'Arrow' Recap: 'The Brave and the Bold'

“The Brave and the Bold” has such a cache in DC Comics history that the producers couldn’t resist using it as the title for last night’s episode, the conclusion of the first official crossover between Arrow and The Flash. The Brave and the Bold is the comic series that introduced the Justice League of America, and with characters like Firestorm, Vixen and Vibe and other characters seemingly around the corner, it's easy enough to view last night's episode as an early step toward for formation of a super-team.

Unfortunately, the episode was a mixed bag, filled with great fight scenes as The Flash and Arrow confronted the new threat of Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, but it also delved into some ponderously preachy territory regarding the morality of violence and the use torture in pursuit of justice.

Arrow presented a decidedly different Digger Harkness than comics fans are accustomed to seeing. The role was brilliantly played by Nick Tarabay (Spartacus), who has a grace and intensity that made him seem like a real threat to both heroes, despite his rather gimmicky skill set. Tarabay’s Harkness is a scumbag and a gleeful murderer, but he isn’t that slimy, cowardly piece of filth readers of The Suicide Squad love to hate. This was a much more confident and in-your-face Captain Boomerang, and it really worked. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Captain Boomerang story if Harkness didn’t have some connection to Amanda Waller and ARGUS -- and indeed he did, as Harkness was set on revenge against Diggle’s girlfriend, Agent Lyla Michaels. It seems that Boomerang was once part of a Suicide Squad unit whose mission went bad, forcing Lyla to detonate the team’s internal bombs. Boomerang survived and targeted Lyla for vengeance.

This was a great introduction for Harkness, as he can be included as a reluctant member of a future version of the Suicide Squad -- and as we get closer to the 2016 premiere of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad film, you can bet your quiver there will be more appearances on The CW by the team’s television counterparts. After a number of great action sequences, Arrow and The Flash finally confronted Harkness, who hid five bombs throughout Starling City. It took the combined wits of Barry, Roy, Caitlin, Felicity and Cisco to disarm the linked bombs – their wires had to be cut simultaneously -- while Oliver took on Boomerang. The battle illustrated the power of a team of heroes, even if only one of them had powers.

The battle with Captain Boomerang was worthy of the name “The Brave and the Bold,” but sadly, the episode wasn’t all high quality. The second act’s focus was on Barry’s problems with Oliver’s use of torture to obtain information from criminals. The episode even supported this arc with a flashback to Hong Kong, where Amanda Waller tried to force Oliver into torturing a bomb maker to learn the location of a hidden explosive. However, it didn’t make sense: If Waller needed the bomb’s location, why trust the whole mission to a neophyte interrogator? Lives were lost because she couldn’t kindle a bloodlust in Oliver? I don’t buy that a woman who would do anything for a mission to succeed would so haphazardly trust a man she barely knows when hundreds of lives are at stake.

The issue of torture resurfaced in the present, causing a rift between Barry and Oliver. We saw the duo fight in Tuesday’s episode of The Flash, and that conflict didn’t need to be dredged up again. The writers desperately wanted to contrast Barry as a gentle young man who shies away from wet work with Oliver as a tortured soul willing to do whatever it takes to keep his city safe, but with Boomerang at large and killing people, the conflict felt out of place. Does Barry think that when he hits a criminal at 800 MPH it doesn’t cause damage? The whole thing made Oliver seem sadistic and Barry appear naïve while interrupting the breakneck pace of the first act.

Plot quibbles aside, the chemistry between the two casts is undeniable, with great humorous moments between Team Arrow and Team Flash carrying over from Tuesday’s episode. There was a particularly great moment as Cicsco laid out his belief that the universe sent metahumans to protect humanity from men like Digger Harkness. It was such a telling speech for Cisco as a character, but it also could foreshadow the coming of a Justice League, if the hypothetical team were to adopt his philosophy. Cisco’s morality made me want to see him become Vibe more than ever.

What else? Harkness was defeated and imprisoned on the same island as Slade Wilson, and Lyla, who was critically injured by Boomerang, accepted Diggle’s marriage proposal from her hospital bed. Roy was next to useless once again, getting easily taken out by Boomerang in the first battle. Cisco presented Ollie with a new and improved costume, and The Flash was given a place in the Arrow Cave. I said it in my Flash recap, but let’s hope these Ollie/Barry meetings become an annual event a la DC’s classic Justice League/Justice Society crossover.

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