Cross Training


The Flash Season 1, Episode 8

“Flash vs. Arrow”

SUMMARY: Rainbow Raider infects The Flash with a Rage virus that turns him against his friends, including visiting vigilante Oliver Queen.


Syd: I can’t believe we finished recapping all of Young Justice that there is and I can’t believe that soon there’s going to be more. In the meantime, we’re going to switch gears, starting by watching the first CW DC crossover event, when Flash met Arrow. This is going to be interesting for me because I usually hate DC crossovers (for the record, I have never liked any comic with Crisis in the title), but the crossover with The Flash was the only episode of the first season of Supergirl that I genuinely liked. Can Grant Gustin’s overwhelming charm also save Arrow?

Margaret: Technically, Arrow met Barry Allen in the last season of Arrow and the Flash in the pilot episode of The Flash, but this is the first time they’ll actually work together. Or, well, as much as Oliver works with anyone. Once the CW got another show, they start doing a crossover event every year which became more and more intense as the network got more shows. Last year it was a full four hour event involving Nazis, so you know we have to get that at some point.

Syd: The episode starts with a recap of Geoff John’s reboot origin of Barry Allen. I know it’s been over a decade, but I still hate this origin. The Flash doesn’t need a dark, tragic backstory. We have enough heroes with dark, tragic backstories, and the more the same tropes and motivations get retconned into various heroes’ stories, the more blandly uniform they become. During the recap, Felicity refers to Team Arrow as a “well-oiled archery machine,” which is something I would like to purchase for my own archery needs. Then the actual episode starts.

Margaret: Barry starts with a monologue about science and timing and emotions while doing a bunch of superhero errands. He gives flowers to a couple, he paints a building that’s being constructed and it’s a Palmer Technologies building! I guess they’re expanding into Central City and is a nice little nod that soon enough the Starling City crew will be expanding into the show very shortly.

Syd: He starts his monologue by talking about when people get a “major case of the feels.” This puts me at ease and convinces me that he is a young person like me. Just like all of my twenty-something friends, he uses Internet buzzwords in casual conversation, and it’s totally natural and doesn’t sound forced at all, or like it was written by an aging television writer who has no idea how to relate to his teenage children. Then he starts talking about how love can’t be explained by science, because he’s not that great at science.

Margaret: He’s a forensic scientist, not a love scientist, Syd! But now that the introduction is over we get to our monster of the week who is a guy wearing sunglasses to turns everyone in a bank into rage monsters by looking at them with creepy glowing red eyes. As everyone in rioting, he walks into the vault (which is randomly just open?? Not the best bank security) and steals half a million dollars. Even after he’s gone, the people continue to rage and one woman picks up a gun and tries to shoot another customer. Luckily, Barry is fast enough to move a statue into place that protects the other customer, proving that he’s definitely faster than MCU Quicksilver.

Syd: Elsewhere in Central City, Iris West – who you may know as Bart Allen’s grandmother – is in bed with Bart’s great great great great great grandfather (give or take some greats) Eddie Thawne when the subject of the Flash comes up. Thawne states emphatically that he doesn’t believe in Superman, Frankenstein, or Peter Pan; he just believes in what he can see. I think that means he can walk off a cliff without falling down, since he’s a Warner Brothers character who doesn’t believe in gravity. I’m not sure what the narrative purpose of him stating that he doesn’t believe in the Flash when in the very next scene, he is trying to convince the chief of police to start an anti-Flash task force. I understand the point of him starting the task force – to convince the audience that Barry’s rival for Iris’ affections is a bad guy, when it doesn’t really seem like he is.

Margaret: Well, as for not believing in the Flash, we’re only eight episodes in and while we all know the Flash is a thing, it’s technically been only about two months since he appeared and no one – other than the Team and Iris – has actually seen him be other than a streak of lightning. I think they’re just trying to establish this is still new and weird to people, but because Eddie decides to believe in his girlfriend, his next step is what that means for ordinary people…which would mean the actual police need to do something.

Eddie – he’s never really mentioned as Thawne unless someone uses his last name. In fact, Joe is his partner and generally never does the police thing of calling his partner by his last name. It’s always either ‘Eddie’ or ‘Partner’. So, they’re sort of touching on the fact that he has an audience famous bad guy last name gently. So, while they are setting him up to be an obstacle for Barry and an opponent to the Flash, they’ve played him pretty straight, not villainous.

Syd: I actually appreciate that they aren’t trying to hammer in that his last name is something we know from comics. That’s more restraint than CW shows usually show. Still, it does stand out to me, so I’ll still think of him as Meloni Thawne’s some-amount-of-greats grandfather.

Margaret: Well, to make up for it they sort of did a REVEAL of Eddie’s last name in the Flash pilot to build up the tension of, “Oh no, is this a bad guy or not? Is he actually the Reverse Flash?”

Syd: But it doesn’t come up this episode, so moving on, back at STAR Labs, Harrison Wells explains that this bad guy manipulates emotions, which wasn’t exactly clear from the opening. But Barry doesn’t have time to figure out how the bad guy’s powers work – he has to meet Iris, who he is completely making no secret about being in love with. Caitlin warns him not to be a homewrecker and Barry is having none of that talk. As soon as she brings up Eddie, Barry quickly asks, “Did you guys break up?” with what Iris can’t have missed was a note of hope in his voice.

Margaret: Man, stop being creepy Barry! You know her, you grew up with her, don’t pretend like you don’t know this is creepy! Don’t meet the girl you love as the Flash in a cafe and try and steal her away from her boyfriend! You’re not Clark Kent, this doesn’t end well.

Syd: Anyway, Barry must leave, so he says, “Gotta run.” I have to say, it isn’t as good as “Back in a Flash,” but not every episode can be written by Peter David and his line did elicit an, “Oh, Barry!” from me, which is a success in my book.

Margaret: I do have to ask, what door did he leave through? Iris locked the front door and they have not shown a side one. Did he just phase through a wall? Is he Kitty Pryde?

Syd: He clearly left through the side of the set, duh. Anyway, the police raid a nondescript room where the bank robber is hiding. He turns his powers on one of the officers, who then turns his gun on Joe. Wait, why? I thought the villain just affected emotions. If he made this guy angry, why would he turn his anger on Joe and not the villain himself? Does he direct the object of people’s emotions, too? How? I guess it doesn’t matter. Anyway, Arrow is there now, for some reason.

Margaret: He’s there because this is a crossover episode, Syd! Duh! But one thing I really love about the Arrowverse crossovers is when they meld the show themes together in the soundtrack. It’s actually very well done in my mind and I love hearing it when it happens.

Syd: The Flash meets up with Team Arrow, who proceed to justify their presence in Central City. You see, they are tracking a killer who uses boomerangs (and Barry is INEXPLICABLY impressed by boomerangs – it’s curved metal, dude) and they found iron oxide on the boomerangs, so they decided to go to the city with the highest concentration of iron oxide. For those of you who failed middle school chemistry, iron oxide is rust. They found rust on a boomerang, so they headed for the rustiest city in the country. It’s a flimsy pretext, but it’s a crossover now.

Margaret: Maybe it’s a certain combination of iron oxide or a composition? I don’t know. I honestly did not know it was rust. I did not fail middle school chemistry, but I immediately forgot middle school chemistry when I was out of middle school because I felt like I no longer needed it.

Syd: Usually, people don’t import their rust.

Margaret: It is weird that they just tried to pull a fast one on people by giving a scientific name to rust. I guess they just didn’t think people would look into it! We already know they’re not very scientific.

Barry and Felicity attempt to get Oliver to work with the Flash Team in order to stop the rage monster bad guy. However, he is loathe to reveal his identity to more people. Felicity, who already knows the entire Flash Crew, volunteers herself for help. Barry – like the happy speedster golden retriever that he is – immediately picks her up and runs her to STAR Labs, while Oliver looks on in complete and utter jealousy. This hasn’t been brought up before, but Oliver tried to date Felicity in the beginning of the season and immediately did the stupid bullshit ‘If we date you are in danggerrrrrr’ while completely ignoring the fact she is on his fucking superhero team, which already puts her in danger. What a goddamn idiot.

Syd: While the Flash is running with Felicity in his arms, the friction from running so fast catches her shirt on fire and she quickly has to take it off. Oops! Funny how Barry moves people around at superspeed all the time, but the only time someone loses clothing, it’s the best looking woman on the show. Also funny that I don’t think we’ve had an involved discussion about male gaze – having moved from watching a show where none of the female heroes were sexualized to an all-ages cartoon. I don’t want to dwell on this long – the show doesn’t – and I’m not sure I know exactly where the line between sexy fun and genuine exploitation is, but I thought this was cute.

Margaret: I definitely rolled my eyes at this scene as it was clearly a, “Hey we can have an attractive woman take her top of on television!” The Flash’s powers rarely effect anyone other than himself or Felicity Smoak, so it’s clearly a viewership thing. However, I have also talked previously about the salmon ladder and how I enjoyed multiple scenes of shirtless Oliver and Diggle doing multiple things. So, I know in the world of hypersexualized femininity it is not exactly the same thing, but I do also realize it’s hypocritical of me to roll my eyes at Felicity taking her top off and bemoan Oliver and Diggle never doing it any more.

Syd: Back in STAR Labs Joe West and Harrison Wells don’t trust The Arrow. They seem to think he’s some sort of murderer. Clearly he was framed or something?

Margaret: Okay, your false naivete is cute. Anyone who has watched a single episode of Arrow knows that he is a total murderer. That was the entire point of Season 1. Wells and Joe, very rightly, don’t think that Barry should be looking up to Oliver. I’m glad they’re bringing it up on another series because in Arrow they sort of left behind the fact that the Arrow murdered a shitton of criminals in Starling City and that’s not really something you should forget? Ever? Like, I get that he turned over a new leaf in Season 2 and it was a very big plot point that he had to murder someone to save Felicity’s life…but he still murdered people!!

Flash is a different show that is already devoid of the moral conundrum of, you know, murder, so I like that they’re bringing it up. Sure, they imprison dangerous metahumans in the supercollider, but at least they do not murder them. So, they have the slightly higher moral ground to stand on here.

Syd: Barry seems to think that he and the Arrow, as fellow costumed crimefighters, are cut from the same cloth. Harrison, on the other hand, draws a hard line between what the Flash does and what “that man” does, but of course, I heard it as “Batman,” which is oddly appropriate. However Batarrow does get some results. He was able to identify this week’s villain – Roy G. Bivolo. Shamefully, as a comics reader, I immediately recognized that as the Rainbow Raider’s real name, but I had never heard it spoken aloud before, and shockingly it sounded so dumb that we had to pause the episode because I couldn’t stop laughing.

Margaret: Speaking of, Oliver and Felicity are talking about how Oliver is helping out Barry by looking into his problem without actually teaming up with him. His idea of ‘helping’ is very Arrow-y, but that’s for later. Iris brings Felicity and Oliver their coffees and is entirely and totally starstruck. I get it. Stephen Amell is a handsome and cut man. I walked by him once at Comic Con. No big deal. But, while an alarmed Barry pulls her away when realizing that Iris is into muscles and not a runner’s physique, she confides that Oliver Queen is on her ‘list’ of people she’s allowed to cheat with. Oh Iris, always saying the wrong things.

Syd: So, after Felicity hectors him a bit, Arrow is down to take out Barry’s bad guy, or as Barry says, “metahuman,” which Oliver balks at. The thing is, I also think metahuman is a clunky term, but does Ollie really think “bad guy” is more elegant and mature? “Mutant”? “Super”? “Power”? “Cape”? There are so many extant terms that don’t make it sound like Oliver is itching to play cops and robbers, but Barry bows to his experience and agrees to meet him at some sort of farm or field or something. Barry is late for their meeting, which elicits my second “Oh, Barry!” but Oliver makes it clear that he is all business and SO SO SERIOUS! No, really you guys! Stop making fun of my hood! I’m HARDCORE!

Margaret: Oliver is in full Batmode when he trains Barry. While that’s not great, at the same time, Oliver’s entire backstory is that he was a douchey cheating college student that saw his father kill himself in front of him so he could survive and then live on an island and then under Waller’s wing (and then i guess elsewhere? Idk, this is season 3) so Barry getting superpowers and just gliding about is a way for him to get killed because he thinks he’s invincible. I get that this is him trying to be paternal and helpful. But, like all things Oliver attempts to do with anything emotional, he is really really bad at it.

Syd: So Oliver challenges Barry to run at him to see if he can shoot him and Barry, for some reason, trusts that Oliver will play fair, meaning he is in no danger, but Oliver had set up an arrow trap to shoot him in the back. So Barry, I guess, learns the lesson not to exactly follow his enemies’ instructions, in case they set a trap for him?

Margaret: I mean, the entire conversation was about how Barry is not situationally aware. He runs into things and thinks he is safe because he is faster than anything around him. He’s not thinking of people who may actually start to prepare for the inevitability of a super fast guy coming to apprehend them. If he’d have looked around, he’d have seen the crossbows. They were really not hidden well.

Syd: This might explain why Barry was on the defensive when he talks to Joe and he tells Barry that a man was tortured to obtain the name of their monster-of-the-week and Barry is all like, “No, not my dear sweet Oliver!”

Margaret: Yeahh. Well, he’s more along the lines of ‘well he got results!’ not really thinking about how he got those results. Barry is a sweet summer child and doesn’t actually understand how Oliver gets his results. He doesn’t truly understand what Joe is saying and I am totally on Joe’s side. Oliver, stop torturing people what the fuck.

Syd: Poor Barry, though, now thinks he has something to prove and charges alone into Roy G.’s apartment, which is full of art supplies and monochrome paintings, and, no joke, I love this continuity nod. In the Flash comics, Rainbow Raider started out as an artist whose color blindness kept him from commercial success, so naturally he turned to a life of crime to get revenge on the world. Here, the colorless paintings imply that dumbass backstory without being intrusive, so it adds something if you’re aware of it, but takes nothing away if you’re not. Honestly, this one set is the cleverest thing in any Greg Berlanti show I have seen.

Margaret: While fighting Rainbow Raider, Barry gets whammied by his eyes, yet he doesn’t immediately fly into a rage storm. Caitlin, as the resident doctor/scientist/whatever they need her to be/kind of like Jemma Simmons in Agents of SHIELD, checks him out and doesn’t find anything strange, however she is still concerned about him. She doesn’t think he’s out of the woods yet.

Syd: Barry, under emotional manipulation, flies off the handle. He yells at Caitlin, “Stop treating me like Ronnie!” That’s really harsh, man. Nobody should ever be treated like Firestorm.

Margaret: Aw man, don’t pick on poor Ronnie. He’s supposedly, like, super dead. There’s no way he’s coming back.

Syd: Barry is done with this. He runs to meet Oliver in his BatBarn and tell him off, because he’s obviously jealous of Barry because the girl he likes has feelings for Barry. Oliver is disarmed that Barry sees right through him, but remains SO SERIOUS. And HARDCORE. I hate BatOllie.

Margaret: I mean, what I saw was that what Barry was saying about Oliver was really what he was seeing about Eddie. He sees Oliver and Eddie as similar – as they are both cut blonde guys who managed to get girls Barry was interested in – and his main beef is that Eddie is with Iris and he can also get some weight off of his chest about being resentful that Oliver is trying to teach him when he feels like he’s already more powerful than him. Eddie is out to try and control him, too, with his task force. He’s seriously dating a woman he loves. Everything is seemingly going right for him. And Oliver sweeps in and tries to tell Barry that he can fix what he’s doing and he totally resents that. He thinks he’s better than Oliver and he wants to prove it. I think he’s raging out on people trying to control him because he can’t control how he feels about hating Eddie for reasons he cannot say. The same thing happens when Captain Singh does what a boss does when he asks him about his job and he blows up at him before Joe conveniently intervenes and then is yelled at himself.

Syd: If he’s sublimating his rage about Eddie, that may not explain why he blew up at Joe, but it would explain why he later pulls Thawne out of a moving car. Anyway, back at STAR Labs, they are speculating that Barry might be fighting off the Rainbow Raider’s rage effects by suppressing his emotions, which could lead to a violent meltdown. What the hell do they mean by suppressing? He’s running around and yelling at everyone!

Margaret: Though, he is suppressing the urge to kill people? Until the point where he runs down Eddie and Iris in a car and then pulls him out of it to yell at him. Iris is understandably horrified. Eddie, in an attempt to defend himself, tries to shoot at the Flash and continually misses, because of course, but those bullets just magically disappear rather than hit at the car or Iris who is right in the line of fire behind the Flash. The Flash crew find Barry on the traffic cams and Harrison Wells, in a truly dickish move, turns to Felicity and tells him she should call Oliver Queen to help because he is the Arrow. Basically, everyone is an asshole and intervention is needed.

Syd: Arrow shows up on the scene and shoots the Flash with a tether arrow. Flash counters by running, dragging Arrow along behind him. Why does Oliver not just let go of the tether while he’s being dragged? Isn’t he supposed to be the one with the tactical awareness?

Margaret: To me, he sort of slowed Barry down in the fact that if he let go, Barry would have just taken off, run around the city and come back. If he ran off at full speed with Oliver, he would have killed him. Of course, this is before he ran up a building with Oliver, but that’s a later discussion and perhaps shows the progression of the rage.

Syd: You seem to be putting more thought into this fight than it warrants. Speaking of which, at STAR Labs, the crew is arguing about who would win in a fight. I was never into pro wrestling and I’m not sure I understand the appeal of who-can-beat-up-whom arguments, but it seems particularly silly here, where The Flash’s appeal doesn’t even seem to be that he can fight very well. Then again, by any metric I care about, Barry has Oliver so outclassed it’s not even fair.

Margaret: I have heard that it is a big comic discussion to know which comic heroes could beat up one another and which one would win. I think my favorite one posited so far is that if Batman was in the zombie apocalypse, could he guide a tortoise safely across the US?

Syd: Barry’s next strategy is the old standby run-around-it. This is hilarious to me, because from what we can see, running around Oliver has absolutely no effect on him. It just gives Oliver time to try to break free by firing a grappling arrow – time that normally in a fight with the Flash there is no reason you would ever have.

Margaret: However, in this fight, he totally attempted to kill Oliver! He kicks him off a multiple story building and doesn’t even run down to try and catch him. The only reason Oliver survives is he implausibly Arrow Forces an arrow to the roof to stop him from being splattered on the ground.

Syd: During the hand-to-hand sequence, Oliver lands a punch on Barry, and – seriously – how? How is that possible? Barry is moving so quickly that Oliver is relatively standing still. This is like if you’re in boxing training and the sandbag lands a really good hit on you.

Margaret: Well, not really, as a sandbag can’t actually react? It’s implausible for Oliver to land a hit on Barry, but I think that’s what they’re trying to say. Oliver actually reads situations and he doesn’t charge in blindly. He sees where Barry is focusing and he shoves his punch in a way that even if someone as fast as Barry could avoid it, he’s not paying attention to what’s going on. He’s interpreting and adapting in a way that Barry doesn’t.

Syd: Or maybe Barry is just a little dim? Because Oliver then stops Barry with the SAME TRICK he used in the BatBarn. He distracts Barry with an arrow trap and then shoots him from behind. That is exactly the ploy Barry fell for in training!

Margaret: I mean, he’s very cute and is supposed to be very smart, but he’s not always the brightest bulb, if you know what I mean.

Syd: Then Harrison Wells drives up with a van with a giant color therapy machine that fixes Barry’s anger. Wait, hold up a second. What? How do Rainbow Raider’s powers even work? I mean, the anger wasn’t triggered by just seeing the color red. In fact, the very idea that the emotional manipulation was purely color based rather than psychic was entirely speculation. Even if it was the eye color that caused the emotional change, there were a few steps between “seeing red” and “uncontrollable rage.” That this van ploy worked defies credulity, but I kind of feel for the show’s writers because this episode has gone on long enough and they have to end it somehow. I feel the same way about this blog entry. Then Cisco declares the fight a tie. Fuck you, Cisco.

Margaret: In a very typical Arrow goodbye, Oliver takes this time to be like, “Hey, don’t fuck me over.” And Felicity, being a somewhat more adjusted person tells them, “This means it was good to meet you.” As they leave, of course, Oliver immediately has to comment that something is off about Wells. Because, well, he’s Arrowman and there is a lot off about Harrison Wells.

 

Syd: As they lock up this week’s villain, Caitlin dubs him the Rainbow Raider, and this may come as a twist, since that’s what I’ve been calling him all episode, but that name makes no sense for this character. In the Flash comics, he could effect different emotions with different colors, but on this show, he only produces rage using the color red. He should be the Scarlet Scoundrel or the Rage-Inducing Reprobate. He is in no way related to rainbows.

Margaret: Then in the wrap up, Oliver decides to talk to Barry about a subject he really has absolutely and utterly no standing in: relationships. He tells Barry, “Guys like us don’t get the girl” and yet…what? Almost all of his relationships have ended terribly and because of him, not any other reason. His relationship with Laurel ended because he supposedly died while he fucked her sister. His relationship with Sara ended because of Laurel and the League of Shadows. He ended it with Felicity because of bullshit reasons involving ‘protecting her’ while she still remains on his super dangerous crime fighting team. Dude. Oliver. This is all you. This is not about the life. It’s that you’re a shitty boyfriend.

Syd: “Guys like us”? What the hell is that supposed to mean? What sort of guys don’t get the girl? More importantly, how are Barry and Ollie the same sort of guy? I’m sorry, but guys like Barry absolutely do get the girl. You just wish you were that caliber of guy, Oliver.

Margaret: Though, unfortunately, due to Flash’s actions while under the influence of the rage rainbow, Iris tells him not to contact her again. And, honestly, good move Iris. Dude was trying to get you to break up with your boyfriend while meeting you on rooftops and coffee shops.

GRADING THE EPISODE

Syd: I’ll give this a B+. It’s a bit light on story and the romance feels weightless and artificial (though that could be because it’s taken out of context), but I had a lot of fun with this.

Margaret: I’m at a B. Flash is just a – and I am not trying to make a pun here – weird blur for me.

Syd: It would only be a pun if it were Clark Kent.

Margaret: That’s better than the Streak. But still! I find Flash weirdly sweet at times, if infuriating. Grant Gustin could power a personality factory with his smile.

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