The moment The CW announced their intention to bring the Scarlet Speedster to the small screen, anticipation abounded about the possible team up of The Flash and the Arrow. The crossover event was inevitable, but never did I expect that, once it finally arrived, it would bring more apprehension than excitement. The reasoning is simple: The Flash is off to a stellar start in its first seven episodes, while Arrow has been uneven week to week. The last thing a confident new show needs is for something to come in and knock it off kilter.
It’s a funny thing about apprehension. Often, given the benefit of hindsight, it can seem so silly.
Last night’s episode did nothing to stop the gears pushing the show ever-forward in a positive direction. Instead, it merely solidified what I’ve been preaching for weeks: The Flash is must-see TV. “Flash vs. Arrow” was everything a fan could have wanted from a crossover event (though Part Two is still to come on tonight’s archer-centered episode). The Flash side of the two-parter was tight, well-paced, superbly written and, most importantly, fun. I was concerned about Arrow’s penchant for brooding (which has pushed the show to becoming too heavy at times this season) and how it would affect The Flash’s lighter tone. Once again, my fears were for naught, as this was clearly an episode of The Flash, with just a few more faces added to the mix.
As the show has done so successfully this season, last night’s story was focused and entertaining throughout. The addition of Oliver, Felicity and Diggle did not weigh down the hour, merely added new wrinkles and a wealth of amusement (such as Diggle’s first encounter with the fastest man alive). It started with another clever, thoughtful main idea, which this time had less to do with a metahuman, and more to do with Oliver doling out lessons. Barry is, slowly, learning what it truly means to be a hero and it’s nice to see Oliver offering the same support he’s given Roy to his Central City pal. There are few people who truly know the isolation that comes with a life of fighting crime. And the scenes in which Oliver lent Barry the knowledge he’s acquired over the last eight years were executed near perfectly, ranging everywhere from hilarious to heartbreaking.
This week’s metahuman was, instead, the vehicle used to eventually pit Barry and Oliver against each other. Prism, also known as Roy G. Bivolo (Chroma or Rainbow Raider in DC comics) is a metahuman that can use chromotherapy to alter a person’s state mentally, most often turning would-be good samaritans into Hulk-level rage monsters. When Prism encountered Barry and exposed him to his fancy, outside-the-lines, coloring, our hero was seemingly unaffected. Of course, The Flash had been affected, it was just taking a longer time to become apparent, given his abilities. Once fully in a rage, Grant Gustin showed impressive range with lots of huffed yelling (Gustin has struggled with more serious moments previously, but the anger he displayed last night was well done).
All of this was, obviously, nothing more than a way to get the Arrow and The Flash in a heated encounter. In any other circumstance, Prism would have come off as a half-baked villain with no real clout. Here, it was not an issue, because it allowed the episode to focus on Barry and Oliver, while opening up the hour for a healthy amount of fun. I’ve thrown that three-letter word around more than sufficiently in my reviews of this show, much to my own, writerly, chagrin but it honestly can’t be said enough. The Flash knows how to have fun, and last night was no exception. The mark of a great show is one that has the ability to knock even the most critical on their heels, turning off their critic mind and allowing them to be just another fan. This occurred to me multiple times last night, the hour moved so quickly and was so well-crafted that I relented to using commercial breaks not to take notes, but to merely gather my wits. By the time the final third rolled around, I was at the whim of the writers, especially so after the incredible fight between our two stars.
Arrow’s fight scenes have been a strength since the beginning, and The Flash joined that party earlier this year, but neither show has displayed anything as gripping as last night’s encounter between the Scarlet Speedster and Emerald Archer. Every aspect—the choreography, effects—was sound all the way through, with the only downside being that it ended at all. The most impressive aspect was how well the fight displayed the equal ground these two stand on. You might expect The Flash to have a clear upper hand given his sound barrier-breaking speed, but what the Arrow lacks in metahuman abilities, he more than makes up for in experience and trickery. It hit all the important notes of a good fight scene: creativity, fluidity and excitement. Zack Snyder would be wise to take notes.
I fully expected, given that the crossover was touted as a “two-night event,” last night’s episode of The Flash to be more like a part one of a two-part episode than it’s own, standalone, hour. Instead, the writers chose the wiser route, allowing this to be a full-fledged Flash installment, made particularly special by the inclusion of Starling City’s vigilante. The show has taken all of my preconceived notions and squashed them in its first seven episodes. Now, you can add whatever phobia means “fear of crossovers” to that list. I am continually surprised by the clear direction and control that the writers have over their characters and stories, given the short amount of time the show has been on-air. The only real question I have at this point is: is it Tuesday yet?
Eric Walters is a Detroit-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. For more of his TV musings, follow him on Twitter.