Have you ever watched a favorite show go through a particularly outlandish period which you politely indulge while patiently waiting for things to inevitably get back to normal?
That was me during The Flash’s “Legends of Today,” the first half of a two-night event that will conclude on Arrow. A magical, knive-loving immortal named Vandal Savage came to Central City because he needs to kill Kendra, that smiling-prone waitress Cisco’s been getting to know. But she’s from Wisconsin and has never even left the states? Why would anyone want to kill her? Because she’s actually the reincarnation of an Egyptian priestess, and that rascally immortal Vandal Savage’s lifeforce is somehow connected to her’s. He hunts her throughout the centuries, and every time he kills her he prolongs his life.
But, wait, there’s more. Kendra’s not his only prey. She had a lover back in Egypt who’s also been reincarnated across the years with her. They each have wings which come out of their backs but only when they want them to. The only problem is that sometimes it takes decades for them to remember who they are with each reincarnation. He arrives to protect her, fully in possession of his centuries of memories. She needs a literal push off of a roof to actually be convinced of the apparent nonsense he’s shouting about Egypt.
Meanwhile, Barry feels so out of his depth and also a tad down on himself post-Zoom that he quickly escorts Kendra and Cisco to Star City for help from Oliver Queen and pals. This mostly equates to a series of Barry/Oliver fights against Vandal, who can somehow track Kendra wherever she goes because, you know, magic. Each time, Vandal pretty much kicks their ass, especially Oliver’s (although Thea gets in some good shots the one time she gets involved). By the end of the episode, the team somehow figures out that Vandal is after a mystical staff (conveniently located in a church) which can kill Kendra for good (I think).
Barry/Oliver arrive too late, and Vandal waves the staff around and pushes it into the ground, causing green energy beams to fly throughout. He’s about to kill Barry and Oliver when he senses that Kendra has finally recovered her memories and reclaimed her wings. So, he just blows up the whole church, with him in it, because he’s an unkillable badass who’ll do whatever he wants, thank you very much.
At one point, the non-Arrow watching Flash fan sitting next to me during “Legends of Today” laughed out loud, not in response to a specific joke, instead offering more of an incredulous “What the hell is going on?” kind of reaction.
Of course, we know what’s really going on. There is a spin-off premiering in January, and this two-night event is essentially a two-hour pilot for that show. Vandal Savage will be the spin-off’s villain, and Kendra and her partner will be part of a rag-tag group of time-travelling “legends,” cherry picked from the supporting ranks of Flash (Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Firestorm) and Arrow (Sara Lance, Ray Palmer). Both Flash and Arrow have been tasked this season with beginning the transition for these characters, which often resulted in episodes with artificial tension (Duh. We know Sara’s not going to really die) and character pairings with obvious expiration dates (Why get invested in Cisco and Kendra as a couple?).
However, Sara Lance the character doesn’t know she’s leaving for a new show and can’t die yet. Kendra and Cisco don’t know that they’re a temporary couple just paired together as a way of introducing Kendra into the fictional universe and showcasing her prior to the spin-off. Each show has had to go through the motions and remember that not every viewer is a superfan who’s stayed on top of all the news and rumors.
It’s worked better than I would have ever expected. We have not one but two shows working in concert together across an entire half season to set up a joint spin-off, finally culminating in this two night event. I’ve never seen anything like this before on TV, and I’m not surprised to hear Arrow’s EP Marc Guggenheim joke that the logistical planning for the two-night event alone caused people to bleed from their brains.
The net effect, though, is that by this point I am more than ready for Legends of Tomorrow to start just so that Flash and Arrow can go back to doing their own thing. Legends of Tomorrow is clearly going to be its own brand of crazy, distinct from even Flash and Arrow. I want the immortal dude with the magic gold scepter thing, and the flying bird couple from Egypt to move over to their own show. It’s all just a little too much for me to accept when it’s on The Flash, no matter how often both Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell flash their best “This is all insane!” expressions. The Flash is a sci-fi superhero show. In that context, alternate universes are to be expected. Reincarnated winged people from Egypt and magical sceptres, though, feels torn from a different genre, something Barry and Cisco reference multiple times.
Hawkgirl/Hawkman/Vandal Savage was a bit much for me. Otherwise, this was the most fan service-y episode imaginable in the best way possible. Oh, look, there’s Cisco and Felicity working together at the new Team Arrow headquarters, so lovable and nerdy but unathletic, failing to even connect on a high five which Cisco correctly regards as being pathetic. But, wait, look over there at Thea Queen meeting The Flash and openly wondering if she actually knew that Team Arrow knew The Flash. Don’t linger too long on that, though, because you might miss Oliver and Barry giving a toast to the combined Team Arrow/Flash group in Star City, with Barry upstaging Oliver by using his super speed to steal his wine glass mid-toast.
And, ahhhh, Oliver just called Felicity “honey.” How adorable was it when she was talking to herself about the genius of the magnetic arrow she designed only to be interrupted by Oliver to let her know that they could all hear her on the com?
It was also deeply silly in a way that both The Flash and Arrow are increasingly willing to indulge. It’s like they want all of us to instantly joke on Twitter about the horrible security system at STAR Labs every time yet another person just traipses right in, the latest being “shoot first, ask questions later” Patty Spivot. Plus, they were so aware of how ridiculous it was that Malcolm and his League ninjas were just hanging out in the shadows of the Arrow cave through most of the episode that Barry hilariously asked, “Is that the only way this guy knows how to make an entrance” the second time Malcolm emerged from the shadows.
What most impressed me, though, is the way they managed to cram all of this in and still tie everything to Barry’s current emotional arc. As he tells Oliver while debating what to do with Kendra, once he had superpowers he never thought he’d feel so powerless, and even after his father’s pep talk and sonic punch of Grodd his confidence is clearly still in shambles. It would have to be after the way Zoom just epically humiliated him. “Legends of Today” didn’t forget that and tried to advance it forward, letting him briefly open up to his only real colleague in the superhero game, Oliver Queen.
Speaking of which, trying to explain that cliffhanger ending about Oliver meeting his apparent son was really hard to explain to a Flash fan who’s never bothered to watch Arrow.
Patty almost killed Harrison Welles because no one tells her anything, and when she saw Harry she made the logical assumption that Harrison was somehow still alive. He was his usual dickish self when she pointed her gun at him, and she aimed for the heart when he refused to stop moving. Damn, girl. Quick: Did she know that the other Harrison Welles had super speed? If so, I could see why she’d shoot Harry so quickly.
Maybe it’s time to let Patty in on more of the Team Flash secrets. The whole thing was ultimately an excuse to get Jay to inject Harry’s super speed serum, which he used to save Harry’s life. That serum only exists because Harry is searching for a way to make Barry as fast as Zoom. So, even though the majority of this episode was a Legends of Tomorrow set-up taking place in Star City it was nice to see them advancing the larger Zoom storyline back in STAR Labs.
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