(EDITOR’S NOTE: *For those that haven’t seen the following episodes, SPOILERS may be present from here on out.*)
This has been the week many fans of both The Flash and Arrow have been waiting for… episodes 8 – the crossover. This was also the one I was worried about since its initial announced. I was concerned because of the idea that both Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) were not going to be friends with each other here. Yes, while it is a common trope in comics, it is a very tired one.
At this point, The Flash is starting to find its season one footing as the writers have figured out what they’re doing with most of the characters. It’s this point in a show’s early development that I worry about most as the showrunner might take it too far one way or another or slip back into bad habits of its pilot. Arrow had many of these issues in season one but corrected them as the season progressed and by season two, most were completely solved. Now in the third season, they are really moving forward. That’s not to say that Arrow is perfect but it is a way better show today then it was in its first season.
Since this is the same creative team on both shows, I have some confidence that The Flash won’t take as long to get up to speed (yeah-yeah I know, I swear I won’t do it again). This shared creative team is the one thing that both shows and the crossover idea have going for them. At least they understand all the characters they are working with, especially since Barry first appeared on Arrow last season. However that doesn’t mean to say that there are still not issues to overcome. The Flash is a show of science and Meta Humans with a brighter colour pallet and overall tone. Sure, there are dark moments/characters but there is always a sense of hope and goofiness to the show. Arrow on the other hand is a show about morals and average humans (for the most part) with a darker look and feel. Simply put, The Flash takes place during the day and Arrow takes place at night.
When The Flash opens we meet this week’s badie – Prism (Rainbow Raider, for the DC fans) who can push people’s emotions to the forefront and act on them. Here we only see his ability to push rage. Maybe upon his return, we can see some other emotions used. As this is happening, Eddie Thawne finally believes The Flash is real but wants to start a task force to stop him. Iris is less than impressed and so begins the chinks in the armour of Eddie. Full disclosure, I still believe that he is in fact the Reverse Flash or is his ancestor. Harrison Wells (which is a little too on the nose) is Rip Hunter. Okay, sorry, done positing my theories on this point….for now.
Barry soon learns that Team Arrow is in town and they are looking for a killer from Starling that uses boomerangs. YES! Captain Boomerang! Finally, a good villain for The Flash. Wait, what about Prism? Right, we don’t get any Digger in this episode – BALLS! Regardless, the differences between the two heroes is now on full display. Oliver does not want to join up with Barry to help him catch his crook but Felicity eventually pushes him into a team up. Oliver is unimpressed with Barry’s abilities and keeps reminding him that he has a lot to learn. Oliver then proves his point by shooting Barry in the back with arrows. Barry wasn’t thinking and never thought a regular, non powered human could beat him. Well, you’re wrong.
Along the way Prism infects Barry and makes his inner rage and jealousy pour out to disastrous results as Eddie is now able to get his task force to go after The Flash. In the end, Arrow is able to beat Flash and help restore him back to his normal self, proving once again that Barry has much to learn about being a hero.
Now over to part two on Arrow. Well, not really since they are both completely independent episodes that share a common thread. Neither is required watching to understand the other.
Team Arrow has returned and are still looking for the boomerang killer only to discover they missed him again and that he is being hunted by ARGUS. Apparently, Digger Harkness was a former member of the Suicide Squad and Lyla had to terminate the team via the micro bombs implanted in their necks. He is back and looking for vengeance on her. Of course Team Arrow can’t let that happen to Diggle’s ex-wife and mother of his child. So they go after him just as Team Flash shows up to help. Again, Barry and Oliver clash over styles and techniques required to get the job done. Remember, Oliver likes to torture people for info which is not cool with Barry.
We of course are treated to more flashbacks to Oliver’s time in Hong Kong with ARGUS and Waller. This shows his transformation into the man we have known since the show began 3 seasons earlier. Waller pushes Oliver into torture and justifying it has she always does as she is an “ends justify the means” kind of thinker. He fights it but soon realizes that he needs to stop more pain to others. He failed to torture a suspect which allowed several bombs to go off killing & injuring hundreds. Regardless, it is now Barry’s turn to teach Oliver a lesson on being a hero.
In the end, it’s the teamwork by all that helps prevent Digger from escaping and blowing up the city. Gotta love dastardly plots of mayhem.
Here’s the thing, I liked both episodes but I liked The Flash better overall. I have really enjoyed Arrow over the last few years and have enjoyed what the creative team has brought to table each time. However, it is has a rather depressing tone. Sure, there are moments of fun but for the most part, it is always serious and brooding. There is a layer of anger that is part of the DNA of the series, as it should be. Oliver has lost everything at this point – his parents, his money and his many loves. The only thing he has is Thea and, well, not for long. In the episodes I’ve enjoyed the most, like the season 2 finale or season 3 opener, Oliver and team seem almost hopeful but the show being what it is, it’s all taken away from them. Like Bruce Wayne, Oliver can’t be allowed to be really happy.
Over on The Flash though, it’s different. Yes Barry’s mother was murdered, his father imprisoned and the love of his life is with another. But here Barry is different in every way from Oliver. Barry takes a lot knocks in life but never lets it keep him down. As Wells recently observed, Barry’s desire to have human connections and help others is what makes him a hero. It’s what keeps making him get up after being knocked down. He learned at an early age that even though tragedy destroyed his old life with his parents that he still had a lot to live for. He is going to catch the man who killed his mother, free his dad and get the girl. He’s that confident. How he deals with these repeated failures along the way will be interesting to watch.
The crux of my liking of The Flash better is not a quality issue. Both shows are great and doing amazing things each week and yes, they sometimes infuriate me but that’s art. It can’t be perfect each time, otherwise it isn’t art. Then it’s processed cheese or McDonald’s. People prefer unique items each time. But The Flash though has a more hopeful and optimistic look at the world. Arrow on the other hand is more like the world we live in: dark, angry and full of bad people doing bad things – even the heroes.
While the crossover event wasn’t as impactful as I had hoped from a story standpoint, it did help to plant seeds for the future of both shows. The Flash is still learning and needs to remember that just because you have powers doesn’t mean you are unbeatable, even by a regular human. Arrow needs to realize that he can inspire hope…he just needs to try and remember that before torturing someone.
As long as both shows continue to give us these things they will continue to be successful, which is all I want because let’s face facts – these 2 shows and Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D are it. The others – Gotham and Constantine are meh. Lot’s of problems there. But The Flash and Arrow are hitting it out of the park overall. Keep it up, PLEASE keep it up.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!