Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell in The CW’s “The Flash”
The best way to relay our reaction to this episode would be to get a pencil and paper, draw a big smiley face, scan it, and upload it here to serve as our review. We suspect some of you might consider that the lazy way out so we’ll try and use our words instead. But really, we don’t think we could come up with any sequence of words that would convey our feelings about this episode as well as a giant grin. This was just crazy-fun, especially to any of the comics nerds in the audience. It was the classic “meet up, beat up, team up” story of two superheroes meeting each other for the (sort of) first time. And what made it so fun was that it hit every single hoary old trope of the superhero teamup story and not only nailed each one, but made them all seem fresh and make sense.
Because Arrow is such a different show tonally than The Flash, there were lots of reasons to think this crossover wasn’t going to come together or work well. Arrow is dark and melodramatic, while Flash is mostly light-hearted and … well, okay; it’s melodramatic too, but more in the “I’m hot for my foster sister” way and less in the “trail of dead bodies and secrets” way. But the creative team behind this show knows the world of superheroes quite well and it dealt with this issue head on by essentially giving us a classic “Superman vs. Batman” -style story. The grim, well-trained urban avenger facing off against the impulsive, super-powered boy scout. A clash of philosophies as well as of tactics. The tonal differences of each show became the driving force of the story and the conflict, in other words. This is the part where the nerds can smile smugly and restate what they’ve been saying for years: a good superhero TV or cinematic adaptation needs only to look to the original world of the comics in order to get it right. Two heroes clash, learn a Valuable Lesson, and then team up to take down a bad guy. You just can’t get more basic than that.
In fact, credit must be paid to the casts for ensuring that this story didn’t seem stale or cliched. Not only do Amell and Gustin have Winchester brother levels of chemistry with each other, but the extended casts of each show had great fun bouncing off each other. It’s great to see Felicity and Caitlin forming a true friendship, instead of what we feared would happen: nerd girl rivalry. And nothing can beat Diggle’s reaction to seeing Barry’s powers for the first time. Even better, so many of the interactions made sense, like Joe and Harrison thinking that Arrow’s tactics would be a bad influence on Barry and a danger to the city. It’s nice to see that kind of cross-show continuity used well.
As for the main event, it was set up very well and paid off just as well. Once again, looking to the “Batman vs. Superman” model, the conflict was about preparedness and training vs. impulsiveness and relying on superpowers. Ollie took it upon himself to teach Barry that even his powers can be overcome with a little smart planning – and the writing actually pulled it off. The Flash has one of the most infamously hard-to-write power sets because almost nothing is a believable threat to him, but when Ollie made good on his promise to shoot Barry while training him, he delivered in a way that actually made sense. When the main fight went down, it was nothing but grinning from ear to ear on our couch. Not only was it a spectacular action sequence, but it was loaded with all kinds of fun tricks, like Barry literally vibrating a tranquilizer out of his system.
Grant Gustin may not be the kind of actor who can nail the whole “scary and imposing” bit. His voice alone prevents him from pulling it off. Even so, his scene with Iris and Eddie was actually pretty frightening, with a sense that it could all go very wrong in a nanosecond. That was less Gustin and more some very good framing and directing.
As an aside, we sure wouldn’t mind more scenes of Eddie in his underwear. We’re just saying.
As for Iris, we’re happy to see the show (seemingly) making a point to shelve the whole romance angle. Caitlin and Ollie more than made the point to Barry that not only was he interfering in someone else’s relationship (which is not cool), but that he was simply not in a good position to be pursuing a relationship at all. “That’s not gonna happen for you” was one of the most refreshing things we could have heard out of any character’s mouth – but it made even more sense coming out of Ollie’s while Felicity bounces around in the background. Iris herself is becoming more likable and well-rounded, although the whole “I want to give people a sense of wonder” motivation is thin at best. And her drooling over Ollie made her seem even flakier than usual, considering she was in bed with Eddie and flirting with The Flash in the same episode. It’s like the writers want to make her a likable character but accidentally keep turning her into the worst sort of anti-woman cliche.
But that’s honestly the only complaint we have. It was easily one of the most fun hours of TV we’ve seen since the new season started – and probably in the last year. We’re looking forward to the Arrow followup, but they sure have their work cut out for them if they want to top this one.
[Photo credit: Diyah Pera /The CW]