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-flashpointFlash 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.

speaking-of-thugs-arrow-s5e1Arrow desperately tried to re-find some of that first and second season magic which made this constantly expanding Arrowverse possible in the first place:

  • 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:

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

6 Comments

  1. Nope. The problems with both shows are inherent with the writing. They had both the potential to be more than they are, but that would have required some effort in worldbuilding and character development those shows simply don’t do because they prefer to go for the cheap drama. That won’t change. I predicted that Flash would go off the rails long before it happened because I saw the same basic problems in the show I hoped Arrow would overcome and never did. That is something I learned by watching Merlin, if a show spends two seasons making the same mistakes again and again, it is fruitless to hope that it will eventually do better and reach its full potential. It will never happen at this point.

    Reply

    1. Listen, I don’t really dispute any of that. Neither show is ever going to be what they could have been and it’s pointless to wish for anything more. However, as they are currently constructed there’s at least a version of each show which is reasonably entertaining for the less discerning viewer. The question is whether or not Flash and Arrow can get back to that. The money is on Flash because it is less broken and has the better cast. Arrow, on the other hand…um…well…at least it’s still better than Smallville’s Green Arrow?

      Reply

      1. Well, my money is on the Flash, too, because the lighter tone is a little bit more forgiving…plus, Arrow is further into its story, it should be running out of ideas at this point.

      2. The fact that Arrow is falling back on the ole Oliver kills people story is probably a pretty good proof that they’re running out of ideas. Season 2 had that “To honor my friend I have to be better” intro. Season 5 might as well have “Now to avenge my latest dead friend I have to be bad again.”

  2. I thought that Arrow was a decent episode. There were parallels to the pilot (“No one can know my secret” *crack*), Oliver is finally back into fighting form after spending two years being hobbled so Black Canary and Speedy can look good, there are two really menacing villains (season 3 Ra’s/Malcolm was awful), Paul Blackthorne was great and the banter was back. Not enough Diggle but he’ll have his chance in a couple of episodes. The only really bad things were the retcon of Laurel not wanting Oliver to kill, making her look even more pathetic in implying that she couldn’t let go of Oliver even in death and wanted him to train a new Canary (in the episode, she didn’t know she was going to die, she wanted to go back and fight again). The Laurel of seasons 3 and 4 was only too glad to kill, even when Komodo had an alibi. The other bad thing was the scene of Felicity and her new boyfriend, introducing back the terrible soapy relationship drama that hurt last season.

    I gave up on The Flash last season because of the writing but I tuned back in to see what the fuss about Flashpoint was about. They’re lucky they found Grant Gustin who is adorkable because in my house, the phrase is “Barry is the worst”.

    The problem with The Flash is that it’s written for (and apparently by) 12 year old boys. Barry has a whole team to help him and numerous fathers but he can’t get over his childhood trauma of losing his mother and his father going to jail even though Joe picked right up there so (according to attachment theory), he should have been all right. For the second finale in a row, Barry screws up everyone else’s life because he can’t deal with losing his mother. (There were a lot of complaints about Felicity crying last season but she’s a non-starter compared to Barry who seems to cry just about every episode.) Last season he only let in all the villains from Earth2 and killed Ronnie, this season, he’s screwed up everyone’s life.

    And no one ever tells him he did wrong. When he almost destroyed Central City when he opened the rift, everyone praised him as a wonderful person for helping to clean it up. (Meanwhile Oliver not only has to suffer the consequences of his actions, he gets blamed even for things he doesn’t do.)

    But I could take that if they just wrote women well. But on The Flash, women serve only to support their men and give Barry endless pep talks. They get lied to and are expected to behave emotionally as if they were in a fifties show. Barry repeatedly lied to Patty that he wasn’t The Flash even though it seemed like everyone knew and she was on the Task Force. When she tricked him and proved it, she was made the villain. When Joe invited Wally to live in the house, he asked for Barry’s okay but not Iris’ even though she was living there too.

    In Flashpoint, Cisco is a billionaire genius who gets gorgeous women while Caitlin was reduced to a pediatrician. We were told iris was a reporter but all she did all episode was prop Barry and Wally. Again.

    In Flashpoint, Barry’s parents were alive, Cisco was everything he could fantasize about and Iris and Caitlin had not lost the love of their lives. In fact, the only people worse off were Joe (presumably because he didn’t have Barry to raise) and Wally got hurt at the end. So for that, Barry was willing to reverse the time line and kill his parents, make take away Cisco’s success and give Iris and Caitlin back their loss of the loves of their lives for Joe and Wally.

    They may pay lip service to Barry’s parents but the only relationships that matter on this show are Joe’s with Barry and now Wally, and Barry never has to pay the consequences when he screws up other people’s lives because he won’t grow up. I can’t take it any more.

    Reply

  3. […] Arrow and The Flash Are Both Trying to Course Correct But … […]

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