The Flash episode 8 review: Flash vs Arrow

A massive crossover episode shows that there's potential for an expanded DC universe...

This review contains spoilers.

1.8 Flash vs Arrow

When episodes like Flash vs. Arrow arrive, it does make you wonder what DC is playing at. Everyone’s into expanding their universe’s into big, sprawling franchises right now – the Suicide Squad casting announcement confirmed just today – but here’s the CW, doing it justice (no pun intended) with minimal effort, just eight weeks into Arrow’s first spin-off’s run, and with an enviable sense of fun that has been missing from the movie universe so far.

Everyone involved in this episode (and tonight’s second part) seems to care about what it’s doing, why the fans will think it’s awesome, and why crossovers are a good idea in the first place. It’s a story that takes its inspiration from comic book crossovers rather than the Avengers movie model that everyone’s now copying. It’s been created with a “eh, why not?” attitude, without six years worth of meticulously planned release dates and forward planning.

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But despite the perceived nonchalance of Flash vs. Arrow’s origins, it’s a joy for fans of these two shows to see them physically, not just theoretically, share a world. It feels like an event, rare in and of itself, and this isn’t even the mid-season finale.

Who knows what Arrow’s closer to the two-parter will be like, but this episode takes the silly fun of The Flash’s first season and merely amps it up to fit with a slightly bigger scale. I mentioned in my review of the pilot that, against the bright colours and humour of Barry’s world, Oliver looked silly in comparison, and having him in Central City for an extended period of time really made the most of that contrast. It’s like when Angel went over to Buffy mid-traumatic apocalypse and started cracking jokes.

The interactions were great – Oliver shooting Barry as part of his training, and acknowledgment Barry’s general arrogance both highlights of the hour. There will also be plenty of people who got a kick out of just seeing them both fight in full costume, even if the result of said fight could be perceived as a little bit of a cop-out.

But the most admirable thing about the episode was that this was still an episode of The Flash, just with a little added Oliver, Felicity and Diggle thrown in. We still had tension at STAR Labs, Barry’s crush on Iris and even a nice little teaser featuring lil’ Amell’s Firestorm – the crossover concept didn’t take over the entire hour, and that’s a nice surprise given the hype.

There were the fun little touches like Cisco and Diggle arguing over who would win in a fight or Felicity and Caitlin bonding over both being smart, kick-ass females, but Oliver being in Central City was largely used as a way to flesh out existing storylines. Wells, for example, is showing his true colours more and more, and Oliver and Felicity’s well-tuned bullsh*t detectors immediately noticed his sinister nature of his interest in the Arrow.

The matter of Iris, also, was quickly outlined and shut down by Oliver, as it should be. The main thing to take away from this episode as far as The Flash goes, of course, is that Iris no longer trusts her blurry hero after the episode’s ragey meta-human caused Barry to take out his frustrations on Eddie.

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We can’t blame the guy for heading up a task force for someone he perceives as stalking his girlfriend and attacking him for no reason, and this turn of events may just steer Iris’s so-far-abysmal development back on course. Eddie’s becoming an actual character, too, which is nice.

(There’s some actual plot development for the characters of Arrow, also, but I’ll leave that for that show’s review, as I’m not sure Flash fans particularly care about Oliver’s love life.)

The second half of the two-parter may be terrible (it probably won’t be), but Flash vs. Arrow was pretty much everything fans wanted and more. It’s something that makes the idea of a shared television universe so great, and this world’s first attempt just proved how brilliantly the most comic-booky of ideas can translate to the small screen if done with this much care, joy and enthusiasm.

Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Power Outage, here.