They even gave him a name and official back story eventually.... FN-2199. The First Order stormtrooper that won over geek hearts with mere moments of fancy baton twirling and the immortal cry of, “Traitor!”. Sometimes, you don’t need all that much screen time to become a fan-favorite if you give said fans what they want. The Flash found this out first hand back in the autumn. The comic favourite King Shark character was merely a footnote in the it’s 4th episode (described by those involved as “an expensive few minutes”) but seeing his huge hulking form rendered stunningly onscreen became the talking point of the autumn episodes. So much so that the fish wish has been granted one more time, as King Shark returns for a feature episode. John Williams, cue that music....
King Shark – When the big man/shark meta King Shark breaks out of his ARGUS containment, he’s once more out for the Flash’s blood. Barry and the rest of the team are still reeling from losing Jay and the events on Earth 2 while Wally West makes his resentment towards Barry known.
Now, there’s clearly some ret-conning taken place. The presence of Arrow’s ARGUS, Diggle and Lyla (who has succeeded Amanda Waller as ARGUS director) make it clear that this shark fishing expedition was originally planned as a Suicide Squad style episode before DC movies division took their toys away. They still manage to leave some good playful hints such as the idea of ARGUS secretly detaining King Shark in the hope of making him into an asset (he was a prominent squad member in the comics). Yet what’s really impressive here is how the episode actually uses this forced change to its advantage. Rather than trying to keep the idea of Task Force X alive without being able to mention them it uses these events to symbolise changes in the approach of ARGUS, that though Lyla maybe cleaning up after Waller’s mistakes, she does not plan to repeat them. This is the best we’ve seen from Lyla’s character as she becomes commanding but without losing her sensitivity, shown through her affections to Diggle. Diggle himself is another fine player on loan for the episode. His long-running gag of never getting over Barry’s speed is still brilliant. Keeping the interweaving of the shows going we learn that Cisco made Diggle’s Spartan mask for him and an upgrade may soon be on the way.
As expected, Cisco spends a lot of the episode making great Jaws references (his disappointment over not being Quint is the best) but the episode as whole also takes a crucial factor from it onboard; the sparing use of its big finned nemesis. For 0.1% that haven’t heard the story, Spielberg and his team had huge problems with their mechanical prop sharks while filming the 1975 film, causing many scenes to re-worked without using them which ultimately made the film vastly better. For the first two -hirds of this episode, the Flash’s SFX use their Street Shark vary sparingly for quick establishing shots rather than more indulgent lingers. They do so without damaging the story, and in reducing their overall effects requirements means they can concentrate on the quality of what they do show. King Show looked great last autumn but now he looks even better! They’ve really captured his scale too for a similar feel to Atom Smasher in the season opener. Most importantly of all though, the character is used to make the episode fun. This is The Flash in full blown comic book mode and it’s a wonderful viewing pleasure. The house call encounter is a great little shake up and lands Joe with the best line of the episode, “I don’t suppose my home owners insurance covers Sharknado attacks?”. We also see Wally used for great comedic effect as an unfamiliar outsider to such insanities. The clean up scene in the house says it all as Wally can’t comprehend why Joe and Iris aren’t freaking about seeing a giant shark wearing pants. The final showdown is visually gorgeous as Barry takes the fight to King Shark’s turf. The water-running sequence is one of the most jaw-dropping the show has ever produced. There’s enough embedding throughout the episode to imply that we’ll be taking another bite out of King Shark in the future (something smells fishy about the widowed scientist) and that will be one hell of a catch.
We get some great development on Wally’s character this episode. Now that the West family foundations have been solidified, we take a more turbulent examination of Wally’s relationship with Barry. Their scenes are very well-written by pulling in bigger picture circumstances to validate Barry being distant and less himself, but most of all in justifying Wally’s resentment towards Barry, “Take a look around you man, you’re in every picture in this room”. In Barry, Wally sees the life he could have and should have had being raised as Joe’s son in comparison to the hardship that has been his own. This is reinforced well as Wally shows his engineering project, implying that he’s very smart with just the same potential as Barry. It feels completely natural for Wally to struggle in embracing the outsider usurping his birthright and the episode does an excellent of relating it through the events of the episode.
We also see the show hit the ground running on Jessie Quick. Though she isn’t thrilled about being stuck away from her prior life, her scenes of actively wanting to help her father’s math based insanity are a good build on last week’s change in their relationship stance. The father and daughter pairing make a good combination and joining the science bro ranks immediately gives Jessie purpose within the team. Despite the two not having met yet, there’s an odd subtext based feeling that eventually we will see a relationship arc between Jessie and Wally. Wally’s main comic squeeze of Linda Park has already been used as a love interest for Barry so she’s out of the picture. Jessie and Wally are the only feature characters within the same age range and the establishment of Wally’s significant engineering based smarts would give them some common ground which will only increase if they both head towards becoming speedsters. That has to happen even if only to see Harrison Wells react to it. Finally, Cisco’s paranoia over Jay Garrick’s death becoming Catlin’s Killer Frost origin story a great little subplot hitting both comedic and dramatic notes.
The end “under the black mask” reveal must be applauded for raising infinitely more questions than the answer in provides and gives Flash fans plenty to talk about during the shows 4 week hiatus (returning on 22nd March). Just like with Grodd, The Flash proves it can deliver even the craziest comic characters within the constraints of its TV universe (and budget). Thanks to the skill of its showrunners, it’s nothing but plain sailing.