Arrow Season 3, Episode 8, ‘The Brave and the Bold’ Review

[This is a review for Arrow Season 3, Episode 8, ‘The Brave and the Bold.’  There will be mild spoilers.]

When Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon go to Starling City to visit (and hopefully check out the “Arrow cave”), The Flash follows and joins the Arrow for part 2 of the Flash/Arrow team-up crossover event: The Brave and The Bold.

While Arrow’s visit to Central City in Flash vs. Arrow actually squared to the two heroes against each other, Flash’s trip to Starling city was on much more friendly terms in what turned out to be a very meta episode that not only used the two characters to contrast and define each other, but also to define the differences between the two halves of the shared DC TV universe.

When Barry arrives in Starling City, he’s just in time to snag two boomerangs out of the air before they (maybe) hit Arrow in the chest.  Digger Harkness, AKA “Captain Boomerang” is seeking revenge on Lyla for her involvement with putting him on the Suicide Squad.

While Boomerang is a very well realized character, much of his story (and the larger story arc of the episode) takes a back seat to the much more meta and nuanced story between Barry and Oliver.  Starling City and Central City are not the same city, and their heroes are not the same heroes.

The flashback sequences felt cohesive for what seemed like the first time this season.  It details more of Oliver’s time in Hong Kong, where Amanda Waller is attempting to teach him how to use torture to extract information quickly from criminals.

This is a practice that may seem commonplace to Arrow and Starling City, but is appealing to The Flash, who comes from a city that Oliver claims is “always sunny and his villains get cute nicknames.”  Although the show actually doesn’t take a definitive stance on the use of torture in severe circumstances, Barry is able to convince Oliver that he hasn’t lost his humanity, and maybe torture isn’t always the only answer.  Amanda Waller would disagree, but that just means we have some character points to work out for the remainder of the season.

Story aside, this episode was very well executed.  Even though the characters and aesthetic of the two cities and the two shows don’t share the same shade of sunlight or morality at all times, the two universes are very cohesive, and everyone benefits when they are all on the screen at the same time.

This is one of the best all around performances either cast has presented to this point this season.  Even Stephen Amell, who is often criticized for his more wooden acting had some very subtle moments that played off of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen very effectively.

Humor was effectively used, although a few jokes were a little overused (“you only call me that when you want someting”), and there was definitely some heavy handed fan service, such as Barry doing the salmon ladder (and Cisco attempting the salmon ladder), but it all played quite effectively.

Arrow and Flash appearing on screen together is almost a small screen version of Batman and Superman appearing on screen together, and poses many of the same questions.  With Barry’s super powers, is Oliver still useful, or even necessary?

The episode plays to these questions very well, showing that just because Barry has super powers, him and Oliver are very much two sides of the same coin, in emotions, and in skill set.  Even the climax (which was definitely one of the more cliche and overused comic-book climaxes), was very effectively used, literally utilizing every team member to bring about a resolution to an impossible circumstance.

Although the Marvel Cinematic Universe is well underway, and DC has another close on it’s heels, The CW so far has delivered what I would consider the most cohesively delivered shared universe properties.  These are two independent shows that don’t require the viewer to track each other, but they both exist in the same universe with shared characters, without causing us to as “where’s The Flash?” or “Where’s The Arrow?” every week, and without homogenizing the tone.

The season is only halfway over, but it’s on track to be even bigger than last year.  The midseason finale for Arrow “The Climb” also looks super killer, so be sure to tune in next Wednesday night at 7 to see it all go down when Arrow wraps up for 2014.

Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on The CW

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