Let’s Talk Flash -&- Arrowverse Classic: Meet Barry Allen

Arrowverse Review Index

A little over ten years ago, Arrow debuted on the CW, and created a family of superhero television shows that would come to be known as the Arrowverse (attempts to rebrand it “the CWverse” having gained little traction).

Three years ago, Arrow came to its conclusion. Black Lightning and Supergirl ended the following season, and last year Batwoman and Legends of Tomorrow were cancelled as well. With Superman & Lois now positioning itself as set in a different ‘verse, that leaves The Flash, now entering its ninth and final season, as the last show to hoist the Arrowverse flag.

Doing my This Week in the Arrowverse and Lets Talk Arrowverse posts, discussing each new episode of these shows with all of you, has been one of the highlights of my time on the Avocado, and I want us to all take this one last ride together. But I’m not sure how many folks here are still watching The Flash (and even if you meant to watch it, with all the other DC and WB chaos going on, you can be forgiven for not realizing the season premiere was this week).

So for this final go around, I’ve decided, in addition to talking about the latest episode, to also review some classic episodes of the various Arrowverse series, looking back on the long and wild road that’s led us here. This week, we celebrate The Flash‘s final season by looking at the Arrow episodes “The Scientist” and “Three Ghosts” (Season 2, Episodes 8 & 9) that introduced us to Barry Allen before they became the Scarlet Speedster.

Before we get to that, though, we do still have a new episode to look at: The Flash – Season 9, Episode 1: “Wednesday Ever After”

It was nice seeing The Flash take a second stab at doing a time loop episode. I definitely liked this better than “Cause and XS” (not doing “Team Flash fails to catch Cicada: Take 20” definitely helps), and it had some interesting exploration of how knowing the future (even a positive future) can feel stifling.

Loved the new Captain Boomerang – helps that they’re being played by Richard Harmon, who’s channeling a lot of the same snarky scumwad energy they had as John Murphy on The 100.

Yes, that was another evil speedster there at the end, but if you can’t pull out the old tropes for your final season, when can you?

Arrow – Season 2, Episodes 8 & 9: “The Scientist” and “Three Ghosts” review

These two episodes are among the most significant in the Arrowverse.

Obviously, they’re our introduction to Barry Allen, planting the seeds for The Flash and the whole extended universe that would follow. But, more than that, they serve as the turning point where Arrow reframed the kind of show it was trying to be.

Early on, Arrow downplayed many of the goofier or more outlandish aspects of its comic book origins. It sold itself as a gritty, no-nonsense story about a highly trained weapons expert fighting ordinary gangsters and corrupt businessmen. They went so far as to ridicule the name “Green Arrow”, with Oliver’s alter ego simply known as “the Hood” or “the Vigilante”.

It was never truly a realistic show (remember the USB-arrow from the series premiere?), and over time more comic booky elements began creeping in: earthquake machines, the League of Assassins, the sheer ham of Count Vertigo. But it’s in these episodes that Arrow bit the bullet and brought genuine superpowers into the mix.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we first see the effects of Mirakuru in the same episodes that introduce Barry and the particle accelerator explosion. Once work began on The Flash spinoff, the Arrow writers must have realized that the pseudo-grounded approach they’d been using till now … well, that’d be hard to maintain once a speedy guy in a bright red outfit showed up. For the Arrowverse to be born, Arrow would have to change.

Such a shift in genre could have been awkward, something that would alienate anyone who liked the show the way it was. Yet Arrow not only handles it gracefully, but makes it feel like a natural evolution of the series.

A lot of that is due to patience. We’ve spent the season till now building up the mystery of Sebastian Blood’s experiments, and of Anthony Ivo’s search for Mirakuru. So when those two plots are revealed to be one and the same, the fact that the result is a legit supersoldier serum doesn’t feel like a swerve, but like an appropriately shocking payoff.

And when Barry Allen arrives, they don’t do the standard “backdoor pilot” thing where the new character takes over everything for an episode, setting up what their new show will be like, before going their own way. We instead spend two episodes with Barry as simply a visiting CSI, one who’s awfully interested in superheroics, and who has a personalized leitmotif to indicate they’re special, but who never dominates the proceedings. We’re not suddenly thrust into Barry’s world, but instead are shown how Barry can exist within Oliver’s world, are made to like Barry and the relationships they build with Team Arrow, so that when we end with them being struck by weird science lightning, we’re invested enough to care about this wild new plot turn.

What also helps is that, despite all these new developments, and despite how Arrow is changing into a more outlandish show that can exist in a wider superhero universe … these episodes are still undeniably, quintessentially Arrow.

We may have superpowers in the mix, but the action is as visceral and well-choreographed as ever. We may be introduced to a less brooding, more adorkable form of hero in Barry Allen, but Oliver Queen remains the same stubborn, secretive, and often harsh man they’ve always been (hello, shooting Roy in the leg). We may have more comic book science in the plot, but the classic Arrow themes of regret and redemption are as strong as ever.

These episodes are so important because they prove that Arrow could change, could become the kind of show where the Flash or Supergirl or Beebo the God of War might show up anytime, but that wouldn’t change the soul of what Arrow is. When we get to that closing scene, where Oliver dons their green domino mask for the first time, it’s a signal that a new era for the show has begun, but it’s an era the show has earned, and found a way to make its own.

Stray Observations:

  • The reveal of Slade in the present day may be the second-best Holy Shit! revelation the show ever did (the best would be when Season 7 ended, and the frickin’ Monitor showed back up).
  • Even before Barry gains superpowers that outclass the Arrow’s archery and salmon ladder skills, they still have a knack for bringing out Oliver’s petty and competitive side, which is always delightful (“FYI, they will card him at the bar.”)
  • Also hilarious: “I’m guessing you don’t know how hard it is to break someone’s neck.” “Hmm? No, no idea.”
  • Barry and Felicity are adorable together, and it makes me wonder whether they initially thought of moving Emily Bett Rickards over to The Flash once it started up.
  • Okay, I’ll admit, while most of setup for the spinoff and the genre shift was handled well, the way Season 2 had round-the-clock news reports on a particle accelerator starting up: those were so ridiculously shoehorned in, I can’t not laugh at ‘em.

Question of the Week: What Arrowverse character had the best introduction?