Like a lot of Arrow episodes, this one used parallel themes to work through character issues. Specifically the theme of 'What is a Hero' combined with a moral question about torture. Even though it also had a pretty standard villain revenge plot, the result was probably one of the best episodes of the series so far.
What makes Oliver a hero? What drives him to keep going, even though he has been chipping away at his humanity for the better part of a decade? Is Barry right about Oliver's inner strength? I think so, because there isn't any way Oliver could still be the man he is if there wasn't something greater inside of him. A light that refuses to be snuffed out, no matter what happens. It's what makes Oliver special.
Barry's inner light is a bit more obvious, and it glows a bit brighter. But that doesn't mean it is actually stronger than Oliver's. Oliver made a point about how different their lives and cities are. It basically described the differences in tone for each series. That exchange got to the heart of each hero, and was probably the best scene in the episode. I loved how Oliver threw out all the crap that's happened, and Barry countered with the fact that his mother was murdered, too.
Then there is the writing, and how well each character has been painted with a distinct brush. Barry thought of people first, and cleared off the train platform of innocents. It was a flashy moment that showcased his power. But it also says a lot about who Barry is. It was also telling how Barry took each member of the team to a bomb so they could defuse it together. By taking them all there, it meant the whole team was risking their lives to save the city. It was very much in character for the Flash, because someone like Superman would've just gathered all the bombs together and flown them into the sky.
What that means going forward gives me a lot of hope -- perhaps for both shows. Arrow can be unrelentingly dark, and The Flash can be very goofy. They both have moments of humor and seriousness respectfully, but I think both shows could use a bit more counter. If Arrow had just a touch more levity, the darkness would feel a bit more heroic. If The Flash had more emotional depth then the superhero antics would feel more grounded.
The flashback was once again used to highlight a character moment in the present. This time it was about torture, and why Oliver uses it so casually. There was a man named Katsu Chang, a bomber that Oliver couldn't torture for information. That cost the lives of dozens, and in that moment Oliver realized that Waller was right, that he had use extreme measures to fight those who are extremely violent. Except in the present, that method backfired. Which calls into question everything that Oliver has come to believe is his only path.
I wonder why they are building up China White so heavily? We've seen her quite a bit in previous seasons, but she's never been a main villain. What are they doing now?
Comic Book Bits:
Which brings me to why I didn't think Boomerang worked that well. Despite the fact that this episode was more about our heroes and their allies, the villain didn't feel worthy for this kind of team up. His weapon of choice felt inherently silly, and his use of them was wildly inconsistent throughout the episode. Plus, how did he take out an entire A.R.G.U.S. branch without any real resistance? I guess they just aren't a very effective secret government agency.
The exchange between Lyla and Oliver was interesting because not only did it show that they shared a similar world view, they quoted Waller almost verbatim. Waller's kill or be killed, torture is justified as a means to an end, has really taken hold of Oliver and Lyla, and neither realized it.
Just like on The Flash, the Arrow logo changed. Behind the title was the Flash's signature lightning bolt symbol.
Oliver finally got a new suit, and honestly I can't tell the difference. Probably because the hood is the same for sentimental reasons.
Diggle's marriage proposal at the end was very sweet. I loved how she told him to shut up so she could say yes.
Roy and Lyla reacting to the Flash was done almost as well as Diggle's reaction when he witnessed the Flash in action for the first time.
The starting scene was specifically written to show how team Arrow prepares and cases a place before going in, and also what the potential consequences for just running in are.
The male sidekicks all got a scene together, and it was very well done. They got to talk about the world and how Barry changes things, but not really. Cisco had some good points.
The Quentin scene was fun, but why is he drinking coffee? Doesn't he have a heart issue? Maybe it's decaf or chamomile. He gets Barry's name wrong. Bart is not only a well known member of the Flash family, Bart is also the name of a bus system. Which is only relevant because in the next sentence Quentin mentions buses.
There were several moments where we got a really nice blending of the two hero musical themes.
What struck me was how well Team Flash worked in together with Team Arrow. I couldn't figure out what was different at first, but then I realized it was because Wells wasn't there. I wonder if perhaps The Flash might be better off without him.
Thea's two scenes were almost an afterthought. The same with Laurel, but at least no one was missing from the episode this time.
Oliver: "Then tell her to stop letting people get killed in my city."
Diggle: "You really don't care about my marriage, do you?"
Oliver: "Well, I would, if you and Lyla were still married."
Cisco: "We wanna see the Arrow cave."
Felicity: "We don't call it that… ever!"
Cisco: "I wanna see the toys, I need to see the toys. Do you guys have an Arrow mobile?"
Oliver: (to Cisco) "Don't touch that, or that! It's a jettisoning arrow, uses compressed…"
Cisco: "Compressed CO2 to jettison high tensile strength polymer cables."
Roy: "Since when did we start selling admission to the Arrow cave?"
Oliver: "It's…" (pointing at Felicity) "Do you see what you've done?"
Caitlin: (pointing at the salmon ladder) "What's that for?"
Felicity: (sigh) "Distracting me from work."
Lyla: "You only call me sweetie when you want something."
Barry: "He told her about me." (Diggle shakes his head) "You didn't?"
Diggle: "I keep secrets for a living, man."
Barry: "Ah, my bad."
Lyla: "You're, you're...?"
Barry: "The Flash. Sushi?"
Quinten: "They can only move so fast."
Barry: "I had eight seconds to kill."
Captain Boomerang: "What goes around, comes around."
Diggle: "I remember a world where people didn't kill each other with boomerangs…"
Cisco: "Or walk on water."
Roy: "Barry can walk on water?"
Roy: "What's your point?"
Cisco: "Well, maybe meta-humans and superpowers were given to us to deal with the crazy."
Diggle: "You mean by God?"
Cisco: "No. By a dark matter wave released from a failed particle accelerator reaction."
Caitlin: "We haven't been taking this seriously. It's all been a game, we give the bad guys code names."
Cisco: "I think the fact that we go up against meta-humans made it all kinda clean. Like the fact that they all have these powers makes what they're doing less…"
Barry: "We've got a pipeline, he's got a gorgeous tropical island."
Felicity: (Smiling) "With the landmines."
Everyone: "Huh, what?"
Felicity: "It's a long story."
For the most part I thought this was a wonderful follow up to The Flash episode "Flash vs. Arrow" (link here).
4 out of 4 Costumed heroes, except for Diggle who still doesn't have one.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.