SPOILER WARNING FOR Flash‘s “Flashpoint” and Arrow‘s “Legacy”
So, Barry Allen screwed up the timeline, and then screwed it up even more when he trusted The Reverse Flash to help him fix things. Oliver Queen is mayor, but he only uses the position to gather actionable intel for his vigilante duties. On top of that, he’s been going it alone for months now, waiting for Thea and Diggle to come back despite their repeated statements indicating their vigilante days are over. They meant what they said, and Oliver needs to move on and recruit a new team, with the assistance of Felicity, who has a new, secret boyfriend.
Welcome to The Flash season 3 and Arrow season 5. Soon enough, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl will have kickstarted their new seasons, and DC Comics gradual takeover of The CW will continue ever unabated. However, Flash and Arrow were first out of the gate this week, and their respective premieres saw both shows in full-on course correction mode:
Flash aggressively altered its status quo after a far too same ol, same ol second season, with Barry again fooled by a rival speedster who had gotten close to him by pretending to be someone else. In season 3, though, it took Barry all of one episode to reverse his impulsive, selfish decision to save his mother in the season 2 finale, thus erasing the world in which Cisco was a billionaire, Caitlin a mere eye doctor and Wally the Kid Flash. But the timeline is still off. Joe and Iris don’t speak to each other anymore (for some reason), and Cisco appears to have suffered some tragedy (or at least he’s recovering from some kind of addiction). We’ll have to keep watching to get the details as well as to learn more about the new villains, the deeply stupid-looking speedster who calls himself Rival and someone who goes by Alchemy.
- Look, Oliver’s killing people again! And back to being Broody McBroodison!
- The ultra divisive Donna Smoak is gonesville, waitressing at some casino we’re told.
- If you think it’s too stupid for words that Oliver is the mayor he wholeheartedly agrees with you, privately admitting to Thea his political knowledge is exclusive to binge-watching West Wing.
- Thea’s stupid blood lust storyline is finally over.
- Are you still mad at the show for killing Laurel? Well, Oliver used his position as mayor to build a city-funded statue in her honor. Beyond that, she was mentioned in just about every other scene. Plus, if you read the trades you already know Katie Cassidy is coming back, following in Wentworth Miller and John Barrowman’s footsteps by signing a unique deal makings her a series regular across the entirety of the Arrowverse.
The Flash clearly wants to changes thing up after falling into a bit of a creative rut and succumbing to the sophomore slump; Arrow just wants to recapture its glory days. Flash likely has the easier task because it is the least broken of the two and is still regarded as the crown jewel of the Arrowverse, as Vulture recently argued:
The greatest strength of the series has always been how it embraces the zany, off-the-wall nature inherent to the titular hero’s mythos. This a superhero who had a talking, buffed-up shark who wears cutoffs as an enemy, after all. The show is inherently silly, but it has also gracefully depicted its hero and the West family as compassionate. In season three, instead of tossing this aside, The Flash should lean into what made it great in the first place: a little bit of weirdness and a lot of heart.
Arrow, though, has been frustratingly uneven, sometimes laughably bad (such as the nuclear apocalypse in the season 4 finale), occasionally insultingly so (such as pretty much everything to do with Laurel’s death) for two straight seasons. Really, from the moment Barry Allen walked through the door in the second season the show has been set up to fail because, to paraphrase John Barrowman’s old Torchwood intro, that was when everything changed, and they weren’t ready. Arrow was never meant to become anything more than We’re-Not-Legally-Allowed-to-Call-This-Batman-The-TV-Show-But-Come-On-Who-Are-We-Kidding. Superpowers, magic, time travel, alternate realities – these just don’t go well with Arrow, yet along came The Flash, characters like John Constantine and Damien Darhk, the ongoing clusterfuck that is Legends of Tomorrow and Earth-2 and Supergirl (I’ve lost track of which different numbered Earth it calls home, at least for now).
Now Arrow is the quickly greying papa of three candy-colored creations, and wherease Flash and Supergirl get by on heart and Legends on camp Arrow is taking a stab at grit being its calling card again. This coming after a season which attempted to lighten the tone and focus more on Oliver and Felicity’s domestic drama. Now, it feels like Stephen Amell and company are making one last desperate push to reclaim some of the thunder which Daredevil stole from them, although now even Daredevil has fallen prey to the Iron Man 2 problem of sacrificing story and identity to set up spin-offs.
And as individual episodes go, Flash and Arrow‘s new season premieres were both perfectly fine, even if Flash‘s Flashpoint story was probably oversold in the advertising and Arrow‘s attempt at a helicoptor chase was the cheapest-looking thing the show’s ever done.
Barry had a problem he stubbornly refused to acknowledge, as is his way. Then once he did there were some initial laughs (did he just kidnap Caitlin?) followed by a momentary setback (standard “I’m not fast enough to defeat the bad guy and/or save the city” stuff with an “I’m losing my memories” twist) followed by an inevitable uplifitng “Run Barry, Run” peptalk (this time from Iris) followed by victory. The season’s main villains were teased at the end, and one of them is essentially a mirror of Barry, i.e., another speedster. Along the way, Barry’s dead mama drama was invoked more than once, and his potentially romantic relationship with Iris teased within an inch of its life.
Over in Star City, Oliver had a problem he stubbornly refused to acknowledge, as is his way. Felicity fired off some one-liners. The Green Arrow killed some people, and Thea became the latest in a long line of allies to more or less argue, “Dude, killing people? Not cool!” The flashbacks filled time. And the main villain showed up at the end, looking every bit like a dark mirror of Oliver, i.e., another archer. Along the way, they returned Quentin to his season 1 recovering alcoholic mode, teased the next step for Olicity and made it clear Oliver’s time as mayor will only barely have more impact on storytlines than his tenure Queen Consolidated’s CEO.
We’re several seasons in on both of these shows. We know what to expect by now. At the end of the day, Arrow is still Arrow and The Flash is still The Flash. The key difference between the two is that Grant Gustin’s earnestness (and his lovable supporting cast) lends his show a perpetually endearing quality whereas Stephen Amell’s endless angst (and hit and miss supporting cast who are usually misused) lends his show a progressively more annoying sense of doom and “manpain.” It doesn’t appear as if that’s changing anytime soon.
The Flash will continue to make Kevin Smith cry and work in spite of itself; Arrow, well, it’s just beginning a fairly hard reboot with several new cast members set to join in the coming weeks. This could be the year it turns itself around, but probably not, at least not completely. Arrow has failed its fans far too many times to earn back our trust after just one episode.
Check Out Honest Trailer’s Takedown/Celebration of The Flash: