Sunday, December 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - Barry Allen and Oliver Queen Swap Superhero Identities in 'Elseworlds, Part 1'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 5.09 "Elseworlds, Part 1"

When Barry Allen and Oliver Queen wake up one morning and realize they have swapped bodies with each other, the two set off to find out what disturbed the timeline to cause such a shift. However, things quickly go from bad to worse when they present their case to Team Flash and the gang doesn't believe them. Barry and Oliver realize they need Supergirl's help and travel to Smallville on Earth-38 where they end up meeting Kara's cousin, Clark Kent, and intrepid reporter, Lois Lane.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of The CW's The Flash.

"Elseworlds, Part 1" was written by Eric Wallace & Sam Chalsen and directed by Kevin Tancharoen

It's been around a year since I've stopped watching The Flash and Arrow. It was near last year's crossover event. Both shows fell out of the rotation for a number of reasons - mostly because they were getting too melodramatic and repetitive. As such, it was always going to be intriguing to see how these characters play when a viewer is just returning for this annual crossover event. This story is designed for those in the audience who may not be interested in the season-long stories for the individual shows. It's just a tightly plotted arc that features all of the heroes coming together for one massive adventure. The creative teams have used these events in the past to push the boundaries of what they could do. That's what makes it so surprising when the first part of the "Elseworlds" event is smaller and more intimate in scale. It truly is an episode of The Flash with only a small number of characters from Arrow and Supergirl making appearances. The only disruption to the world is Oliver and Barry swapping identities. That means that Oliver wakes up as the Flash while Barry is training as the Green Arrow. It ultimately becomes a story about how they have to better embrace these new identities in order to serve as the heroes their universe needs right now. Of course, there is a lot of awkwardness from their respective teams being in the dark about what exactly is going on. Oliver and Barry are aware that they are now out of place in their worlds. The rest of the universe of Earth-1 does not though. However, Team Flash appears in full while Diggle is the only member of Team Arrow seen here. Diggle doesn't even get a huge role once Barry and Oliver start trying to convince their friends that something has changed in their reality. It's not until they go over to Kara's Earth that they are understood. But again, this entire story pivots around the idea that the two just naturally have the skills of the other to use in fights. Barry and Oliver conquer the other's skills as heroes very quickly. Their entire stories have shifted. So even though it's out of place for them, they still have the instincts to excel as these new heroic identities. However, the show also seems to be suggesting that Oliver is great as the Green Arrow because he is angry and been traumatized while Barry excels as The Flash because he is optimistic and joyful. That doesn't really track well with the developments across both shows. Barry has often been brooding in melodrama trying to convince the world that he shouldn't be blamed despite making the same mistakes over and over again which lead to loved ones getting killed. Meanwhile, there is only so much torture and trauma that Oliver can endure without it seeming like a spoof of what has come before. These are problems that may hinder the audience's enjoyment of this specific story. There is even a tease that Barry's embrace of Oliver's identity will linger as he continues with his own story on The Flash. That's lame because he has already been an angry and brooding character. All of this doesn't detract too much though. It's still exciting to see the Green Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Superman team up to defeat an android named Amazo that can copy metahuman abilities. That makes it such a lethal threat even though it's not immediately apparent if its creation has anything to do with the Elseworlds concept. So, this is mostly just a slow setup into the latest threat to the universe. Kara will be sticking around until everything gets sorted out for Barry and Oliver. However, that means that Clark Kent and Lois Lane disappear just as quickly as they arrived which is a little disappointing. But the hour ends with the impending arrival of Batwoman in Gotham. That's very exciting.