The Flash continues to impress me. Although the second part of the Earth-2 excursion wasn’t as solid as the first, it was still good. I would call this week’s episode the second homerun in three weeks, and I’m hoping that signifies an upward trend as we head into the final leg of Season 2.
I was surprised we got as much of King Shark as we did. This show has a history of using the “Villain of the Week” format, and that’s what we got here, but it wasn’t as unsatisfying as it’s been in the past. There wasn’t really any character development for King Shark. They explained his origin, which was fine, but nothing much beyond that. What the show did do, and where I think the pay-off came in, was that they let King Shark be a stand-in for Zoom. Zoom is unreachable to Barry now, and King Shark represents the last of Earth-2 that can be dealt with. They went so far as to say as much in the episode, which takes away from what subtlety could have offered, but it worked more than not.
Speaking of character development, I’m pretty taken with Grant Gustin’s performance this season. He’s been pretty good from the start, but he’s shown some real chops here, and where it would have been easy to get carried away in portraying Barry’s guilt over what’s happened since he opened the breach, I think he found the sweet spot. He managed to be withdrawn without brooding, and that fits the character. Though Diggle mentioned Barry looking like Oliver carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, I think Gustin portrayed Barry’s burden in a way that was very much in keeping with what separates him from Oliver Queen. I also have to give a nod to Carlos Valdes (Cisco) and Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin) for their performances. As Cisco gets closer to his superhero potential, I think we see the character evolving, coping with inner conflict (again, without brooding), and that’s bringing him up to something beyond comic relief. While Caitlin has been relegated to the grieving widow role far too often, I think she’s done it as well as it can be done. Her light-hearted exchanged with Cisco in the end also helped breathe some life into the character.
I still don’t care about the West family drama. I like that they’re trying to do something with Wally, but it feels like his development is all off screen. If they’ve established before that he’s a gifted engineering student, I must have missed it. Since I’ve mostly tuned out those segments, I may very well have missed it, but it still feels odd for him to go from drag racing to applying to engineering school overnight, especially when he’s apparently been developing an elaborate project for it all along. While, I understand his resentment for Barry, and I can even believe it, I feel as though that element of the story is, at best, overshadowed.
If you’re a reader of The Flash comics, and you were paying attention to the Hunter Zolomon sighting in the park some weeks ago, this episode’s big reveal at the end shouldn’t have shocked you, but if you’re just a casual fan of the show, it was probably pretty exciting. Regardless of whether you saw it coming, it’s an interesting development, and if the show continues at the level it’s reached, I think there’s good reason to look forward to next week and beyond.
While I love many of The Flash’s characters, I didn’t like “King Shark” as a story. The beginning of Jim’s last paragraph says it all “If you’re a reader of The Flash comics,” the ending made sense. If you’re a fan of the show and not a reader of the comics, you were left scratching your head. The Flash TV show didn’t develop Hunter Zolomon and that’s why I thought Zolomon sitting on a park bench over a month ago was just an Easter Egg for comic book fans. The biggest reason why Zoom made Wizard’s Top 100 super villains of all-time list is because of his relationship to The Flash. Hunter’s Zoom is to Wally West’s Flash what Bucky’s Winter Soldier is to Steve Rodgers’ Captain America. And TV’s Jay Garrick is nothing to Barry besides some dude he met this season. Before Jay could step in as the new Harrison Wells, Earth-2 Harry came into the picture. The two didn’t even become good friends because after Earth-2 Harry showed up, Jay transitioned to playing footsie with Caitlin, so you can’t even develop Zolomon as a villain by proxy.
You also can’t assume that every viewer has read The Flash comics. Jim’s right for dinging the show for developing Wally West off-camera (there’s more going behind the scenes with him than just his being a gifted engineer, and that’s got to change), but at least fans of the show who don’t read the comic know who Wally is. If you didn’t know who Hunter Zolomon was from the comics, you’d think he was related to Rip Hunter and belongs on Legends of Tomorrow or he once resolved an argument by suggesting someone saw a baby in half. It’s one thing to lean on the source material for inspiration. It’s another to depend on the source material to tell your story for you.
I’m sure the show will catch up non-2001-03 Geoff Johns, comic book readers in the coming weeks, but I’ve lost a lot of respect for The Flash writers as storytellers. Not only did they drop the Zolomon bomb, which opens up so many cans of worms it isn’t even funny (more on that later), the fact that Wally doesn’t directly tie into Zoom—except through some convoluted way—means that the West family story is a colossal waste of time. The Flash wants to collect speedsters like Arrow hoards archers (Merlyn, Arsenal, and Speedy) and tech-specialists (Felicity, The Calculator, The Atom, and Mr. Terrific). I’m going to need something more than Wally turning speedster, or being a speedster on Earth-MST3K, to care about the West melodrama.
Then we get to the fact that we’ve encountered at least three Jays. The hero in the mask has to be a Jay Garrick from some other earth and/or time—most likely Earth-1. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a big deal but it means that Zoom has been to more than two earths and/or he’s traveling through time and exists in a Speed Force bubble. One of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue, critics had of 1978’s Superman was the scene where Superman turns back time to save Lois. Yeah, that’s a typical Tuesday morning for The Flash.
The Flash has established that Barry can travel through time and to other dimensions, so the fact that DC has said multiple times that Arrow and The Flash don’t exist in the same universe as the characters in the new DC films, shouldn’t prevent a crossover for this show and the movies. Heck, Barry could be superimposed with Adam West on Batman, followed by twirling with Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, and he can finish up by helping Christopher Reeve catch Margot Kidder by the Eiffel Tower. Before you think that any of that’s ridiculous, The Flash, with the abilities it’s already shown, has the power to do exactly what I just said. Come on, Barry, zip into Batman: the Animated Series. We’re rapidly approaching ludicrous speed. I can do plaid.
I know this sounds like sour grapes, but I’ve seen the WB/CW do this with Charmed. The sisters in that show defeated the source of all evil in their third season and had nowhere but down to go from there. It was this unbalance of power that forced the WB to make a rule for Smallville: no capes; no flight. Now waiting ten years to see Superman fly was silly, but The Flash should’ve made a rule of no time travel and no Earth-2 until season four or five. Gorilla Grodd is originally from Earth-1 and was sent to Earth-2. If you were going to do Earth-2 King Shark now (those were fantastic graphics by the way), why didn’t you stick with Earth-1 Grodd? It’s too late to contract this universe but man, is it way too big and unruly.
I agree with Jim about the characters. Gustin’s amazing as Barry. Cisco and Caitlin have done a lot with what they’ve been given, and this week, their characters grew. That moment between Cisco and Caitlin toward the end of “King Shark” was fantastic. This episode was at its best when it went the route of a Barry, Caitlin, or Cisco character study, but the other elements tanked.
Despite all these issues, “King Shark” was an entertaining episode, and I’m hopeful for an enjoyable Flash season finale. The Supergirl crossover—don’t get me started with how Supergirl’s presence on Flash directly links the show to the DC cinematic universe—happens either March 15th or 22nd, just in time for March Madness. That sounds about right.
One random point: I’m not sure that I buy Earth-2 residents’ acceptance of Earth-1 citizens naming their world Earth-2. Sure, Harry and Jessie chuckled at Cisco for telling them that no one from Earth-2 was allowed to talk, but if some Kyle from another reality told me that I was the Kyle of Earth-2, I’d correct him as many times as it took for him to get that he was Earth-2 Kyle. And that’s exactly what I tell other Kyle every time I see him. Isn’t that right, other Kyle?
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