Arrow: 308 “The Brave and the Bold” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After the success of the first part of the Flash/Arrow crossover, “The Brave and the Bold” has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it’s a huge step above last week’s fiasco and another hugely entertaining hour of television.
The episode opens up with Oliver and Roy on a mission to take down the crazy man who kills people with bladed boomerangs, having found where he is based thanks to the assistance of Caitlin and Cisco at S.T.A.R. Labs. However, they discover that the killer is not there, and are rudely interrupted by a heavily-armed team of A.R.G.U.S. agents, and Oliver realises that the man who was killed with a boomerang was also an agent. He asks Diggle to get some information out of Lyla, but he knows that if it is an A.R.G.U.S. matter then Lyla will want it to stay that way.
Unsurprisingly, as this is a crossover between the two episodes, Caitlin and Cisco show up in Starling City, partly to help out with the DNA sample from Sara’s murder and partly to see the gadgets in the Arrowcave (although it’s definitely not called that…). There are some nice moments as Cisco decides that Roy’s costume is cooler than Oliver’s, then claims he has some ideas for improvements to Oliver’s gear; and Caitlin asks what the salmon ladder bar is for, and Felicity responds ‘distracting me from work’.
But the fun is interrupted by the boomerang guy attacking A.R.G.U.S. headquarters while Diggle and Lyla are inside, and this is where the episode slightly falls down: Captain Boomerang is a fairly ridiculous villain at the best of times, most prominently characterised as a racist Australian with randomly impressive boomerang-throwing skills. He is rarely, if ever, seen as a credible threat that calls for a crossover between two major heroes, and realistically the Flash, or the Arrow, or even a bog-standard A.R.G.U.S. agent should be able to take him out with very little difficulty.
But somehow in this situation he is able to take out an entire crew of A.R.G.U.S. agents and fight Roy and Oliver to a standstill, and run away through an explosion once the Flash shows up. Lyla tells them what the deal is, that Captain Boomerang is actually Digger Harkness, a former ASIS agent who went rogue, was caught by A.R.G.U.S. and enlisted into the Suicide Squad. However, a mission went bad and the whole team had to be terminated, but Harkness’ implant malfunctioned and he survived: now he wants revenge on Lyla, who was the one who gave the kill order in Amanda Waller’s absence.
So they take Lyla to the Arrowcave, and she is introduced to the insanity of the Flash while simultaneously making the concept of secret identities in these shows basically worthless. After some interesting introductions, they figure out who built the boomerangs and go after him, with Barry doing most of the work in taking out groups of thugs while Oliver tortures information out of the weapons manufacturer. Barry isn’t too pleased about this, even though Oliver told him that they needed to do things ‘his way’ while they were in Starling City. It’s a slightly awkward moment that is worryingly close to justifying torture, not least because it works and he gives up a phone with which they can trace Harkness.
There are some nice moments between Oliver and Barry at this stage, as Oliver gives reasons for why he operates the way he does: his city is darker, meaner and tougher than Central City, and that his best friend, a woman he loved and his mother were all murdered. Barry responds that his mother was murdered in front of him as well, but he doesn’t use it as an excuse to hurt people; and there is more truth in Oliver’s final remark than he has spoken in a long time, that he’s just ‘not as emotionally healthy’ as Barry.
It also leads to Lyla and Oliver talking back at the Arrowcave and revealing that they have similar worldviews: unsurprising, perhaps, considering they were both trained by Amanda Waller, and seemingly somewhat brainwashed by her worldview. Anyway, it’s this conversation that gives the episode its title, as they agree that sometimes bravery isn’t enough, and you have to be bold, whatever the cost.
Anyway, the trace doesn’t work and Harkness is not at the location Oliver and Barry went to: he is actually back at the Arrowcave, and he hits Lyla with a boomerang, then escapes in another explosion. Fortunately for Lyla, Felicity and Caitlin manage to stabilise her and get her to a hospital, and the team are able to find Harkness trying to leave Starling on a train. He informs Oliver that he has five bombs placed around the city, and that they can either stop him or defuse the bombs, clearly forgetting that they have a guy with GODDAMN SUPER SPEED on their team: Oliver has a rumble with Harkness while Barry gets the entirety of teams Arrow and Flash to the locations of the bombs to disarm them at the exact same time. Of course, everything works out great and they lock Harkness away in the supermax prison on Lian Yu along with Slade Wilson, which seems like a generally bad idea, but we’ll go with it.
So, as Barry learned to be a better hero from Oliver in “Flash vs Arrow”, Oliver learns to hold on to his humanity and not let the situations he finds himself in dictate his moral compass from Barry, and the exact point of superhero team-ups is accomplished. While Digger Harkness wasn’t exactly the best choice of villain to make this happen, it was still a fun ride and it brought out some home truths for both teams and made for some interesting viewing.
As the episode comes to an end, Barry sees a case in the Arrowcave for his costume, for the next time he is in Starling City, and Cisco gives Oliver a new version of his costume, which looks fairly similar to the old one but is apparently fancier. Then, to complete the classic superhero team-up Oliver and Barry head to an abandoned warehouse to settle the old ‘who would win in a fight’ argument once and for all, but we never get the chance to see who the victor really is.
Damn you, Arrow.
While slightly flawed and generally not as much fun as the first part of the crossover, “The Brave and the Bold” is still a thoroughly enjoyable piece of television, and its very existence is a testament to the superhero-friendly times we live in today.