This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 7 Episode 9
As much fun as Part 1 of the Elseworlds crossover was (Lois Lane!), Part 2 brought with it even more excitement and downright glee. Considering that past crossovers have struggled with bloated premises and lack of momentum, Elseworlds blows them all out of the water.
Everyone talks a lot about seeing new villains or how our favorite characters will team up in cool action set pieces, but for my money some of the best moments in this or any crossover are the small moments between characters, many of which feel like adlibs of siblings ribbing each other because the writers and actors have developed the characters so well. This episode has those in spades, not to mention letting us meet Batwoman in earnest, and a real Arkham Asylum throwndown.
Ruby Rose felt perfect in the role of Kate Kane here – aloof, mysterious, clearly had her own agenda, but eventually warming up just an intriguing smidge. As a backdoor pilot for Batwoman, I’d consider it a success. Of note is the excellent chemistry between Kate Kane and Kara Danvers, with and without capes. If Kate Kane isn’t queer then there’s no justice in this world, but you also can’t tell me that Kara Danvers was casually using her x-ray vision on her for no reason.
The Batman references felt fun and having Barry around meant you could have someone say his name with reverence while someone else (jealous Boliver) claimed he was merely an urban legend, all the while sounding like a tantruming child, and neither one sounds too far into fan service or like you’re pretending for no reason. The change to the show’s soundtrack and overall visual style also helped set the tone for Gotham and the idea that this was its own world and (potentially) its own show, one that could stand alone in the near future. Can you hear me, CW? Give us that Kate Kane solo show!
Each Arrowverse show brings its own challenges to a crossover – with Supergirl, the issue is mostly that it’s on it’s own Earth, which is why the rest of the gang hasn’t shown up so far. And of course the Legends of Tomorrow crew are just too big of a crowd and their time-travelling mandate makes it harder to justify why they need to be brought it. Cutting it down to just these three shows definitely made it easier for this crossover to succeed, but the subject matter also plays a big part.
But one of the hardest things about these crossovers is blending the different tones of the show, especially for Arrow, which is now the odd man out. Getting Oliver Queen out of grimdark land, in the sense of lifting him out of his show, his city, and in this sense his body, meant that the entire enterprise could be so much more joyously goofy. Stephen Amell is a funny guy, but he only ever gets to play a narrow part of the spectrum. Sometimes it works, but on rougher seasons it has felt more like a prison than a character trait. The body swapping, whether it’s a Freaky Friday or a Quantum Leap, got Oliver Queen into a place of levity and we’re all better for it.
Throughout the crossover, Kara has continued to mull over her quandary about revealing her secret identity, first with her cousin/Superman, and now with Kate Kane in reference to her cousin, Bruce Wayne and not-so-subtextually, Batman. I’m hoping that Oliver and Kara will have a chance to discuss this as well, since he’s going through it in a big way right now.
The best fight scenes of the episode all take place in and around Arkham Asylum – poor Cisco just can’t catch a break. There’s a bit too much shakey cam for my liking, and the Flash’s solution is always a bit too quick and easy, but watching Diggle fight off a million guys is always fun. The best part is the three in one fight with the Scarecrow-inspired hallucinogen that gets Barry and Oliver fighting each other, but thinking they’re fighting each other’s former nemeses, which is as good an excuse to bust out Malcolm Merlyn as any. Have we ever gone this long without seeing him?
It’s interesting that even the hallucinogens are thrown off by the reality switch, but that also means that the highly personal taunts shouldn’t be all that hurtful since, well, they’re not actually about them. This fight ends up adding to Barry and Oliver’s lesson in learning about one another, but the logic of how scared and fight-y they’re supposed to be gets a bit fuzzy to me in the middle there.
This is ultimately an episode of Arrow, and it turns out Barry Allen was the perfect person to help Oliver work through a tumultuous time. Being perceived as Barry may have made it easier for Oliver to try a few things on for size, since he didn’t have to do it with his own face. I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken without Barry or the swap to get an insight like the one Oliver offered up in his apology to Barry about how Barry gets to be liked and Oliver mistakenly thought he got his powers easily. Oliver is at a point in his life and his career as a vigilante where he would like to be motivated by something other than darkness and anger. It reminds me of what Bruce Springsteen recently said in an interview:
“Long ago, the defenses I built to withstand the stress of my childhood, to save what I had of myself, outlived their usefulness, and I’ve become an abuser of their once lifesaving powers. I relied on them wrongly to isolate myself, seal my alienation, cut me off from life, control others, and contain my emotions to a damaging degree. Now the bill collector is knocking, and his payment’ll be in tears.”
Oliver Queen is looking for a new way forward, and with the help of his friend Barry Allen, it seems he may have found it. The tension between Oliver and Felicity is woven throughout this episode and while it’s not resolved, Oliver makes clear that his intension is to work with Felicity to resolve it, rather than closing up or keeping secrets, the way he has done in the past.