We are now one episode each removed from the epic CW superhero showdown between the fastest man alive, ‘The Flash’ and the hooded vigilante known sometimes but not always affectionately as the ‘Arrow’, and we can already see the effect both shows are having on one another going forward. With episodes airing tonight and tomorrow, it’s a good idea to look back at the last two weeks of each series in order to prepare for what’s coming.
Cards on the table, ‘Arrow’ started out as a would-be ‘Smallville’ trying desperately to separate itself from the superpower mix-a-lot that show became. Oliver Queen comes home from “five years on a hellish island” (as the intro to each episode reminds you) armed with a bow and arrow focused on a mission to weed out the dregs and skags that burrow in the darkest parts of Starling City. The show is gritty, dark and brutal as it delves into the criminal underground, corrupt corporate interests and ninja assassins.
‘Arrow’ waited until season 2 to even bring in the Chinese miracle drug that turns men and women into crazily angry warriors of incredible strength and ability. So it seemed a bit of a stretch when Oliver Queen made friends with Barry Allen, the young nerdy CSI that would inevitably be hit by lightning and become the costumed blur capable of moving at four thousand miles an hour (or some such speed, I tend to tune out when they start throwing actual numbers out).
‘The Flash’ started up this season as a sister show to ‘Arrow’, but at the same time its antithesis. Where ‘Arrow’ had drug pushers and torture, ‘The Flash’ had episode after episode of geeky codenames for CGI powered freaks. The gas guy, the tornado guy, the guy that makes everybody angry, and last episode’s bad guy to end all bad guys, Reverse Flash. Seriously? Can you imagine these guys showing up in that first season of ‘Arrow’? That show would have died faster than Thomas and Martha Wayne in every reboot of the Batman franchise.
Grant Gustin plays a well enough Barry Allen, geeky and self-doubting as he deals with his newfound ability to brush his teeth at ten thousand miles an hour. But Carlos Valdes, who plays the geeky tech wizard Cisco, is who really gives the series its fast and fun tone. He’s the one giving all the villains ridiculous names; he’s the one marveling at the wondrous impossibility of it all, while at the same time breaking down the scientific logistics of the various super powers the Flash and others exhibit along with his mentor and (SPOILER ALERT) inbound ultimate villain, Dr. Harrison Wells.
To truly understand what the two shows offer one another, we have to go back to that fight between the speedster and the archer that took place during ‘The Flash’ episode: “Flash vs Arrow”. With Allen suffering from a super criminal-induced, dysfunctional rage and Queen forced to step in and battle against insurmountable odds in a no-win fight-to-the-death against a friend, the wacky sci-fi of ‘The Flash’ meets the hard-hitting, tragic grittiness of ‘Arrow’ indeed. The Flash flies across the screen in a fight scene full of CGI gold (and red) as the Arrow shows his usual brilliance during hand-to-hand-to-bow combat.
C-4 arrows explode, hand thrown blades draw blood, the Flash races up the side of a building after vibrating every cell in his body at super speed to expel a tranquilizer from his bloodstream. As the battle culminates in a slow motion flurry of Oliver Queen badass-ness that misses and misses and misses Barry Allen bobbing and weaving at three hundred million miles an hour before finally landing a bow to the Flash’s face, we get a true look at the melding of the two tones of each series. And to throw in another SPOILER ALERT that any veteran comic fan would expect, the fight ends in a tie with the two heroes once again teaming up.
The fight itself was great, as was the following team up during that week’s ‘Arrow’. And as we get to the following episodes of each show, we see that they have indeed rubbed off on one another. The Flash confronts his greatest enemy for the first time (the first time for Allen, apparently not for the evil speedster in yellow). The man who dubs himself Reverse Flash (who would ever call themselves that?) out runs, out fights and out smarts the good Flash. For once, Barry Allen finds himself on his back and beaten, questioning his own motives and wondering how he can possibly win.
We also, over both episodes of ‘The Flash’, see the reintroduction and emotional dilemma of the returning Ronnie Raymond, who is now the metahuman Forestfire (or some other fiery name). Robbie Amell from CW’s cancelled ‘Tomorrow People’ steps in to play Ronnie, the thought dead boyfriend of Caitlin. Once again, for comic book and TV aficionados it comes as no surprise that Stephen Amell’s (Oliver Queen’s) real life brother plays more than a flashback role but instead will play a maybe good maybe bad but definitely super important emotional role on the show. For a show that has so far dealt with unambiguous good vs evil storylines, this ‘Arrow’ like dilemma should surge the show forward with renewed character drama.
And how about that last episode of ‘Arrow’? We’ve been teased with the incoming League of Assassins since Black Canary (Sara as she’s known on the show) returned last season. Nyssa al Ghul (not Talia?) has served as a precursor to her father, the Demon, R’as al Ghul as well as the former lesbian love to Sara (it’s all about those modern day updates!). Ninja assassins aren’t in and of themselves sci-fi or CGI intensive, but with (SPOILER ALERT!) Oliver Queen suffering a sword through the heart and a tumble off a cliff at the close to a shirtless snow themed sword fight with said Demon at the end of the episode, and considering R’as has always been the keeper of the mystically rejuvenating Lazarus Pit in DC comics lore, we have to assume we’re going to get some serious supernatural-ness in the coming episodes (unless Felicity Smoak steps in bet he new Arrow, which I don’t think anyone wants to see). Plus, the addition of Superman playing the Atom (I mean, I’d call him Brandon Routh but what else has he been in besides that god awful Superman movie?) means that’s we’re about to see even more technical genius induced weirdness that belongs on ‘The Flash’, but might actually have a home on ‘Arrow’.
Going forward, I fully expect both shows to grow closer and closer, building up to a season long dove-tail that culminates in an epic showdown that requires both heroes to encapsulate the two themes that both shows are showing so well. We may not get that, because it’ll make the box set configurations too complicated, but who buys box sets anymore? The more important point is that we get more crossovers and guest appearances, and that both series’ hold on to what has made them so great to date, while still dipping their feet into the tone of their sister show.