This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 2, Episode 8
Of course, it all starts with a bolt of lightning. This is it, folks! The episode most DC fans have been waiting for since before Arrow season two even kicked off. “The Scientist” introduces Grant Gustin (Glee) as Barry Allen, the Central City police scientist who will one day become the superhero known as The Flash…and who is destined for his own show on the CW…but that’s another story. And since Flash is one of the most recognizable, important, and marketable characters in the DC pantheon not named Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman, well…this is a pretty big deal. Does “The Scientist” live up to the lofty expectations? Read on…
Just to be clear, it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep this review spoiler-free, so read on at your own risk if you haven’t watched “The Scientist” yet.
“The Scientist” opens as a Queen Consolidated warehouse is robbed by one incredibly strong man who batters down a steel door and takes out two guards like it’s nothing. What does he do for an encore? He rips a centrifuge (a KORD INDUSTRIES centrifuge, for the record) out of the ground like it’s nothing, and strolls off into the stormy night. As you can imagine, this is a cause for concern.
When Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle show up at the warehouse to inspect the damage, that’s when we meet Barry Allen, a crime scene investigator from Central City, who has apparently been sent to Starling City to look into this because of its resemblance to similar crimes back on his turf. It’s Barry who is absolutely certain that it was one super-strong man who did this, and he’s intent on finding out more. He also hits it off with Felicity pretty quickly, but that’s another story.
What can be said about Grant Gustin’s portrayal of Barry? It works. In fact, it works really well. Barry’s always been kind of a square in the comics. He’s a cop, after all. While Gustin initially comes off a little more awkward than you might expect, he isn’t pulling a Peter Parker here. He’s a smart, intuitive, brilliant young man, and he clearly knows what he’s talking about, and there’s some real confidence in there. His youth and “aw shucks” attitude, not to mention what appears to be the barest hint of a “cop mustache” on his upper lip (which is an amusing touch) are charming, but some of it is clearly an act, and as we learn, Barry has many secrets.
Felicity and Barry strike up an adorably awkward rapport almost immediately, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Oliver and Diggle. I gotta say…the first 10 or 15 minutes of “The Scientist” are arguably the lightest, most fun that Arrow has ever been. Even if it wasn’t clear from the start that Barry is going to become a superhero of his own and take the lead on his own show, the character (thanks in no small part to the TERRIFIC chemistry between Grant Gustin and Emily Brett Rickards) really adds to the dynamic between Ollie, Felicity, and Diggle. If he was just going to be a semi-regular supporting castmember for the rest of the season, superpowers or no superpowers, he would be a welcome addition.
Of course, the main issue here is tracking down the deadly, superstrong robber, who viewers know is Brother Blood’s goon, all jacked up on a combination of (what we know is) “miraclo” and ketamine. What’s been created here is, more or less, Solomon Grundy. It’s like a super-soldier serum for the strength and toughness, and ketamine for the “zombie.” Not quite the undead hulk from the swamps we know from the comics, but there’s room for the character to become a little more supernatural in the future. And we still haven’t seen what next week’s episode holds!
There’s a terrific action sequence as Green Arrow (we can start calling him that now, right?) chases him down on a motorcycle, and ends up a little worse for the wear for his troubles. Their second meeting is even better, and on a show that has pretty much always delivered top of the line fight sequences, this one, between a human badass and a proper superhuman really raised the bar. THIS is how you do superheroes on TV, folks!
How good is “The Scientist?” It’s so good that it makes up for some of the (many) sins of the previous episode, “State v. Queen” even though it has to address the immediate aftermath of it. Yes, there’s certainly major story issues with Moira Queen being reinstated at Queen Consolidated, but really, the damage is done here, and as bad as the entire trial storyline was, it’s over, and I suppose it’s unfair to hold the sins of that episode against this one. There are some other minor issues, such as Thea being kinda oblivious at times. Roy just keeps running off to meet with Sin while they investigate the disappearance (and subsequent death) of a friend of theirs who has fallen in with the wrong crowd…namely Brother Blood’s crowd. I’m sometimes not sure why she’s along for the ride on some of that stuff, but as we know, the show has big plans for Thea. Also, did anybody else feel that the way Ollie dealt with Roy at the end was basically a little, ummmm…excessive?
Despite my story problems with basically hitting the reset button on Moira Queen’s story (back home and under the thrall of Malcolm Merlyn once again…or is she?), Susanna Thompson is such a terrific actress that it’s nice to have her back and not just doing the obligatory five minute jail cell cameo again. And she gets what is arguably the most badass moment of the episode in, but we’ll get to that later. Now, on to the geeky stuff and the MAJOR spoilers!
FLASH FACTS! (sorry…couldn’t resist) When Barry talks about his mother’s murder, he’s talking about the details of the Flash origin that were added by Geoff Johns (who co-wrote this episode), in the comic stories Flash: Rebirth and Flashpoint. He makes explicit reference to what can only be Professor Zoom/The Reverse-Flash. Barry’s mother’s murder and his father’s wrongful imprisonment for it are the reason he looks into strange, superpowered crimes. When Barry explains this to Oliver and Felicity, that’s basically the pitch for the new Flash TV series. It’s great. Oh, and Barry fields a call from a clearly (and appropriately) cranky Director Singh, a fun Flash supporting character from the comics.
The STAR Labs particle accelerator gets THREE mentions in this episode. Once on the cover of “Science Showcase” (which is a cute nod to Barry Allen/Flash’s first appearance in Showcase #4 in 1956), with a story wondering about how safe it is, once between Barry and Felicity (who also thinks its unsafe), and once via news broadcast indicating that it’s about to be turned on. While it does seem they’re telegraphing this to be the source of Flash’s powers in the Arrow universe, we also get a SERIOUS tease of Flash’s traditional comic book origin of “lightning bolt + chemicals = superhero.” In fact, this bit was SO on the nose, that I half expected them to just drop that on us right then and there. It was great, and I would have been fine with it. But we may end up getting it next week!
DC Universe Watch: Cyrus Gold is, of course, Solomon Grundy, albeit in modified form here. That’s a clearly labeled Kord Industries centrifuge that was stolen. I don’t believe this is the first time we’ve heard Kord Industries named on this show, but the more I think about it, the Ted Kord incarnation of Blue Beetle would be a perfect fit for Arrow‘s formula. Please…somebody…make this happen.
On the island, while Ivo and the Amazo crew are only seen briefly, Ollie and friends do inject Slade with “miraclo” (I know, it’s not really called that, but we know what it is). There’s a few hints throughout the episode that Ollie has encountered superhumans before, and I can’t help but wonder if the source of many of the superpowers in the Arrow universe will be linked to this serum. The effects that miraclo will have on Slade remain to be seen…but it seems to kill him. Probably not, though.
And, once again, Nanda Parbat and Ra’s al Ghul get prominent mentions, which raises the possibility of Deadman (another character who would do great on TV) joining the party at some point. It looks like we may actually get to MEET this show’s version of Ra’s al Ghul at some point (we’ll see his daughter soon enough), which also seems to lend some creedence to those recent Nightwing rumors, doesn’t it? And when Moira Queen drops Ra’s al Ghul’s name on Merlyn, well…it’s pretty awesome. The Queen family is apparently quite well connected.
All in all, “The Scientist” is a terrific episode. One of the best of the series, although it’s tough to judge just HOW good it is versus how jacked up I am at the prospect of seeing Barry Allen/The Flash on TV for the first time in over twenty years. The second half, “Three Ghosts,” which also features Barry and Solomon Grundy, should make things a little easier to judge. It looks like things are going to come to a head with Brother Blood in a pretty serious way sooner rather than later.
Did I miss any major clues? Let us know in the comments, please!