The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Yes, ‘Sharknado’ still exists, so if you missed it Sunday night, here’s what happened

Billy Barratt as Little Gil, Tara Reid as April Shepard, Cassie Scerbo as Nova Clarke, Ian Ziering as Fin Shepard. (Simon Mein/Syfy)

Remember July 2013? We were so innocent then, when Syfy aired a weird little movie called “Sharknado.” No one knew it would become a viral sensation: The term “Sharknado” was a throwaway line from another Syfy film, and executives just thought it was funny. Ian Ziering (“Beverly Hills, 90210″) only agreed to star because he needed Screen Actors Guild health insurance.

Sunday night, the network aired the fifth movie in the franchise, called “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming,” packed with celebrity cameos. In this one, sharknados go international, as the tornado-plus-shark combination tears apart landmarks across the globe. Ziering stars as shark hunter Fin Shepard, and teams up with his wife, April (Tara Reid), and trusty fellow shark fighter Nova Clarke (Cassie Scerbo) to take down the sharks.

‘Sharknado’ is absurd, so let’s look back at its hilarious origin story

It’s very possible you missed the telecast, as interest has waned over time. “Sharknado 2: The Second One” (2014) was the biggest success with 3.8 million viewers; “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” (2015) and “Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens” (2016) each had about 2.8 million. The first movie earned only 1.4 million viewers, though tweets poured in at a rate of 5,000 per minute.

Still, #Sharknado5 trended worldwide for hours on Sunday night, so there’s clearly a fan base for the two-hour movie that featured humans fighting off sharks. Here are the “important” things you missed.

The celebrity cameos:

Perhaps the most inspired bit of casting was Fabio as the pope. He was pretty chill, even as sharks wreaked havoc on Italy. After insulting Fin’s stature (“So this is the great shark hunter? I thought he would be much bigger”) he gifted him with a chain-saw that would help rescue mankind. Fin’s response to meeting the pope: “Forgive me father, for I am Fin.” (Yes, really.) Then he made a “Hamilton” reference as he ran out of the Vatican with the chain-saw.

Other guest stars included Clay Aiken as a British scientist who gave Fin’s son a tracking helmet that would prove to be a crucial plot detail; Chris Kattan as the British prime minister who got his leg torn off by a shark; imprisoned “Dance Mom” star Abby Lee Miller, whose head was bit off by a shark just as she uttered her catchphrase.

Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and Al Roker from the “Today” show showed up, because they had to break the news that the sharknados were back in the United States. Also making an appearance: Bret Michaels, who played his guitar on the front of a bus until a shark consumed him as well.

Olivia Newton-John and her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, guest starred as scientists who help put April back together when she broke, because remember, she’s part robot. “Just don’t get too physical, okay?” Newton-John tells April when she’s fixed, practically winking at the camera.

The plot:

This is not important, at all, but in case you’re curious: Nova discovers that sharknados have been around for centuries, and they only keep evolving and getting stronger over time. Most of the movie revolves around Fin, April and Nova chasing the latest destructive sharknado around the globe. They want to rid the world of sharknados forever, but they’re also chasing it because Fin and April’s son, Gil, is trapped in one of the sharknado vortexes and they need to rescue him.

The Sharkzilla:

This monstrosity is discovered when the crew goes to Japan — and if a sharknado doesn’t give you nightmares, a Sharkzilla (described as the sharks who “mutated into a mass organism”) definitely will.

The President Trump reference:

You knew there would be one of these, right? At one point, Fin says “Back home, we’re trying to make America great again. But if you follow my lead, we’ll make the world great again.” (This is in reference to getting rid of sharknados, of course.)

The ending:

Spoiler alert? Pretty much everyone dies except Fin, who openly weeps as he holds April’s head in his hand — she may be a robot, but she’s no match for a killer sharknado. In happier news, Fin is reunited with his son at the end … only his son has now aged many decades and is played by Dolph Lundgren, because he time traveled so he wouldn’t get killed by the sharknado. It makes as much sense as you would think.

Sharknado 6:

The movie ends as Fin and Much Older Gil take off in a time machine together — there’s a “to be continued” card as the movie wraps up, so it looks like this is inevitable.

Read more:

How is ‘Sharknado’ still a thing?

Sharknado: Could this seemingly fictional phenomenon ever come true?

Ian Ziering: ‘Sharknado’ has ‘secret sauce’ he can’t explain