[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash Season 2, Episode 15.]
With a close friend killed before their eyes, their Earth-2 doppelgangers left in disarray after their brief visit, and Zoom's next move completely unknown... is there any better time for a mini Arrow crossover? Before heading into a lengthy break, The Flash tasked itself with keeping several storylines on the go, and injecting a brand new villain personally delivered by two Arrow cast members - but it's the closing scene's big reveal of Zoom's true face that's guaranteed to keep viewers talking until the show returns.
In "King Shark", directed by Hanelle Culpepper and written by Benjamin Raab and Deric A. Hughes, John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson) arrive in Central City to let Barry (Grant Gustin) know that after his short appearance in a previous episode, the Earth-2 beast known as King Shark is on his trail once more. As if that weren't enough of a burden, Barry must face the damage done by his trip to Earth-2, while Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) starts to see his coworker in a whole new light...
All Hail The King
One of the most pleasant surprises of the show's second season was delivered when, after months of fans debating whether a fully-CG character like Gorilla Grodd could actually work in the show, the towering King Shark arrived without promotion or warning. He was dispatched just as quickly, but the positive response was obviously hoped for, as King Shark, the massive metahuman half-man, half-shark returns to showcase a brand new attack from Barry Allen. Not to mention the cameos of two Arrow regulars who seem uniquely at home in the world of The Flash.
At this point, fans don't really need an excuse to see John Diggle make the trip from Star City to Central, since his fascination(?) with Barry's superspeed is always good for chuckle, and Ramsey's knack for comedy is arguably completely underused in his own series. The crossover is executed surprisingly smoothly, removing any of the glaring or rote check-ins, nods to previous episodes, or teases of what's coming elsewhere. Barry and Diggle still entice The Flash viewers who may have slipped from Arrow to tune back in, but the moments are true to each of them. And when Barry's mood (along with the show's) starts drifting into Arrow-level gloom, there's no better character to warn him that it's the wrong path to follow (hopefully speaking to the showrunners, as much as the speedster).
Like the famous Jaws star alluded to by the metahuman prisoner's own guards, King Shark acts mainly as a looming, off-screen presence. Thankfully, he takes the entire spotlight once he emerges, showing that the special effects team was proud of the model they created. They should be, too, since King Shark is probably the best that fans can hope for, when it's Barry battling a completely computer-generated metahuman enemy. If that's not your preferred kind of Flash action, however, then the design and animation won't be swaying you too soon.
Still, for fans of the character who were disappointed to see him land such a brief cameo in the past, having an entire episode devoted to his unique physiology is a dream come true. And now that he's trapped on Earth-1, being sent to be studied by the widow of his doppelganger, the door for a return appearance is left wide open.
A Tale of Two Sons
A potentially ugly threat looming just beneath the surface can be found in Barry's personal life, too, as a surprisingly (and suddenly) venomous relationship with Wally West (Keiynan Lonsdale) is introduced almost out of nowhere. We would like to say that the competition, jealousy, or resentment on display between Barry and Wally was easy to grasp and follow, but the truth is, the dynamic was nowhere near as natural or understandable as Joe and Iris' discovery of Wally's existence - at least in its execution.
Wally resenting the boy who grew up as the son of his own father would be fair game, but manifesting those feelings in rude comments, insults and passive aggression seems a far blunter solution than the writers typically deliver. The final explanation offered by Joe (Jesse L. Martin) stands fine on its own - although Wally's lack of any remorse when learning Barry grew up without his own parents seems an odd choice - but actually getting there wasn't telegraphed along the way. The same can be said for Barry's pain and remorse over the death of Earth-2's Joe West: the confession was never even hinted at since Joe's death, leaving Gustin to drive home the plot point based purely on the emotion he brought to the scene (and for most viewers, probably pulled it off beautifully).
Jaws, Commence Dropping
With the villain beaten, and his new 'brother' potentially on his side, Barry wasn't even privy to the episode's biggest reveal: Zoom is Jay Garrick. Or, well, he's Hunter Zolomon. Actually the answer is a bit more complicated than that.
Either way, fans of Teddy Sears need not worry, since the actor will obviously remain in the show, as the series will hopefully dive into the man beneath the Zoom mask's true goal - not to mention the masked man he's keeping prisoner (as if audiences needed another reason to tune back in after the break).
The Flash returns with "Trajectory" on March 22nd @8pm on The CW.