Monday, March 11, 2019

The Flash 5x15 Review: "King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd" (All Talk, No Versus) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd"
Original Airdate: March 5, 2019

Anyone who’s read my reviews knows that I love when The Flash goes Comic Book Stupid. Regular stupid, where the characters act like idiots or the plot makes no sense? Bad. Comic Book Stupid, where angry man-sharks battle it out with psychic genius gorillas? Excellent. This is the kind of nonsense I watch for, so you can guess how thrilled I was to read the title of this week’s episode.

And you can guess how disappointed I was when the episode actually aired. Honestly, The Flash, what is it with you getting my hopes up with cool episode titles and then dashing them? First “Gorilla Warfare” and now this.


Team Flash officially has a metahuman cure. All they need to finalize their breakthrough is a volunteer to test whether it works or not, but of course most metahumans they’ve encountered in Central City would have no interest in getting rid of their powers. But, uh... really? No villains in Iron Heights who might want to be able to transfer to a regular prison rather than spending life in a cell for bank robbery and jewel heists? Just thinking back to the villains on the show, I’m sure some of them wouldn’t mind getting rid of dark matter. Did you ask Norvock? ‘Cause that guy has a snake in his head and I know if I had a snake inside my head I’d want to get rid of it.

But alas, the only person Barry has in mind is King Shark. I guess that makes sense. Not many people want to be a giant angry fish. So Team Flash plays a visit to Lyla (still bitter about that time Barry erased her baby, by the way) and Lyla directs them to the ARGUS-sponsored King Shark rehabilitation lagoon run by Tanya, the wife of King Shark’s former human self, Shay Lamden. Well. One of them is from a different Earth, so they’re not technically married, but I guess Tanya and Shay are similar enough that there are still feelings there. She communicates with King Shark via a mental amplification system like the one Team Flash developed to help Cecile with her psychic powers and help Caitlin communicate with Killer Frost.

That connection between the Lamdens despite one being a fish man is, by the way, the primary emotional weight of the episode. That’s right: the title promised me Megashark vs. Super-Gorilla and delivered The Shape of Water. Which is fine if you’re into romantic dramas between a woman and a fish man, but I’m into ridiculous comic book monsters punching and/or biting each other, dag nabbit, so I’m miffed.

Anyway, King Shark gets turned back into Shay fifteen minutes into the episode. Barry stabs him with the antidote to save Cisco from being eaten, which causes something of a rift between Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry since they promised the antidote would only ever be used on people who volunteer.

Okay, let me rant about this “the antidote can only be voluntary” deal real quick. First, Barry’s decision to use the antidote against King Shark was correct. It just was. The show trying to frame Barry as anything other than correct makes Cisco and Caitlin look comically naive. King Shark was rampaging (for reasons we’ll get into later), he was hardly in a state to be reasoned with, and Cisco was about to get eaten. Barry couldn’t use his powers against King Shark without putting Cisco at risk and he couldn’t let King Shark eat his best friend, but there wasn’t enough time to think up something clever to subdue the enemy and get Cisco out of danger. So he used the antidote. He was right.

Second — and I’ve raised this before — how is it better to throw metahuman villains in jail forever than it is to give them the antidote and allow them to serve out a basic prison sentence? Because the metahumans who go into Iron Heights do not come out. They can’t come out. There’s no rehabilitation program for them and they’re too unpredictable and difficult to re-capture, so once they’ve behind power-dampening bars, they have to be there forever. The argument that keeping their powers is more morally just than simply dosing them and letting them live their lives outside of a prison cell is ridiculous and the only reason the show keeps bringing it up is to sow manufactured drama where there just isn’t any.

Rant over. Moving on, Barry’s (unnecessary) apology to Caitlin and Cisco about giving King Shark the cure is interrupted when the two suddenly turn on him. Cisco gets zipped into a holding cell, which give Caitlin time to hand the Lamdens’ mental amplifier over to — dun, dun, DUN! — Gorilla Grodd! And, uh, if Gorilla Grodd’s sudden presence in Central City was ever explained this season, I’ve forgotten it. He’s just here now.

Gorilla Grodd uses the psychic crown device to stretch his mind control powers across Central City, thus becoming a near-unstoppable villain. But wait! After some reconciliation between Shay and Tanya, now’s the perfect time for Shay to do a typical self-sacrifice and turn back into King Shark. Grodd can’t control King Shark. Yes, he caused King Shark to go berserk at the beginning of the episode, but that was due to the psychic crown (probably). Shay will just turn back into a shark, somehow keep his human consciousness despite not having the crown that helped him control his animal impulses, and give the audience the King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd battle the episode’s title promised. It’s... fine? It lasts like a minute or two. The CGI is cool.

Once the battle is done, King Shark is stuck as a shark but I think he and Tanya are still a thing? Uh... anyway, Team Flash doesn’t even try to use the antidote on him again because, somehow, Caitlin knows that the antidote only works once despite never using it on anyone before. Hey, aren’t these people supposed to be scientists? Doesn’t some level of trial and error come with that label? The etymological root of trial is TO TRY, people.

Whatever. Barry, feeling (unwarranted) guilt over his (totally warranted) decision to give King Shark the antidote, comes up with the team’s next outrageous plan: offer the metahuman cure up to Cicada. The insane serial killer, Cicada.

Sigh. Yeah, remember in the first paragraph of this review where I outlined the difference between regular stupid and Comic Book Stupid? We’re in the former more than the latter.

Other Things:

  • Holy moly, Iris was so separated from the main plot that I just realized I didn’t mention her at all. Here we go: Iris is scared of going to her office because of the horror stories she heard from Nora about Cicada killing her, or friends and family, over and over again during last episode’s time loop. Jesse L. Martin is (thankfully!) back, so the episode uses this as an opportunity for Iris and Joe to get father/daughter bonding in. I love the both of them. I wish they’d gotten to do more.
  • Did anyone else think it was really bizarre when Tanya made up a bunch of stuff to get King Shark to take the antidote at the start of the episode? Like implying the antidote would work especially well on fish people?
  • Who made King Shark’s giant cargo pants?


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