Wednesday, December 3, 2014

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver Gets an Assist from 'The Flash' Team When Captain Boomerang Attacks in 'The Brave and the Bold'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.08 "The Brave and the Bold"

Oliver, Roy and Diggle track down a boomerang-wielding killer named Digger Harkness but are surprised when they come face to face with an A.R.G.U.S. team. Harkness attacks a building, killing several agents and targeting Lyla. The Arrow gets help in the fight from The Flash. When Harkness plants five bombs in the city that are timed to explode at the same time, both teams must come together to save the city.

The hardest part about the Arrow-Flash crossover event over the past two nights has been making sure that the visitors to the respective cities - Oliver in Central City and Barry here in Starling City - don't outshine the series' titled heroes. Last night's episode of The Flash essentially worked as an episode of that new series with an assist from some special guest stars. Likewise, "The Brave and the Bold" works as an episode of Arrow with some special guest stars meant to bring out some key emotions from the main cast. It's a much trickier balance to pull off here because Barry's superpowers can often interrupt and over simplify the investigative beats Oliver and his team often rely on. And yet, this hour works because it remembers that Oliver is the leading man in this city. He is a tortured soul who does things differently than the idealistic Barry and his team do in Central City. That's the emotional appeal of this hour. It gives every single character emotional weight. Just like Oliver, Felicity and Diggle's trip to Central City brought out their fun and light sides, the trip to Starling City forces Barry, Caitlin and Cisco to see their own world a little differently.

This season of Arrow has been off to an awkward start. It has been struggling with momentum. The Flash has its own problems but it has better defined rising action at the moment. This week though Arrow takes a break from all the ongoing narratives - such as the search for Sara's killer - and gives the combined teams something to unify their focus on. Unlike The Flash's episode this week, the big bad Oliver and Barry deal with here has to have some credibility. Fortunately, he does. Digger Harkness forces the teams to address how they see this world. Barry, Caitlin and Cisco have been able to have so much fun fighting meta-humans every week because on some level they could separate the bad guys from reality. The superpowers make those people stand out and as such they operate on a different plane of reality. The accident with the particle accelerator flung these powers on them which allowed them to become the darkest versions of themselves. When it comes to Arrow, the people Oliver and the team deal with on a weekly basis don't have superpowers and the thought that this kind of crazy exists out in this world is a sometimes hard concept to deal with.

As such, Oliver has frequently been asked to cross over the line in order to provide the protection this city so desperately needs. One of the best lines of the episode comes when Oliver tells Barry that he must not be as emotionally healthy as him. In order to fight crazy, you have to be a little crazy yourself. That has been Oliver's justification for a lot of the tactics he uses to bring down the various bad guys. It's the skills and understandings Amanda Waller taught him in Hong Kong five years ago.

And yet, this season has been all about Oliver trying to find his identity and his humanity again. The weight of the world is on his shoulders and he needs to be ready for whatever crazy act will happen next. He feels the need to be this way because of all the horrible things that have happened to him and to protect the people he loves in this world. And yet, Barry points out that he has pain in his past too. That can't be the go-to point Oliver can use in order to explain why he is the way that he is. He needs a little bit of Barry's emotional drive just as much as Barry needs a bit of Oliver's technical expertise. Oliver simply could not stop Harkness by himself. He needed Barry and the rest of the team in order to both stop him and save the city from yet another destructive act. Oliver puts his trust in Barry to solve the problem of disarming five bombs at the same time. Barry brings the rest of the team to each of the bombs and they work together to save the city. That's something that Oliver never would have done - if he had the powers to do it. He feels the need to be the hero by himself. And yet, Oliver's humanity is shining a bit brighter than it has before because of his decision not to torture or kill Harkness. That is character development that is equally rewarding and the show didn't have to take away from it just to accommodate the visitors from Central City.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Brave and the Bold" was directed by Jesse Warn with story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and teleplay by Marc Guggenheim & Grainne Godfree Schwartz.
  • There were so many references to Lyla not being Diggle's wife that I pretty much expected him to propose by the end of the hour - granted she was still alive by then which she was.
  • It was really fun seeing Barry, Caitlin and Cisco react to all of the stuff in the Arrow-Cave.
  • Cisco also made Roy seem cool for a second. That's impressive.
  • I really would have been fine with Thea's only appearance being her walking down the street and Barry zooming past her. I didn't want to be reminded that something may be going on between her and the DJ though.
  • I love that the hour ends just as Barry is charging Oliver. The idea of knowing who would come out on top during that battle is much more satisfying than actually knowing. The fight sequence in The Flash last night was epic and now it's simply a competition between two friends.