This review contains spoilers.
5.15 King Shark Vs. Gorilla Grodd
It’s the battle we never knew we always wanted on The Flash, King Shark Vs. Gorilla Grodd. In addition to an unlikely throw-down, the episode also tackles the biggest threat this season, and I’m not talking about the largely-absent Cicada.
I suppose it’s best to open this review by noting that I’m not the biggest fan of an episode’s gimmick of starting in the middle of some action only to yank the viewer back in time before things got crazy. Having said that, when the action involves a mutated shark/human hybrid and a telepathic giant gorilla, certain pet peeves can be forgiven.
As the episode’s title promises, two of The Flash’s more impressive villains battled it out in another departure from the main storyline of season five. Before getting into the merit of this instalment, it’s worth noting that the fight against this year’s big bad, while ever-present, is starting to languish a bit and become pretty thoroughly unfocused. Yes, the previous episode’s Groundhog Day-style adventure was heavy with Cicada, but it didn’t do a ton to move the narrative forward. Even DeVoe had a pretty well-defined ticking clock on our heroes by this point in his story.
Speaking of unfocused, King Shark Vs. Gorilla Grodd was ambitious and had a lot of balls in the air at once. However, the episode deserves some sincere credit for making the audience eat its vegetables when it comes to the metahuman cure that Cisco and Caitlin have been tirelessly working on all season.
I appreciated that the science duo addressed the issue of consent with something like a metahuman cure when they first started talking about it. However, that quickly went out the window once Barry decided that he wanted to use it to defy the Flash Museum records and finally stop Cicada. Frankly, everyone seemed on board a little too quickly which was disappointing because it’s these heavy moral conversations that make the difference between a mediocre superhero TV show and a good superhero TV show.
There’s not a lot that one can do to change the game for a show that deals weekly in subjects like time travel, the multiverse, literal monsters, and cosmic entities. However, a metahuman cure should carry an appropriate world-changing weight that simply wasn’t being discussed until this episode.
Now, we can debate all the live-long day Barry’s decision to somehow offer the cure to Cicada before likely shanking him with it like they’re in a prison riot, but at least we’re putting the right obstacles in front of our heroes. It would be both easy for everyone to agree that Cicada is too big a threat to merit consent, but as a viewer, I’m not interested in a show about a bunch of people doing easy things.
While the episode hits one of the best notes of the season in terms of overall story, it’s hardly a perfect episode of TV. For an instalment with such a simple premise, it gets cluttered with B and C stories in a big hurry. I think we could all do without the romance between Tanya and the human version of King Shark in favour of something involving characters we care about. Furthermore, while it was great to see Jesse L. Martin back on screen and moving, an entire story about Iris being shaken by a moment that didn’t happen in this timeline felt like a very clear example of episode-padding.
While the episode gets some credit for using Cisco to great effect and keeping the infuriatingly over-done Killer Frost/Caitlin Snow dichotomy to a minimum, the sad truth is that a lot of time was sunk into slapdash storylines that were anything but the promised King Shark Vs. Gorilla Grodd.
But let’s get real. Major story-arcs aside, this whole episode was just a pretext to show viewers a CGI fight between Grodd and King Shark. Yes, it looked a bit like a videogame cut scene to an audience that’s used to the likes of Thanos vs. Hulk in Avengers: Infinity War, but something doesn’t have to be perfect to be plain-old awesome. King Shark and Grodd are becoming a bit like the crossovers in that one or both tend to pop up once a year so it’s nice to give them some development. While King Shark’s story spent a lot of time with a human having werewolf-like guilt, Grodd got a really decent prison escape plotline.
Overall it’s the classic tug-of-war of being a fan of The Flash. On one hand you’re interested in the overall season arc, on the other hand you’re in desperate need of a monster-of-the-week break to stave off the main arc’s boredom. Perhaps it’s the comparison coming off an episode as tightly written and gimmick-driven as Cause And XS, but no one was batting a thousand this time around. The question now is whether or not this is the calm before the storm, or just another drop in the void.
Read Aaron’s review of the previous episode, Cause And XS, here.