It may not quite be Marvel level universe building but there’s a built-in buzz to this episode as it crosses over with The Flash. It’s the companion piece to the tartily titled “Flash Vs Arrow” on the sister show but it’s smart enough to work as a standalone experience – yes, your viewing’s enriched by watching the first part of the team-up but it’s not a dealbreaker. If anything this episode succeeds as a shameless sampler for The Flash, bringing a taste of Barry Allen’s lighter, more charming take on superheroics to Starling.
And there’s charm to spare. “The Brave And The Bold” has fun mashing the shows’ respective ensembles for fan-pleasing moments of mischief – “Red is so much cooler than green, am I right?” – and the cast are clearly enjoying the ribbing and riffing. There’s a cute running gag about Dig not being married to Lyla and Cisco’s presence suddenly makes Roy an infinitely funnier character for Colton Haynes to play.
But there’s a higher purpose here too, beyond the knowing cracks about Arrowcaves and Arrowmobiles. The episode’s at its best when it puts Barry and Oliver in contrast – Barry, still very much the junior hero, is clearly appalled by Oliver’s recourse to torture (and that feels horribly topical this month…). “What’s wrong with you?” he asks, anguished by what he sees of his mentor’s methods – and possibly wondering if this is where life as a self-appointed guardian of justice will ultimately take him… For once the flashbacks work beautifully with the modern day narrative. The Hong Kong sequences show Oliver’s reluctant acceptance of harsh interrogation methods and we see how this experience shapes his brutal tendencies behind the mask.
The episode takes its title from long-running DC comic book The Brave And The Bold. Launched in 1955, it’s best known for teaming Batman with other DCU icons. Issue 85 in 1969 introduced the modern version of Green Arrow, revamped by star artist Neal Adams.
It’s also an episode with interesting stuff to say about contrasting approaches to comic book material generally. It doesn’t just smash together two disparate heroes – it puts two styles of storytelling up against one another too. Fittingly for the hero that launched the Silver Age of comics, Flash belongs to a brighter, sweeter, more playful world. He’s from Central City, after all – “where it’s sunny all the time and your enemies get cute nicknames,” sneers Oliver, neatly summarising the tone of early ‘60s DC. Caitlin, too, realises she belongs to a different world: “It’s been a game,” she says, entering the post-Watchmen, post-Dark Knight reality of Oliver Queen, where superheroes are obliged to say “I’m not as emotionally healthy as you.”
George Harkness makes for a great villain-of-the-week, full of threat and menace despite occasional lapses into sub-Arnie lines like “What goes around comes around.” His assault on STAR labs is brilliantly staged and almost – almost - persuades you never to snigger at the name Captain Boomerang ever again…
Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD
|Writers||Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim & Grainne Godfree|
|The one where||The Flash races into Starling City when Lylas life is threatened by a boomerang-wielding assassin|