another unpleasant dose of condescending, jerky Barry as he tries to “speed up the process” of working on the turbine car project rather than taking the time to get to know his sort-of brother.
There are reasons, of course. Despite Harry’s warning that no one should tell Joe, Iris, or Caitlin about their doppelgangers lest that information influence the course of their lives (a shaky argument at best, given that Cisco and Barry actually met their own doppelgangers), neither Cisco nor Barry can keep the secret. Barry comes clean to Joe and Iris about their alternate selves and finally takes responsibility for the death of Joe-2. “Everything is my fault,” he says, sounding more Ollie than ever, so it’s only fitting that Diggle is around to give him this week’s pep talk (because there always has to be one) to help him snap out of it and take charge of his superheroics. (The trend of Arrow characters always seeming to have more fun in Central City holds here, as Diggle continues to marvel at all things metahuman, particularly Barry’s speed.)
Cisco being Cisco, he naturally spills the beans to Caitlin about Killer Frost. Caitlin’s distant, cold behavior through most of the episode could be interpreted (as it by Cisco) as a sign that Killer Frost awaits in her future, but as she patiently explains, it’s really just a normal human reaction when your last two boyfriends have been killed in front of you. The problem here is that the show never really sold the Jay/Caitlin romance, so her grieving doesn’t quite have the impact it otherwise might. In fact, that’s the major problem with the episode as a whole. Jay was never all that much of a mentor or all that much of a lover or all that much of anything, really. He was just…there, so the emotional aftershocks of his death ring hollow.
There’s another reason for that, of course, which is that he isn’t dead at all. He’s Zoom, revealed in an anti-climactic stinger scene that still leaves us with many questions. Per executive producer Andrew Kreisberg in Variety, Zoom is the Jay Garrick we’ve come to know, which means that the Jay who Zoom killed is…I dunno, Hunter Zolomon? But how does that work? And is the man in the iron mask another Jay? None of these questions will be answered soon (the show is on hiatus for about a month), so for now it’s a reveal that’s both unsurprising and frustratingly opaque. All will be revealed eventually, to be sure, and maybe it will be worth the wait. But with each passing week, season two plays more and more like a confused and disjointed rehash of its predecessor.
- Barry needs to put a new question on the application for next year’s STAR Labs mentor: “Are you secretly a speedster who wants to kill me? Because we’re really not hiring any more of those.”
- “Weirder than a talking shark wearing pants?”
- See you back here on March 22.