THE FLASH Season 5 Episode 9 Review: Barry Takes Up Oliver’s Bow

After putting in five years, the annual DC crossover has become a little bit of a stale event. Anytime something is a regular occurrence, it runs the risk of feeling obligatory rather than special. It doesn’t help that the typically enormous cast and multi-show storylines can often stop the episodes from accessible to fans who don’t keep up with every DC show on the CW.

To my surprise and relief, however, Elseworlds manages to avoid many of these pitfalls from previous years. Largely, it does so by not taking itself too seriously and leaning into the buddy comedy element of superhero teamups.

The timing of the event helped a great deal as well, since this year the 100th episode got to serve as the midseason finale and have the Nora and Cicada plotlines reach a stopping point. This meant crossover felt like more of a fun bonus story than a distraction. 

The premise is a pretty straightforward bodyswap story that sees Oliver and Barry switch lives unexpectedly. The writers smartly chose not to spend too much time bothering with the “hows” or “whys” and just had fun with the trope. All of the highlights, like Barry’s aghast reaction to an Iris/Oliver marriage or his long awaited revenge for getting shot were embracing the lighter elements of their predicament instead of dwelling on the urgency of it or how the ability to alter reality even exists. 

Of course, despite keeping this story much leaner in terms of casts, it’s not a crossover without some guest stars. Aside from Ollie and Kara keeping up their annual trek to Central City, we also got no less than Superman and Lois Lane making an appearance. Elizabeth Tulloch is a warm and snarky Lois, although she sadly given little to do in this installment, which also serves as her character debut. And Tyler Hoechlin’s Clark Kent is, as ever, full of geeky Kansas charm, and his Superman is a wonder combination of kind and intimidatingly powerful. While there were a few token one liners, most of his interactions were with Kara and Lois, and there wasn’t any type of bond or dynamic established between him and the heroes from Earth-1 to plant any Justice League seeds. 

I was excited when I Iearned Amazo, a fan favorite robot from the comic book world who can absorb anyone’s powers, would be a villain for a crossover, as adding more heroes to the mix just makes him harder to fight. Certainly, the cackling mad scientist they stuck Jeremy Davies with wasn’t going to give him any competition in that department. Unfortunately, his big battle scene ended up being rather anticlimactic, but in fairness, most trilogies tend to save their best fight scenes for later on. 

The swap also started to get a little too stretched at this point as well by tying each character’s abilities into their personality. To avoid a repeating the Barry loses his speed story we’ve seen a few times, the writers make up for it by giving him Ollie’s skills combat skills. This works just fine during the first half, but while Speed Force is made up fantasy element you can add rules like to, it’s kind of silly to pretend you have to draw on pain and misery to be a good archer. Thankfully, this was a pretty minor element; even Barry trying to embrace his inner Oliver led to some silly moment like her and Kara imitating the Green Arrow voice, so the overall tone of the piece didn’t suffer. 

Ultimately, THE FLASH is a light-hearted and optimistic series, and it was nice to see a crossover reflect some of those elements. I’ve heard some fans express frustration with is that with this current set up, they are losing an episode of a show they like to gain a crossover that often is very different in mood and character from what they’re a fan of. The Elseworlds crossover has a much better chance than previous years of keeping these fans happy by keeping the spirit of THE FLASH alive and well but still living up to its annual promise of bringing together characters across the wider DC universe.

Written by Kaitlin Roberts, THE FLASH Beat Writer

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