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Superheroes on TV: Ego 

Superheroes on TV: Ego
Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

We’ve taken some dark turns in the DC realm as both The Flash and Arrow end their second and fourth seasons, respectively. Superheroes on TV takes a look at why ego is fragile and unpredictable, and we’ll also look at where this leaves us for the next seasons.

Zoom holds Joe West Hostage
Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

If you didn’t hate Zoom before, how could you not hate him after he killed Henry right in front of Barry? Henry, the man whose name we spent the entire first season trying to clear for the murder of his wife, Barry’s mother. The man who encouraged Flash to always do right and refused to let Flash break him out of Iron Heights. Henry was the last relative in Barry’s actual bloodline, and the last tether Barry had to his mother.

It is understandable why Henry would be used as a plot device to move Barry forward, but that doesn’t lessen the pain of watching Barry lose his father. The act, which sent Barry over the edge and into a fit of rage, is exactly what Zoom has wanted from the beginning. We have never seen Barry lose control, and all sense of purpose, like he did when he admitted to Joe that he not only wanted to kill Zoom, but he also wanted to see him suffer. “Now you and I are exactly the same,” Zoom kept repeating in “The Race of His Life.” Was this was a sick and twisted attempt at finding common ground, or is it really as banal as Zoom needing an equal so he can prove he’s better?

Without giving himself time to properly mourn Henry, Barry is so obsessed with beating Zoom that he refuses to listen to reason; not even Joe nor Iris can pull Barry from his insistence on racing. Blinded by both his ego and rage, Barry is tranquilized by the rest of the team. While he is out, they come together to formulate their own plan to send Zoom back to Earth-2.

The Flash "The Race of His Life" Season 2 finale
Photo Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

Team Flash’s plan works, except that Joe gets pulled into Earth-2 with Zoom. Barry is furious when he learns what happens and now has to both save Joe and defeat Zoom before the Multiverse is destroyed. Though somewhere between being a prisoner and racing Zoom, Barry finds some humility and is able to outsmart Zoom by creating a time remnant. It causes enough of a stir that Time Wraiths find them and take Zoom away while Barry’s remnant destroys himself in the process of shutting down the Earth(s) ending machine.

However, once Zoom is gone, they learn that the REAL Jay Garrick is actually a Henry doppelganger; a revelation that rocks Barry to his very core. (An “ah-ha” moment from a few episodes back when Henry told Barry that his mother’s maiden name was Garrick.) As Barry and Iris share a quite moment (and a sweet kiss!), he reveals just how hollow and broken the experience has left him. For all the selfless behavior it took to defeat Zoom, that ego rears its head once more as Barry travels back in time to the night of his mother’s death. Only this time, he stops Reverse Flash from killing Nora.

What will this do to the timeline? How will stopping Reverse Flash alter all of the events from the first season? Utterly empty on the inside, Barry goes back in time to stop the single most defining moment of his life from ever happening. As mentioned earlier this season, family has a way of being a point of weakness for our heroes, and it feels like this is going to take a lot longer for Barry to recover from.

Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW
Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW

Oliver’s ego has been in flux for most of Arrow‘s fourth season. Unlike Barry, Oliver finally acknowledged his arrogance when talking to Felicity after Darhk’s Ghosts shoot up their HQ.

“I just can’t believe that I thought I’d be the one to unite this city while Damien Darhk was trying to kill it. It was arrogant. The same arrogance that made me feel like I could be the Green Arrow without descending into darkness. Bottom line, it was foolish.”

It’s about time a character acknowledge that their ego has gotten in the way of their success. His realization hits when we also see a flashback of Amanda Waller telling Oliver, “Sometimes killing is the only path to justice.” That’s a tough pill to swallow because heroes are supposed to believe that justice belongs in the hands of the proper authorities. Yet one of the most frustrating things about that narrative is that the bad guys don’t play by the same rules.

Think back to how malicious Andy was in the threats he was making to John. He flat out said nothing his brother could do would ever stop him from coming after his family. While John Diggle had a hard time coming to terms with having killed his brother, was there any other possible course of action that would have kept his family safe?

Arrow "Schism" Season 4 finale
Photo Credit: Bettina Strauss/The CW

When you’re dealing with relentless killers, there comes a certain point where “kill ’em with kindness” no longer applies. Good reason I’d never be a good hero, but it seems to me that some criminals deserve a certain finality so they will not have another opportunity to wreak havoc. Does that mean there’s a good side to Oliver’s ego that made him think killing was not a solution? Or was his arrogance wrapped up in the thought that he could lead two separate lives while also keeping said lives separate within himself?

Oliver’s “descent into darkness” as he calls it, however, does not look anything like the villain’s he’s fought in these four seasons. The Green Arrow may spend an inordinate amount of time on the wrong side of the law, but it does not inherently make him a bad guy. There is no perfect formula for being a hero; which is exactly what allows Arrow to keep its humanity.

What happens now that the team has gone their separate ways? What becomes of a world where we’ve now got to deal with the fallout of a nuclear attack? “Schism” left absolutely everything up in the air for Arrow‘s fifth season. There was no hint at a new big bad, and no sign of who will step in now that we’ve lost some of Team Arrow.

The Flash and Arrow (along with DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and now Supergirl) all return to The CW this fall. Despite not knowing which direction each show is heading just yet, we can rest assured that a massive 4-way crossover event is sure to happen.

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