Red, Gold, and Green
The CW's Flash/Arrow crossover last week was loads of fun.
Image from The Flash Ep. 1.08 "Flash vs. Arrow" © 2014 CW. Photo: Diyah Perra.
I still hope to get to full-on reviews of both shows this season, but the perennial
6-year-old in me demands that my adult self acknowledge this super-cool undertaking now. Just seeing an arrow slice through The Flash's usual title sequence on Tuesday night and a lightning bolt streak through Arrow's on Wednesday put a big, goofy grin on my face.
"Flash vs. Arrow" and "The Brave and the Bold" — as the episodes were named, respectively, the latter after a long-running DC Comics team-up series — stand on their own individually. While the first does lead into the second chronologically, there's no cliffhanger. So they're really a pair of crossovers, meaning that you can enjoy them separately if desired.
Since the brain trust at DC and Warner Bros. Entertainment have decided that the answer to Marvel's cinematic universe springing from Man of Steel don't/won't take place on "Earth-CW" — at least, I can hope, until the red-skies Crisis teased on Flash via a newspaper from the future possessed by STAR Labs' enigmatic Dr. Harrison Wells comes to pass — The Flash (played by Grant Gustin) and The Arrow (Stephen Amell) are essentially their reality's Superman and Batman: one an optimistic, impossibly powered guardian angel, the other a more fatalistic, non-powered streetwise vigilante with nifty gadgets. In the traditional DC mythos they're specialists, riffs on the archetypes; here the absence of their more iconic forebears elevates Oliver Queen and Barry Allen to premier status, inspirations and harbingers who may yet build a Justice League of their own.
Arrow and The Flash each have problems that I can't dismiss simply because of the thrill I feel seeing these heroes brought to life, entirely apart from how faithful they are or aren't to their origins in print. The crossover episodes, in fact, shone a spotlight on some of the series' inherent or ingrained problems. Mild spoiler warning before I dive into them, after a break to show readers who aren't up on their comic-book lore the way Flash and (Green) Arrow were portrayed some five decades ago on the covers of...
Covers of The Brave and the Bold #50 & The Brave and the Bold #71 © 1963, 1967 DC. Pencils: George Roussos (#50); Carmine Infantino (#71). Inks: George Roussos (#50); Chuck Cuidera (#71). Letters: Ira Schnapp (#50); Gaspar Saladino (#71). Colors: Unknown. Editing: George Kashdan.
The Brave and the Bold itself, which launched in 1955 as an anthology of adventure strips set in bygone days, transitioned in 1959 to a tryout vehicle for new features, began teaming up various established characters in 1963, and come 1968 was exclusively co-starring Batman with different partners every issue, finally ending its initial run in 1983.
Despite what the cover below right says, Batman and Flash had met before, although this was their first outing purely as a duo. They were charter members of the Justice League of America, which debuted in B&B #28, dated February-March 1960, during the title's showcase phase — right after three issues introducing the original Suicide Squad, whose later iterations as a cadre of super-criminals redirected for covert use by the government are the basis of the covert group seen on Arrow run by ARGUS and of a 2016 movie in DC's cinematic slate. Green Arrow didn't join the JLA until Justice League of America #4, dated April 1961, whereas the comparative newbie known as the Manhunter from Mars, pictured with Ollie above and Barry below, was one of the ensemble's founders along with Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman.
The Brave and the Bold's title has been resurrected several times since 1983, including for a 1999 miniseries set in the past starring Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, who'd been succeeded as Flash and Green Lantern by others at the time on account of being dead (temporarily, it turns out, because comics and even more so because marketing). Hal was fast friends with both Ollie and Barry in the comics but they were never close pals themselves. Given how unlikely a Green Lantern in Arrow/Flash-land feels at the moment, eliminating the middleman works for me. [A Cartoon Network series called Batman: The Brave and the Bold aired from 2008 to 2011; I reviewed its series finale.]
Covers of The Brave and the Bold #56 & The Brave and the Bold #67 © 1964, 1966 DC. Pencils: Bernard Baily (#56); Carmine Infantino (#67). Inks: Bernard Baily (#56); Joe Giella (#67, except Batman head: Murphy Anderson). Letters: Ira Schnapp. Colors: Unknown. Editing: George Kashdan.
Like its title character, Arrow seems to want to have its cake and eat it too in terms of how brutal Oliver is willing to be. He assumed the roles of judge, jury, and executioner upon his return to Starling City in the first season in a way that makes it hard to accept him as a white knight — even harder, arguably, to accept that the police force and prosecutor's office accept him as such, a point raised in "Flash vs. Arrow" by Joe West. I couldn't for the life of me tell why the flashbacks during "The Brave and the Bold" to Ollie's time in Hong Kong under the thumb of ARGUS director Amanda Waller showed him supposedly learning why torture was necessary yet the here-and-now action in Starling City tugged in the opposite direction (and then in large part due to it being the last metaphorical arrow in Ollie's quiver, since he can't threaten Boomerang's life having done a 180-degree turn on killing). Furthermore, and unconscionably, Waller motivated Oliver by telling him that the mass casualties were on his head because he didn't torture ARGUS's captive to give up the explosives' location in time, when surely Waller had the capability to do the job herself or bring in other operatives who could. Unless she was running a psychological game to motivate Oliver and nobody was actually harmed, of which we got zero indication, those deaths are on Waller's head.
Meanwhile, Barry takes Central City's metahuman menaces too lightly, which his colleagues at STAR Labs admit during the crossover and for which Ollie takes Barry to task. It's almost ironic, given that fact, to see Flash struggle against having Barry's super-speed trump nearly any situation, especially when oversight can't be chalked up to his own naivety or inexperience. Even he can't be in several places literally at the same time, a lesson learned in the comics repeatedly, so it was smart of Barry to solve the climactic problem in "The Brave and the Bold" (and smart of the series to show Barry doing so) by whisking members of the heroes' support crews to the other bomb sites. What made no sense was Barry failing to smack Boomerang unconscious or tie him up in a flash — at the urging of the more experienced, tactically minded Oliver, if nothing else — before zipping away instead of leaving Ollie to fight him, notwithstanding that fight scenes are kind-of Arrow's stock-in-trade.
Plus, Arrow is often a little too on the nose in terms of its flashbacks mirroring dilemmas in the present day, but putting Ollie in the position of having to torture somebody to find the location of a bomb — just like he was that first time Waller decided he should acquire the skill — felt awkwardly equivalent. Plus plus, Flash is maddeningly inconsistent regarding when Barry kicks up paper and other debris as he travels, although that's not specific to the crossover episodes in the least. I really do need to write more about these shows.
Image from Arrow Ep. 3.08 "The Brave and the Bold" © 2014 CW. Photo: Cate Cameron.
Oliver getting the better of Barry in the first of the episodes was nicely handled.
Barry has been cocky and does spend too much time standing around to spar with a villain or loitering in what is potentially a trap after arriving on the scene instead of, as Oliver suggests, casing the joint. And I simply love seeing these characters hang out in costume, bonding, comparing notes, however exciting the action sequences may be, to the extent that realizing they beat the bad guy in "Flash vs. Arrow" during a commercial break was more weird than it was upsetting.
My enjoyment in watching Oliver and Barry's partnership only makes me warier of the forthcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. "Flash vs. Arrow" has its silver-screen cousin beat already in its less-clinical abbreviation of versus, never mind the fun throwback nod of "The Brave and the Bold". Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is not the title of a movie based on comic books; it's the title of a videogame based on a court case based on comic books.
DC's aborning Justice League film franchise would do well to emulate the Flash/
Arrow crossover vibe. I despair of it being more face-off than team-up, or at the rate cast members and spinoffs have been announced merely all set-up. That's another topic for another time, however, in this case after the product is finished and on display.
"Flash vs. Arrow" (directed by Glen Winter; written by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg, who developed The Flash with Geoff Johns and Arrow with Marc Guggenheim) brought Arrow to its highest ratings ever, with 3.9 million viewers and a 1.4 rating in the coveted 18-to-49 demographic. Ratings for "The Brave and the Bold" (directed by Jesse Warn; written by Grainne Godfrey & Marc Guggenheim from Berlanti & Kreisberg's story) matched those of Flash's second episode — behind only the premiere, the most-watched telecast in CW history factoring in DVR usage within 7 days per Nielsen — with 4.2 million viewers and a 1.5 rating for 18-to-49. You can watch both episodes on Hulu as well as the CW website at this writing.
Image from Arrow Ep. 3.08 "The Brave and the Bold" © 2014 CW. Photo: Cate Cameron.
Flash airs its first mid-season finale tomorrow, Dec. 9th, at 8 p.m. on your local CW station; Arrow's mid-season finale airs at 8 the following night, Dec. 10th. They'll return with new episodes in 2015 after a five-week break.
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