Barry is thrilled when Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle come to Central City to investigate a case involving a deadly boomerang. Excited about teaming up with his friend, Barry asks Oliver if he’d like to help him stop Ray G. Bivolo, the meta-human Barry is currently tracking. Bivolo causes people to lose control of their emotions and has been using that skill to rob banks. Unfortunately, the superhero partnership doesn’t go as smoothly as Barry expected, as Oliver calls him out on his mistakes and even hits him with arrows. Joe and Dr. Wells think the Arrow is a bad influence, and when Oliver tells Barry he still has a lot to learn, Barry sets out to prove him wrong by attempting to stop Bivolo alone. However, when Bivolo infects Barry and sets him on a rage rampage, everyone is in danger, and the only one who can stop him is the Arrow. Meanwhile, Iris is furious when Eddie tries to get a task force to stop The Flash. However, the infected Flash violently confronts Eddie upon hearing about the task force, and is only stopped by an intervention from the Arrow. Iris loses faith in her hero, but the Arrow is able to take down The Flash, and the STAR Labs team uses a series of colors to undo the damage Bivolo caused on Barry. After the two team-up and take down Bivolo together, Felicity asks Caitlin to help her determine the identity of Canary’s killer through a DNA sample. Oliver briefly has a run-in with the mother of his child from “Seeing Red,” and gives Barry advice: guys like them do not get the girl. On an unknown road, a homeless Ronnie Raymond, Caitlin’s thought-to-be-dead husband, retaliates on two attackers with fire powers.
The first part of the much-hyped The Flash/Arrow crossover event is rather surprising in its lack of ambition at first. This isn’t any sort of worldwide threat that brings two teams together, but it is one that organically weaves characters from not-so-similar worlds into one story. I talked in-depth about the differences in the worlds of the show back in “Going Rogue,” and much of that is still relevant here. Essentially, The Flash and Arrow are vastly different in tone and in concept, and it’s those differences that let them both work as shows. So the challenge of “Flash vs. Arrow,” which brings the realism of the parent show into the ridiculousness of the spin-off, is melding the two tones together without them clashing.
The route it takes becomes that aforementioned lack of ambition, but in a good way; rather than trying to craft a giant two-show-spanning plot, “Flash vs. Arrow” is just another high quality episode of The Flash, albeit one with with some very special guest stars. This is evident in that the Prism/Rainbow Raider storyline could have easily stood alone as a typical freak of the week, with enough potential to fill out the hour with more mean Barry scenes or subplots and still work. Turning Barry into an antagonist definitely gave the Arrow an important role, but the bulk of Barry’s attitude is more targeted at Joe, Eddie, and Iris, and STAR Labs could have feasibly trapped and cured him on their own if necessary (though it certainly would have been harder.) In this sense, “Flash vs. Arrow” feels like an episode of The Flash first with the Arrow cast incidentally guest starring, appropriately along the lines of Felicity’s appearance in “Going Rogue.”
While the second part of this crossover, “The Brave and the Bold,” handles the integration of The Flash cast into Starling City a bit differently, what “Flash vs. Arrow” does still strikes a remarkable balance. The Arrow trifecta don’t get in the way of The Flash‘s plots, but they aren’t superfluous either; Oliver teaches Barry some vital lessons about his short tenure as a hero, and we get tiny bits of plot movement for Arrow and fun moments for their characters as well. Oliver gets to have a few “mine’s bigger” moments (his reaction to the STAR Labs prison is uncharacteristically funny), and Felicity reaffirms that she’s just as much part of the STAR Labs team as she is Team Arrow, in a way. It’s something Dr. Wells even tries to use against her, testing her loyalties, though she of course doesn’t betray one for the other. Not that it matters, since Wells still reveals Oliver’s identity to the team, in a big dick move. Even though Wells provides yet another connection to Oliver’s father and some words of support, Oliver is totally in the right to find something off about him.
Even though he doesn’t get as much screentime as he ought to, Diggle gets some of the best bits from the episode. In fact, every single scene we get has David Ramsey nailing the comedy, particularly his fries-chucking reaction to Barry’s superpowers and subsequent discussion of them (how fast does Barry go to the bathroom?) Everyone lightens up in this hour, simply because this is The Flash, but this is also proof that Ramsey can handle comedic material as well as anything else. He gets loads more to do in Arrow‘s follow-up episode, thankfully, but even his limited screentime here makes his appearance worthwhile.
Like essentially all of Arrow’s third season has been thus far, it’s a lot of set-up for Team Arrow–Caitlin may be able to yield more clues to Sara’s murder, and we’re merely reminded of the mother of Oliver’s secret child, rather than anything new happening with her. Still, throwing in those tidbits that will surely come into play by season’s end makes it clear that Starling City isn’t on pause while this is going on. This pair of episodes may have been hyped as crossover events, but they’re hardly a detour, especially where The Flash is concerned.
This is evident in that we finally get some solid momentum on the Barry/Iris/Eddie triangle. One of the most underdeveloped and somewhat forced aspects of The Flash so far, the dynamic finally shifts around to an interesting place. It’s hard to say what Iris will have to do now, but the faster we can move past the lovestruck faux-Lois Lane and into something more relevant, the better. As for Eddie, he finally has something to do in general with this Flash Task Force. Rick Cosnett is generally good in his thus far thankless role, and pitting him as something of an antagonist—whether it’s intended to line him up with his comics counterpart or not—is only going to be better for him. The only downside of this Task Force plot is that it hasn’t been set up too well until now; there really isn’t any reason for people who believe in The Flash to not trust him, given he’s known to be prone more to silly good deeds than violence. But, again, bringing the known violent vigilante Arrow into town is what ultimately sparks interest in the Task Force while the whammied Flash cements it, which makes “Flash vs. Arrow” still integral even without much appropriate set-up.
This love triangle business is also commented on by Oliver, who’s effectively a cipher to compare and contrast the differences between The Flash now and Arrow‘s first seasons. A fun thing with watching The Flash unfold over these past months has been seeing its characters grow away from what initially appeared to be their Arrow expies; Joe is not Quentin, Iris is not Laurel, Caitlin is not Felicity, etc. The Barry/Iris/Eddie triangle had some Oliver/Laurel/Tommy aftertaste to it, and has been one of the only things that hasn’t really evolved since the pilot. Oliver highlights this, cynically informing Barry that guys like them simply never get the girl. Yet, Oliver’s comparison is to his current non-relationship with Felicity, a crux of season 3.
Like Barry and Felicity compared their romantic situations in “Going Rogue,” Oliver is using his inability to be with Felicity as an example of why their double lives make it impossible. This is where Arrow‘s darker hue plays into the episode, casting Barry’s decision to be a hero—which thus far has only given him joy and meaning—does inevitably darken his life. But Oliver’s declaration doesn’t exactly hold up when put under scrutiny; again, Barry’s situation is much more akin to Oliver/Laurel/Tommy, which was a disaster because of loads more tragedy, melodrama, and bad decisions than anything involved with Barry and Iris. And, unlike Oliver, Barry isn’t a broken man burdened with the desire to save his city. Barry is just a guy with superpowers who wants to do good, and he has the advantage of being fast enough that he can still devote equal time to being both Barry Allen and The Flash. Much as Oliver provides useful wisdom throughout this team-up, he seems remarkably narrow-sighted in his last bit of advice, perhaps telling of where is mind is throughout season 3. That’s something that gets touched upon a bit more in “The Brave and the Bold,” but in “Flash vs. Arrow,” he adds a layer of doubt in Barry’s mind. It sucks for Barry, but it’s good for the impending drama that doubt should yield.
But beyond the romantic drama, what we’re looking for in a crossover is double the good ol’ superhero action. “The Brave and the Bold” gives the pair of heroes more to do in terms of working together, but “Flash vs. Arrow,” as the name suggests, focuses on the other tried and true superhero crossover trope: see what happens when they beat the crap out of each other. The long battle is totally up to par with the effects and fight choreography thus far, with various points letting both Arrow and Flash get the upper hand and get beat down. The Arrow takes down The Flash, technically, but it’s only thanks to STAR’s efforts at curing Barry of his mind alteration. With this in mind—and considering how beat-up The Arrow must have been after all those brutal superspeed punches from Barry—it’s right to assume, like Cisco said, that it ended in a draw. This is the action centerpiece of the episode rather than taking down the villain, which leads into a gag where we completely skip Prism/Rainbow Raider’s actual capture. It’s a weird beat in the episode, even if it’s intentional, but the implication that the two heroes working together captured him so easily that it wasn’t even worth filming is a funny bit.
“Flash vs. Arrow” might not be exactly what we expected, but it delivers on what The Flash has been good at this entire time: fun. It’s a sillier, heart-on-your-sleeve installment, but it’s consistently aware that the goal is to have classic superhero fun. The teleplay by Ben Sokolowski & Brooke Eikmeier is poppy, with nearly every other line something quoteable or funny. Glen Winter’s direction is dynamic and vibrant—important in an episode so heavily hinged on color—and the entire episode is on “Power Outage” levels of fast-paced. Yet it’s not without its dramatic edge, with every character having something to do or new to learn even with the expanded size of the cast. This is an episode that smartly did not go too big, and honed in on what’s made both these shows work so well. As either a self-contained installment or the first part of the crossover, “Flash vs. Arrow” is a rousing success, and shows that the combined Flash/Arrow universe has no signs of slowing down.
Odds & Ends
- The ending reveal with Ronnie/Firestorm, while obviously important for The Flash‘s narrative, seems kind of out of place. Arrow has done a lot of these endings this season, where the tag is essentially showing off the villain of the next week almost completely out of nowhere. It’s not really bad or anything, but it’s a somewhat cheap way to throw in an “OMG!” cliffhanger when there isn’t one organically worked in.
- The opening logo for the crossover episodes are fun. Along with Arrow‘s Cupid opening, I like that they’re not afraid to play with these superficial elements from time-to-time.
- I wanted to groan when Barry says, “A case of the feels,” but that’s totally something Barry would say. And hey, it was actually totally relevant to the episode, too!
- Love that Barry stops a bullet in the teaser by shoving an entire machine in front of it, rather than just pushing the guy out of the way.
- In addition to all the comic book fanservice, lest we forget that Felicity “shirt on fire” fanservice. Totally unnecessary as fanservice often is, but it did nicely establish that Barry and Felicity are on such good platonic friend terms now that it’s not a big deal for them.
- Yeah, I know, comics and all that. But someone could have at least commented on Roy G. Bivolo’s name being Roy G. Bivolo, or claimed it was a fabricated name, or something.
- Good foreshadowing of the crux of “The Brave and the Bold” with Joe’s comments about The Arrow’s methods, particularly torture.
- Nice as it is that Captain Singh openly has a boyfriend…there had to be less awkward way to add in that detail.
- Let’s be real, guys. Stephen Amell is on everyone’s “Three List.”
- “Cool! …I mean awful.”
- “I had a cousin that got struck by lightning once. He just developed a stutter.”
- “Did you guys break up?”
- “Don’t you sleep?”