Wow! If every night of Shark Week were like this, you’d never hear complaint one. This was simply the best of Shark Week spread over three hours. We travelled around the world from the North Atlantic to Australia to Japan, saw such a diverse cast of shark species that they had to roll through a list at high speed just to show all of them, discovered a new species, and have a tantalizing hint about new shark behavior that could rip the lid off of what we know about Great White Sharks. Even the Shark After Dark was great.
Shark Vortex (Grade: A-)
In this episode, we start off at the northern edge of the Gulf Stream, where hot water meets cold, and we’ve got the infectious enthusiasm of Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Dept. of Fisheries and Joe Romeiro, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist to guide us along. And the sharks! Blue, Makos, Great Whites, Whale Sharks, Basking Sharks, Hammerheads and Porbeagles! If sharknados were actually a thing, this is where they would form. And it’s almost like we didn’t need to hang out with great whites to make an amazing show. There’s the first time capture on film of mako aggression, and at the end, we’ve got a baby Porbeagle that is about as cute as any baby seal or dolphin.
From start to finish, it’s a great show, and you’ll learn about temperature dynamics and how they affect sharks – the only criticism I have on this one is that we don’t get more information about that concept. As someone who is suspicious about tropical sharks in temperate seas (even with the Gulf Stream providing the warm water they need), it would have been nice to hear a yay or nay on whether or not anthropogenic (man-made) climate change is having any effect on the species visiting the North Atlantic or the time they stay there. Is Discovery pulling their punches in order to cast as large a demographic net, or was it simply not the area of study on this expedition? My suspicions have gone unallayed. Give us MORE, Discovery. We can handle the truth, one way or another.
RETURN TO THE ISLE OF JAWS (Grade: A)
So, what’s up with these titles? I know they’re designed to pop in the Vox Populi’s hive mind, but Shark Vortex? Return to the Isle of Jaws? Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins? It’d be like calling Guardians of the Galaxy “Fight of the Space Rodent” or Wonder Woman “Wrath of the (SPOILER ALERT)”. It get’s the point across, but way to be melodramatic.
We’re back with Paul de Gelder and Andy Casagrande as we return to the, sigh, Isle of Jaws from last year’s show. I was just expecting the usual excellent work by Casagrande and enthusiasm of de Gelder and your usual great white footage (am I getting bored with great whites?) but it starts off with a bang. A mystery needs to be unraveled (why do only male sharks congregate here?), and with some new tech to solve it the team is off! And then gets tossed around in the surge like a (SPORTS METAPHOR NOT FOUND 404). It’s fun stuff to watch (although, getting caught in a cage as it’s bounced along the shore must have suuuuuuuucked).
Then things get REALLY interesting. Without spoiling it if you haven’t seen it, they notice that two sharks who have very similar markings are behaving in a way not seen before. It raises some seriously tantalizing questions that unfortunately can’t be probed further due to the nature of field research and government permits. They said they are going back next year (which means they’re probably down there right now), and I’m really excited about next year’s special to see what they find out. Maybe it’ll be Revenge of the Return to the Isle of Jaws: Part 2. Don’t care, I’ll still watch it.
Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins (A+)
Holy Cats this one was GREAT. Even my girlfriend, who really doesn’t like or even care about sharks got dragged in a few times. We’re off the coasts of Tokyo and Tasmania this time, with two separate teams searching for rare deep sea sharks, from the saw sharks of the Bass Strait to the goblin sharks of Japan. You get a real feel for what shark research entails, from long stretches in the cold, heavy sea, to doing the full CSI investigation of fish markets to track down who might know where the animal you’re looking for can be found (fisherman have been and are invaluable to scientists – scientists go into the field, fishermen never leave). They sort of gloss over the bycatch angle of how they’re finding the sharks, and I would have liked an explanation of that how bycatch was helpful in this research, it’s destructive as hell, but there’s only so much time in a show.
The saw shark stuff is fascinating, but it’s Vicky Vásquez hunting for sharks in Tokyo bay who steals the show. The gusto in which she throws herself into her work, both on the field research and on the communication sides (on Shark After Dark she keeps up with the rapid-fire Anthony Jeselnik, keeping the science conversation while navigating the pop-culture side of things), makes you root for the whole squad as they attempt to bring up a goblin shark from the deep. There was even a hint of subversion, as while working with the Japanese scientists, she sported a whale fluke pendant, maybe a subtle dig at Japan’s “scientific” whaling program? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but Vásquez seems like a marine science hero that a lot of people are looking for. No pressure, of course. Also, that goblin shark. WOW!
Overall, it was a great night of television, and if you missed it, you’re bad and you should feel bad. Discovery should have led with this.
That’s Shark Week 2017, Night 2 …
What did you think? What did you learn? Let me know in the comments!