One of the exciting things about bringing two superheroes together is seeing how they interact with one another. Most of the big, marquee heroes have their own distinct outlook on the world; Superman is optimistic, Batman is dark, Spider-Man is funny, and, while one of the obvious draws of a collision of heroes is the inevitable brawl between good guys, getting to figure out how they’d actually relate to one another is often just as enjoyable. “Flash vs. Arrow” understands this perfectly, and much of the fun of the first part of this crossover comes from seeing how the writers merge the sensibilities of Barry Allen and Oliver Queen.
Smartly, the episode knows that watching Barry and Oliver interact is going to be the real selling point here, relegating the villain of the week to just a few scenes and utilizing him primarily as an excuse to allow for a fight between The Flash and The Arrow. Even going so far as to completely skip over his capture once Team Arrow and Flash manage to snap Barry out of his rage induced control; this is an episode entirely about the good guys figuring out how to get along and work together, Prism, or Rainbow Rider as Caitlin’s more comics accurate code-name goes, is entirely superficial and there’s no unnecessary attempt to develop him into anything other than a plot point.
Thanks to this focus on the heroes, the episode manages to be almost shockingly funny. Arrow’s a much darker show than The Flash, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the arrival of Team Arrow in Central City caused The Flash to become just a bit more dour. Instead the writers use the conflicting tones to amplify the comic nature of The Flash, making this the most comedic episode of the series yet. Rather than trying to find a mid-ground between the two series, “Flash vs. Arrow” takes the opportunity to bring the Arrow characters out of their grim shells, giving David Ramsey and Stephen Amell a real chance to play up the funny aspects of their characters. In fact, most of Ramsey’s portion of the episode finds him incredulous at Barry’s abilities; musing about just how weird Barry’s speed is while simultaneously trying to work out all the particularities of what being that fast would mean in terms of his day-to-day activities.
In particular, the sequence where Ollie “trains” Barry by shooting him in the back, to demonstrate that Barry’s not smart enough, is excellent. Starting with Ollie insulting Barry for giving his enemies “silly code-names” and escalating into Ollie’s assertion that the training is going to end with Barry getting shot; it’s a simple sequence that belongs on The Flash as it’s in sync with that series’ lighter outlook and humorous presentation. What’s best about it though is that it doesn’t lose Oliver’s essential nature, mining his grim determination for laughs rather than seriousness. Oliver tells Barry how it’s going to be, Barry underestimates him, and Barry gets shot in the back. It’s funny, clever, and showcases just how capable Oliver is, all while allowing Oliver to banter with a slightly more energetic character than he usually gets the chance to banter with. (Save for Felicity of course.)
Obviously, the entire episode isn’t all fun times, once Barry’s been zapped by Prism he begins letting out all the inner anger that’s been building up beneath his benign surface; snapping at his boss, pushing Joe around, and ultimately going after Eddie for both his attempts to start a taskforce to catch The Flash and for his relationship with Iris. It’s all a little convenient, mostly in that Eddie’s only now decided The Flash is a menace and before the end of the episode he’s gotten a pretty concrete reason to try and catch the masked figure, but it still works as Barry’s powers are very legitimately scary when put to nefarious ends.
It’s also a development that makes sense in that it keeps the story within the world of The Flash. Rather than focusing Barry’s rage entirely on Oliver, the quicker to get to a throw down between the two heroes, the episode builds it around Barry’s frustrations with his inability to catch Iris’ attentions. This plot still doesn’t quite land, but when there’s the promise of superhero fisticuffs at the end of things, along with Iris’ humanizing asides about Oliver being on her free pass list, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to take.
Luckily, the fight that the episode builds to is nicely managed and perhaps the best fusion of the two series’ unique styles that the hour manages. Seeing an enraged Barry zip around Oliver, then chase him up the side of a building and cut loose his tether is exactly the kind of over the top theatrics that these clashes promise. It’s extremely exciting and the focal point of the sequence only further sells just what a firm grasp the creative team has on the respective styles of the two series. The big, flashy center of the fight features Barry elegantly and easily dodging Oliver’s fluid and practiced fighting and is perfectly reflective of each character’s fighting methods and the action sequences that each show excels at, allowing for both CGI theatrics and excitingly choreographed practical combat.
Things wrap up nicely by the end of the hour, with Prism caught and Barry humbled and ready to move forward with his role as a superhero. In fact, if I didn’t already know that this crossover wasn’t finished yet, I would assume that things were ending here. It’s perhaps the greatest trick that “Flash vs. Arrow” manages to pull off; this feels like a complete installment of The Flash, rather than some mish-mash of both series. That feat is accomplished deftly by focusing on the characters involved and remaining true to who they are and the tone of the hosting series, rather than trying to be both series at the same time. All of which makes me quite excited for the next portion of the team-up, if only to see how appearing on Arrow shifts Barry and company to better fit with that show’s milieu. Based on what’s on display here, it should be exciting, unexpected, and above all, entirely enjoyable.