This Arrow review contains spoilers. Our review of part one of the crossover can be found here.
It’s the differences that are as important as the similarities with tonight’s installment of the Arrow and Flash crossover. Just like “Flash vs. Arrow” this is a remarkably self-contained adventure. Really, other than needing the boomerang excuse to put these shows together, both would have worked quite well as standalones. I hope that, if it means we’ll get more team-ups in the future, they don’t all have to be two night events. Not that I minded.
And just like “Flash vs. Arrow” was very clearly an episode of The Flash, so is “The Brave and The Bold” absolutely an Arrow episode, and it starts right at the beginning. And not just any episode. “The Brave and The Bold” is handily the best installment of Arrow season three so far.
Even without the flashy guest star, this would have been a fine episode. Why? Because Captain Boomerang (Nick Tarabay) is without question the best actual villain we’ve seen on Arrow since Slade Wilson got banished to the ol’ island. Yes, Captain Boomerang is traditionally a Flash villain, but the way he was introduced this week fit him right into the Arrow universe, but still managed to demonstrate why he’s the kind of guy who could give Flash a headache in the future. Just the fact that he was so clearly out of your standard ARGUS goon’s league was a nice touch. This is a supervillain, and not just a villain of the week. Like Diggle said, “this guy’s the real deal.”
Seriously, have we seen a villain able to go hand-to-hand with Green Arrow and Arsenal like that all year? No we haven’t. The fights were (as they always are) terrifically well-staged, and the boomerangs themselves looked great. The best special effects are those you can’t tell are special effects, and that’s exactly what we got here. The shot of Barry swooping in to stop those boomerangs was pretty awesome, too, but I’m trying to keep this Arrow-centric.
Even more than Ollie was on The Flash, Barry is clearly the one out of place in Starling City. He’s like a fly in the ointment. It’s great. They’re still playing up the “traditional superhero differences” here, and the obvious parallels are still Barry/Superman and Ollie/Batman, which is fine and all, but it should become more nuanced then that down the road. I also think we’ve had quite enough of these characters having their meta discussions (sorry, it was unavoidable) about how different their lives/cities/shows are. We get it. Hell, we already got it.
Having Oliver taking such a pragmatic approach to things like torture are right out of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight playbook, and it’s reasonable shorthand, but we shouldn’t forget that historically in the comics, Green Arrow is the original DC Comics heart-on-sleeve liberal. It’d be fun to see Ollie eventually go down that route, and I do think the show could do it without getting overtly political. Things never go as planned for Oliver Queen, so even if he becomes a full-blown social justice warrior, he’s bound to step in it at some point.
If there’s a problem with this episode, it’s actually hidden in its strengths. It’s expected that some of the supporting cast has to get swept aside to make room for the STAR Labs team. As much as I hate to say it, this was a much stronger episode not so much because of the presence of Flash and friends, but because of the relative absence of Laurel’s silly hero’s journey and Thea’s ridiculous regression to her season one self (I’m irked that they even showed her on the phone with that odious DJ character). I like those characters and they’ve got two talented actresses in those roles, but neither has been well-served this year, and the show is going to need to address this going forward. I shouldn’t be relieved that they aren’t on screen mucking things up.
A couple of random notes before we go. I actually felt that, of everyone, Cisco was the character who felt most at home with the Arrow crew, strangely enough. I enjoyed him as the “optimistic fan” entry point to this world, something which I tend to identify with when it comes to superhero fiction. Cisco has been a kind of inconsistently written character for the most part, but I think this week was when I saw the most potential. But seriously, they need to chill with the naming bad guys.
One last thing, the music during their track down of Klaus Marcos was great. Look, Arrow is a TV show, and there are things they do better than anyone else (stunts, fights, etc), but every now and then Black Neely knocks it out of the park with a piece of cinematic scoring, too.
And now on to the nerd stuff…
Meanwhile, On an Island…
This was definitely one week they could have done without the flashback. I know why they did it, to contrast Oliver’s reluctance to torture with his current embracing of it, but this is time that could have been used better elsewhere. On the other hand, Amanda Waller’s “torture is an art form” speech was kind of awesome, and I feel like it did ultimately make for an effective way to tie in Lyla’s moral greys re: Suicide Squad/Task Force X, Ollie’s issues, and more. Still, the Hong Kong stuff hasn’t quite clicked for me yet.
DC Universe Watchtower
– The Arrowcave and Arrowmobile jokes weren’t just jokes. Back when Green Arrow really was a half-assed Batman these were actual things in DC Comics continuity.
– Somebody in the comments pointed this out to me last week and I neglected to mention it (or give them proper credit…sorry. Feel free to speak up) about the “atom” on the Palmer Technologies logo. That was prominently displayed for a few seconds this week, too! But seriously, show? You have a Flash and Green Arrow team-up and you can’t spare so much as one minute of screentime for Ray Palmer? C’mon! I’m pretty sure that if we get all three in costume and on screen at the same time, we can just go ahead and call it a Justice League. Hell, let’s not forget, Cisco Ramon was a Justice League member, after all!
– The boys are sent to the corner of Infantino and Adams. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this, but just in case I do, Carmine Infantino is the artist most associated with Barry Allen, partially because he co-created him, but also because he drew just so very many of his stories. Neal Adams revitalized Green Arrow in the pages of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and is the artist who also co-created Arrow season three big baddie Ra’s al Ghul. It’s like the corner of genius and genius…if that corner is located in a Starling neighborhood or borough that has “Kirby” anywhere in the name, it would be like the nexus of the comic book universe.
– The title of this week’s episode, “The Brave and The Bold” is taken from a long running DC Comics team-up book. Plenty appropriate. I thought Lyla did a nice job working the whole brave/bold dichotomy into the episode, too.