[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Writers: Eric Wallace and Sam Chalsen
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Tom Cavanaugh, Hartley Sawyer, Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Melissa Benoist, Tyler Hoechlin, Elizabeth Tulloch, LaMonica Garrett, Jeremy Davies, John Wesley Shipp
Oliver and Barry wake up in each other’s bodies and with each other’s abilities, and their journey to find the cause draws in assistance from Supergirl and Superman from Earth-38 to stop a new threat.
The first installment of the Elseworlds crossover got off to a powerful start with big laughs and nonstop action. After four years of seeing Grant and Stephen in their respective roles, seeing them try to be Oliver queen and Barry Allen was both trippy and fun to watch. It’s almost like being involved in a drama class in which your teacher assigns two students to offer their own take on the same role, but with similar inflections. In the opening sequence with Ollie waking up in Barry and Iris’s bedroom, Stephen went a step further and actually mimicked some of Grant’s quirks and speech patterns so that Iris would not be alarmed until he could figure it out. It was both brilliant and strategic for both actor and character. But the real fun started when he dressed up as The Flash. With Barry now able to carry that suit around in his ring, It was awesome seeing Oliver eject it and put it on. Stepping into grants shoes gave Stephen the chance to flex his comedic muscles a little; you could tell that he was extremely uncomfortable and off his game. Stepping into Grant’s shoes gave Stephen the chance to flex his comedic muscles a little; you could tell that he was extremely uncomfortable and off his game.
On Grant’s side of the coin, seeing a Green Arrow actually enjoying his job as opposed to being tortured by it was a breath of fresh air and a cool call back to the original version from the comic book. Admittedly, it is weird seeing a scrawnier version of the Emerald archer that we are used to, but Grant sells it. Every move doesn’t feel awkward and he even managed to channel some of Stephen’s fluidity of motion. What also works is that when the pair try to inject more of themselves into their new roles; you see Barry actually become the Green Arrow and you feel the thumbs-up from Oliver as approval. The moment between Barry and Iris at the end feels grounded in that she’s worried that her husband will become too absorbed into his role to the point where she may not even recognize him. Unlike Oliver, Barry has a light and a sense of hope; that optimism and character is who Iris eventually fell in love with. She even made note of that to all of her when she thought that he was Barry, which was also mixed message for Oliver to try and fix his marriage. Her crush on Oliver Queen is just superficial. It’s a realistic fear that she may not get her husband back considering that nobody at S.T.A.R. Labs could make sense of how this happened and why. The usual assurance that she has surrounded by some of the most brilliant minds on the planet is absent because they detected nothing. She herself has known this man since they were kids and even she didn’t catch on until her actual husband told her something that only they know. It was a seamless transition, almost magical, and she feels completely insecure. What also worked was the fact that there was no hug and kiss between the two because of that insecurity. Even before the conversation, Candice’s face at the end of A.M.A.Z.O. was very telling that not all is right with the world.
The brother like chemistry between Grant and Stephen is always fun to watch; whether they are ribbing off of each other or getting under each other’s skin, there’s a genuine respect and familial bond. From Barry’s first appearance in season two of arrow to now, their relationship has evolved from hero worship on Barry’s side, to mentorship, to equals, and finally to brothers. Speaking of mentorship, the callback to season one’s training session was the moment of big hilarity as Barry finally got his payback.
Now on to the guest stars this week from Supergirl. I have never been a big fan of Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of Clark Kent, nor as Superman – the only thing they got right on that damn suit was the “S” – but I did like the exchange between he and Kara on recent events. Given that Argo City is alive, it made sense for Clark to take Lois with him as he met his aunt for the first time and experienced life on a piece of his home planet for the first time in his life. Connecting with his heritage and making it a bonding experience felt natural and inherent to the character’s history. His remarking how for the first time he and his wife were both “strange visitors” made the most sense. What else made the most sense what is the producers decide to reuse the Vancouver farm exterior from Smallville as the Earth-38 Kent Farm. As a fan who religiously watched the series from season 1 to 10, hearing Remy Zero and exteriors brought back a lot of memories and helped me as a viewer better connect with this version of Lois and Clark. Elizabeth Tulloch is visually a Gary Frank Lois Lane come to life, and her performance showed great chemistry with Tyler and Melissa. She even showed some of the characters classic snarky humor and sarcasm, right down to her calling Clark “Smallville.” While she is no Erica Durance, it’s a shame that we only saw a little bit of her. It felt very surreal to see Superman and S.T.A.R. Labs and working alongside Team Flash. I’m just waiting to see a race between he and Barry when he finally gets back into his regular work clothes. (And leave Big Blue in the dust like only The Fastest Man Alive can.)
This review would not be complete, of course, without reflecting on the big bads in the first installment. It was a good idea to start the episode with a recap of a shorter version of the teaser, featuring both the monitor and the older version of Barry Allen on earth 90. Then the transition to the lecture by Gotham psychiatrist Dr. John Deagle, and how his Existential theories drew the Monitor to him, even though they delve into Eugenics. For those who don’t know, Existentialism is a branch of philosophy that believes in breaking away from social convention in order to realize your better selves. This doctor wants to reshape the world, which seems to play into The Monitor’s agenda somehow. Showing off his ability to detect Cisco’s vibe of that moment gives the viewer the notion that this is a god like being that is way out of their league at this point. Nobody has been able to do that with his vibes, and he was even unconsciously detecting him throughout the episode. Then there is the android developed by Ivo Industries, founded by an old acquaintance of Oliver’s, the late Anthony Ivo. Even the incorporation of the Mirakuru formula from season 2 of Arrow was nostalgic and better linked the two together. The notion of A.M.A.Z.O. developed as a natural defense to metahuman threats made sense as opposed to a deliberately-created villain by a mad scientist. Fans of the Justice League cartoons remember this android and his story arc, and they even manage to incorporate some visual effects from that version through the morphing of the heroes symbols on his chest every time he absorbed their power. Further, while that version was sentient and could speak, having it be non-communicative in its first live action outing made it more menacing and Terminator-like. I sincerely hope that this is not the last time we see the android again.
The biggest complaint I have is the failure to sync up the chronology of both Arrow and The Flash. Season seven of Arrow began six months after he was incarcerated in the season finale. Season five of The Flash, meanwhile, began immediately after the events of this show’s finale last May. The writers have Iris mention Felicity was in pain following Oliver’s arrest, and Oliver himself mentioning his stint in jail later, and yet the events of Arrow haven’t even been mentioned this year on The Flash till now. I know that it would have been confusing to have a caption of “Six Months Later“ in the apartment scene, but it would have at least connected both shows together again. Also, Nora is noticeably absent. Surely her talk with Eobard Thawne in 2049 couldn’t have taken this long. I also find it very surprising that nobody is even wondering where she is. She’s not even mentioned by anyone at all. And yet they did mention Cicada as still being a current threat. Also, Diggle was saved by Oliver as The Flash, and then suddenly he’s gone after puking his guts out at his hilarious motion sickness problem. Wouldn’t Oliver try to get through to him? And wouldn’t he be on board with Team Flash and their concerns about the shared psychosis theory?
The Smallville nostalgia, the chemistry between Grant and Stephen, and the Freaky Friday motif works for a big laughs, great action, and smart pacing that you want to watch a second time. The fact that we see both actors taken out of the conference sounds and playing each other’s characters is very creative and engaging. But again, the problem is the chronology is not synced up and there was no effort to do so before the crossover, leaving a very big plot hole. Regardless, I’m looking forward to part two that takes us to Gotham City and you can expect my opinions on that episode of arrow in that respective review. So far, guys, I’m having fun and over looking the flaws and just enjoying the ride.