A review of part 1 of “The Flash” crossover with “Arrow” coming up just as soon as my shirt's on fire…
In a way, my favorite part of “Flash vs. Arrow” is something we didn't see: Barry and Oliver teaming up to take out the Rainbow Raider, as we cut from the end of their fight to the colorfully-named Roy G. Bivolo(*) being thrown into a STAR Labs prison cell. Even with his creepier mind control powers for TV, the Raider has never been one of the more impressive members of Flash's Rogues Gallery(**), and his only purpose in this episode was to provide the thing we actually cared about, which was the title fight between our two heroes.
(*) Giving a villain with rainbow powers a name that starts with “Roy G. Biv” seems pretty on the nose, but keep in mind that other DC villains' real names are Victor Fries (Mr. Freeze), Julian Gregory Day (Calendar Man), Harleen Quinzelle (Harley Quinn) and future-adopter T.O. Morrow. Marvel's not quite so terrible with the funny secret identities, but Telford Porter (aka the Vanisher, whose power is to teleport) is pretty bad.
That fight – and, more importantly, everything that led up to it – was just about everything I could have wanted for the first episode-length encounter between Barry and Oliver in their costumed identities. As superhuman vs. vigilante battles go, I imagine “Superman V. Batman” will have a much bigger scope, but this one did a terrific job of combining the great stunt work and fight choreography of “Arrow” with the digital effects of “The Flash,” so we got to see each hero shine at different points before the thing ended in a tie. And the conflict between the two heroes and their various sidekicks and handlers(***) did a good job of addressing their different methodologies and symbolism without ever making me feel like I was being beaten over the head with it. I especially appreciated that Barry didn't blame the Rainbow Raider's mojo for everything he said while he was under the influence, since it was clear he was channeling very real frustrations about both Oliver and Eddie Thawne.
(***) My only major objection to the episode was Diggle and Cisco (and to a lesser extent Caitlin) making like fanboys (and girls) in arguing for their guy in the midst of a dangerous situation where Barry was under the influence of mind control. Thankfully, Felicity called them out on it, but it still sucked a good deal of tension out of the battle.
“Flash vs. Arrow” also did something I can appreciate as a longtime comic book reader who got tired of having to buy other comics for the sake of a crossover: it told a story that could stand on its own to anyone who doesn't like/watch “Arrow” and won't be tuning in tomorrow night for the crossover's second part. (I'm waiting to watch that screener until after I write this review.) Though Oliver, Felicity and Diggle were all hanging around (and Diggle's reactions to Barry's speed were a lot of fun), and there were a few nods to “Arrow” continuity (Felicity asking Caitlin's help in the Canary investigation, the appearance of Oliver's apparent baby mama), this was functionally an episode of “The Flash” with Very Special Guest Stars, and one that advanced a number of this series' ongoing story and character arcs. Specifically, Barry briefly turning heel while under the Rainbow Raider's spell provides a non-contrived justification for Eddie to start up an anti-Flash task force, and for Iris to back away from her hero worship for a while.
If I were a fan of just “The Flash,” I don't think I would have felt ripped off by what the series had to offer tonight. And as someone who watches and enjoys both, this was a real treat.
Some other thoughts:
* Felicity's blouse catches fire while Barry is carrying her to the lab (allowing for a hype-able moment of Emily Bett Rickards in her bra), yet Barry's civilian clothes always do just fine. It's true what they say about men's clothing being made better, I suppose.
* The tag this week isn't about whatever Harrison (G?) Wells is up to, but our first glimpse of the very non-dead Ronnie Raymond with his hair on fire like Firestorm. Based on how they've costumed most of the villains so far, I'm guessing we won't see Robbie Amell wearing this costume anytime soon, unfortunately.
* Speaking of Ronnie, Felicity calls Barry a lovable dummy for invoking Ronnie's name in an argument with Caitlin; does Felicity (like many of the show's viewers) detect a Caitlin/Barry romantic vibe? Or was she just calling him out for going to the nuclear (man) option in a discussion that didn't need it?
* Joe lists two things he'll never do as playing professional baseball and thanking the Arrow. He inevitably does the latter, and Jesse Martin did play a professional baseball player – albeit an alien shapeshifter posing as a Negro Leaguer – in a memorable “X-Files” episode.
What did everybody else think?