Last week’s entry of The Flash addressed a typical superhero quandary: what happens to a super-powered person when they’re suddenly no longer super-powered? At the same time though, the seeds were sewn for another proud superhero trope, an appetizer if you will in the form of Robert Knepper‘s The Clock King taking hostages and trading time-related quotes from Bartlett’s with Det. Joe West. Yes, it was finally time for the biggest superhero team-up live-action TV has ever seen as the separate but equal worlds of Central City and Starling City converge in “Flash Vs. Arrow,” the Flash half of the two-night Flash/Arrow crossover. But was it everything that we hoped it would be?
Aside from the straightforward conundrum of the meta-human of the week, the big question about bringing Oliver and Barry together was how their respective styles would clash. Sure, Flash is spun off from Arrow, but bringing Arrow into the world of The Flash is like adding oil to water. The sunny side of of DC’s TV universe as represented by The Flash definitely changed Oliver because Stephen Amell seemed to smile more times in this hour than at any other time in the entire history of Arrow. The flipside is that Barry takes his dark side for a spin, proving as the Emperor once said that hate makes you powerful, all of which leads to a pretty incredible fight between the Fastest Man Alive and the guy who, as Flash’s sidekick’s cynically put it, just has a bow and arrow.
Perhaps it’s that kind of super-power envy that makes it look like Oliver has a bit of chip on his shoulder in this outing. He initially wants to avoid a team-up with Barry in order to focus on his own mission, finding the source of the mysterious boomerang killer (more on that tomorrow night). It seemed a bit of flimsy justification to send Team Arrow to Central City because it makes more iron oxide than anyone, and there being high concentrations of iron oxide in the boomerang, but hey, it’s not like it really matters why and how the team-up happens in the first place. Aside from a loose boomerang situation in S.T.A.R. Labs, it really didn’t figure into the episode much at all.
Instead, Oliver decides to help Barry at Felicity’s insistence with a small problem concerning Roy G. Bivolo, who Cisco later dubs Chroma and not Rainbow Raider as per Caitlin’s suggestion. Technically both are correct since Bivolo is Rainbow Raider in the comics, but his TV powers are quite different so a name change was in order. Chroma can look you in the eye and stir up a mighty anger in you; sometimes to distract people to rob a bank, and sometimes to set two heroes on a fight with each other. The red eye effect to show you’ve infected with super-anger is a bit overused, but it turned out easy to forgive amongst the frantic action of episode, which positively skipped from one scene to another.
Barry fails to heed Oliver’s warning about minding his surroundings and goes after Chroma alone, and let’s just say the hate flows through him. Although Barry initially seems fine, Dr. Wells notes that Barry’s system may be trying to fight the anger and hate, and the more one’s anger is allowed to simmer, the stronger it gets. Predictably, Barry has a lot of buried resentment, with the police captain that’s always riding him, with Joe because of his warnings about the Arrow’s methodology, and with Eddie who not only gets to date Iris, but is now petitioning to start a Flash task force. It’s enough to make a guy want to terrorize his would be girlfriend and her actual boyfriend.
Sadly, story writer Greg Berlanti‘s humble beginnings with Dawson’s Creek really showed in the strained love triangle between Barry, Isis and Eddie. Or is that really a love square between Barry, The Flash, Isis and Eddie. Certainly, Barry strains with some third person pronoun issues, and Caitlin warns Barry that maybe his nocturnal visits to Iris in costume are maybe “ruining Iris’ love life.” Iris is doing a pretty good job of that herself though, mentioning to Barry that Oliver Queen is in her “three,” as in three guys she could cheat on Eddie freely with. At this rate, Felicity and Iris will be fighting to see which of the two of them can make more superhero booty calls, although I believe Smallville’s Lois Lane still currently holds the record.
The main event though is the fight between Arrow and Flash, which despite the perhaps lopsided skill set of the combatants was still a show-stopper. Oliver’s experience turned out to be a match for Barry’s speed although there were times that Barry seemed to be toying with Oliver as much as fighting him. Kudos to the practical and visual effects artists of The Flash for pulling off a beautifully choreographed and edited fight scene. Aside from the production values, the script by Ben Sokolowski and Brooke Eikmeier (from a story by Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg) does a good job building up the pre-fight tension with Oliver’s pomposity and insistence that Barry do his superhero homework rubbing wrong The Flash’s savoir faire style of saving the city. Obviously, fast healing or not, if you shoot the guy in the back with an arrow it’s going to come back to bite you. As for Chroma, he apparently turned out to be so inconsequential we never see how Arrow and Flash catch him, just that he ends up in S.T.A.R. Labs’ super-villain jail.
But this wasn’t just a hero team-up, it was a team-up of hero teams. Joe eventually sees the value of Arrow after he saves Barry, but it’s hard to deny that The Flash is going to have some police trouble for this point forward as Eddie gets his task force. (Arrow can relate to clashing with the police, of course.) Dr. Wells continues to intrigue, asking Felicity about the identity of the Arrow, but later deducing on his own apparently that Oliver is man behind the hood. It suggests again that there are limits to Well’s future knowledge, or that in this universe the Arrow’s identity is never known to the public at large. But how did he know? Did he find Cisco’s list of 150 Arrow suspects somewhere and start eliminating suspects? Diggle, meanwhile, gets the short-shrift here as he has been on Arrow lately, although I did like his stunned reaction to seeing Barry’s Flash powers in person. The Flash is doing a fun job of mixing up the reactions people have to the impossibility that is the Scarlet Speedster.
And since this is a superhero team-up it would be a shame to squander the opportunity to not introduce another hero. We should have known that the one-off mention of Caitlin’s dear departed Ronnie would segue to our first flame on appearance of Firestorm in the episode’s tag, as a disheveled Ronnie is nearly mugged by some fellow homeless types only to set his head and hands on fire. In other words, it was quite the Marvel ending for a super DC team-up.
The two-night crossover event concludes tomorrow night with “The Brave and the Bold” on Arrow.