Tuesday, December 2, 2014

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Barry Fights with Oliver When the Team from 'Arrow' Visits Central City in 'Flash vs. Arrow'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 1.08 "Flash vs. Arrow"

Barry is thrilled when Oliver, Felicity and Diggle come to Central City to investigate a case involving a deadly boomerang. Barry asks Oliver to help him stop Ray Bivolo, a meta-human who can cause people to lose control of their emotions and has been using that skill to rob banks. Eddie tries to get a task force to stop The Flash. Joe and Wells agree the Arrow is a bad influence on Barry. Caitlin and Cisco deal with a new team in STAR Labs.

Barry Allen and Oliver Queen became friends during Barry's trip to Starling City a year ago. And now, this week The Flash and Arrow are each having big crossover events with the teams merging to work together to hunt down the various bad guys of the week. It is a lot of fun. It's capable of being that entertaining because "Flash vs. Arrow" doesn't require you to see this episode as anything other than an episode of The Flash with some special guest stars helping the regular team.

While The Flash and Arrow exist in the same universe, they do offer different variations on tone. Arrow is more brooding with the weight of the world and the responsibility of being a hero squarely on Oliver's shoulders. The Flash is more upbeat because Barry loves having his powers and doing good deeds to help the people of Central City. Yes, Oliver has fun from time to time and Barry has the tragic death of his mother. But those are the overarching descriptions of each respective show. Because of those differences, it does take a beat for Oliver to feel comfortable within the tonal structure of The Flash. He made a brief appearance in the series premiere. But now, he has returned to teach more wisdom to Barry. To train Barry to make him an even better superhero fighting against the various meta-humans out there in this corner of the world.

Oliver, Felicity and Diggle make the trip to Central City in order to get information on the bad guy they are tracking - Captain Boomerang, who they will deal with in tomorrow night's second part of the big The Flash-Arrow crossover event. They then spend most of the hour helping Barry capture Ray Bivolo, the latest villainous meta-human who can give people huge fits of rage simply by making eye contact. It's certainly not the most impressive meta-human the series has done so far. And yet, his sole purpose is to provide an excuse for Barry and Oliver to fight against each other in the episode's climax.

And boy, that climatic battle is epic. It works amazingly well because it combines the phenomenal stunt work from Arrow with the wonderful special effects from The Flash. During the fight, both the Flash and the Arrow are allowed moments were they seem to be winning. Oliver has experience and tricks up his sleeve while Barry has superpowers. It's exciting to watch - even though the teams back at STAR Labs are arguing over who will come up on top and it's up to Felicity to remind them of their true mission.

It's important to remember that this is a fight between two friends. Barry is not acting like himself and Oliver is just trying to help him before Barry does something he'll regret later. Angry Barry attacks Eddie as the Flash and that gives the police detective enough motive to form a task force to hunt down the superhero. A task force hunting the hero is a device that was used on Arrow for two seasons. Using it again would have to have merit. Fortunately, this ugly moment with Eddie is enough to justify its existence along with pushing Iris away from her devotion to the Flash. The fight with Oliver only amplifies Barry's feelings towards the people in his life. The show wisely doesn't blame his rage and the things he says on Bivolo. Barry still has a lot to learn with what it means to be a hero. He has friends willing to looking after him and help him. And yet, he still needs to develop his own identity as a superhero. Oliver's "advice" in regards to Barry never being able to be with Iris seems too much like the path Oliver must bare. But it's also truthful to a point right now. Barry was excited by how much Iris loved the Flash and now he has to mend that relationship if he ever hopes it to be something more.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Flash vs. Arrow" was directed by Glen Winter with story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and teleplay by Ben Sokolowsky & Brooke Eikmeier.
  • Diggle's reactions to Barry's powers were hilarious.
  • Wells and Joe were both very skeptical of the Arrow's influence on Barry. We've grown accustomed to his methods after 3 seasons on Arrow. But it's still jarring to the people who haven't had to deal with those kinds of tactics. However, both come around in the end and see just how good Oliver is for Barry.
  • Arrow's trip to Central City is mostly about Barry. And yet, Felicity also asks Caitlin to help analyze evidence in Sara's murder and Oliver has a run-in with his former girlfriend (the one he got pregnant and Moira paid off).
  • And in terms of The Flash alluding to future plot developments, the tag scene features a still alive Ronnie - who gets name dropped a couple times throughout the hour - setting ablaze as Firestorm.
  • This was the first time the police captain said that he had a boyfriend, right?
  • How is it that Felicity's clothes burned up when Barry brought her to STAR Labs but Barry's normal clothes never do?
  • Ray Bivolo really isn't the focus of this episode. So I'm perfectly fine not seeing Barry and Oliver catch him. We just get the glimpse of him being thrown into the particle accelerator jail and get the funny line from Oliver mentioning his similar setup on Lian Yu.