Long live the King.
The Flash creators have been vocal in their desire for fans to watch the show primarily for its action sequences. That was fine in the beginning, but the past few seasons have opted to focus more on the cerebral side of Team Flash as opposed to any intense hand to hand combat.
Focusing more on the characters is not a bad thing for a plot-driven show to do, but when you're a superhero show with a 22-episode season, your audience is inevitably going to yearn for some real action at some point.
As Flash fans, it's safe to say we've all been yearning a little bit.
No need to yearn any longer, however -- because that’s exactly what this episode gave us.
The Flash Season 5 Episode 15 was a mix of many things that make it very successful.
On what other show can you watch an intellectual, mind-controlling gorilla and a lovestruck, meta shark fight it out on city streets? What other series will give you a love story between a scientist and a talking great white shark, who also happens to be the doppelganger of that scientist's dead husband?
The answer is none. No other show would ever give you that.
I was embarrassingly excited and admittedly hesitant going into this episode. I'm still somewhat shocked "King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd" worked as well as it did, so well, in fact, the epic showdown between the two may have been the best fight sequence The Flash has ever done.
The CGI was exceptional (I have to wonder if they blew their entire FX budget on this episode alone), the pacing was quick and enticing, and the entire battle was a pure edge-of-your-seat, absolutely bananas, high-key, anxiety-inducing delight.
It felt a lot like an action sequence we would have gotten from The Flash Season 1 or The Flash Season 2. Sometimes it felt like a piece of fan fiction. Either way, it was a wild hour of television with just enough nostalgia and silliness to go down as one of The Flash's best installments.
It also provided a break from the Cicada story without veering too far off the relevant course. I think we all needed that breather.
In addition to the action-packed excitement, perhaps the most impressive part of the episode was the surprising amount of emotional weight it managed to carry.
It was a wild storyline, to say the least—woman rehabilitating a man-shark who looks identical to her dead husband, ends up falling in love with said shark. It’s hard to believe the writers could ground that story in a way which would emotionally resonate with the audience, but they pulled it off with flying colors.
Even with their limited screen time together, I rooted for Shay and Tanya. Her hesitation to fall in love with the doppelganger of her deceased husband is understandable, and it should have put me off -- but it didn’t.
Mix an off-kilter romance with the writer's ability to portray King Shark as a complex anti-hero successfully, and you've given me a new favorite couple.
I never thought I'd be rooting for a woman and a shark to live happily ever after. But here we are. And here I am.
I am the first one to admit Sherloque's presence is usually fruitless and unnecessary, but his words had a realness you couldn’t ignore: it’s not about what someone looks like, it’s about who someone is.
We could all stand to remember that a little bit more these days.
Another big moment for the episode was the return of Joe West, whose reappearance could not have been more seamless. Although it’s a natural reaction to feel let down by an episode where West Allen don’t interact, it was the right decision to have Joe and Iris connect privately.
Allowing Joe to assist Iris in finding her inner strength against Cicada felt purely organic. Of course, it will be thrilling to (hopefully) watch Barry and Iris train together, but the father and daughter bonding time was inarguably the best possible way to reintroduce Joe’s character.
Barry is struggling with how to handle the threat of Cicada. Joe’s words of wisdom about learning how to bend without breaking were exactly what Iris needed to hear. Barry isn’t in the mental space to provide her with that type of clarity; he can't heal her the way Joe can.
The way Joe has healed himself.
It’s not often an actor takes time away from a show and gets reintroduced smoothly enough to make it believable. Using photos from Joe's visit to Wally as a means to explain where he was and why he was gone was just the right amount of exposition.
It made perfect sense Joe would get rattled after his interactions with Cicada. Utilizing his absence as a motive to ultimately help Iris find her way back to herself kept him perfectly in character. That’s who Joe West is; the wise sage who has been through it all and knows exactly what to say.
It’s also satisfying to see Iris harness her female power; even without help from Barry. I am the first to die on a hill for the West Allens ship, but I will always fight for Iris to have her own, individual, character arcs. Those are the moments where the show reminds us how strong she is.
It's what we saw this episode, and it's what we need more of going forward.
With that said, this episode also highlighted certain things lacking in the West Allen relationship. More specifically, the absence of intimate or affectionate moments between the two.
There's nothing better than Barry and Iris working as a team; they are undoubtedly are one of the healthiest relationships on TV. But where is the romance? Where is the intimacy?
If the show can provide intimate Joe and Cecile or write about a shark falling passionately in love with a woman, it can take a few moments for some well earned sexy time between the show's main couple.
Gustin and Patton have the chemistry. It's there in every look, smile, whisper. But Barry and Iris are married, and it would be nice to see some passion between them once and awhile.
You have to admit, it’s been a while we’ve gotten any (or should I say since they’ve gotten any, am I right?).
Minus the lack of WestAllen interaction, “King Shark Vs. Gorilla Grodd” was a cocktail made up of everything that makes The Flash enjoyable
That includes the OG trio.
The writer's ability to mix and match dynamics is an impressive one, but none will ever beat out the original threesome. There is a harmony between Gustin, Valdes, and Panabaker that works on every level, and there isn't a scene between them that doesn't land perfectly.
I mean, let's be real: no other characters could make a conversation about Sweedish Fish so darn delectable.
So I will end this review how I always do, and that is with my plea: Please writers, remember who your show is about. Nora? She's a great addition. Sherloque and Ralph? They’re super funny! But they aren’t who make your show so special.
Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry. Joe and Iris. Iris and Barry. These are the dynamics that keep the big, thumping heart of The Flash beating. They are the root of the show, and at the end of the day, they’re all we need.
Them, and maybe a lovestruck man-shark fighting a mind control gorilla. But really, that’s it.
- Barry’s outfit this episode? That man is a snack.
- Iris’ hair this episode? Could she get any more beautiful?
- Although leaving Ralph out of this episode made sense, I would have liked to see his goofy reaction to the Grodd vs. King Shark showdown.
- I hope we’ll see King Shark again. I’m intrigued by his new humanity.
- Lyla shading Barry for Flashpoint was a serious mood. We’ll never forget either.
- I know Cisco and Caitlin were upset with Barry for giving King Shark the cure without asking, but let's be real: if someone was ever about to eat Cisco in my presence, I would be throwing these hands. Barry did WHAT HE HAD TO DO.
- I want to make it very clear that the writers of The Flash will be directly responsible for my demise If they write Cisco Ramon off of this show. If I haven’t made it clear enough already, there it is.
Alright Flash Fanatics, it's your turn! What did you think of the episode? Was this silly and fun ride as good of a time for you as it was for me? Or was the lack of West Allen a deal breaker for you? Are you happy Joe West is back in action?
Leave your thoughts below! And remember, if you missed the episode, you can watch The Flash online, right here at TV Fanatic!
Kat Pettibone is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.