WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for this week's episode of The Flash, the first part of "Elseworlds," which aired Sunday on The CW.
One of the defining elements of the CW's Arrowverse has always been a willingness to have a little fun with itself and with its comic book source material. That's no more apparent than in the opening volley of this year's crossover, "Elseworlds," which uses a classic body-swapping plot to introduce a threat to the multiverse.
In this week's episode of The Flash, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) awake in each other's body for an extended Freaky Friday/Quantum Leap riff that's comical for viewers and enlightening for the duo. It’s the superhero buddy-comedy you never knew you needed.
Ahead of the episode's premiere on Sunday, CBR participated in a Q&A in Los Angeles with executive producers Todd Helbing (The Flash), Robert Rovner (Supergirl), Caroline Dras (Batwoman) and Beth Schwartz (Arrow), who revealed how much fun "Elseworlds" ended up being.
Amell and Gustin have a blast throughout the crossover, especially in portraying each other's character. While Barry Allen is amused by the situation, and his new skills, Oliver Queen has difficulty dealing with pretty much every element of body swap. That ranges from his new powers to the pleasant, everyday experience that it is being Barry Allen. While Barry is quick to adapt to his surroundings and to determine he should actually contact “Barry Allen," it takes the newly super-powered Oliver Queen a good chunk of the morning to even understand what’s happening to him, let alone to figure out how to use his newfound powers.
“It was super-exciting to write,” Rovner explained, "to take the characters on a kind of different journey than they’ve been on before. And we giggled a lot when we read the Flash/Green Arrow episodes.”
The crossover, which begins in The Flash and runs through Arrow and Supergirl, takes every possible opportunity to poke fun at the two heroes while never becoming mean-spirited. Amell looks appropriately uncomfortable in his Flash suit, and Helbing noted the producers were initially hesitant about his beard showing. But, like the rest of the episode, it ends up being the right decision.
Helbing expanded on what it's like to see Green Arrow with a lighter tone, saying, “It was a lot of fun. We don’t get to work together [between shows] in this capacity, ever, except for crossovers. So, that’s always fun. It was fun reading lines for Oliver that we wouldn’t normally be able to put into scripts.”
“[Stephen Amell] was so excited to wear the [Flash] costume,” Schwartz added. “And when he put it on, he had a different kind of energy.”
A major part of the crossover is watching the two heroes learn how to better work together and understand one another. Ollie has to learn about how to put his troubles behind him and just run, while Barry figures out how to channel those feelings to fuel himself.
The Grass Is Always Greener
As Ollie and Barry realize, neither is exactly who the other thought. Ollie admits he always took Barry for granted, while Barry never saw the real pain at the core of his friend. The character work in the crossover grants the two actors the chance to expand and explore their roles.
When Barry first tries to mimic the Green Arrow voice, he can barely make it through the proclamation without cracking up. But by the end of the episode, he’s learned how to funnel his emotions into his work the way Oliver does, and delivers a booming (and honest) version of “You have failed this city." It cements their connection and friendship, and gives the two defining heroes of the CW's DC Universe a great showcase for their growth and friendship.
Even though this event is on a scope that earlier crossovers could never quite reach, the story still feels more immediate and personal than any that came before.
“I think our goal was to actually go smaller this year, which is why Legends isn’t a part of it," Schwartz said. "But I think that obviously didn’t happen, because it’s pretty big. Emotionally I think we went to bigger places then we have in the past, which I think was what everybody liked about the concept of [Barry and Ollie] swapping lives.”
"Elseworlds" continues Monday, Sept. 10, at 8 p.m. ET/PT with Arrow before concluding Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 8 p.m. ET/PT with Supergirl.