Arrow 2.08 “The Scientist” REVIEW

Episode 2.08
Writers: Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns
Director: Michael Schultz

THE ONE WHERE: Central City forensics assistant Barry Allen arrives in Starling, investigating a baffling robbery from Queen Consolidated. Moira, meanwhile, turns to the power of Ra’s al Ghul to deal with Malcolm’s presence in her life.

THE VERDICT: Mission creep. That’s what they call it: the slow mutation of original objectives in a military campaign. When Arrow began it was clearly a disciple of Christopher Nolan’s grounded, no frills worldview, where the flamboyant and fantastical world of superheroes was reduced to the grittily explicable. And just as Smallville ’s infamous “No tights, no flights” policy corroded to the point where the Justice Society of America could prance through a storyline in all their caped glory, so this midseason finale of Arrow moves to align Starling City just a little closer to its comic book roots.

From its inhumanly strong antagonist to its tales of mysterious domestic tornadoes with the power to fling people 20 blocks from home, this is an episode that’s out to test the boundaries of the show – the “things that defy explanation”, inhabiting a reality that feels far removed from the show’s comfort zone of stubbly vigilantes stalking rooftops. As Dig says, “My god – what next? Aliens?” Don’t bet against it…

Of course the main sell of “The Scientist” is the introduction of another card from DC’s Top Trumps set of superheroic icons. This is very much an introduction for Barry Allen and not the Flash, though. Glee ’s Grant Gustin makes for a surprisingly dorky take on Barry, reimagined as a loser in the tradition of Peter Parker – an effective counterpoint to Stephen Amell’s impassive alpha male. It’s an affable, winning turn for all that it strays from the comic books – no wonder he and Felicity want to jump each other’s geek-bones, given they share the exact same performance style – and there’s a wittily teasing nod to the four-colour origin of the Flash as he pokes around a labful of chemical jars while a storm rages outside.

Shame there’s no actual scarlet speedster action – are they saving that for the spin-off show? Or would it be a reality-leap too far for the series at this point?

TRIVIA: The superhero that ignited the Silver Age of comics, the Barry Allen version of the Flash debuted in the pages of Showcase 4 in 1956. He was a sleeker, more SF-flavoured spin on the Golden Age Flash, first seen in Flash Comics 1 in 1940. Allen died in the multiverse-quaking Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1985 but has recently reclaimed his place in DC continuity.

TRIVIA 2: Barry’s maudlin info-dump regarding the fate of his mother actually ties in with recent additions to DC canon. 2010’s Flash: Rebirth – written by Geoff Johns, co-writer of this very episode – revealed that Nora Allen died at the hands of time-travelling supervillain Professor Zoom, a man clearly compelled to perform dastardly acts of evil to stop people sniggering at his name.

HMM: If Slade really is dead in flashback then that’s… unexpected. And a bit of a loss to the show. Say it ain’t so!

DID YOU SPOT?: The centrifuge is the product of Kord Enterprises, owned by Ted Kord, alias the second Blue Beetle in the comic books. There was a shout-out to Ted in season one’s “The Undertaking”.

DID YOU SPOT? 2 : Barry mentions that his boss is named Singh, a nod to comic book character David Singh, introduced to the DCU in 2010’s The Flash: Secret Files And Origins .

Felicity: “Did you do something to your hair?”
Moira: “Yes, I shampooed it without eight women and a guard watching.”

Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD

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