We’ll get a Superman/Batman team-up on the big screen in 2016, but it’ll likely be a long, long time before we see one on television. That’s OK, though, as the DC Comics TV universe has its own version of the World’s Finest, and this week we saw them in action.
The Flash is analogous to Superman in The CW’s corner of the DC Universe: He’s bright and hopeful, gifted with amazing powers that he uses to protect the city he calls home. Arrow can be viewed as Batman, a brooding crusader who’s survived immeasurable personal tragedy and has reached peek physical condition in order to fight for justice. The Flash even has the hots for a reporter while Arrow has a kid sidekick. The parallels are there, but if producers want to turn The Flash and Arrow into a classic team-up a la Superman and Batman, they’d have to nail a dynamic that ensures when its two very different heroes meet up, it’s something very special. And “Flash vs. Arrow” – the first part of a crossover that continues tonight on “Arrow” – was just that.
Of all the villains in the DC pantheon to bring Arrow and The Flash together, the unlikeliest was probably the Rainbow Raider, a villain who’s been a punchline since the Silver Age. That’s right, not Captain Cold, Grodd, Reverse Flash, Mirror Master, Malcolm Merlyn, Deathstroke or Ra’s Al Ghul, but the Rainbow Raider. Somehow, this episode made the foe, whom the episode had the good sense to call Prism until Caitlin Snow came up with the alliterative moniker, rather scary. The episode scaled back the Raider’s -- I can’t call him Prism; the Silver Age fan in me won’t allow it -- powers to only trigger anger instead of all emotions, but in truth, he was only a plot device to set Barry and Ollie against each other. The entire episode was structured like a classic comic book team-up, in which one hero is compromised and the two titans have to do battle.
What followed was a classic clash between a hero who survives on his wits and physical skills versus a hero who relies on his otherworldly powers -- in other words, a Superman vs. Batman-style showdown. Arrow used his brains and his ability to anticipate and control variables to combat Barry’s super-speed. In fairness to Barry, his judgment was clouded by the Raider’s powers, but Ollie came off as the always-prepared hero as he managed to edge out the anger-controlled Flash.
The episode also provided insight into how those in Central City view the urban vigilante Arrow; Detective West was opposed to Arrow’s methods, going so far as to demand he leaves the city. One of the most startling aspects of Oliver Queen revealed in this team-up is the sacrifices Arrow had to make to become the hero he is. Ollie can’t afford altruism; he has to be 20 steps ahead of his foes or risk death. He’d love to be the symbol Barry is becoming, but he can’t, as his world is too dark to let the light of hope shine. The battle between the mind-controlled Flash and Arrow was perfectly realized while showing just how in control Ollie had to be to win the day.
Ollie and Barry was the main event, but the episode had a really fun undercard in the interactions of the supporting casts and their reactions to the heroes. Diggle was in awe of The Flash while Caitlin and Cisco became possessive of his coolness. Felicity was the thread that bound Team Arrow and Team Flash, and, of course, Harrison Wells viewed Arrow with distrust -- so much distrust that he took it upon himself to uncover the vigilante’s identity. It’s not exactly a surprising feat for someone who has access to future newspaper headlines, but that knowledge could lead to repercussions for Oliver, who expressed his own reservations about Wells.
However, Wells isn’t the only character who could poses problems for our heroes. While Barry was under control of the Rainbow Raider, he beat down Eddie Thawne in a fit of jealousy over Iris West. The Flash mocked and humiliated Thawne and showed how scary it would be if the Fastest Man Alive ever lost sight of his mission. A man named Thawne made helpless by The Flash, humiliated in front of his love? This probably won’t end well, particularly if Thawne is ever spurned by Iris for Barry, which he will be if she discovers The Flash’s secret.
“Flash vs. Arrow” wasn’t all drama, though, as there were some great comedic scenes before the Raider took control -- from Barry being shot in the back in a training exercise by Oliver to Cisco and Diggle competing over which hero is cooler. It was a blast to watch, and I encourage the producers to make this team-up an annual event (it actually continues tonight on Arrow, as the mysterious vibrating boomerang Felicity brought to STAR Labs reminds us).
We got to see two iconic heroes team up, but that wasn’t the only treat: After The Flash and Arrow celebrated the off-screen defeat of their foe, the episode introduced a DC character we’ve been waiting for. Ronnie Raymond was mentioned once this episode when the anger-fueled Barry took a verbal jab at Caitli, Ronnie’s still-mourning fiancé. But in the cliffhanger, it wasn’t Ronnie we saw, not completely; it was the live-action debut of Firestorm.
It looks like The Flash’s next team-up could be even hotter.