These two episodes of television were too savage for Kevin and Bethany to handle alone. What happens next is nothing short of legendary, so grab a friend because it’s time to take a look at CW’s The Flash and Arrow.
This is a big ol’ two-parter and we’ve got a guest this week, so we’re gonna skip the preliminaries and go straight to the good stuff!
Spoilers below the cut.
A lot is going on in these two episodes. There’s some Arrow-centric side plot stuff we’ll ignore, since we don’t have a running review and it would be without context. To help keep everything straight, what follows is a brief summary:
Cisco’s new (not?) girlfriend, Kendra, is being hunted by some terrifying immortal named Vandal Savage (which is a wrestling name if I ever heard one) because she’s a reincarnated magic bird lady. Because ancient Egypt, I guess. Some of y’all are familiar with Hawkgirl and Hawkman from the comics, and Kendra is one half of that duo. The Hawks are a very “does what it says on the tin” couple of superheroes. They have wings and can fly? They may have other stuff but I think the only comic I read with them in it was part of Blackest Night and it’s been a while since then.
Vandal Savage is magic and Barry thinks Ollie will be better able to handle it, so they all haul ass for Star City and chill with the Arrow’s crew while they figure things out. (This is when Hawkman comes in, and he’s kind of a dick.) They discover that Vandal Savage is a 4,000-year-old immortal, and Hawkgirl and Hawkman have been reincarnated every time Vandal Savage kills them. Savage has to kill them to keep his immortality, in fact…and he’s done so 206 times already. Yikes.
Harrison and Caitlin work on a speed-boosting serum in order to give Barry what might be a useful burst of speed in his next fight with Zoom. Once they have a product, they bring Jay Garrick in because he’s the ideal test subject. Jay throws a fit about it and refuses, with an impassioned talk about the Speed Force.
Patty shoots Harrison Wells. (Not her fault.) Jay Garrick tries the serum in order to save Harrison’s life. It seems to work, so we’re likely to revisit that plotline in the future.
Barry, Malcom Merlyn, and Ollie have a meeting with Vandal Savage. They have twenty-four hours to hand over the Hawkpersons or Central City is destroyed, I will bury you under the bodies of your loved ones blah blah blah.
Barry freaks out because he sees himself while on the way to that meeting, and knows that shortly in the future he will jump back in time. Maybe.
Confrontation Take One with Vandal Savage goes horrifically, Barry goes back in time, and on the second try they manage to defeat Vandal Savage.
To start with, I have a question.
Why is Barry still convinced that changing the timeline is a bad thing?
He says this episode that it “hadn’t worked out so well for him in the past” (or something like that). What part of that didn’t work out? It was emotionally not great, I guess. I mean, like, that whole Iris thing, and he made a damn fool of himself, but practically speaking he saved a lot of lives. I mean, I think he forgets, but Cisco for real died in the other timeline, and that information helped them uncover the Reverse-Flash in their midst later.
It may be referring to him going back and not saving his mom? But he didn’t really change anything; shit just blew up in their faces because that’s how it goes sometimes.
I mean, I know Thawne-Wells told him that, but he was the Reverse-Flash and he killed Barry’s mother, so everything he said should be taken with a heavy dose of salt. He didn’t really fight Ollie too hard about it, just was kind of nervous about the whole thing, but still.
It just seems like a really weird thing to have internalized.
There’s not really an overlying theme to this two-parter, and one of the things which concerns me is that I don’t know how much this event is going to impact the storyline on The Flash. It really feels to me like Vandal Savage (that name hasn’t gotten any less goofy to me) is such a big, powerful, scary enemy that it should impact all the characters who are dealing with him. This is a new and more intense kind of magic, a new and more intense kind of ally. It’s nothing they’ve seen before, and I feel like it should open up their worldview more. This should have a “holy shit, there’s so much more out there we don’t know about” kind of impact and (minor spoiler) I’ve watched ahead far enough to know that they just go back to their own storyline. With some of the other crossover episodes, Ollie and his team coming in was at least a minor resolution of some kind of plot. It showed that Barry was willing to reach out for help (when the episode was centered around him feeling like he had to do it himself) or, in the case of the first Arrow/The Flash crossover, that it was about Barry’s lack of training and how that was impacting him, or how Barry could work with Ollie even though Ollie has a very, uh, different style of solving problems.
This crossover holds none of the same significance. It’s really cool and fun; don’t get me wrong. I liked watching it. My hero Felicity Smoak always brightens my day (though, alas, she is much more of a sidenote than I would have preferred). These episodes really were about Barry and Ollie when they weren’t about Kendra and Cisco, but there was not really any conflict resolution. It didn’t do much for Ollie and Barry’s relationship as a pair of allies and friends. I don’t know; I know it’s the jump-off for another show, and I’m glad the DCTV universe expanded for it, but honestly I feel like you could drop this Flash episode out of the series and it really probably wouldn’t make much of a difference overall.
(In fairness, the Arrow episode does seem to be moving that plot stuff around a little bit, but I’m behind enough on Arrow that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )
To end with: look, I know Felicity is ~magic~ but I still want to know how she got a Betamax tape to play that quickly.
The last crossover event between The Flash and Arrow wasn’t nearly this involved. In “Flash Vs. Arrow”, Oliver showed up to help Barry, then Barry went to Starling City to help Ollie with his own thing in “The Brave and the Bold”. The two stories were interconnected in only the loosest sense, and were otherwise self-contained episodes of their own respective series.
“Legends Of […]” is not like that. This is the first actual two-part crossover event. Flash’s stuff isn’t restricted to The Flash, and Green Arrow stuff isn’t restricted to Arrow. It’s cohesive, it’s meshed together really well, and each episode is a complete part of the story but require you to watch them together as a whole for the entire thing.
As such, my Season Pass on Google Play included both episodes, even though I didn’t purchase the full season of Arrow.
The CW had been preparing for their second Arrowverse spinoff, Legends Of Tomorrow, for a while now by the time these episodes aired. There were minor plot threads on both shows involving some of the key players – the recombination of Firestorm with Jefferson Jackson, the revival of Sara Lance, Ray Palmer being presumed dead and sending Felicity a message regarding his whereabouts – and it’s all been leading up to this moment.
Vandal Savage is in town, the Hawks are in danger, and it’s up to Barry and Oliver to protect them.
Let’s talk logistics.
Oliver has fought both alongside and against speedsters a few times now and, as is established over on his own series, is a bit of a tactical genius. Barry tends to rush in and react instead of act, although he’s been getting a lot better about that ever since Oliver first helped teach him how to fight.
They’ve advanced to the point where they mesh really well together, and it shows. Oliver is content to let Barry do his thing, and Barry more often than not takes his cues from Oliver. When Vandal Savage attacks the combined forces at Oliver and Felicity’s penthouse apartment, you’ll notice the first thing Barry does is get Oliver armed.
That’s not to say they work perfectly together. Oliver may be right about a lot of things, but he’s still kind of a huge asshole. Furthermore, while Barry has been learning strategy and how to slow down to think things through, he’s still brash and impulsive. They clash almost more often than not, which really affects their teamwork when it counts.
Vandal Savage is something they’ve never faced before. By Savage’s own admission, he’s never seen a speedster before in his very, very long life, and it only takes one encounter for him to come up with a strategy to use against Barry. Not only that, but it works – he knows Barry will go after the thrown knives to save his friends, and uses that knowledge to predict where Barry will be for a knife of his own. Moreover, he has magic, and we’re only starting to see that’s a real thing over on Arrow.
Oh, right, yeah, what’s been happening over on Arrow this season? Well, that evil blonde guy is Damian Darhk, he’s a sorcerer, magic is real, and the island flashbacks in Season Four involve the idol which powers him. Oliver is running for mayor, lots of people are dying, and since they think Roy Harper was “The Arrow”, Oliver has resurfaced as the Green Arrow, a “new” vigilante for the newly-renamed Star City.
(The same actor also voices Constantine in the Justice League Dark animated movie. He’s so much better in the role than Keanu Reeves.)
…where was I?
Right. Barry and Oliver.
When the plan goes wrong and everyone dies, Barry travels back in time and confronts Oliver about it. He calls Oliver out by saying the problem that time was him and he needs to fix his shit. Which, surprisingly, Oliver then does, and they start working better together than ever before.
All in all, a fairly solid two-parter, very cohesive and well-paced. Even better, it sets up the mid-season spinoff Legends Of Tomorrow. I’m not the best person to talk about that show, but thankfully we already have her here. So let me wrap up my thoughts with a scattered bullet-pointed list and we’ll say hello to Kate!
- Barry’s new speed is 1,375 mph, and his recorded top speed is Mach Two, which is 1,522 miles per hour at sea level.
- Zoom is three, maybe four times faster than Barry. That’s likely 6,000 miles per hour. Holy fuck.
- I AM VERY ANGRY THAT VANDAL SAVAGE IS NOT A CAVEMAN
- Vandal Savage’s leitmotif is amazing. Choir of death and biblical destruction. It’s very old-fashioned evil murdery.
- Distress call on everyone’s phone is always good.
- Cisco is really bad at secret identities.
- “Did I know we knew the Flash?” Theaaaaa
- It’s mentioned that Cisco has helped rebuild the Team Arrow locations a lot. This one is underneath Oliver Queen’s mayoral campaign offices.
- “I just saved you guys from whatever the hell Flock Of Seagulls was about to do.” Never change, Barry.
- Barry catching the knife and going “YEAH I CAN DO THAT TOO”. BADASS.
- Hawkman is an asshooooole.
- As bad as it is for us that she shot Harry, Patty did NOTHING WRONG. She warned him; he kept advancing.
- JOE. LET PATTY STAY. FUCKING TELL HER.
- My knowledge of the Hawks comes from the animated universe. In that, Carter is a human and Shayera is Thanagarian. I know the Egypt story is also a thing there too. It’s really confusing.
- [EDITOR’S NOTE: you have no idea how much more confusing it’s been in the comics.]
- Hawkgirl’s leitmotif is also amazing. Soaring, flying, heroic. Strings, horns, uplifting choir.
- Stop casting white people as Egyptians.
- “Not hubris. Hope.” Wasn’t there a war of Lantern rings where Barry became a Blue Lantern?
Previously on Legends Of Tomorrow…huh? I’m not doing that show? Oh right, the crossover that led up to it.
Prior to these episodes, both shows had been doing a lot of setup for the spinoff to come. The Atom’s arc on Arrow, Sara Lance’s resurrection, the new Firestorm pair, Leonard Snart growing into a deeper character, and Silver Age science horseshit like freezing laser beams. This two-parter puts three more pieces on the board which are central to Legends Of Tomorrow’s first season arc. There are some issues I take with it that I’ll get into in a moment, but for the most part this is a solid crossover.
The crossover works as a cohesive whole very well, something which past and future crossovers don’t quite get right. Before rewatching these episodes for this review, I’d actually forgotten which events happened on which show because the episodes flow together seamlessly and don’t feel like one show’s take on the premise. That’s not to say both episodes forget their own stories and themes. On The Flash, Barry struggles to get faster so he can stop Zoom. I’m not exactly sure why, because Barry’s villains have never needed to be faster than him to hand him his own butt. This leads to a subplot about Harry and Caitlin making a drug to help Barry run faster, and eventually leads to saving Harry’s life from a gunshot wound. Although you know what would have prevented him from getting shot in the first place? If Barry and Joe told Patty the truth. Cisco also gets some good screentime and is naturally conflicted about his new girlfriend being the reincarnation of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian priestess. To his credit, he tries very hard not to make it all about him and even encourages Kendra to let go and embrace her new life.
On Arrow we’re given a rare opportunity to have an episode devoid of any pointless flashbacks.
Damn it. Okay, I said pointless flashbacks. These are necessary backstory. At least this one doesn’t take place on an island. Instead of increasingly irrelevant flashbacks to the most eventful five years in anyone’s life, we’re treated to the other staple of Arrow: MAN PAIN. Oliver has a kid, I guess, and that’s going to cause problems in his life. Rather than actually discussing this with anyone, Oliver closes off. (Oliver close-off…hehehehe.) Anyway, I’m sure that won’t come back to bite him in the ass later in Season Four.
The two teams work so well together you almost forget they’re part of two different shows. The constant banter and ribbing going on keeps the episodes from feeling too dark and serious. A fun bit of lampshade hanging happens when Oliver notes that the farm he’s taken everyone to is much safer than S.T.A.R. Labs, what with its revolving door for supervillains to walk right into. Caitlin reminds him he’s on his third (is it third? Fourth?) Arrow Cave at this point. Oh, and the League Of Assassins is just free to come and go as they please in the newest one. People who live in glass superhero hideouts shouldn’t throw stones, I guess.
Now for the problems. I feel like they wrote themselves into a corner with where they left things off at the end here. Savage is dead, or at the very least turned to ash. Yeah, Merlyn gathers the ashes at the end to resurrect him, but how? More importantly, why? Did Merlyn lie about not knowing Savage? What does he gain by resurrecting him? Having watched and reviewed every Legends Of Tomorrow episode to date, I can tell you they’ve never addressed this at all. Kendra and Carter do say he’s dead in the pilot, and the series goes on to explain that only items which were present when the Hawks gained their powers can kill Savage, but that the object must be something belonging to or wielded by Kendra and Carter. If that’s the case, then how did Savage die in this crossover?
If you do decide to watch Legends and read my reviews, you should prepare yourself for these kinds of plot holes. Actually, prepare yourself for more than that, because they also throw time travel into the mix.
Another problem with the crossover is Savage and Carter both come off like total creepers. Talking about how they knew Kendra in another life, referring to her as “my love” and so on. Not to mention that Carter also acts like a complete sociopath and asshole. He shoves Kendra off a building and then, when it’s obvious it didn’t work and she didn’t sprout wings, he offers no apology and doesn’t even seem to care that he almost killed a woman he claims to love. And then to bookend that horrific event, Oliver pulls Barry aside to give him a talking-to for being upset about Kendra getting shoved off a roof. These guys are supposed to be heroes, right? What’s our reaction supposed to be to that? “Hahaha, he gave her a little push to get her to jump. Oh, that Carter!”
The good outweighs the bad, even if the bad is casually murderous superheroes. If this is what we can expect from Legends Of Tomorrow, then I’m really looking forward to it.
…wait, it’s already out? It’s already over halfway into its second season? I’ve been reviewing it for the past year?
Kate Spencer is a rogue Time Master and pun-based supervillain whose jokes really don’t get any better than what you’ve already read. She’s found on Twitter (@WearyKatie) or lurking over your shoulder right now OH GOD DON’T TURN AROUND
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