[This is a review of The Flash Season 1, Episode 8 – There Will Be SPOILERS!!]
Now that Barry Allen has had time to come to terms with his sudden transformation into a superhuman hero, the first half of the show's two-hour Arrow crossover event has brought the star of The Flash an entirely new challenge.
In "Flash vs. Arrow", a story written by executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, Arrow's Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) come to Central City in pursuit of their own villain, joining forces with Barry (Grant Gustin) to stop a mind-controlling metahuman. Elsewhere, Eddie's (Rick Cosnett) mistrust of 'The Flash' leads to trouble with the speedster's biggest fan: his girlfriend, Iris (Candice Patton).
To say that expectations were high for this crossover would be an understatement, with The Flash's marketing all but implying that the show's early episodes were building to this very event. Given that, some viewers will find the first half of the two-night event not quite as advertised. The justification for Oliver crashing Barry's party is thin to say the least, making it clear that giving fans a dose of 'event viewing' is the crossover's top priority. And in that regard, the episode succeeds.
Predictably, combining the forces of Gustin and Amell, seen in Barry Allen's Arrow introduction and The Flash pilot with the chemistry of Barry and Felicity pays dividends.The effortless blending of the Arrow and Flash tones is still impressive, with the writers at their best when the strong personalities of the S.T.A.R. Labs crew and 'Team Arrow' collide (and debating which of the two would win in a fight).
Despite the title credit, it's Barry who has the most to learn this week, with Oliver arriving just in time to guide the freshman Flash (at Felicity's prodding) in using his power as a weapon, not merely a thrill. Comedic back-stabbing and unheeded words of wisdom aside, the student-teacher relationship plays to the strengths of both characters and shows Barry (and viewers) that the true potential of his power has yet to be witnessed. The lesson is a brief one though, sidelined by the larger plot.
Arrow fans are likely to grasp at any attempt to see Oliver's lighter side come out to play, and "Flash vs. Arrow" leaves no doubt that Gustin and Amell bring out the very best in each other. It's not just Barry's brash actions under the microscope, with Oliver's murderous past brought to the forefront as his... extreme methods (and their undeniable results) leave a lingering question: The Flash may owe its origins to Arrow, but is Oliver really a role model to anyone?
Unfortunately, any chance of seeing the two heroes come to blows over that question is cast aside once Barry is lost to a metahuman-induced rage. It's a shame the writers took what feels like the easy way out, since Barry and Ollie have rarely seen eye-to-eye thus far. A fight (even an entertaining one) without any real conflict behind it can only pack so much punch - but it's far from the episode's most questionable choice.
The decision to feature Iris fawning over not one, but three different men within the episode's first act is particularly odd; Iris unwittingly emasculating the pining Barry is nothing new, but revealing Oliver to be a sexual fantasy of hers lands as out of character for her and the tone of the series to this point. There's nothing inherently misguided about Iris' confession, but its execution, like Barry's promise that "there are no other girls" when his costume-confidence is overflowing, is surprisingly cliché, going well beyond the already dangerous levels of "cheesiness" forming in The Flash's DNA - and Gustin's charm can only do so much to help.
In the end, the fun and fan service of the crossover's first half outweighs its flaws - even if said flaws may be sticking around for the foreseeable future (like Iris' loss of faith and Eddie's 'vigilante task force' resulting from a simple misunderstanding, instead of a progressing subplot).
The Flash returns next Tuesday with "The Man in the Yellow Suit" @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview of the crossover's second half, Arrow's "The Brave and the Bold" below:
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.