I’ve heard it so many times over the last few years, “Oh Arrow? I stopped watching because Oliver Queen is terrible.” Arrow, CW’s flagship superhero show has long had a problem: its titular character is an inflamed hemorrhoidal anus of a character.
Over the last six years Oliver Queen has made every bad decision, groused at every ray of sunshine, brooded over every minor slight, and severely diminished his use of the salmon ladder. And what is even the point of Arrow if we don’t get a salmon ladder break?!
But don’t worry. Now he’s rivaled by the big assholes in Gotham! Also, on last night’s Elseworlds, Part 2 he was roasted for an hour straight, and nothing earns viewer goodwill faster than an hour-long roast of Oliver by the characters and writers of three different shows.
It was beautiful.
You should really watch the episode itself to fully appreciate the roasting. It involves Kara judging him for his slutty 20s, Kara and Barry judging him for his tendency to overshoot destinations while in super-speed mode and his disbelief in Batman, and EVERYONE judging him for keeping secrets. The writers even create a scene in which he darts into a room, shoots lighting at Nora Fries, and accidentally doses himself and Barry with Scarecrow’s fear gas. Apparently, no one can fuck up a plan quite like the Flash—whom Oliver still is, his body-switching adventures with Barry have continued unabated.
As with the first episode of the crossover, this episode focuses on Barry and Oliver struggling to understand one another while a very wise Kara wonders what the hell their problem is. A part of me is still frustrated with the Arrowverse’s framing of its triumvirate as two emotionally fucked-up dudes and their lady emotional caregiver who always finds her wide range of abilities stunted by the writers so as to not diminish the accomplishments of her pals. But a lot of me—most of me—is willing to forgive it. This is only the second part of a three-part saga. The first episode focused on Barry and his issues. The second focused on Ollie and his issues. So it stands to reason tomorrow night’s conclusion will focus on Kara and her issues. Also? This episode was so much fun.
After all the references across the Arrowverse to Batman, Bruce Wayne, and their hometown, we finally make our way to Gotham City. It is a shit hole. Rich people are ferried around town in hired armored trucks just to do a bit of shopping, and muggings involve five guys in tactical armor. Trash litters the empty streets, and even Wayne Tower is a hot mess of leaves, garbage, and...vines? This is a filthy dystopian landscape—a future where there isn’t just a gap but a chasm between the rich and the poor.
And Kate Kane has chosen to stay behind and try to save it. She’s living in the dilapidated Wayne Tower, which she hopes to rehabilitate with her vast fortune. Ruby Rose as Kate Kane is...just Ruby Rose. Gorgeous, a little androgynous, flirty, and so intense you’re not sure if they’re cool or that kind of pretty and stupid Jon Hamm played so well in 30 Rock.
We don’t really get enough of her as Kane to know more than “Wow, the blazer and lots of forearm tattoos is a look I can get behind.”
As Batwoman she’s the kind of surly Dark Knight we deserve (it helps that she has fewer lines). There’s no grimdark voice that makes your throat hurt. Instead, there’s some absolutely lovely competence as a hero. After years of seeing Oliver’s Batman impression, it’s a joy to see someone really lean into their use of gadgets to take down bad guys. She also takes down a fear-gassed Flash and Arrow. At the same time. When Caitlin looks on in awe and says, “Who are you?” I felt the need to ask the same at home.
The only glimpse of who Kate Kane/Batwoman really is is via her interactions with Kara. Barry and Oliver might be the marquee team-up of the Arrowverse, but Kate and Kara, cousins to more famous men heroes, are the World’s Finest we’ve been waiting for. The two women instantly have a rapport, with Kate revealing a dorky undercurrent as she explains her plans for the tower. Kara, naturally, is a dork too, haplessly flirting with Kate and remarking on her tattoos while also carefully interrogating her for information to help save Barry and Ollie. And when they see each other at the end of the episode, now in their respective super suits, Kara politely waits until everyone leaves to tell Kate she knows her secret. The way Kate chuckles gives me hopes that Ruby Rose might have some capacity for acting underneath that tremendous look she serves—it sort of reminds me of early episodes of Arrow, when Stephen Amell had to rely on stunt doubles and the salmon ladder to make us want to watch the show.
Besides Gotham City and Kate Kane, we also get a very long look at Arkham Asylum and its inmates. Thanks to? Oliver as the Flash. Again.
We also get a little background on where Batman is—no one knows! It’s been three years. Kate thinks he might have left against his will, and Kara admits her cousin Superman knows him. I do not know how—they do live on different Earths. Does she mean her Earth? Is there a Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne and Gotham City there as well? Has her cousin secretly been bopping back and forth to Arrow’s universe?
That’s a question that could be answered in tonight’s finale. Though it appears to be more reality warping, this time with a powerless Ollie and Barry as motorcycle gang members on the run from a far too powerful Superman.
- SO MANY.
- Monitor is using the book to test heroes for a great foe—presumably his antimatter counterpart Anti-Monitor.
- The Barry Allen of Earth-90 shows up for an all-too-brief cameo straight out of Crisis on Infinite Earths (minus the whole face melting thing).
- He says hello to Diggle and notes he’s missing his ring. Presumably, because he is the Green Lantern of Earth-90. A role either he or Alex Danvers needs to adopt in the Arrowverse ASAP.
- Caitlin and Nora Fries fight...because Nora Fries is insane and in Arkham?
- In the reality of the third episode of the crossover Barry and Ollie are the Trigger Twins—villainous brothers who appeared first in western comics, and then in the Batman books.
- Residents of Arkham include: Poison Ivy, Penguin, Riddler, Psycho Pirate, Clayface, and...Marc Guggenheim, creator of Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow.
- The book Monitor has seems to feature the same text Barry and his future daughter write in.
- Please sound off with all the references I missed below.