This Week In Superhero TV: Crossing over with 'Arrow' and 'Flash'
The marquee event this week was the CW’s big crossover event between rookie series The Flash and venerable veteran Arrow.
Arrow’s episode title “Brave and the Bold’ is both a nod to the chief personality traits of the two main heroes and an homage to a comic book title that has been published by DC Comics off and on since the 1950s, which includes a nearly 30-year history of as superhero team-up title.
Batman was the mainstay of the B&B comic (and also the underrated Batman: Brave and the Bold animated series, which is available on Netflix) but Flash and Green Arrow had more than a few adventures in the pages of this comic, too.
Drawing from that inspiration, this week’s TV crossover helped both shows shake up the status quo. The Flash has stuck to its weekly formula almost exclusively so the addition of Ollie, Diggle and Felicity gave the show some variety and an edge it normally lacks. Bringing Barry and his crew over to the Arrow bunker injected some levity into the normally dark goings on in Starling City.
It was all terrifically executed with good fight choreography and solid effects (the Flash-Arrow fight in Central City was especially good). In a showy event like this there sure is a temptation to blow out the budget and make it wall-to-wall parkour stunts and red lightning bolts. Instead the writing staffs kept a keen eye on the characters.
Sure there were two new supervillains introduced this week (Prism and Captain Boomerang) to drive the action, but it was the evolving relationship between Oliver and Barry that was the key to two highly entertaining nights of TV.
The Flash needs Arrow to become a better hero. Barry relies too much on using his speed for everything, generally running headlong into the teeth of whatever new metahuman darkens Central City’s doorstep. That lack of strategy has gotten Barry’s powers stripped, his bones broken, unnecessarily endangering the lives of innocents and this week having him turn into a rampaging bully. Ollie, who is turning into quite the taskmaster, was on point (two of them, from hidden crossbows) calling Barry out for his lack of strategy.
Oliver Queen needs Barry Allen’s conscience to be a better person. Even though Oliver’s quiver of specialty arrows is growing and he doesn’t kill any more, he’s still not averse to putting a broadhead somewhere painful in order to extract the information he needs to move an investigation forward. Barry is taken aback when he sees this first hand and points out that Ollie isn’t in the back alleys of Hong Kong under the supervision of Amana Waller any more. There are more heroic ways to gather information than torture. After seeing what happened to Flash’s reputation when he went after Iris’ boyfriend during his rage episode, Oliver realized, if just a little, that the core of his mission is to make Starling City a better place for everyone, the kind of place where torturing even the city’s lowest of lowlifes is never the first course of action.
Of course to get to those realizations, Ollie and Barry had a fight and several heated words. Even the support teams reevaluated their methods after an especially dangerous encounter in the Arrow lair. In the end, justice was served (they didn’t even bother to show how Prism was captured) and the bad guys were shipped off into their respective specialty prisons.
With gifts exchanged and secret hideout keys swapped, the two heroes have one more “mano a mano” training session/dick measuring contest before heading back to their cities with the promise of future crossovers to come.
Many faces of Diggle: There must be something about the air in Central City, because Diggle was much funnier than usual. He’s reaction to the Flash’s powers and his overwhelming desire to continue to play matchmaker with Ollie and Felicity was good for a few laughs.
It carried over with the running gags about not being married to Lila and only calling her “sweetie” when he wants something in the second episode. It pays off at the end with a tender, yet overdue, hospital bedside marriage proposal.
Team Arrow: The biggest loser in the whole event was Felicity, who is normally so organized in all things but came off as overwhelmed and moony during the crossover.
Previously, she’s stuck to her guns when it comes to all things Ollie. This week, her love-struck manner produced some good one-liners (the salmon ladder “distracts me from my work”) and her resolve might be crumbling. Felicity comes off stronger when she’s Oliver’s equal instead of his giggly wannabe girlfriend.
While we’re at it: iron oxide? You mean rust? The Arrow gang came to Central City from abandoned building central because the boomerang was a little rusty? At least give the rust a radioactive residue consistent with the STAR Labs explosion or some more plausible reason for the change of scenery.
Red Ranger Roy got props for color palate from Flash and Cisco and resisted the urge to go some kind of goofy flip going hand to hand with Captain Boomerang.
Lawwrel’s awfulness was kept to a minimum by limiting her screen time for a second week in a row. Det. Lance called Barry by the name “Bart” which is another Flash from another time. Thea talked on the phone and served drinks.
Team Flash: Cisco still likes to name things! But he still got a decent jab in to Dr. Wells about the freeze gun coming in real handy during the Flash’s rage rampage. Otherwise he was chimp with ADD leaping from one shiny gadget to the next. Cisco needs to take it down a notch before he pegs the needle on the Lawwrel awful-o-meter.
Speaking of Dr. Wells, he continued his creepy string by making threats to expose Arrow’s identity to Felicity then straight up doing it anyway (likely with the help of his time-bending Google search in the broom closet.)
Caitlin was the only character who didn’t lose her mind in the new surroundings. She chided Barry about keeping his identity secret in front Lila (now Flash is on ARGUS’ radar, that can’t be good) and kept her cool after Lila took the boomerang to her chest.
Iris and Eddie are stronger than ever after the Flash drags Eddie through the streets in a jealous rage. It’s enough however for Eddie to get his Flash task force running and sour Iris’ crush in the speedster … for now.
Meanwhile in Puerto Rico …
Agents of SHIELD, didn’t have a splashy two night event, but it packed a lot of good stuff into is last episode before the midseason finale.
The show’s writing staff has found a way to tell TV stories the “Marvel way” this season by blending perfect amounts of action, humor, character interaction and plot twists (TWO Koenigs!).
After a daughterly hug between Skye and Coulson, the team splits up. Mockingbird, Mack, FitzSimmons and Coulson head south to find a way into the city so they can blow it up while Skye, Trip, Hunter and May head to Canada to meet up with the Koenig boys who picked up Raina before Hydra and the May-faced Agent 33 could snatch her off the streets.
Once Skye (who held her own hand-to-hand against Agent 33) and Raina get in the same room together, Raina immediately goes to work messing with Skye’s mind about her father and her destiny as one of the Obelisk’s “worthy.” Skye puts up a good show of not buying what Raina is selling, but her knowledge of the alien device is too deep to completely blow off.
Hydra and Ward use the tracker SHIELD implanted in Raina to find and intercept The Bus in midair. Ward boards the plane and leaves with Raina, Skye and all of Skye’s data with the promise not to blow the bus up. It’s a promise Whitehall doesn’t intend to keep, as we learned in the coda.
The tech team sets up camp in the entrance of the alien city. Fitz sends drones down to explore the tunnels underneath but those are quickly and mysteriously knocked out. Mack goes down the 100 foot shaft after them.
At the bottom, Mack accidently activates some alien technology that turns him into a rage machine with super-strength that a clip full of Night-night bullets can’t slow down (or does it?). After nearly sending Simmons down the shaft (Coulson with a swift save and beauty) during the struggle, Mockingbird gets the drop on Mack, tazes him and he collapses right into a one-way trip down the shaft.
It all sets up a race to the hidden city next week and hopefully our first look at some Inhumans. I can’t say enough about how much this show has improved between Seasons 1 and 2. If you’ve gave up on SHIELD in the early going, it’s worth a second try.
Simmons drama: Gemma Simmons carried a lot of the episode’s emotional load first with her conversation with Mockingbird, who’s become the agency’s sounding board, then with her heart-wrenching talk with Fitz when he told her that he could work for her, just not with her any more.
On the bright side, Simmons has struck up some chemistry with Trip thanks to their mutual salute when the team split up. I’m ok if they ship TripSimmons at the very least it will get him more involved in the show.
Cool Koenigs: Patton Oswalt really sank his teeth into playing Sam and Billy Koenig this week. Everyone being mildly disturbed by seeing the brothers (LMDs?) in the same room together was a real treat. The show has used Oswalt judiciously this season and he brightened up what ended up being a pretty dark episode.
Meanwhile in rural Kentucky…
A snake-handling preacher in the boondocks shows up on the news and Constantine’s radar after being bitten by one of his serpents, coming back to life and being granted with incredible healing powers.
That sends Zed and Constantine on another road trip where Zed gets to know her powers and her guide through the realm of the supernatural better.
Constantine has gone out of its way to give the audience an exhaustive tour of the sandbox of the Rising Darkness without a lot of the why or what truly means other than a wet spot on a map and the chance to meet exciting and new hillbillies every episode.
The people the preacher heals start to turn into beastly versions of themselves, which adds urgency to Constantine’s mission. When he sits in on a sermon, Constantine recognizes the tongue the preacher speaks in as that of the angels.
Constantine summons Manny, who uses Zed as his vessel in this plane. Manny points Constantine in the right direction to locate Imogen, the angel sent to collect the preacher’s soul and wound up in a field instead.
The preacher somehow stole one of the Angel’s feathers which allowed him to go back to the land of the living, gives him the healing power and stranded Imogen.
While Zed and Constantine try to find a way of getting the feather back, Manny keeps Imogen company in the barn that Constantine put a protection spell over.
After some scrapes with the demonic healed, Zed lifts the feather and beats feet back to the barn. Constantine discovers the preacher had a mortal sin on his soul when he died, so he wasn’t being taken to heaven. The whole adventure was a plan for angel of Hell Imogen to gain entry into the mortal realm.
Of course, Zed has no idea and is so swept up in actually seeing something otherworldly, she repairs Imogen back to all of her satanic glory. Thankfully Constantine’s spell keeps Imogen trapped in the barn long enough for Manny to take possession of Zed again to rip Imogen’s heart of darkness out and end the threat.
This show really wants to be moody like Hannibal but it’s only raising to the level of mediocre Law & Order with ghosts and magic. There’s no B-plots and only loose serialized story structure. Next week it looks like there’s going to be some carryover from Zed’s mysterious past, so there’s some hope for a better direction in the last six episodes.
Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.