Arrow’ season 3 lets loose its eighth installment of the year with “The Brave and the Bold,” as ‘The Flash’ comes to town to aid Oliver in pursuit of a boomerang-throwing killer, only to find the spree has deeper ties to A.R.G.U.S. and Diggle’s wife Lyla. Previous installment “Draw Back Your Bow” saw Oliver tangling with the obsessed “Cupid” Carrie Cutter (Amy Gumenick), while Felicity found herself in an unexpected encounter with Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh), and Thea auditioned DJs for the club’s reopening, so what does the eighth episode of ‘Arrow’ season 3 bring? Can Oliver be both himself and the ‘Arrow’ vigilante? What does Barry bring to Starling City? Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’ season 3, episode 8, “The Brave and the Bold!”

TV crossovers are unique, in that they force an audience to reexamine the lens through which we view a given story. Stellar though last night’s “Flash vs. Arrow” was, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that “The Brave and the Bold” needed to function as an ‘Arrow’ episode first and foremost, even as those who skipped last night’s predecessor might end up somewhat flummoxed by Cisco and Caitlin’s arrival. ‘Flash’ is certainly the newer and shinier of the two series, and I’d almost forgotten the ‘Arrow’ structure upon arrival of its first flashback, though for as often as the dialogue exposed the differences between the two series, I’d go so far as to say “The Brave and the Bold” proved a more effective ‘Arrow’ installment than conclusion to any kind of crossover.

The easiest and most topical comparison to draw between ‘Arrow’ and ‘Flash’ would be that of Batman and Superman, the TV heroes ostensibly acting as stand-ins for a studio unwilling to license its most profitable characters to television. The writers clearly had a great deal of fun with that idea, both in principal and practice, as Cisco gets to crack wise about an “Arrow-mobile,” and Barry literally runs circles around Oliver to show how easily he can overtake any of Oliver’s missions. The real challenge of “The Brave and the Bold” lies in establishing that Oliver’s methods, though admittedly slower, have their own place in the world of crime-fighting. The involvement of Lyla and A.R.G.U.S. did well to drive that home, as while we’re clearly meant to see Waller or even Lyla’s methods as a more absolute extreme, Lyla’s presence supports Oliver’s position of extreme measures combating more realistic and deadly threats.

Caitlin and Cisco latch onto the idea eventually, and the writing really did a phenomenal job of showing that the campier, super-powered nature of ‘Flash’ villains has a side-effect of insulating its characters to the realism of threats at hand. Both Boomerang’s willingness to kill, and the less sunny tone of ‘Arrow’ and Starling itself make a wonderful counterpoint to last night’s ‘Flash,’ but “The Brave and the Bold” certainly works to establish that point on its own as well.

More than that however, “The Brave and the Bold” plays up its heroes’ friendship every bit as much as philosophical dichotomies, and even slyly managed to touch on ‘Arrow’ season 3’s exploration of identity as a whole. I’m increasingly wary of ‘Arrow’’s flashbacks, given that Oliver’s present journey continually pushes farther and farther away from the character evolution we see in the past, and while their inclusion tonight seemed risky in an episode already jam-packed with content, the lesson learned in Oliver’s failure to prevent the explosion did serve an adequate moral counterpoint. Oliver worries that his Hong Kong-learned “Arrow” capacity to torture criminals strips away at his humanity, a sentiment Barry certainly echoes upon realizing the extent of the vigilante’s methods, though the concept successfully swings back to see Barry reminding Oliver of the good he can do as his public persona. Oliver himself can inspire Starling in ways the Arrow never could, and that’s an incredible idea for superhero TV to plumb, one we might not even expect from Batman’s cinematic ventures.

"Batfleck-brooding is Ezra Miller's problem, anyway."

Of course, those looking for any real movement on Sara’s murder or Ra’s al Ghul’s plans for Starling will have to wait until next week, but Captain Boomerang’s appearance and the A.R.G.U.S. involvement at least keep some of ‘Arrow’’s other major threads in use, ominously foreboding that neither Lyla, nor her organization will prove as altruistic as they claim. Boomerang in particular worked well within the context of either series, bringing to the table a visually unique fighting style that felt grounded in reality without losing itself in the gimmick, but still posed a credibly fantastical threat, even to the fastest man alive.

‘Arrow’ often struggles with its one-off villains (something ‘The Flash’ has become increasingly guilty of as well), though the Boomerang character’s history and Suicide Squad ties added a bit of additional interest. I’d only add that the hour’s climax ended up a little rushed, never stopping to answer any of the logistical questions of how Barry might have so successfully synced all four of his helpers to stop five bombs at exactly the right second, but … well, TV and all.

Honestly, there was a tremendous amount to enjoy here, and I could go on for pages, but it was also an especially nice touch to include all of ‘Arrow’’s supporting cast wherever possible, even in such banal reminders of Thea’s new DJ boyfriend. Diggle ended up a bit sidelined with Lyla before the climax too, though the swing back to include Diggle’s proposal cap to the running gag of their lacking marriage sweetly warmed over any exclusion. I hesitate to call “The Brave and the Bold” one of the best ‘Arrow’ installments of the series, given its self-admittedly one-off nature, but tonight’s hour was extremely well-handled all around, and as fun and geeky as it was an insightful counterpoint, both to ‘The Flash,’ and ‘Arrow’’s character sensibilities overall.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Whoever that initial A.R.G.U.S. goon was, his notable charisma quickly elevated the exchange beyond what we usually expect from police bit roles. Kudos, random actor!
  • Who wants to guess that Waller herself somehow arranged the Hong Kong bombings as an impossible threat for Oliver to defuse?
  • Oh ha ha, super-speed salmon ladder, guys. Barry’s still not super-strong!
  • Still, Quentin and Lyla’s reactions to The Flash were pretty priceless.
  • Felicity with a grenade! Take that, obligatory flaming striptease.
  • Anytime Barry super-speeds another person, this is all I can hear.
  • Captain Boomerang, unkmates with Slade Wilson! Crixus and Ashur, together again!
  • And a ‘Rocky 3’ ending!
  • No Roy flips this week, but at least Oliver got one!

Well, what say you? Did ‘Arrow’ hit the mark with its eighth season 3 installment? How did you feel about Oliver and Barry’s second team-up? Give us your thoughts in the comments, and check back next week for our review of ‘Arrow’ season 3’s epic midseason finale, “The Climb” on The CW!