Arrow recap: 'The Brave and the Bold'
Team Arrow are in pursuit of a boomerang wielding assassin, and The Flash pays Starling City a visit.
“Flash vs. Arrow,” the first part of the The Flash/Arrow crossover event, was a fun and action-packed hour. It was basically everything I could’ve hoped for. Tonight’s episode of Arrow, the crossover’s second part, was a decent enough episode, but definitely wasn’t as good as the first installment. Whereas The Flash‘s episode felt like it was moving many of its ongoing stories forward, the same can’t be said of “The Brave and the Bold,” an episode that felt very much like a crossover episode. “The Brave and the Bold” tries to service Oliver’s identity issues and character development, but it ends up doing a lot more for the away team.
That being said, there were still plenty of fun moments in the episode, most of them coming from Cisco fanboying all over the place—Cisco is this episode’s Diggle. Team Flash brings so much needed levity to Arrow‘s typically dour proceedings. (The sassy and smiling Oliver we saw last night also makes a welcome return tonight). Also, Captain Boomerang (Nick E. Tarabay) is one of Team Arrow’s most formidable and compelling opponents this season as he is someone who appreciates the art of strategy and plans multiple steps ahead. But, enough setup. Time to dig into “The Brave and the Bold.”
FLASHBACKS — Hong Kong
As Arrow is wont to do, Oliver’s story in the flashbacks relates to the events in the present. In the first flashback, Amanda Waller summons Oliver to an abandoned building to interrogate a munitions specialist who has apparently planted a time bomb somewhere in Hong Kong. To help him extract the information, Waller reveals that her team salvaged his bow and arrows from the freighter when they rescued him. Essentially, she wants Oliver to torture the information out of him. Because this Oliver is still rather green, he forgoes torture and tries to reason with the bomber. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work and the bomb detonates.
Naturally, Amanda Waller is pissed and takes Oliver to task for trying to reason with the bomber instead of doing what is necessary. “There are people in this world who deal only in extreme. It’s naive to think that anything less than extreme measures will stop them,” says Waller. The justification for torture she offers to Oliver is basically the ticking time bomb scenario thought experiment, something which was invoked multiple times during the War on Terror and on 24 to justify the use of torture.
Although Oliver doesn’t believe he has the stomach for torture, Waller has faith in him and gives him a second chance to redeem himself: He needs to torture Li Kuan Hui, a high-up in the Triads and associate of China White, to find out what China White is up to in Hong Kong. It’s clear that this time, Oliver won’t hesitate to use his bow.
PRESENT DAY – STARLING CITY
We kick off tonight’s episode with Arrow, Arsenal, and Diggle attempting to infiltrate Digger Harkness’ Starling City home—S.T.A.R. Labs traced particulates on the boomerang to this location. Once inside the home, they’re surprised to find no Harkness and four ARGUS agents with their guns at the ready. The ARGUS agents tell Arrow to back off because this is official ARGUS business. Obviously, this is Oliver’s city and he has no intention of backing down.
Back at HQ, Felicity pulls up the murder victim’s file (from the end of the Cupid episode) and figures out that he was actually an ARGUS agent. Disregarding their marriage because they aren’t actually married, Oliver sends Diggle to Lyla to get the scoop on this boomerang fellow.
To Felicity and Roy’s surprise and Oliver’s slight annoyance, Caitlin and Cisco pop over to Starling City unannounced. They say they’re there to pick up the DNA from Sara’s murder, but really, Cisco just wants to see the Arrow Cave and all of the toys—he needs to see the toys. Once in the Arrow Cave—a name that Oliver hates—Cisco freaks out like a little kid visiting the Times Square Toy ‘R Us for the first time, and Caitlin takes an interest in the salmon ladder, a.k.a. the thing that distracts Felicity from working. While Cisco and Caitlin don’t bring any of The Flash‘s visual aesthetic with them, they do bring the show’s infectious sense of humor and awesome music score.
NEXT: To torture or not to torture
While Cisco and Caitlin are getting on Oliver’s nerves in the Arrow Cave, Diggle is over at ARGUS trying and failing to sweet talk Lyla into bringing Team Arrow onto the case. It’s right at this moment that Captain Boomerang stages his assault on the ARGUS facility, which prompts Diggle to call in Oliver for reinforcement. One thing’s clear: Harkness is after Lyla.
Arrow and Arsenal, who breaks out his batons because batons are all the rage this fall, arrive just in time to stop a boomerang from killing Lyla. More fighting ensues, and eventually, Harkness gets an opening and throws two boomerangs at Oliver, but they don’t hit their mark because of The Flash. Doing a fancy spin move, The Flash arrives just in time to catch them. In the confusion, Harkness manages to get away, leaving Lyla dumbfounded and Oliver annoyed.
Why exactly is Harkness after Lyla? Well, he was once a member of the Suicide Squad. A mission in Tanzania went south and they had to terminate the team. Waller couldn’t be reached, so Lyla made the call to detonate the micro-bombs implanted in the Suicide Squad members’ necks. Unfortunately, Harkness’ bomb malfunctioned and he survived, and now he’s out for revenge.
Fortunately for Oliver’s ego, Felicity and Caitlin are done being mesmerized by Barry doing the salmon ladder at super-speed by the time he, Diggle, Roy, and Lyla get back. After Barry unwittingly reveals his secret identity to Lyla, Oliver pulls him aside and tells Barry that he doesn’t need his help. (ASIDE: I meant to say this last night, but forgot: The fact that three new people, none of whom are named Thea, know Oliver’s identity makes it even more annoying that Thea still doesn’t know. END ASIDE). Moreover, he doesn’t think Barry could handle working in the mean streets of Starling City. But because this is a crossover episode, Oliver eventually accepts Barry’s help.
With Team Flash officially on the case with Team Arrow, Cisco is able to help Team Arrow track down Klaus Markos, the man who makes Harkness’ fancy boomerangs and is also an associate of the Bratva. (ASIDE: Oliver mentions that he and the Bratva had a falling out last year. What was the falling out? I remember they travelled to Russia and the Bratva helped them infiltrate a Russian prison. END ASIDE).
With Quentin Lance’s help, they track Markos down. Because this is the dark and tough Starling City, Oliver decides the best way to get Harkness’ location from Markos is to torture him. The torture does yield some results as Markos hands over an encrypted phone that Harkness gave him. However, Barry is not okay with the torture. As you may recall from last night’s episode, Wells and Joe took issue with The Arrow’s use of torture, but Barry defended him. Now, actually watching Oliver put an arrow through someone’s arm to extract information makes Barry reconsider his defense of Oliver. Interestingly enough, Oliver brings up something I wrote about in last night’s recap: the difference between Central City and Starling City. For Oliver, Starling City is not like Central City, it’s a darker and more extreme place that requires extreme measures to combat evil. It’s also the place where his best friend and ex were murdered and where his mother was murdered right in front of him. Barry, who also watched his mother die, is disgusted by Oliver using his personal tragedies to justify his actions. What makes this hard for Barry is that Oliver is someone he looked up to. If one thing’s clear, it sucks when your idols let you down.
A benefit of having Barry around is that he’s another person who’s willing to call Oliver out on his B.S. Unfortunately, the whole torture debate feels a bit too much like Arrow‘s other favorite theme: is Oliver a killer or not?
NEXT: Flash vs. Arrow part two
Felicity is able to decrypt the phone and locate Harkness. On their way to Harkness’ supposed location, Diggle has a heart-to-heart-to-heart with Cisco and Roy about how hard it has become to succeed at his one goal in life—protecting the ones he loves—because of how complicated and weird the world has gotten, which is a reasonable reaction to going up against boomerang assassin and dealing with “metahumans.” Cisco points out the world was crazy long before a blast of dark matter energy created metahumans and superpowers, which is true. Harkness was around long before the explosion, and so was the League of Assassins. Cisco suggests that maybe metahumans and superpowers were given to them to help them handle the world’s craziness. (Honestly, I can’t stress enough how pleasantly surprised I am by Cisco’s maturity over these first nine episodes).
Unfortunately for Team Arrow, the lead turns out to have been a diversion to find out where Lyla is hiding. Using Markos’ phone, Harkness back traces the signal and tracks Lyla down to the Arrow Cave. Lyla tries to fend Harkness off, but she’s eventually taken out by one of his boomerangs. Upon their return to the cave, Barry super-speeds and takes an unconscious Lyla to the hospital. This is the fourth time the Arrow Cave’s location has been compromised. Maybe it’s time to relocate?
Trying to give Oliver his space, Felicity, Caitlin, Cisco, and Roy head upstairs to Verdant for some much-needed drinks. Because Cisco can’t look at a woman without falling in love, he’s immediately taken with Thea, but Felicity and Roy immediately shoot him down. Being in Starling City has showed Caitlin and Cisco how quickly shit gets real and how easy they have it in Central City: They have fun saving people, they give their enemies nicknames. The fact that their enemies have superpowers make the danger they encounter feel less real, which makes sense. Really, this conversation also doubles as a reflection on the things that separate the two shows: The Flash is about having fun and doing awesome things, whereas the dichotomy between life and death is inescapable and ever present on Arrow. To put it another way, the stakes are higher in Starling City and in Arrow. It is because of this scene that “The Brave and the Bold” feels like it does more for The Flash‘s characters than Arrow.
Like in “Flash vs. Arrow,” tonight’s enemy is used as a means to bring issues that have been bubbling under Oliver’s stern exterior to the surface: Who is Oliver Queen? More important, is there still an Oliver Queen? Because he’s the king of self-guilt tripping, Oliver blames himself for Lyla’s injuries. If he hadn’t tortured Markos, none of this would’ve happened. He’s worried that every time he does what it takes, he loses a piece of Oliver Queen, a piece of his humanity. Doing his best Joe West impression, Barry shows Oliver that he has not lost his humanity. The fact that he suffered so much and still became a hero means he still has some light inside of him. And that’s when Felicity, the light of everyone’s life, comes in and says that facial recognition has found Harkness.
Arrow and The Flash corner Harkness at a train station. It’s two on one, how hard could this be? Answer: hard. As a contingency plan, Harkness somehow found the time to plant five bombs around the city that are set to go off in in 90 seconds. Now, Oliver has a choice: to torture or not to torture. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to decide because Barry speeds off, and with Felicity and Cisco’s help, finds the five bombs. There’s one problem: They are all interconnected and need to be defused at the same time. Because he can’t be in 5 places at once, Barry super-speeds the remaining team members to the remaining four locations and they all cut the wire at the same time. Thus, Harkness is captured and imprisoned on Lian Yu, and Oliver succeeded without having to torture or kill. #ScrewYouCaptainBoomerang
Elsewhere, Lyla wakes up from surgery to Diggle proposing, again. Naturally, she accepts.
Before heading back to Central City, the Teams exchange gifts. Oliver has Felicity install another impractical costume holding glass case for the next time Barry is in town and Cisco gives Oliver an upgraded costume, but keeps the original hood because of its sentimental value.
There’s one more matter that needs to be taken care of: Who would win in a fight? The Flash or Arrow. To decide this, Oliver and Barry head to an abandoned warehouse to duke it out. Before the fight, however, Barry lets Oliver know that while he may not be able to inspire people as the Arrow (because that guy’s a douche), he can as Oliver Queen. It’s been clear that Barry learns a lot from his friendship with Ollie, but tonight we see that the same goes for Barry. This is a good thing because it bolsters Barry Allen as a superhero.
While we don’t see the outcome of this fight, comic book logic definitely dictates that the Arrow beats the Flash. It’s sort of like how Batman always beats Superman because Batman’s brain is more effective than all of Superman’s powers combined.
Overall, the “Flarrow” crossover event was a success. Going into the event, it was clear this crossover event was mainly for The Flash; it was meant to bring eyeballs to the show, which makes sense. The Flash was the rookie show and in this fickle television landscape there was no way of telling whether or not it would be the ratings success that it has turned out to be. In terms of storytelling, The Flash didn’t really need the crossover. Yes, the stories told in both parts resulted in some fruitful character development for most of The Flash‘s characters. However, the writing on The Flash has been of such good quality that I trust that the writers could’ve created a non-crossover story to get their characters to the same place. Nevertheless, both “Flash vs. Arrow” and “The Brave and the Bold” put Team Flash in new situations and it was thrilling to watch how they reacted.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Arrow. There were indeed some great and comedic character moments for Team Arrow; however, Team Arrow’s interaction with another superhero group wasn’t particularly revelatory. Team Flash’s presence in the second part of the crossover didn’t push any of Arrow‘s ongoing stories forward. To put it another way, “Flash vs. Arrow” and “The Brave and the Bold” felt like pause buttons in Arrow‘s action. This is mainly the case because the current season of Arrow has been rather scattered plot-wise. There’s solving Sara’s murder, the burgeoning cold war with the League of Assassins, turning Laurel into a superhero, exploring Malcolm Merlyn and Thea’s relationship, and not to mention whatever Ray Palmer has been up to. These stories are too complicated—way more so than The Flash‘s rather simple freak-of-the-week formula—to organically incorporate Team Flash. Essentially, this week felt like a wasted, albeit super fun, week for Arrow. Next week’s winter finale has a lot of work to do!
Wall of Weird:
— While it was nice to see Oliver and Lyla interact, since we rarely do, it’s rather scary how much they have internalized Amanda Waller’s worldview. They were completing each other’s verbatim recitation of Amanda Waller-isms.
— There wasn’t enough Thea, Ray Palmer, or Malcolm Merlyn in tonight’s episode. Hopefully, we see Malcolm in the midseason finale.
— Hopefully, Caitlin and Cisco’s reactions to the darkness of Starling City will carry over back into The Flash.
— To the writers: In the season three DVD set, can we get Cisco commentary on some of the episodes?
— “I get it, Barry, you’re fast.”
— “Since when did we start selling admission to the Arrow Cave?”
— “Well, I’m sorry I’m not as emotionally healthy as you.” #SassyOliver
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