When two heroes like the Flash and Arrow fight each other, who wins?! Turns out the viewers do, because the appropriately titled episode "The Flash Vs. Arrow" — the first half of the two-part event that continues in tonight's Arrow — was simply phenomenal.
Seriously! This would rank as one of the best episode of Arrow ever, and it's the best episode of The Flash by a country mile. It's absolutely incredible how much the arrival of Oliver Queen and his team in Central City does to improve every aspect of the show,
But most of all, "The Flash Vs. Arrow" was just massively entertaining. It was fun, funny, action-packed, dramatic, it advanced the Flash's characters and his relationships — and it deepened the Arrow and his crew as well! That's amazing. And if the episode hit the familiar story beats that seem to be required whenever to superheroes meet each other, it hit them with such sincerity that it never felt like the show was dragging, but instead telling a classic superhero story, performed with skill, efficiency, and joy. It was awesome.
I almost hate to recap it for you guys; please, trust me, if for any reason you missed this episode and thought you'd read this first to see how it went, please stop immediately — go watch the episode, and then come back. You need to genuinely experience it, and then come back and join this celebration of a damned fine episode of television.
After an especially lovey-dovey narration from Barry — since as the Flash, he's getting along really well with Iris — we cut to a robbery where the robber simply walks in the vault as the bank patrons begin a free-for-all fight among themselves. Turns out this guy is a metahuman with the power to basically enrage people; it's all the Flash can do to stop the brawl while Prism (as Cisco dubs him) escapes.
Thanks to a tracker in the money he stole, Prism is caught by Joe and the CCPD in one of the million warehouses that populate Central and Starling cities. But all Prism has to do is whammy (as the SuperSTARS term it) one of the cops to enrage him into firing at his fellow cops with his shotgun; the Flash runs in and saves Joe, but is about to get hit with a second shot when the crazed officer is hit by two arrows. The first sign this episode is going to be great is the huge grin that breaks over the Flash's face when he realizes Ollie's in town. (Prism, of course, escapes again.)
As it turns out, Ollie's in town with Felicity and Diggle to investigate the mysterious boomerang used to kill a man in Starling in the last episode of Arrow. The boomerang is made from iron oxide, and Central City produces a lot of iron oxide, so Felicity thought they should start there (which is admittedly completely dumb — that's like saying, "Well, the killer hangs his victims with rope. So where is rope made?"). Barry instantly asks for a team-up — he'll help Ollie and Ollie can help him catch Prism — but of course the stern Ollie says no. Felicity says she doesn't care what Ollie wants and hitches a ride with the Flash back to STAR Labs, where she can do a more thorough analysis on the boomerang.
Bringing the grim Arrow into the lighter world of the Flash changes the dynamic of the show a great deal, and things immediately get shaken up by Oliver's arrival. First and foremost, the Flash is happy to have a peer, but is kind of shocked to realize Oliver doesn't consider him one. Barry points out he has superpowers, while Ollie counters with the fact that he's had eight years of his life devoted to shooting bad guys with arrows, and that matters more. It's an interesting argument made even better by the contest where Ollie bets he can hit Barry with an arrow — and thanks to a crossbow trap, Oliver wins, proving his point. Twice. In Barry's back.
But even better is the fact that not everyone in The Flash cast is excited by the arrival of the Arrow — in fact, both Joe and Wells want him gone. Joe still holds Ollie's season one murder spree against him — go figure — while Wells is equally against him, because the Arrow is an unknown, and he doesn't want anybody messing with his mysterious plans for the Flash. Wells even asks Felicity for the Arrow's name in one of his creepier moments; Felicity refuses, and Wells ominously says he'll figure it out on his own. Meanwhile, Joe's opinion of the Arrow doesn't change when Ollie gets Prism's real name — Roy G. Bigelow, of course, better known in the comics as the Flash Rogue named the Rainbow Raider — by shooting a storage unit guard in the leg with an arrow. Joe calls it torture, and he's not wrong; but we've gotten so used to accepting how Oliver does things on Arrow that his appearance in the sunnier world of the Flash reminds us how Ollie's mission still isn't so black and white.
Between Ollie's seeming dismissal of his powers, the fact that Eddie Thawne wants to make an anti-Flash task force, and then catching Eddie and Iris in a bit of PDA, Barry's in a bad mood. When Roy G. is located, he foolishly decides to catch him himself — and then, despite knowing exactly what Prism does and how he does it — manages to get himself whammied anyways.
And thus begins The Flash's homage to Evil Peter in Spider-Man 3. Okay, it's not nearly as silly, and it doesn't involve any dancing or finger guns, but the Flash does act increasingly like a jerk to everyone, from basically yelling "Flash rules, Arrow drools" at Ollie when he tries to stage another training session, bitching at the chief of police, and even freaking out on Iris. The SuperSTARS pretty quickly figure out something is wrong with Barry, and Wells verrrrry smugly announces they better ask Oliver Queen for help. (He successfully figured it out on his own.) By the time Arrow catches up with the Flash, Barry is basically manhandling Eddie, ripping him out of a cop car and tossing him violently around in front of a screaming Iris.
Describing the fight scene will not do it justice; not because it was it ground-breaking or expensive or anything like that, but because it was just so well done. It was clever, it was well choreographed, the fight seemed fair even though the Flash had superpowers, the fight didn't need to de-power the Flash in order for Ollie to have a chance, and there were a few moments that genuinely made my jaw drop, even on a CW show budget. Hey, Berlanti Productions — give yourselves a round of applause. You deserve it, guys.
Whenever two superheroes fight, it's rare that one wins or loses — generally it's a tie, and so it is here. After the Flash basically unleashes a combo breaker on Arrow, Ollie throws a… throwing arrow (I guess you'd call it?) in Barry's leg, grabbing him and forcing him to look at a van that somehow Wells and Joe have modded with a giant lightshow in the passenger door, which defuses Barry's rage issues. It's a completely ridiculous end, and I didn't care in the least. I've said it before, but I only look for plotholes when I'm bored, and "The Flash vs. Arrow" completely entertained me. Sure, I noticed this rather sizable plothole, but I don't care in the slightest. I care even less that Ollie and Barry apparently caught Prism off-screen, during a commercial break. Who cares about that jerk? More Arrow and Flash teaming up, please!
But perhaps the best thing about this episode is that the writers don't rest on their laurels (or Laurel, for that matter). Even though a fight with Arrow could have been an easy stand-alone episode, The Flash uses it to advance several plots relationships, including the fact thanks to the Flash's freakout, Eddie gets put in charge of his own special anti-Flash taskforce; and thanks to beating up on Eddie, Iris tells the Flash to get lost, which is a very big change in their relationship. Even Arrow gets a potential boost — Felicity leaves the DNA of Sarah Lance's killer for the SuperSTARS to study, which will almost certainly pay off in an upcoming Arrow ep.
What could make this episode any better? Two things: 1) the fact we're getting another team-up on Arrow tonight, and 2) last night's episode ended with the first appearance of goddamned Firestorm. He's huddling under an overpass, clearly disturbed. Then he's disturbed and on fire. Fun!
Seriously, if tonight's Arrow episode is even half as great as "The Flash vs. Arrow" was, we're in for another massive treat.
• There were so many genuinely hilarious moments in this episode I could write another thousand words just quoting them all, but Diggle's freak-out by Barry's powers is definitely my favorite. He's just completely boggled by seeing the Flash. "I had a cousin who was hit by lightning," he says almost accusatorially. "He just developed a stutter."
• Wells starts rambling on about hatred, anger, fear, and Cisco — like pretty much every single person watching the show — immediately breaks into a Yoda impression: "These are the paths to the Dark Side!" Respect, Cisco. We all would have done the exact same thing.
• Some of the fun new aspects of his power Barry displayed in this episode: vibrating a lock until it falls out of a door, vibrating himself and allowing horse tranquilizer (put there by Arrow during their fight) to disperse.
• Oliver Queen is on Iris' list of celebrities she's allowed to cheat on Eddie with. Barry is in a special kind of hell when he hears that, and it's outstanding.
• Who assumes that Wells discovered Oliver's identity with his future newspaper database? If that's the case, then it may mean that Wells hasn't lived through the future yet — he's just gotten peeks at it, hence his need to search for info like this.
• Caitlin: "Since when do we have facial recognition software?"
Felicity: "Happy Hanukkah!"
• Cisco, getting another good line when the Flash has turned evil and needs to be stopped: "A cold gun would come in real handy right now. Just sayin'."
• Diggle argues with Caitlin and Cisco over who's going to win the Arrow/Flash fight. It would be an obnoxious scene if Felicity herself didn't also find it completely obnoxious and point it out as audience surrogate.
• Holy shit, that woman in the coffee shop was Sandra, the girl Ollie knocked up and his mom Moira paid to skip town and never talk to her son again in a flashback last season. Sandra (played by Defiance's Anna Hopkins) calls her kid on the phone, so apparently Ollie definitely has a little arrow running around. Is this going to be part of an ongoing story, a little easter egg for fans, or a carefully tended seed of a potential storyline somewhere in the future?
• There was no closing narration in tonight's episode, and man, was it great. Feel free to continue not spelling out generic life lessons at the end, Flash.
• "We call him Captain Cold."
"We can talk about you giving your enemies silly nicknames later."
"You mean like over coffee with Deathstroke and Huntress?