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Which Is Better? Arrow vs. The Flash

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“Which is Better?” is a new editorial series that dares to compare the best of pretty much everything. In this rundown, I’ll break down everything from story to characters in an attempt to declare which of these superhero shows is truly better. 

Back when it was still The WB Television Network, The CW aired a superhero origin series for Superman, which you probably remember as Smallville. It was a great show in its early seasons (its prime), but it faltered over the years due to its own popularity and unwillingness to end. Essentially, things got too complicated, important characters became throwaways…it was a forgettable mess by the time it finished.

But Smallville did set the standard for modern live-action DC Comics shows. It introduced an entire generation of non-comic readers to Green Arrow, prompting the CW to move forward with a new show/remake dedicated to just that character.

You can thank a lot of the creative vision and ambition behind Arrow and other DC shows to Greg Berlanti, who got his start working on Dawson’s Creek (the similarities between these two shows are unmistakable). Though Berlanti has helped produced some major duds, including the Green Lantern movie in 2011, the director/writer/producer has found great success crafting a DC Comics television universe that has branched off into The Flash and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. He’s even the executive producer of CBS’s own DC Comics show, Supergirl.

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But the main shows we’re talking about today are truer rivals. They’ve crossed over many times, and The Flash was even introduced within an episode of Arrow. And although Arrow has been around since 2012, The Flash is already in its second season, giving us enough time to properly compare what stands out for each series.

So…which is better? (shoutout to user Tonio0064 for suggesting this entry).

It’s a hard question, and from what I’ve observed, The Flash has been considered by critics and audiences to be superior, despite how young it is. Another thing to consider is that a lot of what’s great about The Flash was pioneered by the teams who worked on Arrow, which suffered a bit from some clunky seasons trying to figure out what kind of show it had to be.

I’ve had a great time watching both shows, so I’ll be breaking down their merits in order to figure out which one really is better. But let’s be clear. Neither have failed this city.

BEST LEAD

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Both shows have titular main characters, so having a good lead has been critical to their success. Fortunately for Arrow and The Flash, Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin have done a fantastic job as Oliver Queen and Barry Allen, respectively.

They both walk a fine line between doing the comics justice, but also bringing something new to the character that non-comic fans can relate to. Oliver Queen is traditionally a hero known for being more of a left-wing robin hood type looking out for the little guy, but Amell’s take is more of a tortured warrior who fights for the greater good (at least for now).

Grant Gustin pulls off a Barry Allen with fewer wisecracks but more charm as a confident speedster with a heart of gold. And both of these characters work with larger teams instead of on their own, which is a more suitable format for television.

This is a close call, and I really like both characters. But if I had to choose one who goes just a little further with the character, then I have to pick Flash. Amell is a great actor, but he’s a bit more one-note and sullen compared to Gustin, who just seems to be having a lot more fun with his show.

Point goes to The Flash.

BEST SUPPORTING CAST

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In other words, Cisco or Felicity?

One of the most fun aspects of Arrow is how well the show has evolved its side characters. Diggle, Felicity, Thea, and even Laurel have grown into interesting characters who add more to the show than they distract from.

At the same time, though, the show often struggles with what their roles are. Specifically, Thea, Laurel, Roy, Quentin, and Sarah of all people have been hit-or-miss over the years, with Roy even leaving the show Teen Wolf-style.

The Flash, on the other hand, does more with less. Even if you compare second seasons to second seasons, Team Flash just seems to have a better sense of identity. Caitlin looks out for Barry’s health, Cisco makes the cool gadgets and decides on bad guy names, Wells comes up with the plans, Joe keeps everyone in check, and Iris is the unattainable love interest (though her character is slowly getting better than that).

This is a result of The Flash learning and avoiding the mistakes of Arrow, which gives them almost an unfair advantage. But the show still manages to learn and apply what’s worked in the past, and that’s no easy feat in the world of network television.

Point goes to The Flash.

BEST VILLAINS

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Arrow was lacking a compelling list of villains early in its first season. The enemies ranged from Nolan-verse archetypes to greedy businessmen, not the intriguing assassins and warlords that would populate future episodes. Even Merlyn was a bit underwhelming, despite his arch-villain clout.

The Flash found easy ways to introduce villains with one major event causing their arrival. The particle accelerator gave Barry and many of the villains their powers, making it Barry’s job to round them up (with the exception of foes like Captain Cold).

You’d think that would give The Flash an advantage, but this is something I don’t love about the series. For one thing, it’s a little too reminiscent of Static Shock, the animated series from the early 2000s that used very similar story elements to explain the sudden arrival of foes Static could contend with.

The major villains of The Flash have certainly been interesting in their own right, but not very unique or diverse. Sure, it’s still early, but Reverse Flash and Zoom are really just rival speedsters. Arrow did the same with Merlyn, a rival archer, but at least in its second season, it introduced two new villains who felt drastically more imposing. What made Deathstroke so great, for example, was how his story had been teased from the first season, and the “why” behind his villainy was more satisfying than Eobard Thawne’s mostly uncomplicated treachery.

I like the villains from The Flash, but I’m much more invested in the villains of Arrow, especially Floyd Lawton. Point goes to Arrow.

BEST STORY

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Included in this analysis is storytelling. Which show delivers the best experience in terms of drama and character development?

Arrow had a very promising premise in its first season that gave it the steam it needed to survive. Oliver Queen returned from presumed death after five years. While trying to readjust to his life and friends (including the ex-girlfriend he cheated on with her sister who died under his watch), Oliver took up a crusade as a vigilante, trying to redeem his city with the skills he learned while on a mysterious island.

This initial story worked well because we also saw flashbacks to the island that explained how Oliver survived and became “the vigilante.” By the time we reached the third season, however, the flashbacks quickly became pointless, feeling more like fodder for lackluster B plots. There’s a good one every now and again, but for me, these have been pretty skippable.

In contrast, The Flash utilizes “secret endings” at the end of each episode that shed light on a bigger mystery. Who is Harrison Wells, really? Who is the Reverse Flash? Who is Zoom? Strange I’m mentioning it again, but this is something Teen Wolf has excelled at in a grander sense, using mysteries you actually care about to keep you tuning in.

But does that really make the story better? No, and that’s a good thing. These mysteries are accessories to what make The Flash a fun watch, not the entire hook. I’m fine with waiting to find out which character is who because I enjoy Barry Allen’s journey as a superhero. It’s simpler than Arrow, for sure, and I like that because Flash is a less serious character, so when there’s drama, it feels more genuine when mixed with the comic relief.

This is another close call, but I have to give it to The Flash. While it may lack a narrative that hooks you in immediately, it provides a fleshed out universe that feels more fun to sink your teeth into.

VERDICT

which is better arrow flash

Well, I guess the critics are right. The Flash is better than Arrow, but it’s a closer match than I think some people realize. In everything we discussed, Arrow had many bright spots that elevate it above The Flash in some respects, especially when it comes to villains.

But overall, The Flash has benefitted from being more refined from the get-go, which is a testament to the work put in to make this show the best it could possibly be. We owe plenty of gratitude to Arrow for paving the way, but it’s honest to point out that it’s not the best, at least for now.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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I’m Not The Target Market For ‘Supergirl,’ Which Is Why I’ll Probably Love It

CBS recently unveiled their 6-minute “First Look” trailer for “Supergirl,” which is one of their first superhero TV shows ever and a new connective tissue for the ever-expanding DC comics TV universe controlled by by the mind of Greg Berlanti. Yes, “Supergirl” exists alongside established superheroes like the Arrow and Flash, who currently fight crime on the CW (a network owned by the same company as CBS). That doesn’t mean the show will crossover much or even at all with the aforementioned supers, but it could happen at least once.

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But the real story is how “Supergirl” will make its mark when it comes to its lead character. Leading up to this trailer, many speculators like me have wondered how they’ll portray the character of Kara Zor-El, the cousin of Superman. And you know what? They’ve pretty much nailed it. Look, the issue of handling female superheroes for TV and movies is extremely volatile. Just look at the craziness that erupted with Black Widow over the last month.

There’s undoubtedly a lot of people shaking their heads at how DC/CBS is tackling Supergirl (many of them are even women), but I’m not one of them. Specifically, there are some of you out there worried about having a “girly” superhero living in a romantic comedy script. I’ve heard things like, “Well I’m a guy, so this show wasn’t made for me.”

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Right, because women everywhere who love comics aren’t used to watching shows not made for them. As a guy who’s used to seeing strong, confident heroes like Black Widow and I guess Black Canary to an extent get their time, I couldn’t be more excited about seeing a younger, less sure of herself girl grow into becoming the unstoppable hero we know she can be.

Why does Supergirl have to be GoGo Tomago? Why can’t she be a little awkward and clumsy like, say, I don’t know, Clark Kent? Yes it’s a little silly, cheesy, and corny. So was “The Flash,” and we all know how that turned out. I’m not someone who easily relates to the struggles of a girl living in the big city trying to overcome self-doubt.

But that’s probably why I’ll end up loving the show. It’s new territory in the sense that the story is being told through a genre I absolutely love with a character I wouldn’t normally find relatable.

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Of course, I haven’t seen the show itself yet, so who knows how it’ll actually turn out. I’m a little wary of Jimmy-er-James Olsen being portrayed by this cool and confident professional instead of the bumbling, shy nerd we know from the comics. I’m not crazy about Toyman and Hank Henshaw essentially being the new Harrison Wells/Caitlin Snow (really guys? Can’t we do something different for this show?)

But as for Supergirl herself, I think CBS is onto something, and it’s great news for all of us if other studios start taking notes.

Also

  • Any nitpicks I could make about the overall casting is essentially obliterated by the fact that Melissa Benoist (Whiplash) is playing the main character. They nailed it.
  • The premise of fighting alien threats a la metahumans in “Flash” is interesting enough. It’s good that Kara will have some challenging opponents along with Metallo.
  • Hopefully, this shadow Superman will reveal himself as Dean Cain in the finale (that’s a joke).
  • That costume is the 1.0 version (think “Daredevil”). Hold off all complaints until we see the official version.
  • Wow, “Gotham” is really starting to look like a missed opportunity at this point.

Review: ‘Arrow’

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I HATE the CW. It doesn’t even try to make shows for my demographic, and hey that is alright. But with Arrow, the superhero biopic based on the quasi-well-known D.C. superhero Green Arrow, could just might show a more balanced network on channel 5.

Having premiered back in September, I’ve given the show 6 episodes to prove itself, so this review is based on my impression of those 6 episodes alone.

The first thing you need to know about this new show is that it has absolutely no connection with the Green Arrow of Smallville fame, which is great news for probably most people. That version of Green Arrow differs tremendously from this new envisioned hero. It’s like comparing pop music to rock n roll, or at least that’s how I make sense of it.

Arrow relies on the kind of gritty storytelling that borrows somewhat from Chris Nolan’s Batman and, surprisingly, Lost. I never really got into Lost having only watched 10 or so episodes, but if there’s one thing I took away from their storytelling, it’s the use of ongoing flashbacks to bolster the story. So, imagine a superhero television show that paces itself like Lost.

In a nutshell, Arrow is about a 20 something billionaire named Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who was shipwrecked at sea for 5 years. He returns from his isolation with an agenda: to use his superhuman  skills acquired mysteriously from his time on the island to the right the wrongs of his father, who acquired his wealth by taking advantage of the poor.

Yes it’s Robin Hood mixed with Batman with the show Revenge for good measure. One of the show’s strong points is that we are introduced slowly to the character of Oliver Queen. We begin with his return to his home of Starling City, as he juggles reconnecting with his estranged family/friends and taking down the crony capitalists that are choking the city to death. arrow-stephen-amell-cw

That’s Arrow’s biggest strength: character development. Oliver is interesting and constantly changing. One minute he is a brooding anti-hero unafraid to kill someone who stands in his way. The next minute he is a detective, figuring out the best way to subdue his well-protected enemies. Then we have the minutes where Oliver is an actual person, struggling to fit back into the lives of his beloved family who thought he was dead for years. Oh, and let’s not forget that we are treated to excellent flashbacks to his 5 years of desperate survival that turned him into the character we already know. The show goes out of its way to make Oliver Queen a great character.

I wish I could say the same for some of the other characters. With the exception of Oliver’s mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) and Oliver’s bodyguard Dig (David Ramsey), the rest of Arrow’s cast are either one-note or should be one-note. This is more apparent early-on with Laurel (Katie Cassidy), Oliver’s girlfriend before the shipwreck, of which he cheated on her with her sister, who did not survive the shipwreck. Yikes. Although this character is ripe with great plot opportunities for drama, I did not find Cassidy’s portrayal of the character very compelling or fun to watch. Watching her be a lawyer is especially frustrating and full of one-liners like, “I’m the only one who cares about this city!” and “I will always fight for the little guy!” Sorry Laurel, Rachel Dawes did it better.

I could go on and on about the lackluster characters, but instead I’ll focus on how the show ultimately redeems itself via the excellent pacing, memorable villains, above-average action scenes, and the show’s fantastic commitment to comic-book tie-ins. Even the people who don’t recognize the nuance references to the D.C. comic universe benefit from the rich universe this show borrows from. It works.

The show is on a good path, and it’s only main flaw (again the characters) is improving weekly. If there is one thing that can really make this show a must-watch, it would be the implementation of more moral “real world” dilemmas that we all know and love from D.C. stories such as Batman (at what point do you become the villain you’re fighting against?) and Superman (security versus freedom). Arrow has teased us with these deep questions, such as how Oliver Queen has readily murdered dozens of bodyguards and security personnel to accomplish his missions. At first we rolled our eyes at the inconsistency of this, but then a major villain early on actually points this out to Green Arrow and it sunk in. Oliver then begins to show how his torture on the island made him callous and depraved. These are great themes more than suitable for a D.C. character.

So yes, Arrow is definitely worth watching for most people. It has the beautiful actors and supernatural-ish world and characters CW watchers crave and it has the fantastic storytelling and action that is usually witnessed on ABC and Fox. It’s a fun show that can sometimes throw drama-infused curveballs, and I can’t wait to see how the first season turns out.

-On a side note, I am very much against D.C. copying Marvel for a superhero team up movie in the form of The Justice League to rival The Avengers. Shows like this prove that D.C. belongs on the small screen, and a team up using this version of Green Arrow would be 10 times better than using, say Ryan Reynold’s Green Lantern. We’ll see if I eat my words once Man of Steel comes out.

 

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