A few days ago I finished speeding through the latest Netflix-available seasons of The Flash and Arrow, seasons one and three, respectively. I enjoyed both but found The Flash‘s freshman efforts to be more enjoyable than Arrow’s third year antics.
Here’s my courtesy *SPOILER WARNING* (though they my randomly ordered topics below probably won’t reveal anything major).
Villain of the Week Works on The Flash
Barry Allen and the S.T.A.R. Lab team encounters a different (super)villain in almost every episode. Someone I was speaking with the other day cited the Monster of the Week formula as one of the reasons he liked The Flash (he never got into Arrow). Personally, when I saw the first few episodes of The Flash and realized they were going with this formula, I was deterred from watching the show; I was afraid the Monster of the Week trope and the inevitability of filler episodes would make the show feel dragged out. However, I found the primary story arc was compelling and pushed forward enough throughout the season for the Monster of the Week setup not to feel noticeable.
Arrow doesn’t use this formula which, generally, is a good thing. However, the primary arc of season three isn’t as interesting as The Flash.(and it didn’t help that the plot is mostly propelled by certain characters reacting inconsistently/arbitrarily). Of course, being multiple seasons in, it’s difficult to stay fresh. So, it’s somewhat unfair to compare the two series this way. Oh well, moving on—
Oliver Queen Having Less Sex
My other post concerning Arrow focused on how Oliver Queen romanced and/or slept with seven different women within the first two seasons. If memory serves, season three keeps Mr. Queen focused on one love interest. He must be settling down in his early thirties (he probably reads Barney Stinson’s blog—”don’t even think of getting married till you’re thirty”).
So, while Oliver Queen is having less sex than he used to, I think Barry Allen is having no sex (unless I wasn’t paying attention). I’m not sure who’s the winner here. The comedic romance on The Flash is more fun to watch than the drama on Arrow, but Ollie is definitely a better closer than Barry. I guess a 30-year-old former billionaire playboy might have more game than a 25-year-old forensic scientist.
Family Gets On Your Nerves
I find most of the family-related drama on Arrow to be annoying, not only in this season but the entire series. Though I’m reluctant to admit it, I was somewhat relieved when they killed off a family member in season two. Thea has continued to be irritating with her angst and inconsistencies in season three, but I like where they ended up with her. Biological family aside, Ollie’s vigilante family are also overly emo this season—every single one of them. They needed to bring in outsider Ray Palmer to dilute the angst, and even he was melancholic a quarter of the time.
Barry Allen has a father in prison, two father figures, a pseudo-sister he’s in love with (not as creepy as it sounds), and a sort of family with the S.T.A.R. Labs geeks, and none of them are as half as annoying as the Arrow family. The lesson here is that if you have negative feelings, you should bury it (with jokes, science, and karaoke).
Yes, he gets an entire section for himself. Routh as a slightly awkward Ray Palmer adds a freshness (a la an extra dose of comic relief) to the super-somber, self-loathing characters of Arrow. I don’t go out of my way to watch Brandon Routh’s work, but since his role as Clark Kent in Superman Returns (which I liked—didn’t love it, but I liked it), I’ve enjoyed seeing Routh show up in other stuff (e.g., Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night). The way The Flash references Routh’s past as the Man of Steel during a crossover episode made me smile.
Favorite Supporting Characters and Cast (Aside From Routh)
The Flash has an awesome supporting cast, but my top three go to: Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells; Jesse L. Martin as Joe West; and Rick Cosnett as Eddie Thawne. Barry Alen’s two father figures worked well in the story and performances by Cavanagh and Martin were good. My only complaint with Dr. Wells is when they tried to make Cavanagh look younger in a flashback. That didn’t work. As for Eddie Thawne, I found him more likable than the Flash at times, mostly when he is the center of comic relief in a scene but also during moments when you feel bad for the guy.
Honorable mentions: The other S.T.A.R. Lab nerds, Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) for being adorable; and Wentworth Miller for having an awesome bad guy voice (a slightly nasally, American version of V from V for Vendetta).
Arrow has a giant roster, but if I had to choose the top three, I’ll go with: Karl Yune as Maseo Yamashiro; Katrina Law as Nyssa al Ghul; Michael Rowe as Floyd Lawton aka Floyd Lawton. Maseo is very likable in the flashbacks and mildly cool during the scenes in the present, and I can’t complain about Yune’s performance. Nyssa al Ghul is one of the more digestible characters this season perhaps because, in contrast to the other characters, her motivations are simple and clear. Nyssa’s lack of obnoxious qualities actually neutralizes Laurel Lance’s obnoxiousness whenever they share a scene. As for Deadshot, he’s on the list because the episode which focuses on his PTSD is one of the most memorable in the entire season (I’m curious to see Will Smith playing Deadshot in the Suicide Squad movie).
Honorable mentions: Roy Harper whom I like even though he’s one of the least developed characters (like Nyssa, he is also more straightforward and less flip-floppy in rationale; he feels guilty about killing a dude, and he loves Thea—that is all). Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is a bit too angsty this time around, letting Ray Palmer steal the number one spot as Arrow‘s most adorable geek this season.
Most annoying characters (it’s the characters I found annoying, not the actors): Laurel Lance, Quentin Lance, and Thea Whatever-her-last-name-is.
And the Winner is: The Flash (in short: more fun, less melodrama)
I like drama and sorrow to be heavily padded by humor. Though I can appreciate darker works, I lean towards the light; it’s the reason I watch certain sitcoms repeatedly (e.g., Friends, HIMYM, and New Girl to a lesser extent). So, though I like Arrow and found the Daredevil series to be amazing, I am much more likely to re-watch The Flash because it’s lighter.
For this season (and maybe the past seasons), I found the Arrow characters to be too inconsistent in their reactions to being lied to or “betrayed.” It’s a dice roll every time, and I’m not a fan of it.
Also, I have a soft spot for straight-shooting good guys (straight-shooting morally, not with the bow and arrow). So, while Oliver Queen’s badassery is cool, I prefer watching Barry Allen stumble around women (though I was rooting for Arrow during the crossover episode where they butt heads).
Overall, The Flash‘s first season was more fun to watch than Arrow‘s third, but I’ll definitely continue with both as soon as they pop up on Netflix. Keep it coming.
Side note: I’ve come to be at peace with DC’s decision to keep their television universe apart from the film universe (Ben Affleck showing up on The Flash would be super weird).