Let’s bitch it out…
As I mentioned yesterday, The Flash‘s portion of the crossover was very clearly in that show’s wheelhouse. That trend continues on tonight’s episode of Arrow, which is substantially more angsty and dark. There’s a lot of talk between members of both shows about the distinctions between Starling and Central City and those distinctions speak to the difference in tone between shows. We get repeated references to the jokey approach to dealing with metahumans and superpowers in Central compared to the death and destruction that typically occurs in Starling. Now that we’re back in Oliver (Stephen Amell) and co.’s hood, we’re back to night time battles, break-ins and nearly averted bomb-related massacres. It’s good to be back in Starling!
Compared to last night’s villain, Harkness (Nick Tarabay) is a much more significant presence in ‘The Brave And The Bold’. We learn early on in the episode about his history with the Suicide Squad and his reasons for seeking vengeance on ARGUS, and more specifically Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson), Diggle’s (David Ramsey)
wife partner future wife. Not only does Harkness provide a reason for bringing The Arrow and The Flash together, he is a living example of the darkness that Starling City attracts.
What’s interesting is that we have seen the same kind of darkness on The Flash (at one point Barry even verbally confronts Oliver by stating that his mother was also murdered). The difference is less about the city and more about how each hero responds to it. Oliver feels as though his humanity (embodied by Oliver Queen) has been lost, which makes sense when you consider how infrequently we see his public persona these days. All that remains is The Arrow, a vigilante who has a tendency to see the worst in every situation (for the first time this season, the flashbacks in Hong Kong play up this idea by reinforcing the consequences of not doing what needs to be done to protect innocent lives).
The central dichotomy boils down to this: Oliver and Barry embody two different approaches to heroism. Barry is still new to this life (he may have lost a mother, but Oliver has lost significantly more). As a result Barry retains his naivety and idealism; he has yet to experience a situation that merits the use of torture. Oliver, in comparison, has adopted a moral compass that can be bent when necessary because he feels that it is one of his strongest assets in the fight against crime. Setting up the pair as opposites is a very simple way to highlight their differing opinions (and by proxy the two shows’s treatment of heroism as alternately light and fun vs dark and broody). This is not-so-subtly reinforced by the showdown that was heavily featured on The Flash and is hinted at in this episode’s closing scene. It may be fun to speculate about who will win when these two battle, but the real battle is an ideological one that will continue to rage so long as they disagree on a hero’s need to do “what needs to be done” to achieve results.
The end of the hour suggests a detente / ray of hope in the form of the empty mannequin reserved for The Flash’s costume. Barry’s alternative method of handling crime – emphasized when the teams work together to defuse multiple bombs – solicits results that Oliver’s solitary brand of hard justice can’t achieve. And so Harkness ends up on Purgatory Island with Slade, The Flash has a standing invite to visit Starling and Oliver’s humanity remains mostly intact. That seems like solid work for the second half of the crossover and fertile ground to continue exploring the subject on both shows moving forward.
- FYI: Guns are in the third drawer of the Arrow cave. The more you know!
- Things that get old fast: everyone chiding everyone else when they suggest Lyla and Diggle are married. I get that it sets up Dig’s (re)proposal in the hospital, but ultimately sitting through the recurring gag for that payoff didn’t feel worth it.
- The stunned look on Lyla’s face at Barry’s abilities are pretty hilarious. Sometimes I forgot how unusual Barry’s abilities must be to everyday folks, so Lyla’s and Diggle’s reactions have been a helpful reminder.
- In the Hong Kong flashbacks, Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) continues to drive Oliver to dehumanize himself. We’re still moving towards some kind of catalyst that not only allows Oliver to break away, but establishes an uneasy relationship between the two. I’m intrigued by what that could be since everything we’ve seen of Waller suggests she never would have let him walk away.
- Sara’s murder continues to quietly unspool in the B (C?) storyline as Caitlin and Cisco agree to run diagnostics on the killer arrows. Man the fire under this particular storyline has cooled dramatically.
- Oh right, Thea (Willa Holland), Roy (Colton Haynes), Lance (Paul Blackthorne) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) are still characters on this show.Is it a bad sign that I don’t miss them at all when they’re not on screen?
- Felicity (when Carlos Valdes’ Cisco demands to see the Arrow cave): “We don’t call it that. Ever.”
- Cisco (requesting to see the toys): “Do you have an Arrow-mobile?”
- Felicity (when Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin asks what the salmon ladder is for): “Hmm, distracting me from work.”
- Felicity (after Barry dashes off for sushi): “I need to get some paperweights down here!”
- Cisco (after learning Thea is both Ollie’s sister and Roy’s ex): “So stay away, is what you’re saying.”
- Felicity (after Barry deposits her at the bomb site): “Whoa” Her delivery makes it hard to do it justice.
Your turn: how did you feel about the two half of the crossover? Were you expecting more of a continuation? Was Harkness a compelling enough villain for you? What happened between Waller and Ollie back in Hong Kong? And is one form of heroism gaining traction or can they both co-exist (on separate shows)? Sound off below
Arrow airs its mid-season finale next Wednesday at 8pm EST on The CW. Here’s a preview