Let’s just agree that Flash’s “Legends of Today” wasn’t much of a Flash episode, and Arrow’s “Legends of Yesterday” really wasn’t much of an Arrow episode. The producers said their goal was to invert things, do more of an Arrow episode in the Flash half of the crossover event and then more of a Flash episode in the Arrow half. So, we got magic and mysticism on The Flash and crazy time-travel on Arrow. However, the overall story was one told over two nights, and the end result is something which felt more like a movie with two somewhat distinct halves and less like two episodes of television. That’s really just my way of saying that I don’t completely know how to judge the effectiveness of the episodes. I just know that for what they were they were both a lot of fun, although I don’t know if an Arrow episode has ever looked any campier.
To recap, crazy Egyptians keep killing each other over the centuries, their battles ever-lasting thanks to the power of perpetual reincarnation. The latest reincarnations, Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall, have been tracked down by Vandal Savage, whose immortality stems from his success in continually killing Kendra and Carter over the years. Savage’s presence in Central City helped Kendra recover her memories and accept the truth of her identity, much to her would-be boyfriend Cisco’s dismay. Barry and Oliver tried to defeat Vandal. Got their asses kicked. Went out for some coffee, saw Oliver’s bastard son. End Part 1.
Part 2 instantly pulls a Avengers: Age of Ultron and drops the heroes down in a farmhouse in some remote, unidentified location. Don’t worry. If this reminds you too much of Age of Ultron, Thea points out how she thinks she saw this kind of thing in a movie one time. Oliver assigns everyone tasks, which basically boil down to “Caitlin, Cisco, Felicity – you do science-y, tech things. Laurel, Thea, Diggle – you do police-like things. Barry – do funny things with your super speed and CSI-like things back at your lab. Carter and Kendra – go train or something. Compare wing sizes. I don’t know. I have an illegitimate son to go stalk and an ex-girlfriend to confront. I sure hope that she doesn’t tell me that the only way I can be a part of my son’s life is if I keep it a total secret from everyone I know, almost as if she sensed I was in a committed, loving relationship which needed a somewhat artificial obstacle thrown at it because some force larger than us worried we were becoming boring.”
Malcolm arranges a meeting between Green Arrow, Flash and Vandal. Mostly, Vandal thinks The Flash is pretty awesome. He’s never seen anyone with that ability, and that’s saying a lot coming from someone who’s been alive since the days of ancient Egypt. However, he only agreed to the meeting out of curiosity and threatens to do standard “kill everyone” bad guy stuff if Kendra and Carter aren’t handed over to him.
What to do, what to do – oh, they know. Carter will train Kendra to reclaim her ancient warrior side, and Vandal will never see it coming when she unleashes hell on him after Barry and Oliver pretend to turn them over. It should distract Vandal just long enough for Barry and Oliver to steal his fancy golden scepter. They’ll instantly use it against its former master, thus hopefully vanquishing Vandal once and for all.
Along the way, Cisco backs off to let Kendra train with Carter without distractions, Oliver has a huge fight with Felicity when she immediately catches him in a lie about his son, and rather than take back-up our mini-Justice League decides to leave Canary, Speedy and Diggle back home before confronting Savage. The plan goes so poorly that quite literally everyone other than Barry dies. Not only does Savage effortless dispose of Kendra and Carter he more or less uses the power of the dark side to turn Barry and Oliver’s assault with the scepter into a gigantic energy bomb which sweeps throughout the tri-state area (as Phineas & Ferb would put it) and engulfs everyone in flames, burning through their skin and down to their bones, T2-style. We watch every single character who’s been in this episode go out as if caught in the blast radius of an atomic bomb.
Wow. It’s a good thing that Barry runs away from the energy blast so fast that he travels back in time to the begging of the episode when they first met with Vandal for a cordial chat. Well, Oliver did shoot him with a couple of arrows, and then had to listen to him laugh and spout some “I am an immortal” blabber about how he’s the one who taught Robin Hood how to shoot an arrow.
And that, my friends, is merely the halfway point of the episode. If you’ll recall, when The Flash did its first big time travel episode last season it did so as a two-parter, with Barry traveling through time at the end of part 1 and then immediately changing things and feeling terrible about the repercussions in part 2. The universe will have its balance, and if Cisco died in the erased timeline from part 1 someone else had to die in part 2. Smallville did something similar when Clark traveled back in time to save Lana Lang’s life.
“Legends of Today” nods toward all of that, with Barry frequently mentioning how nervous he is about them drastically changing history. However, Oliver understandably asks how much worse things could get if the alternative is everyone dying. So, they do things differently. They figure out why Cisco’s tech which was supposed to help them wield the scepter didn’t work the first time. Oliver waits to see about his son until after they’ve fought Vandal, convinces Cisco to step up and give Kendra a motivational speech because clearly Carter wasn’t cutting it, and ultimately decides to bring the other costumed members of the team with them to the final confrontation. Kendra does manage to tap into her warrior side, and the Team Arrow sidekicks provide just enough of a distraction for Barry and Oliver to reduce Vandal to literal dust.
It’s an immensely enjoyable turn of events, masterfully revisiting the scenes we’d already glimpsed and displaying exactly how Oliver would still take charge and use time travel to his advantage. It leads to multiple lovely scenes, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, such as Oliver giving Cisco a pep talk or playing with his son for the first time.
There is still a sense of foreboding by the end, hints that Barry’s worries were well-founded and that there will be temporal ramifications. These things are often built around secrets. Barry got to see what it would be like if he told Iris the truth last season, but what he did with that knowledge made things worse because he forgot that there were extreme, life-threatening circumstances which inspired Iris to admit her mutual love for him and his time-traveling erased all of that. On Smallville, Clark Kent got to see what his life would be like if Lana knew about his Kryptonian past, and the end result was her death, City of Angels-style. The difference here is that Oliver is not the one who did the time traveling, but he knows through Barry that Felicity will pretty much break up with him if he lies to her about his son. So, he uses that knowledge to commit himself to doing a better job of making sure she doesn’t find out.
That’s going to end well.
There are several ways you could react to this specific plot development. I used the word “artificial” earlier as a joke, but it’s not too far off from how I actually feel. This entire scenario seems just a bit too contrived, going from a factor 1 “Really?” to a full-on factor 10. I know that they had the mother state her case and defend her logic, but this feels more like a “We needed a mid-season twist to throw at Oliver and Felicity” than something which has arisen organically. You can understand Oliver’s point of view as well as Felicity’s, yet you also wish that just for once when Felicity ambushes Oliver like that, as she did multiple times last season, that he’d actually explain himself. Granted, that’s not his strong point, but I just want to see what Felicity would have said if he’d confessed, “I’ve only known about this for maybe a day, and the mom won’t let me be a part of his life unless I keep it a secret from everyone, including you. I am still processing all of this, and I’m sorry but I don’t know what to do.”
We all knew that Oliver’s son was going to come back into the picture at some point. I just didn’t expect them to manufacture this into a situation in which Oliver would have to choose between Felicity or his son through rather convoluted “Feliicity wants me to be completely honest with her” but “My baby momma wants me to lie to everyone” means. Still, that scene with Oliver playing with his son, happily picking up the Captain Cold action figure and being the bad guy to his son’s Flash, goes on the Stephen Amell highlight reel.
Now that the two-part event is over, can we agree on some things?
- Hawkgirl and Hawkman came out of this whole thing kind of a barely coherent mess. However, if you actually know Hawkgirl and Hawkman’s comic book back story then them coming out of this as a “barely coherent mess” is a minor miracle.
- The sooner those Hawkgirl and Hawkman costumes leave our screens the better.
- These episodes didn’t really have anything for Iris or Laurel and barely anything for Caitlin, Thea or Diggle.
- We are obligated to endlessly geek out over the moment when Oliver Queen actually said, “Run, Barry. Run!”
- Of course the Arrow half of the two-parter is the one that had to have the flashbacks.
- Can we rejoice that all of this Legends of Tomorrow set-up is finally (finally!) behind us? Flash can return to defeating Zoom, and Arrow can get back to the world’s worst mayoral campaign as well as the long death march to uncovering who’s in that damn grave.
- Let’s laugh about the obvious hair extensions and CW cheapness of the Egypt flashbacks.
- Let’s briefly get serious and ask if the CW should follow the example of the Gods of Egypt producers and issue an apology for largely whitewashing two-thirds of its significant Egyptian characters. After that, let’s get real and remember that this is the CW, and we shouldn’t be taking Arrow and Flash so seriously.
- The ending with Vandal Savage reduced to a pile of dust which Malcolm Merlyn scoops up and says some nonsense about bringing him back to life was both curious and annoying.
- No matter how hard they try, Black Canary’s sonic choker-enhanced scream will always look silly.
- Let’s appreciate how much goofy fun these episodes were and worry about the rest of it (Legends of Tomorrow, Oliver’s potential relationship-ending crisis with Felicity) later.
Or do you disagree with some of those thoughts? Or anything else I said in the review?
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