“The Brave and the Bold” brings The Flash and his team to Starling City to help The Arrow fight Captain Boomerang in the second part of the crossover event.

After teaming up with The Flash in “Flash vs Arrow” to stop Roy Bivolo, a superpowered metahuman able to manipulate people’s emotions, the two night crossover special continues when Barry Allen and Team Flash come to Starling City. Caitlin Snow, a S.T.A.R. Labs bioengineer and member of Team Flash, has been working on forensic evidence from the Canary’s murder, but there’s a more pressing problem: the boomerang-wielding murderer that The Arrow has been tracking is now targeting Lila.

The Arrow team learns that the man killed at the end of last week’s episode, Kai Wu, was an A.R.G.U.S. agent. His killer is Digger Harkness, a former member of the Suicide Squad who had been presumed dead, largely because the bomb in his skull had been activated. It was Lila’s decision to terminate the squad, but Harkness survived and he’s back for revenge.

Oliver insists that if Barry is going to help stop Harkness, it’s going to be done Oliver’s way. Very quickly, that means Barry sees Oliver’s methods up close and personal – including torturing a man for information about Harkness’ whereabouts. The action scenes, the fights and chases, and the little jokes as the two teams mesh are all great, but at the heart of this episode is the difference between Oliver and Barry’s philosophies. Barry is a relentless optimist, always looking for the good in others. While Lila and Amanda Waller, and even Diggle reinforce Oliver’s belief that extreme measures are warranted against criminals like Harkness, Barry strives for (and succeeds on) a more heroic path.

If you haven’t seen “Flash vs Arrow”, I highly recommend giving it a watch, or reading Ross’ review of the episode. You can watch it on The CW’s website and Hulu. Even if you haven’t been following The Flash, you’ll still be able to follow most of what happens in the first part of the crossover, and more importantly, it establishes the relationship between these two heroes, and that’s the best part of this episode.

While the first half of the crossover event focused on what Barry needs to learn to remain an effective hero, the second half is all about what Oliver needs to become one. In season one The Hood was a brutal defender of Starling City. Intimidation, torture, and murder were all equal parts of his arsenal, and Oliver saw himself as a dark force of vengeance. It was only chance and necessity that convinced him to allow anyone else into his vigilante mission. In season two, he committed himself to not killing, and his most triumphant moment in that story was defeating Deathstroke and his army without having to use deadly force. Oliver’s methods are still morally grey, but he’s drawn a moral line in the sand over killing. This season, particularly in the flashbacks to Hong Kong, we’re seeing Oliver be pushed to accept violent and immoral actions as a valid path if they save lives. In the present, Oliver is struggling with his willingness to do those same things, and continues to think of himself as broken and irredeemable. Throughout the series, he has struggled with permitting himself to connect with others, shielding himself with his vigilante identity. Sometimes, he’s right, and being a vigilante does bring a lot of danger to the people he loves, but he also uses it as an excuse. Diggle will call him out when he’s being an ass to others, but Barry is the first to call him out on his self-hatred. Barry pushes Oliver to keep moving towards the heroic.

Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on The CW. You can also watch the latest episodes on The CW’s website and Hulu. Spoilers (for the episode and Laurel’s vigilante debut) and comic book references follows!

Oliver plays directly into Harkness’ hands when he tortures Klaus Markos, the man who designed the exploding boomerangs. He gets a phone, but it’s a plant, which Harkness uses to locate the Arrow Cave. He attacks, critically wounding Lila, and Oliver blames himself for it. The violence and danger is new to Team Flash – most of the threats they face don’t target the people they love. Caitlin, and to a lesser extent, Cisco, realize for the first time that what they are doing could be extremely dangerous. I hope that The Flash will explore some of those darker themes, but that they approach it with Barry’s optimism instead of the moody darkness that Oliver does so well.

This whole crossover event is packed with comic book references. Cisco dubs Harkness “Captain Boomerang”, his comic book alter-ego and an homage to the running joke of giving metahumans nicknames in The Flash. Even Captain Boomerang’s five bombs gambit is a direct nod to the comic book source material. Putting multiple targets in jeopardy in order to counter the speedster is a classic tactic for villains facing The Flash. In DC: The New Frontier, Captain Cold used a similar stunt, but lied about the number of bombs, leaving The Flash chasing a nonexistent bomb (for a few moments, at least). Plus, the title of the episode, “The Brave and the Bold”, is a direct reference to DC Comics’ team-up title with the same name. It’s been published on and off since 1955, beginning as a series where new characters could be given a try and later becoming a place for established characters to join forces. I’ve said it before, but Arrow continues to impress me with how well they execute these kinds of references to the comics without doing anything to alienate viewers who’ve never picked up an issue.

With Barry’s help, Starling City is saved without Oliver needing to torture Harkness. As Oliver and The Arrow continue to slowly progress towards heroism this season, I expect we’re going to see more and more of his descent into accepting violence as a necessary evil in his flashbacks. In Hong Kong, Oliver is still struggling to resist Amanda Waller’s methods. I think we’re going to see his resistance break in the past, while he starts to regain it in the present.

Laurel’s still largely absent in this episode, showing up only briefly when Oliver and Barry meet with Quentin Lance. Laurel’s development into the Black Canary will ramp up when the show returns from its winter break. Producer Andrew Kreisberg told The Hollywood Reporter last month that Laurel will be getting a lot of focus soon, saying, “Episodes 10, 11 and 12 are a three-part trilogy that are about her.”

Also worth a mention is the final scene, with The Flash and Arrow fighting in the warehouse. That’s a reference to Rocky III, a nice little nod to Barry’s comment in the first half of the event, where he asked if they’d be training “like Rocky“. I love it.

Next week, Arrow wraps up with its fall finale, “The Climb”, before going on hiatus until the new year.

Bottom Line: “The Brave and the Bold” brings the heroic Flash to the darker world of Starling City, and he brightens up the place. The conclusion to the “Flash vs Arrow” two part event creates a lasting link between Team Arrow and Team Flash, and nudges Oliver just a bit further on his path from violent vigilante to inspiring hero.

Recommendation: Contrasting Oliver with Barry works perfectly, because they both take complementary paths to the same goal: doing good. If you haven’t already been watching The Flash, now’s the time to get caught up.

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