The Flash: 108 “Flash vs Arrow” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
It’s the one most of the internet has been waiting for – the first live-action meeting between two DC superheroes in an epic story, where one optimistic hero with impressive superpowers comes to blows with a hardened veteran with a no-kill rule and no powers, before teaming up to face a bad guy who threatens them both. I am, of course, talking about Flash vs Arrow (there’s another superhero story like this coming up?), the long-awaited crossover between the two TV superheroes.
Felicity Smoak popped her head in earlier this season and Barry had a rooftop chat with Oliver Queen in the pilot, but Flash vs Arrow marked the first proper crossover between the two shows. There may have been some worries about how meshing together two very tonally different shows would work, but Flash vs Arrow managed to pull off the trick with aplomb. Despite the slightly more dour characters present, the crossover managed to be a blast of fun for the most part; packing in a terrific fight between the Flash and the Arrow, some brief but very funny character moments and even some major plot advancements for The Flash to boot. Arrow hasn’t exactly been a ray of sunshine this season – so it’s a joy to see Stephen Amell able to crack jokes and actually smile this episode. Amell’s proven that he’s easily capable of pulling off brooding Oliver that we’ve seen a lot of in season three – but it was very refreshing to see a lighter side of a character who can often get bogged down in angst (and for the darker side of the character, we had a well-executed look at how the Arrow is seen by others i.e. as a psychopathic maniac). The often-underused Diggle doesn’t get to do a great deal here, but his utterly baffled reaction to Barry’s powers was one of the funniest moments of the episode – and exactly the sort of thing that this reviewer wanted from the crossover (beside fighting, of course). Felicity’s appearance doesn’t feel quite as exciting given she had already put in an appearance in episode four – but Emily Bett Rickards does some good work nonetheless, able to bounce off another like-minded female character in Caitlin for once.
Away from the Arrow characters, the meta-human of the week was Roy G Bivolo aka Prism (I’m not calling him the Rainbow Raider), who can manipulate others’ emotions via colours. Bivolo is essentially a glorified plot device; the ticket to jumpstart the conflict between the two heroes, and as such his underwritten portrayal isn’t as frustrating as previous villains – but Flash vs Arrow could have done a great deal more with a character with a power that had a lot of potential. Bivolo doesn’t really get either a personality nor an actual conclusion with his capture done entirely off-screen, so Prism ends up as by far the weakest link of the episode, and feels little more than a stopgap before the higher-profile Captain Boomerang comes along in part two. However, Prism does serve one important purpose – to provide some intriguing advancements to the ongoing character threads The Flash has been juggling.
Iris, for example, has been saddled with a serviceable but fairly generic Lois Lane-esque subplot in previous episodes – but smartly, Flash vs Arrow shook that dynamic up by driving a wedge between Iris and the Flash. There’s little doubt that Iris will forgive the Flash sooner or later, but for now it’s encouraging to see the show cast off an unoriginal and slightly dull subplot, and potentially make a foray into more inspiring territory for Iris. Eddie, after a couple of weeks of seeming like a fairly nice friend to Barry, also got some intriguing plot developments as Eddie developed a mistrust of the Flash (which proved to be very much founded later on). The concept of citizens convinced the hero is a ‘menace to the city’ feels perhaps a little too reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy – but his mistrust against the Flash does lend a little more nuance to Eddie, as well as potentially putting him back into the Reverse Flash suspect ring – so it’s an interesting development that promises some slightly more meaty storylines for Eddie later on.
The centerpiece of this crossover was of course the big fight between the Flash and the Arrow – teased in countless trailers, the battle proved to be a fairly brief but fantastic scene; with some clever stunt work and visual effects (Barry vibrating the tranquilizer out of himself was a particularly neat moment), the battle managed to blend the approaches of both shows to make a thrilling scene that ably displayed the strengths and weaknesses of both characters. Some fans may be been frustrated by the inconclusive ending to the fight – but it’s a fan-servicing scene that puts a case forward for both, but doesn’t spoil the fun by telling the viewer who would win. It may have been even better with a minute or two added in, but it remains an excellent scene that delivers on all the expectations set… and then a little more. The team up of the two heroes will come over on Arrow, but for now it was heartening to see the fight done so well (and with a logical reason for it occurring), even if the resolution to Barry’s rage rampage felt a tad underwhelming.
Flash vs Arrow ends on two teases for the future – one relating to Arrow, and one relating to The Flash. The revelation of Oliver’s child isn’t hugely surprising considering the flashbacks in season two, but it’s a welcome development that leaves Arrow with a ticking time bomb, even if the revelation, which requires some fairly good knowledge of Arrow, can’t help feeling a little out of place over on a show on which is has no relevance. And then there’s the stinger (stingers wait for no crossovers), which sees the first proper appearance of Robbie Amell’s Firestorm. It could have done with a little bit of set-up earlier in the episode, but it’s a hugely exciting tease nonetheless that shows off some strong visual effects as well as whetting the appetite for Firestorm’s emergence next week. Amell’s (yes, there were two of them this week!) flashback appearance in Things You Can’t Outrun was encouraging, and this reviewer is very excited indeed to see what The Flash does with Firestorm. Next week, it’s the mid-season finale, where Barry finally comes face to face with the murderer of his mother, The Man in the Yellow Suit. He has an awful lot of names, but you can call him the Reverse Flash…
Incredibly fun from start to finish, Flash vs Arrow was a great crossover that ably meshed the two shows together naturally and provided one hell of a fight. The episode may have stumbled with the villain, but it’s a crossover that largely delivered on some sky-high expectations.
Scene of the Episode: The Bolt and the Bow – Friends become enemies as Barry and Oliver have a small fight in an alleyway, involving tranquilizers, grapple hooks and disco lights. Take notes, Batman v Superman…