LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you've seen "The Flash" season one, episode eight, titled "Flash vs. Arrow."
On Tuesday, Team "Arrow" -- Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and John Diggle (David Ramsey) paid a visit to Central City for the first part of The CW's ambitious two-night crossover between "The Flash" and its gritty antecedent. On Wednesday, Team Flash is returning the favor by heading to "Arrow's" Starling City, where Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) will experience the harsh realities of what it means to be a hero in the Arrow's world.
On "The Flash," we saw Felicity ask Caitlin for help in solving the mystery of who killed Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), as well as the brief return of Caitlin's fiance Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) -- now imbued with meta-human abilities that will transform him into DC Comics hero Firestorm. Though we didn't see a reunion between the pair in last night's episode, Panabaker previewed, "Having Ronnie come back is very challenging for Caitlin; she's been grieving the loss, and then she has to grieve him all over again because he's not at all who she remembered him to be."
The episode's final few minutes also brought Oliver into contact with an ex-girlfriend (as yet unnamed on the show, but our money's on Sandra Hawke), last seen pregnant with Oliver's child in season two of "Arrow," when Oliver's mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) paid her two million dollars to tell Oliver that she'd lost the baby and leave Starling forever. While Oliver is still unaware of that child -- who should now be around seven -- executive producer Andrew Kreisberg promised that reveal "is going to have major repercussions on 'Arrow' down the road."
But first, the two teams will have to deal with the threat posed by Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang (Nick Tarabay), who is "one of the toughest guys that Arrow faces," according to Ramsey. "He will place Diggle in some very serious situations." Diggle's reaction to Barry's powers was one of the highlights of the "Flash" hour, but Ramsey told Variety that his encounter with meta-human abilities has given his character a new perspective. "There's always been an equal playing field for Diggle; it's soldiers against soldiers. Even when he first joined Oliver's crusade, it's like 'you're not a soldier, but this is what it's like to be a soldier,' so Flash changes the playing field in Diggle's mind. What do you do with that type of power? And we play with that, because there's some personal investment that Diggle's gonna have in terms of coming to grips with [Barry's] power; there's gonna be some threats against his family and he's gonna need some things that he didn't think he needed. So there's going to be a full circle that Diggle's going to come through in terms of dealing with these new powers that he's coming into contact with."
Amell said that the events of Wednesday's "Arrow" will serve as a "reality check" for Team Flash, telling Variety that they'll learn that "these stakes are real and at some point it's going to stop being all fun and games." The episode will teach Oliver a valuable lesson, too: "Oliver has a moment to grow a little bit, to play well with others, to think a little more about the concept of team... and then that all gets thrown to s-- in the next episode, immediately, and he has to go out on his own."
Both Panabaker and Valdes agreed that the events of "Arrow's" hour, titled "The Brave and the Bold," will have a lasting effect on their characters. "It changes Caitlin and Cisco because they're always behind the protective desk and computers, and in the 'Arrow' episode, they're really confronted with the life and death situations they're in," said Panabaker.
"Caitlin and Cisco get stuck in these high-pressure situations on 'Arrow' where they have to apply their technology and know-how in very creative ways, and it's really brilliant actually; Cisco applies his technological prowess and Caitlin applies her medical know-how and it really works out," Valdes added.
While the "Flash" installment featured a physical altercation between the two heroes, Kreisberg teased, "the 'Arrow' side of it is much more a clash of moralities, and it's really about the way Barry goes about things and Barry's version of being a hero coming into conflict with Oliver's version of being a hero. It ties back to something Oliver said to Barry in the pilot: 'You can inspire people in a way I never could,' and that line, while great for launching Barry, comes back to bite Oliver in the ass in this episode."
Rickards agreed, "It's interesting how a story will evolve. So if you're physical first, then [you have] the lesson afterwards, and the lesson is still a work in progress on our side, because there is a goal at hand; there's a crime to be solved; there's a villain to catch; there's an emergency... so they need to go into this realm where they can teach each other things in our episode and they come to an understanding at the end of it, hopefully on the same level."
Once "Flash" debuted, Rickards paid a visit to Central City before the crossover, and similarly, tonight's episode isn't Gustin's first visit to "Arrow," which was where his character was introduced. The actor admitted that it was "much more familiar this time -- I'd done it before and I'd been playing this character for eight episodes at that point. I felt more defined as far as who my Barry Allen was, so I felt a little bit looser and fun." And as a self-professed fan of "Arrow," Gustin noted just how satisfying it was to see both teams in the Arrow's hidden base at the Foundry together. "It was very funny, and [had] some very serious, heightened scenes -- it made for very good television."
"Arrow" is a much darker show than "The Flash" by design, but Team Flash carried over some of their trademark humor on their visit to Starling. "My favorite interactions in the show were working with David Ramsey and Colton Haynes [Roy Harper], 'cause I can't keep it together and they can't keep it together, so you put the three of us in a room -- specifically a car -- it's a disaster, it's a catastrophe in the best of ways," Valdes recalled with a laugh. Executive producer Marc Guggenheim teased that Cisco's encounter with Thea (Willa Holland) was another highlight for him, and took the opportunity to preview some of the other major developments coming in "The Brave and the Bold."
"We're gonna see a big development with Lyla [Audrey Marie Anderson]; there's gonna be a change in even the Arrow's equipment and his costume as a result of this two-hour event, and we're also bringing meta-humans to Starling City, so some pretty big stuff coming," Guggenheim teased. "And lots of fun surprises in terms of how everyone interacts. Part of the fun of a crossover is not just crossing over the two leads and the two heroes, but the two supporting teams as well, and seeing how they interact and seeing the different combinations of characters that are now possible, that's a lot of fun."
"Arrow" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.