The Flash has spent the past several years building up a world of vibrant characters — and this week they finally rolled the dice and pitted two of the wildest against one another. Go ahead and pull out the checkbook, because this one was one heck of a fun budget-buster.
Spoilers ahead for “King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd,” the latest episode of The CW’s Flash, which aired Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
We’ve seen Team Flash tangle with both King Shark and Gorilla Grodd a few times over the years, but instead of just setting up a kaiju-esque battle royale, this episode took the time to actually roll this fan-pleasing concept into a poignant story that really does help move the narrative forward. Cisco’s metahuman cure is complete, and all they need now is a test subject. So they reach out to King Shark, who was last left in Argus custody (cue Lyla and a sneaky little Arrow crossover).
Turns out King Shark has been able to tap into his humanity, thanks to the help of Dr. Tanya Lamden, who was married to the Earth-1 version of the man, Shay Lamden, who became King Shark (because, remember, King Shark is actually from Earth-2). With the Earth-1 version of Shay dead, Tonya hooks up with Argus to try and rehabilitate the sharky, Earth-2 doppelgänger of her late husband. Still with us? All right. Yes, it’s a lot to follow, but they really find a way to tap into the humanity of a character who had largely been one-note up to this point. Shay is a man trapped in a shark’s mind and body, and Tonya’s work has finally allowed him to reclaim at least a shred of his humanity and agency.
After getting dosed with the metahuman cure, King Shark is temporarily turned back into his human form, leading to even more of a connection between the newly de-sharked Shay and his (not) wife, Tonya. But Grodd uses the tech Tonya created to communicate with Shay to amplify his mental powers to the point they will allow him to take over the entire city — setting up the epic clash fans have dreamed about for years now. Shay truly feels remorse for the pain he’s caused as King Shark, and with the fate of the city on the line, he willingly sacrifices his one shot at humanity and returns to his shark form, because not even Gorilla Grodd can mind-control a shark man.
Sure, it sets up an epic CGI-fest battle that is a heck of a lot of fun, but it’s a story that also turns King Shark into a noble figure and, yeah, a new hero for Star City. They honestly could’ve just thrown these two characters on-screen and had them slug it out, and fans would’ve been happy — but they managed to craft a story that gave this clash some true stakes and a touching twist. It’s one of the better episodes of the season, monster face-off or not.
The rehabilitation of King Shark also made for some uncomfortable conversations between Barry and Cisco, after Barry essentially uses the cure as a weapon to stop King Shark when he goes rogue (we later find out this was because of Grodd’s attempt to take control of his mind). Yes, Cisco was about to be eaten by King Shark, but regardless he’d been adamant he didn’t want the cure administered without consent. After seeing that Shay was willing to return to his shark form to stop Grodd, with little chance of becoming human again, Barry comes to realize that everyone — even villains — deserve a chance to make the right choice. So his new plan to stop Cicada is to offer him the metahuman cure. Yeah, we’re curious to see how that one goes.
The other bit of big news this week was the long-awaited return of Joe West, played by Jesse Martin. Martin had taken a sabbatical from the show to recover from a back injury, but returned to filming a while back. In-story, he’s been visiting his son Wally West in Tibet, but now that visit is all done and Joe is ready to jump back into Team Flash. There’s been plenty of action to keep things moving without Martin, but he is an anchoring presence on this show and it’s great to have him back in the fold. Joe spends the episode with Iris, helping her process her lingering fear and anger over the time loop a few weeks back that saw every character on the show killed multiple times by Cicada until Nora finally broke it. Joe helped her push through that fear, and Iris finally returned to her new newspaper office (which is where Cicada’s time-looped attack took place).
As for the King Shark/Grodd update, the episode ends with King Shark on his road to becoming a hero, while Grodd has been put into a medically induced coma at Argus. But it’s noted that his psychic powers have been jump-started, so expect that to come back around (if not this season, next year) for a superpower Grodd escape. Because you know it’s coming.
Next week: Will this be the final face-off with Cicada? Also, what’s up with Future Thawne’s mysterious plans with Nora? Yeah, this looks like a fun one.