When it comes to TV crossovers, I’ve been on both sides of the equation. I watched both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, following stories that started out in a Buffy episode only to conclude later that same week on Angel (technically, I actually watched both shows via DVD box sets). I never had to ponder why Angel was suddenly in Sunnydale or Buffy in Los Angeles. This was the ideal viewing experience, but I was able to do so because I genuinely loved both shows, even if I grew to favor the spin-off (Angel) over the parent (Buffy). On the other hand, when Vampire Diaries recently spun-off its family comprised of the world’s first ever vampires on The Originals I never really went along with them, bailing on the spin-off after its rather rough beginning. The two shows have yet to do any kind of epic crossover event, but Vampire Diaries characters have visited The Originals and vice versa. For example, Tyler visited The Originals and then returned to Vampire Diaries after having been off the show for several episodes, making vague references to the hell he’d been put through during his fight with Klaus, the ostensible main character of The Originals. However, because I didn’t watch The Originals I didn’t really know what the heck he was talking about.
That’s obviously not the ideal situation, but I was never frustrated or annoyed because I’m more inclined to be lenient when it comes to crossovers. Why? Let’s do the numbers:
According to Nielsen Live+Same Day viewing figures, 4.34 million people watched “Flash Vs. Arrow,” the first half of the big Flash/Arrow crossover the AV Club accurately called CW’s Nerd Christmas. That makes it The Flash’s most-watched episode since the pilot, but already the show’s third episode to eclipse 4 million viewers in Live+SD. Keep in mind that The Flash has only aired 8 episodes at this point. You know how many times Arrow has pulled in at least 4 million viewers in 53 episodes spread across two and half seasons? Just once, and that was for its pilot (4.14 million). Even when you widen the net and look at Live+3 ratings to account for DVR time-delayed viewing the story remains that The Flash is simply watched by usually around a million more people than Arrow. Early indications are that “Brave and the Bold” set a series high for Arrow.
So, if you’re in that writer’s room mapping out a crossover event for the two shows you have to do so knowing that a not insignificant portion of your audience has likely never really watched Arrow, and even with the numbers being what they are there’s also no guarantee that all of Arrow’s fans are also watching The Flash. The trick then is how do you make it feel like a normal episode of Flash followed by a normal episode of Arrow that just happen to have more guest stars than normal, guest stars who won’t alienate those viewers who are meeting these characters for the first time?
Because I watch both Arrow and Flash I can’t honestly say how well they actually pulled all of this off. If you’re an Arrow-only viewer I don’t know how well “Flash Vs. Arrow” would work for you, although the fore grounded romantic drama with The Flash and Iris West probably felt awfully familiar; if you’re a Flash-only viewer I similarly don’t know if you’d really get just how funny it was seeing Cisco, Caitlin, and Barry sort of mock Arrow’s conventions in “The Brave & Bold,” particularly Barry’s hyper-fast procession through Oliver’s salmon ladder. However, I would say that “The Brave and the Bold” felt a tad more like a traditional Arrow episode than “Flash Vs. Arrow” felt like a Flash episode. Heck, “Brave and the Bold” even included Arrow’s signature “a little too on the nose” flashbacks, which I was frankly stunned to see considering how much else the episode had going on. But a little too much going on rubbing up against somewhat redundant flashbacks is just so classic Arrow.
“Flash Vs. Arrow” worked for me because it was just so much fun, they managed to rectify the show’s differing tones, and the episode actually advanced the plot. Let’s see how “Brave and the Bold” scored in those same territories.
Did the differing tones of the two shows work well together?
You can take taciturn, frowny face Oliver and drop him into The Flash and have it work because he can bring added gravitas to the scenario as well as have his serious façade comically undercut by Felicity, Barry, Cisco, etc. It’s not as easy to drop Barry, Caitlin, and Cisco into gloomy Starling City and have them start cracking jokes. In fact, when Caitlin and Cisco first premiered on Arrow last season they were funny, but they felt exactly like what they were: Characters created for a different show. Part of the reason The Flash is more popular than Arrow is because it is simply a more enjoyable viewing experience, arguably with a better cast as well. As befits the temperament of its central character, Arrow takes itself very seriously. So, to some maybe having The Flash zoom around and tying up goons with a smile on his face or Cisco punctuating a standard “heroes gathering their arrows” scene with a well-placed “Cool!” and “This is so badass!” felt like narrative intrusions. I loved every second of it, though. It was a reminder of what life is like in Central City, all the more effective considering how quickly Barry’s smirk turned to “Holy crap, you just shot that guy!” and Cisco was forced into a sobering “So, people actually die in this line of work, like all the time” realization.
The first half of “Brave and the Bold” was like some kind of revelation. I never knew Arrow could be so unabashedly fun. The second half, on the other hand, was bringing everything back to normal, forcing the two scientists, Caitlin and Cisco, to realize that STAR Labs and the goofy bad guys in Central City had insulated them from the real life stakes at play (of course, Caitlin has lost a fiance to tragedy, but that wasn’t because of some metahuman). I found it especially interesting that Cisco delivered a speech explaining his views on metahumans and Barry’s role as a source of inspiration in this episode when I don’t know that such views had ever been communicated by him on The Flash.
Did they advance the plot?
Not as much as “Flash Vs. Arrow” did for The Flash. There is probably a superior version of “Brave and the Bold” involving the team from Central City actually helping Team Arrow track down Sara’s killer, thus making this episode truly important. However, to some to have that plot advanced as a result of a special cross-over event might have felt tacky as it is a plot that otherwise has nothing to do with Barry, Caitlin, or Cisco. In fact, when Felicity told Caitlin she needed help with investigating Canary’s murder in “Flash Vs. Arrow” I had to stop to remember whether or not Caitlin even knew about Canary let alone her murder. Either way, the help Caitlin will provide will come off-screen as they instead chose to have the two teams fight the seemingly perfect villain, Captain Boomerang, who is actually a Flash villain in the comics but is real world enough to make sense on Arrow.
To be fair, though, Arrow has way more baggage and on-going storylines than Flash, as you’d expect for a show in its third season versus one not even halfway through its first. So, their attempt was for “Brave and the Bold” to not so much push plot points forward but instead focus on character development. The investigation into Sara’s death was at least acknowledged as was, oddly, Thea’s truly regrettable new love interest, but there was nothing involving Nyssa and The League of Assassins, Laurel’s Black Canary training, or the continued enigma that is Malcolm Merlyn. Instead, this was seemingly a turning point in Oliver’s dilemma this season as to whether or not he can truly be both Oliver Queen and the Arrow. This has not necessarily been carried throughout the season as well as it could have been, and maybe you scoff at the idea of a pep talk from Barry giving him the necessary push to re-embrace his life as Oliver Queen. Indeed, based upon what’s coming up in the mid-season finale it appears that any effort to be Oliver Queen again is going to get backburned super quick. However, in the moment of this episode Barry Allen returning the favor to Oliver and giving him a “I believe in you” speech worked.
Relatedly, it’s not exactly like Diggle and Lyla’s relationship had really been on-going plot point meaning that while the recurring gag about the two not actually being married was funny it kind of came out of nowhere (I made a similar argument about Eddie Thawne’s anti-Flash task force in “Flash Vs. Arrow”). That being said, they now have a baby together, and were once married. This is a logical next step, and it gave Diggle some nice scenes with his now-fiance. Plus, thank you, thank you, thank you for not killing Lyla. This show already has too many dead women in its history.
So, is Captain Boomerang a stupid name?
No way around that one. At least they tried to give us an even goofier name with Cisco’s first attempt at a nickname, something like “Kaboomerang.” I don’t know that Arrow’s version of Captain Boomerang left much of an impression, although you might remember that he made at least one very comic book villain pun related to how his weapons tend to come back around.
Are we really supposed to believe Oliver was about to kill Captain Boomerang, especially after he refused to kill Malcolm Merlyn a couple of episodes ago?
Probably not, although way more lives were at stake here than earlier in the season with Malcolm. Oliver has been down the “To Kill or Not to Kill” moral dilemma one too many times before, and the show hasn’t always been consistent with it. However, I kept thinking what a Flash-only viewer might think of that scene. It seemed to perfectly mirror the scenario he faced in the Hong Kong flashbacks when his reluctance to dirty his soul resulted in numerous deaths, and it was an obvious contrast to Barry Allen’s way of doing things. If you didn’t really know why Det. West and Dr. Wells questioned the Arrow’s methods in “Flash Vs. Arrow” you got to see exactly why in “The Brave and the Bold.”
Wait, how did Barry so quickly locate the other 4 bombs on his own, and perfectly sync everyone up?
Magic. He just did. Maybe his suit had some ability to see that heat sensor map Cisco was looking at, the one where the 5 red spots indicated where the bombs were. The important thing is that the writers concocted such a standard Arrow scenario (not the first bad guy with a bunch of bombs set to go off at the same time) and gave it such a thoroughly fun Flash solution, turning every member of Team Arrow and Team Flash into active helpers instead of people just staring at a computer screen in a secret room under a night club.
In the end, who would win: Arrow or The Flash?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ryan McGee of ScreenCrush said of “Flash Vs. Arrow” that “There are times to get super serious in the world of episodic reviews, and there are times to pass around a few beverages and raise a glass.” This is me raising a glass to “Brave and the Bold,” easily the most fun I’ve had with Arrow this season, maybe even ever. It probably doesn’t completely stand on its own as a single episode without “Flash Vs. Arrow,” and it didn’t break as much new ground as it could have. But I had a smile ear to ear the whole episode, laughed harder than I’ve ever laughed while watching Arrow, and was delighted to see that in the end Oliver Queen found his smile again, even if I know he’ll only get to wear it for a short while before Arrow reverts back to its default settings. Come to think of it, it probably seems odd that I’d be smiling the whole time since Lyla dang near dies in this episode, and this was not a care-free hour of television. Okay. Maybe I didn’t smile the whole time, but at no point did I stop enjoying “The Brave and the Bold.”
1. I can’t be the only one who was a little thrown by the fact that these episodes aired on subsequent nights, yet according to Barry at the beginning of “Brave and the Bold” a week has supposedly passed since “Flash vs. Arrow.”
2. On The Flash, when Barry super speeded Felicity to STAR Labs her shirt caught on fire. On Arrow, when he did it to practically the entire cast not a single item of clothing was affected, yet it didn’t really bother me, mostly because they consistently play fast and loose with that kind of thing relating to Barry’s powers right now.
3. “Arrow Cave,” “Arrowmobile” – To them, is Batman a fictional comic book character with known terms like “batcave” and “batmobile,” or to them is Batman a real dude over in Gotham City?
4. So, Quentin thinks Barry’s name is Bart? Clever comic book easter egg, Arrow. Bart Allen, of course, is actually the name of Barry’s grandson from the future (it’s all rather complicated) who has gone from being a sidekick (Impulse, Kid Flash) to flat out being The Flash in the comics. Similar comic book easter egg with Roy thinking Lyla was referring to Roy when she called Barry “Speedy.” That was Roy’s superhero name in the comics for decades before they started calling him Arsenal and then Red Arrow.
5. It never occurred to me during the episode that maybe Amanda Waller actually allowed that bomb to go off in Hong Kong as a way of motivating Oliver, giving him a no-win situation, but now that I’ve read that argument elsewhere it sounds so true.
6. Biggest laugh of the night: Cisco immediately backing off his pursuit of Thea. Second biggest laugh of the night: Cisco pointing out that Team Arrow could be fun, too, if they just remembered that they work underneath a nightclub. Third biggest laugh of the night: Barry on the salmon ladder, even though I know he doesn’t actually have super strength. Fourth biggest laugh of the night: Pretty much anything else with Cisco.
7. Of course Team Flash would dig Roy’s red suit.
8. So, does that gift from Cisco at the end somehow get us closer to classic Green Arrow costume territory?
ScreenCrush.com – “I’d almost forgotten the ‘Arrow’ structure upon arrival of its first flashback, though for as often as the dialogue exposited the differences between the two series, I’d go so far as to say ‘The Brave and the Bold’ proved a more effective ‘Arrow’ installment than conclusion to any kind of crossover.”
TV.com – “That this episode was less engaging on an Arrow-centric level than ‘Flash vs. Arrow’ was on a Flash-centric level had more to do with where each of the shows are in their narratives than in the fact that the superhero teams visited one another.”
I’m done with my ramble. What about you?