By: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns (story)
The Story: No time for nerd love when there be superhumans romping about.
The Review: Not that Arrow has ever been ashamed of its superhero roots, but for a long time, the show shied away from anything that would classify as “super.” Obviously, this was part of an attempt to present Arrow as a semi-realistic and grounded superhero adaptation in the mold of the recent Batman movies, but there’s also always the risk that bringing in characters flashier and more powerful than our hero himself would marginalize him in his own show.
That doesn’t quite happen in this episode, but you can see the potential threat the moment we’re introduced to a bona fide superhuman as well as the mere promise of one. The former, gifted with most basic gifts of prodigious strength and durability, gives Ollie so good a thrashing that his allies are forced to resort to the most drastic measures to save his life. The latter, even with no special powers to speak of at present, receives such prominence—which is due just from his iconography—that he at times overshadows even Ollie’s presence in the episode.
It’s this latter situation that creates the episode’s biggest problem, at least for those who may not appreciate the significance of Barry Allen coming into the Arrow world. I imagine for those who have barely heard of the Flash beyond the name will wonder why the episode treats this newly minted character so lovingly. Thankfully, the use of the episode as a backdoor pilot to a rumored Flash show is fairly contained; aside from a few scenes of Barry missing trains,* it’s business as usual for the Arrow gang.
Even though Barry is an important cog for the team’s latest mission to move forward, he only enhances functions they already perform fairly well, rather than subsumes. His obsession and expertise with superhumans is valuable, but it’s Ollie who has direct experience dealing with the kind of powers at work here. His CSI skills are similarly respectable, but don’t necessarily accomplish anything Felicity or Diggle could have done themselves, with a little more time.
Honestly, you’d be forgiven if you leave the episode thinking Barry was brought in expressly to serve as a love interest for Felicity. His adolescent eagerness and appearance (which Ollie can’t help gleefully calling attention to—“Do your parents know you’re here?” he asks when Barry first arrives to investigate the crime scene) is a perfect match for Felicity’s girlish awkwardness, and it’s pretty damn cute seeing her get visibly turned on by his scientific acumen. I don’t know how long this romance can last, given that Barry is due to star in his own show at some point and destined to fall in love with someone else even if he doesn’t. Perhaps that’s why the show accelerates Ollie’s implicit approval of the newcomer as Felicity’s beau and Barry’s irreversible integration into the team’s most private lives at the end of the episode.
Meanwhile, the rest of Arrow is running as smoothly as it has been this season. Moira’s fortuitous (and, as it turns out, rigged) acquittal means finding a new role on the show besides participant in a conspiracy. Spurned by her business and social contacts, the only purpose left for her is to ward off the returned threat of Malcolm Merlyn. This is a smart move on all counts; it lets her fight back against a man who dominated all of last season (“I’m through being afraid of you.”), and it lets her show resourcefulness beyond any of our expectations. We all knew she’s no stranger to the criminal underworld, but contacting Ra’s al Ghul is networking of a different level altogether.
And once again, the island flashbacks have a concrete connection to the rest of the episode, which isn’t something that can always be depended upon. The discovery of a superhuman serum called “Mirakoru” (“Miracle”) onboard a marooned Japanese sub in island’s cove serves three purposes: it makes the presence of superpowers more consistent across the show’s continuity; it offers a method for Slade to get the killer abilities Deathstroke-lovers know he should have; and it’s a nice shout-out to “Miraclo,” the pills which give Hourman his temporary strength.**
Conclusion: For those who have no superhero experience beyond what they see in this show, the presence of Barry will be slightly baffling, but otherwise the episode is tightly plotted and works on all levels.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Between Barry’s very own tinkling musical theme and the constant imagery of steaming trains, you get some very Harry Potter-esque vibes from him, no?
* Which might also explain the rumors about an Hourman show being kicked around the pitching rooms.