Arrow TV Reviews

TV Review: Arrow, “The Scientist” (S2/EP8) – Back in a Flash?

To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.

The Scientist

  • Airdate: 12/4/2013
  • Director: Michael Schultz (Arrow, Chuck, Brothers & Sisters, Everwood, Ally McBeal)
  • Writer(s): Andrew Kreisberg (Arrow’s Co-Creator/Executive Producer) & Geoff Johns (D.C.’s Chief Creative Office, Arrow writer, responsible for a lot of recent Flash comic book stories)

Imagine for one second that you have no Earthly idea who the heck Barry Allen is.  Heck, for many Arrow viewers that might actually be true.  You have no connection to this character as being someone from the comics nor do you hear his name and instantly joke, “Back in a flash!”  Might you wonder why it is then that Arrow seemed to make such a big deal in “The Scientist” about this kid (Grant Gustin) from Glee playing Barry Allen as all smiles one minute and tragic back story the next?  So much so, in fact, that he ends up in the Arrow cave in the episode cliffhanger, initiated into Team Arrow within the span of one episode in which we discovered he’s a nice guy who did straight up lie to everyone.  But, look, so cute and nice.  Plus, Felicity trusts him, we trust her, ergo….

Now imagine you are a huge Flash fan, be it through comics or animated shows like Justice League and Young Justice or both.  You nod with recognition throughout “The Scientist” at every little homage to comic book lore.  Barry Allen is always running late, his mother’s death/father’s conviction motivates his crimefighting, and he stupidly messes with dangerous chemicals while lightning strikes nearby.  However, why have they pretty much just brought him in to flirt and smile awkwardly alongside Felicity, arriving as Arrow‘s first honest to goodness male geek?

Is it possible to please everyone?  Beyond all that, though, there was actually more to “The Scientist” than Barry Allen.  Quite a bit more, in fact.  Let’s break it down:

THE MAIN PLOT

Barry Allen –

Felicity decides an industrial sized centrifuge being robbed from a Queen Consolidated warehouse is something the CEO of the company should check out along with his assistant and driver/bodyguard.  Once there, Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle chitchat with Officer Lance before an awkward high school kid from the neighboring Glee club wonders onto the crime scene.

The Scientist

Turns out, he’s actually Barry Allen, and everyone just takes it on faith that the Central City Police Department badge he flashed corroborates his story of being a forensics specialist sent by the neighboring police force to help out since they recently had a similar case.  Well, not Oliver who takes an instant “Who the hell is this guy?” reaction to Barry.  Felicity also has that same reaction, just in a more positive light.  She invites Barry to help with the investigation in-house at Queen Consolidated.  Barry and Felicity do investigative things together, with Barry taking practically no prodding whatsoever to tell Felicity all about how his mother died when he was only 11.  Awww.  Then Oliver finds out that Barry is a big fat liar since the only part of his story that’s true is that he works for the Central City PD (but as a mere assistant) and his mother did die, although the police charged his father with the crime.  Barry explains that a tornado-like person killed his mother, but no one believed him so he’s basically become a sweet-natured Fox Mulder.  Felicity swoons, Oliver feels bad, and Barry and Felicity later get an awkward dance due to the efforts of a repenting Oliver.

Forget the romance for a second.  The investigation discovers that Sebastian Blood is re-creating Professor Ivo’s miracle serum, with his goon Brother Cyrus stealing the necessary supplies (a centrifuge, massive amounts of blood from a blood bank, specific sedatives).  On two occasions, Oliver battles Cyrus, and on both occasions he ultimately gets his ass kicked because Cyrus has superhuman strength.  With Oliver apparently poisoned and dying, Felicity recruits Barry to “help save her friend” rather than go to a hospital.

Moira Stands up to Malcom After Her Pathetic Party-

To celebrate Moira’s return to work and to shove it stupid Isabel Rochev, Oliver throws his mom a “Welcome back to Queen Consolidated” party (someone somewhere has probably kept track of how many random parties are thrown on Arrow and can tell us if it is less or more than on Vampire Diaries).  Of course, Isabel was right and Moira is not really welcome back, as evidenced by her sparsely attended party.  However, Moira won’t let the world see her crying on the inside but instead mingles like a champ.  She also stands up to Malcolm, who keeps emerging from the shadows of various rooms in Queen Manor throughout the episode.  He plays the whole “I saved your ass.  You owe me, and I want my daughter” card, Moira counters with a “So, I just got off the phone with Ra’s al Guhl.  Turns out, the League of Assassins didn’t know you were alive, and they really didn’t like that undertaking thing you did.”  Advantage?  Moira.  Malcolm runs away so fast there’s practically a Malcolm-shaped cloud where he had been standing just a moment prior.

Thea & Roy Help Sin And All Roy Has to Show For It Is An Arrow Through the Leg-

Sin calls upon Roy for help in tracking down a missing “starving artist” friend of her’s.  Thea tags along because it’s super easy for the owner and manager of a nightclub to simply find someone to cover for her.  It turns out that Sin’s best good friend routinely donated blood, a flier in his apartment indicating he did so most recently to a Sebastian Blood blood drive.  Apparently he wasn’t alarmed that a man whose last darn name is BLOOD was running a blood drive.  Not surprisingly, it was actually a front to test Sebastian’s miracle drug, and Sin’s poor friend was one of the non-compatible victims.  Sebastian’s followers on the police force frame the artists’ death as being an overdose, and Roy somehow walks straight into the middle of the crime scene to take a picture of the artists’ face, who died bleeding out from his eye sockets.  When Roy calls upon Arrow for help, the two argue because Oliver’s rushed “stay out of this; you’re in over your head” warning is insufficient.  Because, well, for no real good reason Roy and Oliver end their partnership, but not before Oliver shoots Roy with an arrow through the leg to keep him from getting himself killed.

Meanwhile, On the Island… –

Shado, Oliver, Sara, and Slade seek out an old WWII submarine, find it, inject Slade with an experimental miracle drug, watch him die after bleeding out from the eyes, and then have their grieving instantly interrupted by Professor Ivo and his thugs.  On the way to the submarine, Shado takes two consecutive figurative punches to the gut when she learns from her presumptive shag buddy Oliver that not only is Sara the girl he took with him on his father’s yacht she’s also the sister of the girl Oliver claimed to be so in love with as reason for turning down Shado’s affections last season.  Then, after all that, Oliver has the gall to be annoyed that Shado and Slade are fast friends now.  For her part, Sara simply seems amused by it all.

WHAT I LIKED

–My word, Grant Gustin does look remarkably young and tiny when put up next to Stephen Amell, doesn’t he?  It turns out there is a huge difference for Gustin between playing opposite of Chris Colfer and Darren Criss on Glee and Stephem Amell on Arrow.  This made the running jokes about Gustin’s youthful appearance both absolutely necessary as well as all the more amusing.

Grant Gustin as Barry Allen in a forthcoming episode of Arrow.

–They clearly really want us to root for Barry and Felicity.  Heck, Barry’s arrival at the party was like something out of a John Hughes movie.  However, to me they ultimately seemed more like your standard geeky TV character types interacting because like characters should mingle with like characters.  There is a definite sweetness between the pair meaning there is at least something there, but it was an undeniably rushed romance.  I still liked it.  Kudos to Felicity for defying traditional gender dynamics by being the girl to ask the boy out even if it’s a boy she’s known for maybe one full day.  As for the Olicity of it all, this really didn’t feel like the love triangle it could have been, but instead more Oliver looking out for Felicity as he would his own sister Thea.  Others could certainly interpret it differently, seeing something in Amell’s facial expressions I missed.  However, they seem to be using Barry not to build a Felicity/Oliver romance but to instead re-establish Felicity and Oliver’s friendship with maybe a hint or two that Felicity was still frustrated with Oliver in light of his recent actions [see: Isabel Rochev]. 

The Scientist

–Oliver and Cyrus’ fight sequences were well choreographed, as they managed to do a villain with superpowers on an Arrow budget by mostly throwing Stephen Amell’s stunt double across a room and off the hood of a truck.  Plus, during both fights Oliver was granted multiple tiny triumphs to establish that though he was being thrown around like a rag doll he was not completely out of his depth.

The Scientist

–First things first, at the end wouldn’t an actual medical expert be better than an assistant lab tech from Central City PD?  And wouldn’t Oliver’s condition have simply worsened considerably from the amount of time it likely took Felicity and Diggle to both carry Oliver to the Arrow Cave and also covertly sleep tart Barry before smuggling him to the Arrow Cave?  That all being said, the final sequence with Barry waking up and taking in all of his surroundings before Felicity asks for his help was fantastic.  The flash of recognition followed by confusion on Barry’s face when he saw Oliver unconscious and in costume as Arrrow was priceless.   

–This was a strange episode as far as the “show don’t tell” area is concerned.  Oliver gave an uncharacteristically long and not 100% vague account of his island days to Diggle and Felicity, and Barry Allen simply told us about his back story while others stood around and looked sad for him.  On the one hand, I should regard this as being lazy writing.  However, I found it oddly effective.  Oliver basically telling Felicity and Diggle exactly how the Ivo storyline will end was fascinating, especially since the Sara example has taught us we can’t trust anything Oliver says about the island because he lies/is wrong without knowing it.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

–When it comes to the musical score for Arrow, the rapidly building music which accompanies the title card and closing shot of every episode is phenomenal.  Beyond that, the music from composer Blake Neely is more of a functional nature, effectively providing ambiance to quieter scenes and adrenaline-flowing energy to action sequences.  It tends not to draw attention to itself, typically revolving around variations of the title card theme.  For “The Scientist, they clearly decided to compose a unique, far more whimsical character theme for Barry Allen.  It can be heard throughout most of his scenes, and is on its own merits kind of gorgeous music.  However, to my ear it was too different from the music usually heard on Arrow, as if an episode of Arrow had suddenly been scored by Murray Gold from Doctor Who.  As such, it drew too much attention to itself and was overused.  

–Where’s Laurel?  Maybe it’s best to keep her away if she only shows up now for male characters to ask her if she’s okay, but surely Oliver inviting her to Moira’s party and being turned down could have been a line thrown in to at least acknowledge her existence.

WHAT I’M NOT SURE ABOUT

–I did not dislike Grant Gustin as Barry Allen.  I didn’t love him either.  They’ve basically made him a male version of Felicity, but at this point Emily Bett Rickards is better at playing this type of character than Grant Gustin.  However, in the moments where Gustin played Barry’s remarkable enthusiasm, such as when he grilled her for information about Arrow, he made for a rather endearing presence.  He most reminded me of Andrew Garfield’s version of Peter Parker.  As such, it makes sense I had a mixed reaction to him since I don’t actually like Garfield’s Spider-Man.

The Scientist

— In the form of Cyrus Gold and his strength from Sebastian Blood’s miracle serum super powers have been introduced into this show.  This is HUGE.  Plus, since we know he’s not really dead we also effectively watched Slade Wilson being injected with superpowers, that much closer to becoming Deathstroke.  How does this Christopher Nolan-inspired TV show explain such a departure from reality?  It’s all due to some random freakin’ Japanese WWII serum, and our hero – Oliver – has totally known about this for years but never mentioned it.  I guess if I’m totally cool with Captain America’s origin story should I really have a problem with a Japanese WWII super soldier serum?  However, while Oliver’s knowledge of this from the past does help establish its danger in the present I grow weary of the seasons’ big twists being contingent upon turning Oliver into an unreliable narrator.

The general idea with the writing in this area in “The Scientist”seemed to be to introduce a crazy concept, have someone mock the idea with a joke, and then have someone else solemnly respond, “No, seriously, this is real.”  Tonight, the voice of reason was Diggle who rejected the plot on multiple occasions, saying, “What’s next?  Vampires?” and then “aliens” later on.  That’s pretty much how you have to do this kind of thing.  Just look at how Stellan Skarsgard’s character functions in Thor.  They likely were a bit too-on-the-nose when Oliver’s response to seeing the WWII submarine in the flashback was an astonished cry of, “Impossible!”   

THE BOTTOM LINE

“The Scientist” was all set-up in preparation for next week’s follow-through to conclude this mid-season two-parter.  As such, this is a more difficult episode of Arrow than usual to get a beat on.  If you didn’t like Barry Allen being so exclusively linked to Felicity it seems likely he’ll finally get some more time next week with Oliver.  If you wondered where the heck Laurel was she could very well show up next week.  If you seriously think Slade Wilson died then, well, shame on you.  Of course he’s not dead, at least not for good.  The main takeaway, then, would be whether or not Grant Gustin made for an enjoyable Barry Allen in this his first appearance.  For the most part, yes, though I could see him wearing thin fast.  Now, on to next week.

THE NOTES

1. Comic Book 101: Barry Allen, aka The Flash

Young Justice Flash
Left to right: The Flash (Barry Allen), Impulse (Bart Allen), Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick), and Kid Flash (Wally West) in Young Justice
  • First Appearance of The Flash (Jay Garrick): 1940
  • First Appearance of Barry Allen: 1956

In 1956, DC decided to revive their old superheroes but with re-designed costumes, new identities and back stories, beginning with The Flash.  Thus was born Barry Allen, a forensics specialist (or “police scientist”) for the Central City police force who got all super speed-y due to exposure to lightning bolt-energized chemicals.  This is when the red and gold Flash costume we associate with The Flash first entered comic book lore.  Allen would become a charter member of the Justice League, form a legendary friendship with the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, stay mostly committed to his primary love interest, news reporter Iris West, and gain multiple sidekicks, Wally West (aka Kid Flash) and Bart Allen (aka Impulse/Kid Flash).

Because Allen’s super speed allows him to travel not just through time but also across multiple parallel universes he has been at the center of DC’s big continuity re-sets, dying in the Crisis on Infinite Earths arc in 1985 and then initiating the New 52 re-set with the Flashpoint mini-series in 2011.  Wally West and Bart Allen each became The Flash after Barry’s death in 1985, and upon Barry’s return in 2008 he was granted a new backstory by writer Geoff Johns whereby he only ever became a cop in the first place due to the death of his mother when he was but a small child.  In the New 52 continuity, Barry Allen is still The Flash, and he’s still good friends with Green Lantern as well as a founding member of the Justice League.  He also retains the Geoff Johns-created tragic back story with his mother.  However, Iris West is not yet his wife nor is she even his girlfriend, although she is around leveraging their friendship to get the inside scoop on open police investigations.  

2. Comic Book 101: Cyrus Gold, aka Solomon Grundy

Solomon Grundy (comics)
Solomon Grundy (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • First Appearance: 1944

For a character who has been around for nearly 70 years, there are, not surprisingly, quite a few origin stories to work with here.  The most consistent elements has Cyrus Gold as a merchant of some kind who is murdered and buried in a swamp in the late 1880s.  Something mystical re-animates his corpse while also imbuing it with both superhuman strength and an enhanced physical frame, thus making him a big, strong zombie, just not the eats people’s brains kind of zombie.  With little to no memory of his life as Cyrus Gold, Solomon Grundy takes his name from an old nursery rhyme (“Solomon Grundy, Born on Monday, Christened on a Tuesday,…”).  The character was originally introduced as a villain to the Golden Age Green Lantern, but has since become a kind of roving villain across many DC titles (Batman, Superman, Justice League, Swamp Thing, etc.).  In some versions, he’s a lumbering brute whereas in others he’s at least semi-competent and capable of intelligent speech.  The most sympathetic depiction of him might be on the animated shows Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, where he eventually became a Hulk-like figure with an endearing friendship with Hawkgirl who ultimately had to kill him to put him out of his misery (pretty brutal for an animated kid’s show).

What did you think?  Like “The Scientist”?  Hate it?  Love it? Let us know in the comments section.

All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2013 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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