Season One, Episode Eight – “Flash vs. Arrow”

The-Flash-season-1-episode-8-Barry-Oliver-speakBy Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod Jones. Any comic book fan knows that for superheroes, all roads lead to the crossover. This especially holds true for CW’s The Flash: because Barry Allen enjoyed his first appearance over in Oliver Queen’s neck of the woods (in the eighth episode of the second season of Arrow, cheekily titled “The Scientist”), having the Fastest Man Alive collide with CW’s other resident DC superhero was all but a foregone conclusion.

Fortunately both The Flash and Arrow have seen success under the watchful eyes of their shared producers, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, two men who have taken great care to see their slowly amassing DC Universe come to a harmonious fruition with co-conspirators Marc Guggenheim and Geoff Johns (co-producers of Arrow and The Flash, respectively). Because both series are operating at full steam, the inevitability of this crossover episode feels more like a luxury than an obligation.

The trick to making “Flash vs. Arrow” succeed is the precarious juggle of the two leading men – Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin – and their supporting casts, but the episode handles all of it with a breezy gusto. Because the chemistry between Amell and Gustin is so strong, the rest of the episode is built around it, a move so over-confident that some of the smaller elements, like Paul Anthony’s villainous Roy G. Bivolo (aka Rainbow Raid – er, Prism – no… Chroma?) get lost in the narrative shuffle.

“Flash vs. Arrow” opens with Anthony’s new villain as he robs a Central City bank. Because Bivolo’s power set involves manipulating the emotional spectrum (utilizing the obvious colors attached to them) instead of, say, ripping a vault door open, the Flash manages to foil the heist in short order. Meanwhile, citing the fact that our hero always arrives at crime scenes so quickly – which could admittedly be a bit suspicious – Det. Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett) wants to implement a task force to stop the Flash. This causes a rift between Thawne and his girlfriend, Iris West (Candice Patton), who has been reporting on the speedster’s exploits via her blog (and through which has entertained a few secret – and flirtatious – meet-ups with him).

The momentum The Flash has so effortlessly employed is kept front and center in this episode, and while it boasts an exciting (and presumably lucrative) crossover for the CW, it takes the lingering story beats and makes them count. This episode is a definite game-changer for the show, and not just because Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his erstwhile team of John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) are there to stir the pot. Very much like the Superman/Batman crossover in Superman: The Animated Series (the last time two separate DC television properties crossed over), the team-up is there to merely truss up the events that have come before, a catalyst used to propel the series into second gear. It’s far more effective than anyone could anticipate.

An errant boomerang rife with technology Smoak and Queen can scarcely interpret brings Oliver to Central City’s S.T.A.R. Labs. One good turn deserves another, so Barry asks Oliver to help him out with his problematic metahuman (a word that Ollie adorably refuses to use). This gives the episode an opportunity to cash in on Barry and Oliver’s undeniable chemistry, and it’s a symphony of pure comic dork bliss: Oliver wants to use the time he has with Barry to further train the developing hero (a training sequence has Queen planting two arrows into Barry’s back to great comic – and morbid – effect), but once the Scarlet Speedster falls under Bivolo’s rage-induced spell, Barry begins concocting other plans.

The-Flash-season-1-episode-8-Caitlin-Felicity-HarrisonEven with the Flash wreaking all kinds of chaos on his life (he tells his peculiarly outed boss – Patrick Sabongui – where to get off, attacks Eddie while in transit within Iris’ automobile, and chews out the zen-like Oliver Queen), there is even more conflict to be found: not everyone is happy the Emerald Archer is in town, and both Det. Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and Dr. Wells (Tom Cavanagh) find the Arrow’s murderous history very troublesome, and warn our hero that the leather-clad vigilante could prove a bad influence.

For a guy as rooted in science as Barry undoubtedly is, a villain who can manipulate emotion is a particularly apt one, plus our inner fanboy (and girl) rejoices that Roy G. Bivolo (best villain name ever?) was taken from the Flash’s rogues, instead of being – yet again – some haphazardly cherry-picked DC Comics rando. And the lack of being spoon-fed yet another collider accident origin story was very much appreciated: Bivolo’s appearance marks the first time since Captain Cold’s introduction in Going Rogue that we haven’t had to slough through one of those.

And while the concept that the villain provides is potent enough, Bivolo really has little to do in this episode aside from giving our two protagonists a reason to tussle. It’s an excusable slight on the part of the writers though, because everyone knows that two superheroes simply cannot team up to fight a common enemy until they’ve themselves had a thorough scrap first. Roy G. Bivolo’s power over emotions provides an easy route to getting Barry all grumped up, thus giving Ollie a legit reason to attempt to take him down. The fight between the pair is fantastic too, with great visuals involving a little Max Payne-inspired bullet time, and some grappling and trick-arrow archery (of course there’s the requisite running up buildings as well).

Strangely enough, after Ollie helps Barry off of Bivolo’s rage-train, both the S.T.A.R. Labs staff and Det. West abruptly decide that they’re all best friends with the same dastardly Arrow they’ve been telling Barry to stay away from. It’s a very sudden change, and the level of chumminess compared to the previous level of mistrust creates a narrative discord within a show so notorious for thorough character work. Wells’ histrionics are well-documented, but Joe has always employed a more tempered world view. His burgeoning melodramatics are unbecoming of such a rich character.

As we’ve stated earlier in this review, one good turn deserves another. Because Ollie and company showed up to drive The Flash towards the end of its first season, Barry Allen is obligated (contractually and otherwise) to race towards Arrow‘s precarious neck of the woods (and we’ll be there to cover it later tonight). There is something remarkably assured about this whole team-up episode, something that makes fans feel safe within the narrative confines the CW is offering them. (That confidence gives strength to rumors that the upcoming Supergirl show from CBS will tie into the CW’s ambitious endeavors.) It almost makes us fans feel like there really ought to be a Justice League team-up, just not the one Warner Bros has in mind.

The-Flash-season-1-episode-8-Oliver-Barry-costumesFLASH FACTS: 

We just watched a live-action network television show that featured Rainbow Raider as the main villain. Rainbow. Raider. Even if they only call him that jokingly, still. Let that sink in, and think about how great life is.

Cisco adorably quotes (and ably impersonates!) Yoda when discussing the dark side (heh) of emotions. (We’re both on a little Star Wars kick since that teaser trailer hit last week, and well, this was just the cutest.)

Complimenting last week’s dreamy “you’re worth being on time for,” this week sees the Flash say to Iris, “I’ve gotta run.” When she replies, “I bet you tell that to all the girls,” he responds, “what other girls?” Guh. BARRY. Why on earth are you only flirtatious with the love of your life when you’re wearing a masked costume?

Why are we not surprised that Iris is suuuper into pretty-boy Oliver Queen… ? Here’s hoping her shallowness gets replaced with a semblance of depth sometime soon.

Seeing big, muscle-bound Diggle be weirded out by little Barry because of his speed powers is pretty funny.

Sometimes they let Barry’s dialogue really plumb the depths of nerdity, like when he starts to tell everyone the boomerang’s use in hunting kangaroos, and the edible qualities of kangaroo meat. Those are scenes in which Gustin truly shines.

Felicity and Caitlin passing the Bechdel Test with flying, science-y colors is a lovely thing indeed.

As we have glowingly mentioned in our review of the pilot episode, Barry and Ollie have this perfect light/dark, Superman/Batman dichotomy going on, and it’s absolutely thrilling to watch.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than watching characters on a superhero TV show discuss who’d win in a superhero fight. ESPECIALLY when it’s the superheroes themselves doing the debating. Can you say “nerd heaven”?

Strangely it was rather satisfying to see the usual sprightly Barry get downright mean, with everyone from his boss Captain Singh, to his rival-in-love Eddie Thawne. (Or maybe it was just gratifying to see him not taking shit from people for once.)

In the same vein though, Barry makes for one hellacious bad guy, and it is not a bad side we’d like to entertain further.

More problems should be solved by using giant SIMONs, much in the manner that Wells provided: project the correct opposing colors to Barry in order to reverse Rainbow Raid – I mean, “Chroma’s” moody effects.

How bout that, um, Fire-y cliffhanger though?