Arrow Season 3, Episode 8
“The Brave and the Bold”
SUMMARY: Oliver Queen and Amanda Waller explain to the audience how police brutality is actually good. An actor claims to be Captain Boomerang, but doesn’t even try to do an Australian accent.
Syd: The episode starts with Roy Harper in his silly hood (which is not something I’ve seen him wear in any comics, but I guess it’s better than his Robin Hood hat) doing a goofy little run, and this is what we were missing from the Flash episode of this crossover – Roy Harper doing something dumb.
Margaret: Roy is famous for his parkour in Arrow. I also find the hood a little unfortunate as it seems way too big for his head. But, he’s there for Oliver’s backup while Diggle watches from the van. They’re about to bust into the house where their bad guy is supposed to be and realize that both doors are rigged with explosives. They blow them up, because fuck disarming them, and realize that their target isn’t in the house.
Syd: You know who is in this house? ARGUS! It’s Amanda Waller’s secret police. They have guns trained on Roy and Ollie. Why they are here – in terms of how they got the information – isn’t explained. Also, what their relationship with Ollie and Roy isn’t explained. I would say that this episode is inhospitable to new viewers, except, when you get down to it, none of this stuff is actually important to the episode’s story. I hope this is compelling for longtime viewers, because it does nothing for me. Anyway, Diggle knows someone at ARGUS – who he seems to think is his wife, but Oliver points out they are no longer married and she has the same name as a character from The Crisis on Infinite Earths. Margaret, a little help?
Margaret: ARGUS showed up last season and threatened to blow up Starling City when it was invaded by super soldiers. You know, normal Waller stuff. Speaking of, it’s weird to me that everyone has been portraying Amanda Waller as skinny Amanda Waller. Lyla was Diggle’s ex wife that showed up last season, too. I mean, they do keep hammering in the point that the two of them are not married throughout the entire episode. I can’t help you with Crisis on Infinite Earths, though, I actually thought they made Lyla for Arrow.
Syd: No, Diggle is show original, but Lyla is from a comic.
Anyway, rather than explain anything, they go to a flashback. The svelte young Mandy Waller gives long haired hippy Oliver a bow and arrow to use as implements to extract information from her captive. You might be thinking that bows and arrows are unconventional research tools, but this is the show’s sly way of introducing this episode’s theme: torture. The writers of the episode (who consist mostly of the show’s creators and the guy who wrote the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern movie) seem to be vaguely aware that some of the audience might not approve of torture, but I am unconvinced that they understand why we might feel that way, since absolutely none of this episode is spent discussing why torture is bad. I am not a regular Arrow viewer, so I don’t know if torture is a recurring theme on this show, but I do know that this is the wrong episode to be broaching the subject. Part of the point of crossover episodes is cross promotion. When you do a crossover, you have to expect that a lot of your audience are Grant Gustin fans who are new to your series. The show’s creators have to be aware that I am being introduced to the Green Arrow character as an unrepentant murderer and an adamant defender of police brutality. The only consequences he faces for his use of torture is that it doesn’t work one time, but he captures the bad guy anyway. I am horrified and disgusted that they think I would ever want to see this character again after this.
Margaret: Most of the season has been Oliver’s past in dealing with ARGUS and some of the more brutal ways he’s been trained after being stranded on Lian Yu for two years. Honestly, I assumed that anyone coming over to this episode from The Flash probably either already watched Arrow or saw some of it and then only watched the crossover episodes. So, I’m assuming the creators just thought everyone already knew what was going on this season, which is why they didn’t explain anything save small nods to continuity for newcomers. For the most part, Oliver’s story has been him coming back a hardened and horrible asshole from Lian Yu and how he has to learn to be a person again. So, to me, I was coming from the idea that basically everything that happens in the flashbacks are stuff he has to unlearn or atone for in order to move forward. So, no, they don’t really give arguments against torture as I thought it was obvious you’re not supposed to torture people.
Syd: Then, after our quota of dark, brooding edginess, we get a little tonal whiplash when Caitlin and Cisco go into the ArrowCave because when they heard there were superhero adventures to be had, they took vacation days from STAR Labs to come all the way out to Starling City. Both of them, but mostly Cisco, geek out over their cool superhero stuff. Cisco compliments Roy on his red suit being cooler than Ollie’s green (which is not a creative color) and Roy finds that endearing. We have talked before on this blog how I like angsty, angry Roy, but, honestly, this show has enough edge and I’m happy that Oliver is the only sourpuss not buying into the joy of superheroing. Also, I like how much Roy and Felicity enjoy seeing Oliver get annoyed.
Margaret: Meanwhile in ARGUS, Diggle and Lyla are arguing about the fact that the guy that was killed was an ARGUS agent and he thinks ARGUS – despite being a immensely well funded military police – isn’t properly equipped to handle a weirdo with boomerangs. Unlike his crew of five people that operate out of a cave.
As must happen, as they’re arguing, their bad guy shows up and starts murdering agents with boomerangs because I guess guns don’t work against boomerangs?
Syd: It’s here we meet this show’s version of Captain Boomerang, and I have a few questions about the portrayal, most notably – Who the hell is this asshole pretending to be Digger Harkness? Am I supposed to believe they couldn’t find an Australian actor to play a boomerang-based supervillain? Did they think that’s too on the nose? Could they not ask this actor to at least attempt an Australian accent? Would that break the verisimilitude of his exploding boomerang related crimes?
Margaret: It’s the curse of a show like Arrow to be both on the nose and too on the nose. I really don’t mind this guy. They have weird supervillains with niche weapons all the time without going too in depth as to why exactly they have these weapon fetishes. At least he’s better than Jai Courtney.
Diggle calls Oliver to help them out and as Caitlin is so used to bank robberies and The Flash, she says, “It’ll be over before they get there.” I like the differences in how Central City and Starling City vigilantes operate and see crime.
Syd: In between bites of McDonald’s cheeseburgers, pseudoBoomer engages Roy and Oliver up close, because there are no better weapons for close-quarters combat than boomerangs and bows.
Margaret: While fighting, Digger still manages to sling two boomerangs at Lyla, who can’t move in time to stop them. Luckily, The Flash charges in to grab them! And just like on The Flash, when he shows up for the first time, I like how they then put the Flash’s theme into the main Arrow theme. It’s a cute way to solidify the crossover.
Then, foiled and outnumbered, Digger tosses down a smoke bomb and disappears. Because I guess he’s also a ninja boomerang? Sure, why not, they need to talk about other things.
Syd: One thing I will say in this show’s favor is that it is a much better looking show than The Flash. I don’t think I would have noticed the shot composition if I weren’t getting screenshots for a blog, but the fight scenes on Arrow are an order of magnitude better than what they’re doing on The Flash. Also, the boomerang-fu is pretty sweet.
Margaret: Yeah, I’ve always said that no matter what else is going on in Arrow they are really great at the fight choreography.
Syd: So, they give a little backstory on this pretender to the Harkness throne, and how he was a member of Task Force X. Hey, what is this Task Force X, some kind of Suicide Squad?
Margaret: Nope, it is not, because that’s a DC movie and you can’t have both apparently! After the explanation, they go back to the ArrowCave and, of course, Barry beats all of them back and is superspeeding up and down the Salmon Ladder.
It’s cute, but also kind of defeats the purpose because that way you can’t see his abs when he’s going that fast.
Syd: Don’t knock superspeed salmon ladder. It’s the best effect in the episode. All the exercise makes Barry hungry, so he rushes to get sushi and returns without his mask on, in full view of Lyla, who he didn’t realize didn’t know his secret identity. Oh, Barry, I love you. Speaking of loving things, that’s what I don’t do with Cisco’s faux-Joss Whedon dialog. I don’t love it. Arrow should have better joke writers.
To find Digger or someone like him, they have to find the manufacturer of his boomerang. Fortunately, Cisco happens to know a Starling City boomerang manufacturer off the top of his head who was arrested by Quentin Lance, so Barry and Ollie go down to the station. It’s so weird to me that they changed Larry Lance’s name to Quentin on this show. Fans of this show might not even know that Quentin and Dinah Lance were once Lawrence Lance and Dinah Drake and they had perfect alliterative comics names until this show chose to ruin it for no reason.
Margaret: It’s not a full crossover episode if we don’t get the full team! I like that Quentin remembers Barry, but can’t remember his name. He keeps calling him Bart and I get that reference now! Luckily, he somehow does remember a bunch about a criminal he arrested years ago and helps them out.
Syd: When Team Arrow gets to the mobsters’ hideout, The Flash runs in super fast and knocks all of the mobsters out. It wasn’t shown how he managed to violently render all of them unconscious, but I’m sure it was whimsical and lighthearted, in keeping with what his fans insist the tone of his show is.
Margaret: He’s a forensic scientist, I’m sure he drugged them. Oliver finds the guy they’re after and immediately goes into his Vigilante Voice, interrogating the guy for information. At one point, he shoots an arrow into him and then starts pulling it out and Barry immediately protests, trying to stop him. It’s weird that Barry defended this exact same technique to Joe before because ‘it got them the information’ but now that he’s seeing it actually happen he understands what that actually means.
Syd: At this point in the episode, I’m on Barry’s side. Look, I understand that he’s a bit naive, but he didn’t know what Arrow did, exactly. As soon as it was clear to him that Oliver was crossing lines and breaking laws, Barry took it upon himself to tell him that’s not how they do things. In most crime shows I see, nobody bats an eye when someone wants to violate a suspect’s civil rights. Oliver, on the other hand, is in full-on batmode. I hate BatOllie.
Margaret: Oliver tries to defend himself by pointing out that his past seven years have been a lot harder than his to which Barry immediately counters that he watched his own mother die at a young age and “You don’t get to use your personal tragedies to torture whoever pisses you off.”
Ollie replies, “I’m sorry I’m not as emotionally healthy as you are Barry.” Which, man, if there were ever truer words spoken. There have been entire reams of paper of reviews discussing Oliver’s shitty world views.
Syd: Team Arrow tracks the Boomerang Phone to a warehouse, and on the way, the group has an annoying meta conversation, starting with Ollie and Lyla awkwardly dropping the episode title by saying that they have to be The Brave and The Bold like Diedrich Bader in a Batman cartoon.
Then Diggle worries about how he can keep his family safe in a world full of supervillains. Cisco points out that there were supervillains and killer boomerangs and suicide squads before there were any superheroes and postulates that superheroes like Barry were a way to balance the scales – as if magical superspeed were a method of divine justice. It only makes sense if Cisco is coming from it from the standpoint that their world is authored rather than it consisting of individuals making choices – unless his point is that the Flash is cool, which I agree with, but wouldn’t argue in those terms.
Margaret: I guess? Though it it make sense if he is someone that believes in God and believes that God actually intervenes in human affairs. There are people who do! And do believe that there are scales to be balanced. I guess that would make Arrowverse an authored world, but there are people who believe that our world is, too.
Syd: When the Team gets to the warehouse, QuasiBoomer is nowhere to be found. It turns out that he had Yankees tickets for that evening and he never misses an opportunity to watch his favorite hometown team. This means that torturing that guy earlier gave Oliver bad intel, but in Oliver’s mind, it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tool. As a reminder, his tool is torture. Also, Oliver himself is a complete tool, so it works on multiple levels.
Margaret: Though, this is also the show extrapolating that torture doesn’t work. Boomerang expected Oliver to torture his manufacturer and then believe he had the best information because he tortured it out of him. That’s exactly what Barry tells Oliver.
Syd: I think that’s giving the show too much credit, when Oliver has been torturing people for years and suffers no ill effects the one time it doesn’t work.
Margaret: Lyla is nearly murdered because it didn’t work. And those other episodes weren’t the episodes focusing on torture. I mean, I get they haven’t had the conversation and he still shouldn’t torture people, but I think it is important that in the episode focusing on whether torture is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they show that torture doesn’t work.
Syd: I’m not saying the show is intentionally arguing for torture. I’m saying that they do a poor job of decrying torture, given how much time they spend showing torture working.
Anyway, AmeriBoomer breaks into the ArrowCave and a big fight scene ensues.
Margaret: I like that in this fight scene we can see Oliver’s organizational skills. Since they thought they were safe, they aren’t armed, but Lyla asks for guns and Felicity immediately knows that they are in the cabinet, third drawer. Also, I would like them to work on their security. It seems every other episode someone hacks into or attacks the Arrowcave.
Syd: The Captainish tries to make a witty rejoinder about how boomerangs prove that things always come back to haunt you. So… boomerangs haunt him? Wait, are there ghost boomerangs? I miss Jai Courtney. His Captain Boomerang was dumb, but I understood him.
Margaret: This is why he’s not Australian any more, Syd. In any event, he manages to boomerang Lyla and then escapes. Caitlin quickly runs to stabilize her and when the team returns, Barry runs Lyla to the hospital for surgery.
Syd: Back in the flashback, the prisoner warns Oliver that inflicting pain is harder than inflicting death. This is incredibly stupid. It’s not like a bow and arrow grants a painless or a guaranteed death. You don’t shoot someone with a bow and arrow if you’re unwilling to hurt them. It doesn’t matter, though, because while Oliver is interrogating him, the bomb he was meant to find goes off.
So Oliver’s torture failed to extract the info that Waller requested of him. You might think that this experience convinced Oliver that torture was an unreliable interrogation technique. How naive of you! Waller tells him that he just didn’t torture well enough. She tells him that torture is an art form that you have to practice to perfect. The show says absolutely nothing to refute this. In fact, it’s the assumption that Oliver was operating under from that day until the present, which was the second time in his life when torture didn’t immediately solve his problems. Fuck this show.
Margaret: I mean, honestly? Yes, I do believe Waller believes that’s the best way to save people and in order to do it right he has to let go of the idea that torturing people won’t expediently get answers to solve bigger problems. And Oliver when he got back to from Lian Yu he was pretty shitty. He murdered people. And I don’t think torture immediately solved all his problems and I’m sure he got wrong tips, which was why he’s not as flummoxed when the tortured guy gave him wrong information. That’s probably happened before. But, yeah, this is an Oliver who has done bad shit and is trying to learn to be a person again. To me, it’s clear that you shouldn’t ever want to be Amanda Waller or emulate her and it’s wrong to do so. You want to be Barry Allen, who definitely believes that torture is wrong.
Syd: In the Verdant club, the combined Flarrow team regroups. Caitlin talks about how things are done differently in Starling than in Central City and worries that the STAR Labs group aren’t taking things seriously enough. That bothers me, because it seems to me that in Central City, the Flash team effectively neutralizes threats without making themselves miserable, which is way preferable to whatever Ollie’s strategy is. I think we’re both in agreement as to your previous point, we should want to be more like Barry Allen and I’m a bit disturbed that Oliver and Barry’s viewpoints are given equal weight.
Margaret: Trying to meld the tones of the shows is something that was rocky for this first crossover. I feel like the Arrow writers thought Flash crew needed to acknowledge that things are darker in Starling City because otherwise they’re the happy-go-lucky gang happy-go-luckying while Lyla is in surgery in the hospital.
Syd: Meanwhile, Oliver and Barry have an emotional conversation and Oliver piles on the self pity and I am not here for this. He reminds me of Thanos. “Oh, why do circumstances keep making me murder and torture people! Because I certainly haven’t done anything wrong! My life is so hard!”
Margaret: Oliver’s definitely been through some crazy ass stuff. It’s not like Thanos who was like, “No one listens to me so I have to murder everyone to prove my point.” I like the heart to hearts the two have on each of their shows because it’s really interesting to me to show how the one show gives advice to the other show. Barry holds Oliver accountable for his actions in a way no one else on the show ever really does but still pep talks. Oliver tries to get Barry to see that he has to take some things seriously or he’s going to get hurt and get the people he cares about hurt, too. The two bring out the best scenes from each other, in my opinion, as Barry gets Oliver to lighten the fuck up and Oliver gives Barry the ability to actually be the teacher and show how observant he is.
Syd: The two superheroes catch up to FauxBoomer at a train station, but he has set up five bombs around Starling City and declared that Flash and Arrow can’t both take him down and deal with the bombs, which would be a fine plan, except that he’s dealing with two opponents, so they actually can do two things at once. This guy is kind of an American Idiot. While Flash runs off to find the bombs, Arrow bests him in combat and demands he disarm the bombs. The False Boomerang taunts Arrow that he doesn’t have the fortitude to torture him. This is dumb for at least two reasons. First of all, if there’s one thing Arrow is known for, it’s torture. Second, nobody mentioned torture. How did FauxDigger know the theme of the episode? Did he read the script? I understand he’s pretty literate. Here’s a picture of him reading his favorite book:
Margaret: I’m really not sure what Digger’s actual plan was. Because it’s pretty clear Oliver is not going to let him go and even if the bombs go off….he’s still captured. So, either way he’s stuck there. So….what? Anyway, Barry runs off and finds out that the bombs are all linked to each other and if they defuse one bomb, all the other ones will explode. What a conundrum! Luckily, there are exactly five other people in the ArrowCave that can synchronize a wire cutting. I like that Barry solves his problem with friends. And also it’s weird that no one’s shirt catches on fire.
Syd: I know! Roy’s shirt goes completely undamaged! Where’s the justice? Anyway, danger having been averted, Arrow turns to walk away. The NonCaptain reaches for a boomerang and Arrow shoots him through the hand. You would think he would have disarmed him before he turned his back or restrained his arms with the same rope that is holding his head instead of possibly permanently disabling someone, but as we know from the rest of this episode, Oliver Queen is a violent fascist who loves brutalizing prisoners. As Barry says with a smile, “You just couldn’t resist, could you?” In his own defense, Oliver points out that he didn’t kill him, meaning he still has some humanity left, which I think the audience is supposed to agree with. Maybe I’m supposed to feel better about myself, because I resist my murderous impulses every day. In fact, I’ve never killed anyone! I have so much humanity left!
As for UnDigger, he has to be pissed off, because there is no way his country’s shitty health insurance system is going to cover this. Still, I heard he still gets work in anime. You might have seen him:
Margaret: I have no idea who that is. Back in the hospital, Diggle’s at Lyla’s bedside when she wakes up. It turns out that the reason the show keeps reminding everyone that they’re not married any more is because Diggle proposes to her. So, it’s a good thing that didn’t go over anyone’s head.
Syd: At the ArrowCave, the supporting cast gets together, and I love the interplay between Caitlin Snow and Felicity Smoak. Really, I would rather see a crossover focusing on them. What would their ship name be? Caitlicity? Snoak? Oh! I just realized, The Last Jedi never revealed Snoke’s backstory, and now I have the BEST Snoke theory.
Margaret: That might be the worst Snoke theory.
Syd: Ollie arrives and the whole group talks about getting together again sometime. I know most of these people are scientists, so I expect them to have a Victor Frankenstein-level moral compass, but maybe Barry – who has a background in law enforcement – could explain to the rest of them that serial killers usually aren’t granted clemency because they claim they’ve learned their lesson and won’t do it again. They should probably turn this murderer – whose crimes they might now be considered accomplices to – into the authorities.
Margaret: Except then I guess there wouldn’t be either show. Instead, Oliver and Barry move to a warehouse where they decide to really see who would win in a fight between the two of them. It’s what both crews were betting on before and so they don’t let them watch. It’s just for the two of them to see for themselves.
Syd: In a heartfelt scene, Barry reassures Oliver that he can be inspirational like the Flash, even if his Arrow persona is a douche. “Douche” is an interesting euphemism for dangerous criminal and it’s also the worst tongue lashing Oliver gets. I think we’re supposed to read this as Barry being nice by making peace, but this isn’t nice at all. A law enforcement official going easy on a criminal because they’re friends is cronyism. It’s a clear case of systemic corruption. This ending is the opposite of the Flash’s crossover with Supergirl. There, the Flash’s presence elevated the show. Here, Barry is dragged down to Ollie’s scummy level.
GRADING THE EPISODE
Syd: F. It’s been a while since I have outright failed something on this blog, but boy does this show work hard to earn it. All of the jokes fail. The story relies on people being idiots. Most importantly, I don’t consider watching people’s civil rights being trampled on entertainment. That’s one of the reasons I usually can’t stand police procedurals. The only upside is that watching this rich, smug sadist fight crime gives me insight into what Christian Grey would be like as a superhero.
Margaret: C. This is the worst season I’ve seen of Arrow. I will say I haven’t kept up with it after Season 4, so there may be worse. Arrow has consistently, from its pilot episode, had a real problem with tone and being too ‘dark’ and ‘edgy’ because it is insecure about the fact that it’s trying to be Batman without Batman. They’re so insecure about it they give Oliver a ton of Batman’s storylines in this season. I still enjoyed watching Arrow, for the most part. It’s not the best written show and it’s not a moral show, but I enjoyed it.