”You’re the Green Arrow now, but please don’t become Oliver Queen.”
Through all the deep dramatic moments, the crazy and amazing (and, let’s face it, sometimes convoluted) story arcs, and the building blocks that are the personal character relationships, the primary tenant behind shows like The Flash are escapism and, in that, fun.
It may not be the best episode of the current Arrowverse year but, by God, “Elseworlds, Part 1” is positively the most fun I’ve had watching these shows in a long, long time.
Trailers notwithstanding, the initial tease to the Elseworlds crossover began last week, as post-script scenes on both Arrow and The Flash (probably Supergirl as well) and the table is set to the disturbances on Earth Prime early on. The Monitor gives Dr. John Deegan the Book of Destiny, to “reshape the world as [he] see(s) fit”. From there it’s a visit to Central City and Oliver Queen waking up to find that, despite having his own mind, he’s Barry Allen in every other. He has the loft, the wife, and the powers of the speedster. Not to mention the fact that everyone, including Team Flash sees him as Barry Allen. The same thing is happening to Barry in Star City; he gets dropped into Oliver’s training session with Diggle. But where Oliver is freaked out and looking for a solution, Barry falls into the role, enjoying himself like a kid visiting an amusement park for the first or second time.
These two opposing reactions become the one truly serious segment in “Elseworlds, Part 1” as we are reminded how much different Oliver and Barry are from one another. Though his life was shaped by tragedy, Barry Allen has always been that light in people’s lives, thus it was apropos when he gained his abilities, streaking through the city, his Speed Force trail like a beacon of hope. On the other side is Oliver whose rich beginnings allowed him to be a carefree soul, selfish and indulgent. Tragedy also forged him though, unlike Barry, Oliver finds strength in the darkness, those painful wounds—some scarred, others unhealed—giving him purpose and conviction. Such diametrically opposite personalities are what make the two characters such a treat when they share the screen. To watch as they take on the other’s persona in order to fully embrace the abilities originally not their own is a case of commendable performances by Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell coupled with some fantastic writing.
The villain of the hour—AMAZO, a robotic entity capable of mimicking meta-human powers (think the Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past)—provides for some CG set pieces that, while not superb, are good enough to capture the viewer’s attention. It’s even better with both Superman and Supergirl in the fold, as the quartet forms a Justice League of sorts that eventually takes AMAZO down. Fear not though because this is no throwaway villain. All the pieces are set for the super-powered robot to make its return.
With AMAZO defeated, Superman returns to Earth-38 while Cisco fills Oliver, Barry, and Kara in on his vibes of the Monitor who, despite it being a past event, speaks to the trio, letting them know that they cannot stop what has begun. It’s an ominous portent that will carry over into the newest Arrow. The odds of Part 2 being as much of a blast as Part 1 is a big ask but, even if it only gets halfway there, it still should be able to offer what these crossovers usually do:
Fun in its purest form.
- Where to begin? There are so many Easter Eggs, hilarious and poignant one-liners that this section could be longer than the review. As it is, I’ll need to pare down the Easter Egg goodness to some of the biggest ones, with my favorite. As a fan of the original Smallville, it was literal music to my ears to hear Remy Zero’s “Save Me”—the Smallville theme song—blare out when they cut to Earth-38 for the first time. The fact that Clark and Lois (great scene between the two of them) and Kara are on the Kent Farm from Smallville brought back some moments of geeky nostalgia. It didn’t hurt that I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Tulloch from her time on Grimm as well as Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark Kent/Superman.
- As mentioned, Oliver and Barry have some really cool moments together. Most are lighthearted enough, with their experimenting with the other’s skills, escaping the Pipeline, and Barry shooting Oliver in the back with remote crossbows (a nod to the very first crossover event), they also have an extremely somber moment post-crowbow shot. The two friends lay into each other—initiated by Oliver—about the other’s faults. When Oliver comes to apologize, he admits that because so much of his strength comes from painful memories, seeing Barry’s brightness when embodying the Green Arrow hurt. The conversation on their differences should be a reminder that two people can be so far removed from one another’s views of life but still remain friends…so long as they take the time to truly understand who the other is.
- Though his screen time was short, John Deegan (Doctor Destiny for all the non-comic geeks) has a major role to play in this crossover. It’s his vision in reading the Book of Destiny that’s causing these anomalies to occur and they will probably require his help to set things right. Is his role going to be just a passing nod to his comic book character or are there plans to keep him somewhere in the Arrowverse background for future stories?
- That end shot of Gotham City with BatWoman standing tall was another geeky moment. Despite the controversy in her casting, I think Ruby Rose will do a wonderful job as Kate Kane/Batwoman. We’ll get our first sample of that in “Elseworlds, Part 2”. The big question though is, now that Gotham City is in play, what else from the Dark Knight’s playpen will appear in the Arrowverse?
- Pet peeve time: once again, Team Flash has the most curious response to a situation. They have both Oliver and Barry telling them of the Quantum Leap-like body swap but no one believes them. This despite all the insanity that has invaded all their lives over the past five years. It’s not something they would do, regardless of what the science tells them.