The Good: Good plot progression for the larger arcs, Decent performances, Good character moments
The Bad: Narrative gaps, Lack of emotive resonance
The Basics: Not simply acting as an advertisement for Arrow, “Flash Vs. Arrow” finds Barry Allen under the influence of a metahuman and attacking his allies!
I have a pretty low opinion of modern crossover television episodes. This probably stems back to the occasional visit the Buffy The Vampire Slayer characters made to Angel, which I felt was a fine show in its own and did not need the boost from its progenitor. Too often, crossover episodes are used simply as advertisements for a network’s other shows. In the case of The Flash, so early in its first season, viewers are already being bombarded with references to Arrow - from Arrow’s appearance in the pilot episode (reviewed here!) to Felicity Smoak’s gratuitous side-trip to Central City in “Going Rogue” (reviewed here!). With the promise of an “epic” crossover that began with “Flash Vs. Arrow,” the potential for disaster for The Flash only rose.
Fortunately, disaster was largely averted by making the first part of the crossover much more than a cheap in-episode advertisement for Arrow. Managing to avoid some of the “don’t forget to watch our other great show” feel from “Going Rogue,” “Flash Vs. Arrow” nicely moves along the story of Barry Allen as his nascent alter-ego The Flash. Picking up after “Power Outage” (reviewed here!), but without ever actually referencing it directly, “Flash Vs. Arrow” opens typically-enough and while it turns into a crossover event, it seems to forget its own purpose as it gets distracted with advancing the better character elements of The Flash.
Opening with a strangely nebulous statement about how people sometimes have days where they feel good, a bank robber enters a bank, flashes his eyes and alters the emotions of everyone in the bank. As the bank patrons and workers turn on one another with murderous rage, the robber walks off with half a million dollars. While the Flash is able to save the lives of those in the bank, Eddie is inspired by the event (and Iris bringing The Flash up in bed) to go to Captain Singh to try to get a task force set up to stop the Flash. While Iris tries to warn the Flash, Detective West and his team encounter the new metahuman and they only manage to escape the potentially life-threatening situation by the Arrow showing up and rescuing Barry, Joe and the other cops.
The Arrow, Felicity and Digger, are in Central City following a trail of clues to a boomerang-wielding killer. While Cisco and Felicity analyze the boomerang, Oliver trains Barry and after Cisco identifies the metahuman as Roy G. Bivolo, The Flash gets into a fight with him. Dosed by Bivolo’s “magic eyes,” the Flash slowly builds up to a level of anger that bursts into an unstoppable rage. Barry Allen and The Flash unleashes his rage on Singh, Eddie ,and then the Arrow, setting off a chain of events that threaten to tear down his reputation as a good guy in Central City.
“Flash Vs. Arrow” starts off entirely flawed. The moment the Arrow appears, Roy G. Bivolo is using a possessed cop to make his getaway. Once Arrow puts down the possessed officer, there is no sensible reason why The Flash can’t run past the fallen officer and catch Bivolo. Seriously; it makes no sense why Bivolo is able to make any sort of getaway. Barry should have been able to capture Bivolo, bring him to the police all wrapped up and returned to the Arrow’s side to be star-struck.
Oliver Queen’s appearance on The Flash offers Barry a chance for some on-screen training, which has been somewhat minimized in the first several episodes of the series. Oddly, the Flash exhibits some evolution in his abilities – namely vibrating off a lock – that has nothing to do with his training. Under the column of “not at all a gratuitous crossover,” Oliver makes an essential and wonderful point in his training of Barry Allen. Oliver insists that Barry has the ability, but not the discipline or training, to scout every scene he arrives at before ever encountering the dangerous metahumans.
“Flash Vs. Arrow” is a crossover that freely assumes viewers are watching Arrow. For those who were not drawn into Arrow and who are loping through the series on Netflix thanks to the teases on The Flash, “Flash Vs. Arrow” spoils a number of big plot points for the sistershow. As a result, there is some value to getting caught up on Arrow before watching “Flash Vs. Arrow.”
Oddly, “Flash Vs. Arrow” seems to forget the reason Oliver and his team are visiting. The episode becomes (reasonably) overwhelmed with the Prism storyline and they effect that metahuman has on Barry Allen. But the episode concludes without any sort of acknowledgment that Barry and his friends from S.T.A.R. Labs are actually going to assist Oliver in hunting down Captain Boomerang (the logical villain using the boomerangs in Starling City).
The well-threaded element of “Flash Vs. Arrow” is the Iris West character arc in the episode. Iris’s affection for the Flash has been growing steadily throughout the series thus far. In recent episodes, she has been jeopardizing her relationship with Eddie over her crush on the Flash. “Flash Vs. Arrow” strips away the Flash’s apparent goodness as he beats the crap out of Eddie and that has the realistic effect of turning Iris against the Flash. The sense of consequence makes for an engaging arc. Unfortunately, “Flash Vs. Arrow” is so focused on the guest cast that it does not give actress Candice Patton a chance to deliver any sort of powerful emotional performance to reflect upon her character’s sudden disillusionment.
The problem with the power of Iris West’s arc in “Flash Vs. Arrow” is that to truly appreciate it, one has to have watched the other episodes of The Flash. This becomes a problem because there is so much in “Flash Vs. Arrow” that does not hold together based on watching those same episodes. Two episodes ago, Barry Allen punched through a punching bag; “Flash Vs. Arrow” asks viewers to believe that while completely out of control and using his super-speed, he punches Arrow a dozen times and does not pretty much liquefy his insides. That is pretty unbelievable. The Flash has erratic internal continuity; “Flash Vs. Arrow” sensibly illustrates how Barry’s metabolism would process drugs at an accelerated rate, much like he processes alcohol – in complete defiance to Allen bringing his S.T.A.R. Labs chums a sample of The Mist in the third episode. The effect of Prism’s emotion-altering eyes should have been processed at super-speed as well (no one but Barry requires a color therapy session before the effects wear off).
All that said, “Flash Vs. Arrow” is entertaining and it moves The Flash in a potentially engaging direction. Even for those who might not be invested in the other series, “Flash Vs. Arrow” becomes essential viewing for fans of either!
For other works with David Ramsay, check out my reviews of:
Dexter - Season 3
Dexter - Season 2
Pay It Forward
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!
For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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