Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Flash 5x09 Review: "Elseworlds, Part 1" (Swapsies!) [Contributor: Deborah MacArthur]

"Elseworlds, Part 1"
Original Airdate: December 9, 2018 

It’s midseason finale time! And crossover time! At the same time! This year’s crossover of DC Arrowverse shows (sadly lacking in the crew from Legends of Tomorrow) involves a life switcheroo between Oliver and Barry, and it’s probably the most fun crossover we’ve gotten so far. I must credit a lot of the episode’s fun to just how terrifically well Barry and Oliver play off each other — it’s clear that the writers saw the appeal of opposite characters being thrown together in a crossover event, but I think the actors really had fun with the experience as well. To wonderful results.


The big event begins: a great battle has taken place on a desolate battlefield, littered with flaming wreckage and the bodies of costumed heroes. The Flash (John Wesley Shipp version) looks to be the last alive as he crawls toward a large book, but the book is scooped up by an echo-voiced someone. I’m going to go ahead and say that the echo-voiced someone is the Monitor, since it’s easier for recapping purposes. The Monitor takes the book and opens it and it emits a stream of white light. Later, the Monitor gives that glowy book to a man named Deegan, a psychiatrist distracted by eugenics and evening out the human/metahuman playing field. With the book, Deegan can manipulate reality.

In Central City, the sky is red and full of lightning, and Oliver Queen is waking up... as Barry Allen. Oliver walks through Barry and Iris’s apartment, which is now decorated with poorly Photoshopped images of Stephen Amell’s face on Grant Gustin’s body. Iris is making breakfast and kisses her “husband” hello. Oliver is freaking the fork out but, like in most depictions of body-swap/life-swap tropes, Iris is only mildly confused by the man she thinks is her husband acting like he has no idea who he is. Also, it’s been a while since I watched Arrow, but Oliver smiles a lot in this scene (keeping up Barry appearances) and it doesn’t sit well with me. Oliver Queen smiling is just too weird, guys.

Oliver realizes he has Barry’s powers as well as his life and has some fun zipping around the apartment. Then Iris comes back and tosses him Barry’s Flash suit ring and, now donning the Flash’s new primary red outfit, immediately blames Barry for whatever shenanigans might have led to the most recent weirdness in his life. Which... yeah, that’s fair.

After Oliver clumsily stops a robbery and gets to S.T.A.R. Labs, Caitlin checks him over and finds no anomalies, much to his dismay. Also to his dismay: human contact! Prickly Oliver is not on board with the hug-fest that is Team Flash, or their need to talk about feelings, or their overall concern for their friend. Hey, like, this episode kinda makes me feel sorry for Oliver Queen? Dude’s clearly in a constant state of abject misery and loneliness.

Time to check in on Barry, who wakes up in the middle of a sparring match with Diggle. After Barry somehow manages to beat Diggle, he mentions calling on S.T.A.R. Labs for some “important Green Arrow business” (smooth, Barry). That’s interrupted by an alert that something bad is happening in the Glades. Diggle describes what it is, exactly, but it’s just gibberish to me, so... something bad is happening in the Glades, and it’s a job for the Green Arrow.

Barry manages to handle himself well during the fight, but Diggle almost gets jumped and Oliver super-speeds in to haul both Diggle and Barry away. Diggle promptly vomits into a trashcan, as is his wont. Able to talk for the first time since the life switch, Oliver is searching for answers while Barry is having fun with his new ability to climb the famous salmon ladder. Then Oliver mentions waking up in Barry and Iris’s bed, and Barry’s not having fun anymore.

Back to S.T.A.R. Labs, where they come clean to Team Flash in the hopes of figuring out how to fix it. Caitlin asks if Barry time traveled again and broke the universe and, I repeat: that’s fair. Anyway, no one believes them and even Iris is confused about why Barry would ever want to think he’s Oliver Queen. After all, Oliver Queen lives a life of constant sadness, vengeance, and desaturated colors while Barry Allen is allowed to smile and lives in a city that actually experiences sunlight. Turns out it’s all just a distraction so Iris can drug Oliver while Ralph knocks Barry out.

Both wake up in a cell, each handcuffed. When Oliver mentions that “everyone on Earth” thinks they’re each other, Barry gets the bright idea that maybe other Earths were unchanged. If they could get to Kara’s Earth, she might be able to convince everyone they’re telling the truth. Problem: they’re still in prison, which means they must break out, and that means Barry has to dislocate his thumb to escape his cuffs and then shove his hand into a toilet. Gross. On both counts. Oliver takes roughly half a second to figure out phasing and they escape, only to be stopped on the way to Kara’s Earth by Iris.

Barry talks all romantic and seems to win Iris over, so she gives them the breaching device and they head straight into...

The Smallville theme song! Okay, so actually it’s Earth-38, in Smallville, but they’re playing the Smallville theme song! I can’t fully express how much joy I felt upon hearing the early-2000s wail of Remy Zero. Bonus fun: I’m pretty sure the set that Barry and Oliver meet up with Kara, Clark, and Lois on is the actual Kent Farm set from Smallville. Either that, or a spectacular replica. Oh, this crossover is my favorite.

As Kara and Clark are chatting about Clark’s recent trip to Argo, Oliver and Barry arrive, surprising Lois, and Kara cuts in before she smashes one of their heads in with a hammer. Introductions all around. Barry is thrilled to be meeting Superman. Oliver continues to be grumpy. Really, even though the whole episode is fun, the scenes with Barry, Oliver, and Kara together in Smallville stand out. Beautiful things happen whenever Kara and Barry get to buddy up, and those things are only amplified by the contrast of Oliver’s grouchiness. It’s like two golden retriever puppies trying to play with a cantankerous old cat.

Except things go awry when the cantankerous old cat takes a swat at one of the puppies. During a training session, Barry gets his revenge over Oliver shooting him with arrows during the first crossover and Oliver snaps. Later, he confesses to harboring envy — without using the word — over how carefree Barry’s life seems to be. Oliver learns lessons and they’re accompanied by painful memories, but Barry can use Oliver’s skills and still have a good time. Oliver pretty much admits he’s only effective as the Green Arrow when he’s angry and tormented. Jeez, man. Again, this episode does a better job getting me to feel for Oliver than all the seasons of Arrow I’ve watched.

Cisco shows up on Earth-38 to call Barry and Oliver — and, since they’re there, Kara and Clark — in to help with the destructive robot rampaging through Central City. It’s AMAZO, the main antagonist of the episode, but here I am first mentioning it in the second-to-last paragraph of this review because it’s only in this episode so they can have a climactic battle at the end. And what a climactic battle it is! While Clark, Kara, and Oliver hold it down, Barry taps into his inner Oliver (i.e., he gets angry) and lands an arrow right in AMAZO’s robot eye. Oliver grins and gives Barry a thumbs-up after. It’s weird.

With the battle over, Iris and Barry have a talk that basically boils down to, “Barry, don’t turn into Oliver Queen. He’s really sad and we did that angsty stuff in season three. It didn’t work.”

Meeting up in the labs again, Cisco vibes the Monitor and Deegan, who’s holding the reality-controlling book. Oliver quickly sketches what he, Barry, and Cisco saw for everyone else and announces that their next stop is Gotham City.

Other Things:

  • Literally everything to do with the Barry/Iris/Oliver non-love triangle was comedic perfection. Like I said, the actors really had fun with this one.
  • “Guess you forgot you can’t get drunk?” “This day could not get any worse.”
  • “Are you puffing out your chest?” “Yes.” Barry’s reaction to Oliver being so... Oliver. It’s phenomenal.
  • I would love a whole episode of Kara and Barry needling Oliver and mocking his Batman Voice.


Post a Comment