If you went into tonight’s episode of The Flash thinking that it would be an off week for the larger story arcs of Season 2, then you would have been sorely mistaken. Not only did “King Shark” finally reveal the face under that dreaded Zoom mask, but it became a larger treatise on the consequences of Team Flash’s actions over the past two seasons. And it made for some heartbreaking, thoughtful, and masterful television.
Zoom is Hunter Zolomon. Maybe.
OK, let’s get the big reveal out of the way because it’s hard not to start speculating about what this might mean for the larger The Flash story. In the final moments of the episode, Zoom finally reveals his mask to reveal that he has a Jay Garrick Face. It appears that he is Hunter Zolomon, the man introduced as Jay’s Earth-1 doppelganger and the character behind Zoom in comic book canon. This is particularly fascinating because it means that Zoom is seemingly from Earth-1, which raises a lot of questions about how he ended up on Earth-2. Also, does this mean that Zoom has potentially been sneaking into STAR Labs as Jay this season? And, on top of all that, is Jay Garrick actually dead?
Whatever the answers to these many, many questions, the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask seems more key than ever. In this final scene, Zoom showed the body of Jay Garrick to his lone prisoner. What is the prisoner’s connection to Zolomon? Why is Zoom keeping him prisoner at all? Is it only because he knows Zoom’s true identity? And does that fact that the Man in the Iron Mask tapped out Jay’s name to Barry hint that it isn’t actually Zolomon, but Jay Garrick who is Zoom? Or is it actually Jay Garrick from Earth-52? Guys, the multiverse is a big, big place with lots of Jay Garrick-faced people within its timey-wimey confines.
Kudos to The Flash for not leaving this reveal until closer to the end of the season. The show doesn’t come back with new episodes until March 22nd, which means plenty of time to ponder how this reveal will affect the members of Team Flash — especially now that Barry has vowed to help the citizens of Earth-2.
Everyone mourns the events of the Earth-2 crossover.
“King Shark” may have had the return of King Shark as a major plot device, but it was really about everyone dealing with the repercussions of what happened on Earth-2. This was a great narrative choice on The Flash’s part. Because, frankly, there is a lot to process and — in a network show with 22 episodes per season — show’s should use these midseason fillers as something other than momentary distractions from the larger story arcs.
For Barry, it is hard to get the death of Earth-2 Joe West out of his head — and for good reason. Frankly, Barry probably should have some residual guilt over Earth-2 Joe’s death. It kind of was his fault — or, at least, it never would have happened if he hadn’t taken Earth-2 Barry’s place. This was a lingering plot point left unaddressed in the second half of the Earth-2 crossover, so it was nice to see that The Flash was heartily aware of it. The scene that saw Barry breaking down in front of his family was so well done. Grant Gustin has always been good at convincingly turning on the waterworks, and “King Shark” was no different. Even if his Joe West is still alive and well on Earth-1, that doesn’t erase what happened to Earth-2’s Joe West. Harry suggests that Barry and Cisco “bury it and move on,” but it’s not so easy for Barry. He has never been that kind of superhero — the kind that is able to move, unfeeling, past the consequences of his own actions — and he is the better for it.
It would have been enough for The Flash to have Barry dealing with his guilt over his actions on Earth-2, but the show went one step further, bringing in how Barry’s Season 1 decision to travel back and time to try to save his mom created this entire mess in the first place. It speaks to the long-term emotional efficacy and planning of this show that it doesn’t let Barry off the hook for making these world-changing decisions — even if it was the work of last season. The Flash has always been about taking responsibility for your mistakes, especially when it isn’t the easiest thing to do. Season 1’s plot was driven by the effects of the particle explosion, and the STAR Labs’ crews part in it. This season is driven by Barry’s decision to travel back in time. It’s nice to see a show that knows how to explore a theme in complex, myriad, and ongoing ways. I am continually impressed by The Flash’s thematic complexity. “King Shark” was a classic example.
Caitlin is grieving, but Cisco’s fears take precedent.
While Barry is dealing with his own guilt over not only Earth-2 Joe West’s death, but also Jay Garrick’s, Caitlin is just straight-up grieving. It’s not hard to understand why Caitlin is so angry at the world(s) right now. This is the second time (third, if you count Ronnie’s death twice) in her young life that she has had a man she loves torn away from her in the most unexpected and brutal of ways. It’s not fair and, in a less-crowded show (or perhaps one with different priorities), Caitlin would have the plot arc and character development she deserves.
Though Caitlin’s arc in this episode was presented in a relatable, promising way, it was eventually co-opted by Cisco’s own emotional journey in the episode. Rather than focusing on the anger, grief, and devastation that Caitlin undoubtedly feels, her arc became an excuse for Cisco to work through his own fears about Earth-2 and meeting Caitlin’s killer doppelganger. If Jay hadn’t just died, I would have reveled in the focus on the Cisco/Caitlin friendship — there were a lot of good moments here. But, instead, I felt as if Caitlin’s own emotional arc was cheated.
Barry is kind of a jerk to Wally West.
Speaking of grieving characters, it seems important to put Wally West’s story in this episode in the context that he is still no-doubt grieving his mother. This makes Barry’s treatment of Wally even more facepalm-worthy. That’s a not a narrative critique, however. The Flash definitely knew that Barry was not being the most mature or attentive member of the West-Allen family in his interactions with Wally, even when he sporadically tries to make an effort when Joe asks. Grief can make us selfish, and Barry does not have the mental energy to be the brother Wally deserves here — despite multiple attempts on Wally’s part to form some kind of relationship. Luckily, Joe West swoops in to save the day, assuring Wally that, though Joe and Iris love Barry, there’s still room for him. I’m glad the Wally/Barry stuff wasn’t resolved in tonight’s episode. It would have felt unnatural for Barry to figure all of this out, given that his mind was decidedly focused on other issues.
A Diggle-themed crossover.
The Flash is so ambitious of a show right now that it not only decided to address some major lingering plot points within its own narrative, but to take on some of the neglected aspects of the Arrow narrative, too. I’m talking, of course, about the repercussions of Amanda Waller’s death, which is viewed through the arrival of John and Lyla Diggle. And what a welcome addition to the show they are! The fact that The Flash managed to get so many tiny crossover moments into an already chocker block full episode says a lot about this writing team’s narrative dexterity and finesse.
The big takeaways? Lyla is back at ARGUS, trying to clean up many of the messes Waller left behind. This includes King Shark, the half-man, half-shark metahuman we met earlier this season on The Flash. It seems that ARGUS had snatched him up in order to determine if any of his properties could be weaponized. Because of course. Under Lyla’s leadership, ARGUS seems poised to turn over a new leaf, but I’ll believe it when I see (after all, aren’t these sorts of immoral practices generally systemic?). For now, it’s enough to see this husband-and-wife team fighting side-by-side, and helping Barry out in any way they know how.
In Diggle’s case, that “help” takes the form of one of his classic pep talks, of which Oliver is usually the recipient. After years of being Oliver’s right-hand man, Diggle knows massive amounts of internalized guilt when he sees it, giving Barry some sound advice: “You’re starting to do that thing Oliver does, Barry. Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. You gotta stop that. It’s gonna slow you down.” Diggle really needs to start up his own Superhero Self-Help Course or something.
King Shark was elusive, but awesome.
Though this episode was touted as a big King Shark return, the metahuman had a relatively small part in the repercussions-based episode. This worked for me, but fans going into this episode looking for more of a King Shark-centric story were probably disappointed. Just as with Jaws, The Flash takes on the less-is-more approach to horror characters, giving us only the occasional glimpse of the killer metahuman. Though King Shark may not be as menacing as Zoom, there is something about a massive man-shark that will always terrify — especially when ripping off the roofs of West-Allen houses. (Rude).
Can we take a second to recognize the incredible visual effects that The Flash manages to deliver on a weekly basis? This show does not have the budget of a feature film or premium cable show, but that hasn’t stopped it from crafting fantastical visuals that no one else on TV is even trying to attempt. I mean, did you see that slowmo shot of King Shark coming out of the water?! A job incredibly well done in an episode that could have easily rested on the laurels of its emotionally-charged A Plot.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good
“You have an aquarium? Why?” Diggle should know better than to ask these kinds of questions.
“She’s been all business, no emotion lately. She’s cold.” All of Cisco’s Killer Frost allusions were pretty great.
“We’re gonna need a bigger Flash.” The Flash did not skimp on the Jaws references. Even Earth-2 characters got in on the action, proving that Steven Spielberg is making films in all universes.
It’s fittingly adorable and heartwarming that Barry has been trying to get Felicity on the phone — and that he asks after everyone on Team Arrow in general.
“He’s fast, John. Get over it.” “Never.”
“Francisco Ramon, if you don’t start talking…” It takes very little for Caitlin to crack Cisco’s vow of Earth-2 silence. I would really like to see more of these two in future episodes.
“I don’t suppose my homeowners insurance covers a Sharknado attack.” Joe West, national treasure.
“Weirder than a talking shark wearing pants?” Wally West asks some relevant questions about the Wests lack of response to King Shark’s sudden appearance. He’s like your friend who just started watching The Flash this episode without binge-watching any previous episodes.
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the suburbs, King Shark shows up at your house.”
Another great little storyline was the integration of Jesse back into Harry’s life. Harry is smiling and content. Jesse, though obviously pissed that she may never be able to return home or see any of her other loved ones again, is rocking a STAR Labs shirt. This happy family thing can’t last, right?
“I want one of these super cars. Especially if I can run it off the bacon grease I collect.” You and me both, Joe. You and me both.
“He’s my son. Just like you are.” Maybe the same publisher that inevitably publishes Diggle’s Superhero Self-Help 101 book can also publish Joe West’s Guide to Parenting?