TV Review: Arrow – Legends of Yesterday (4×08)

Arrow The Flash Crossover Logo Legends of Yesterday review Grant Gustin Stephen Amell

Wait, the ‘Indiana Jones’ reference is the only thing I understood. 

So, typically, I don’t review episodes of Arrow, on account of my being quite so far behind on the series, but I thought I needed to make an exception for this episode, given that it’s the second part of the annual crossover special.

This episode opens with a flashback to Ancient Egypt, showing us the first life of Kendra and Carter, as well as the beginning of their enmity with Vandal Savage. It’s a clever move, and a good way to adapt the flashback structure of Arrow to fit with this episode; last year, one of the main issues with the crossover episode, The Brave and the Bold, was that they tried to maintain the typical Arrow flashback structure. The problem, though, was that it had little relevance to the main plot of the episode, and was more than a little overshadowed by the appearance of Barry, Cisco and Caitlin.

Here, though, the use of the flashbacks ties into the main plot of the episode really well, and gives us an interesting insight into the past lives of the Hawks. It’s a rather neat, effective little structural cue that has a significant impact on the story, where we get to see more of Kendra learning about her powers – and, more importantly, where we see Kendra in a position of greater authority than Carter. I must admit, I did find him quite obnoxious still in this episode – saying things like “I’ve always been the planner, and now I’m starting to understand why” really began to grate after a while – so it was nice to see Kendra starting to push back against that.

(One other things, with regards to the Hawks – I’m not really certain how I feel about the actual execution of their powers. The costume they wear aren’t great, and the wings don’t look amazing either. Perhaps I’m being a tad critical, but still. It’s something to think about for Legends of Tomorrow, when the time comes; the problem I have isn’t so much the CGI, but the style and design of the wings. It looks questionable; wings just aren’t like that, so there’s something a little off and disconcerting about seeing them here like this.)

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In many ways, this episode is a significant improvement on its predecessor; although there’s quite a few characters who don’t really get much of a look in, like Thea or Diggle (and I kind of got the impression Laurel was only in it because of Katie Cassidy’s contract) or Caitlin, the entire episode felt a lot more balanced and better paced than Legends of Today. I think that’s in part because the episode was much more focused – even the digression with regards to Oliver’s child, which I’ll come to in a minute, had a direct impact on the main plot. That’s something that couldn’t be said in the previous episode, and I’m glad they made the change this go around.

Something I found quite interesting here was the fact that they used Barry’s time travel powers. It was rather a surprise, actually – I thought they’d be a little too ‘out there’ for Arrow, given that it’s typically a little more grounded. Still, I suppose now that they’re delving into magic and mysticism, that’s unlikely to remain to be the case. Regardless, it was used well (and I suppose it’s important to include that, given that Legends of Tomorrow is going to be a time travel program) and I quite liked the way the different characters dealt with it. Barry, obviously, was pretty shaken up, which is understandable given his experiences last season, but Oliver was interestingly pragmatic about the whole thing, taking the opportunity for a second chance and rolling with it.

Another useful implication of the time travel aspect is to emphasise the power of Vandal Savage; he’s such a serious adversary, they need to change time to deal with him. That’s something that’s only been true of Eobard Thawne previously, and in making that the case here, it means that Vandal Savage has a certain weight to him as a villain – he’s treated as a threat on the same level as villains who took entire seasons to deal with.

(In terms of the final resolution – I was quite surprised by the fact that they killed Vandal Savage off, with Malcolm Merlyn doing something to bring him back. I was expecting him to simply escape, though I suppose this was a deliberate move to counter expectations. Wonder how they’ll address it in Legends of Tomorrow?)

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The other major plot point of this episode was the introduction of Oliver’s son – an arc they’ve been building to for nearly two years, given that the first indication of his existence came towards the end of season 2.

Oliver discovers the existence of William (not, interestingly, Connor Hawke; somewhat surprising, given the existence of the comics character and the upcoming time travel program) and begins to make efforts to get to know his son – keeping it all secret at Samantha’s behest, however. That was something I found interesting, although it’s clear that this is a set up for future drama, particularly given Felicity’s reaction to the news in the aborted timeline. (I must say, though, I found her reaction to be more than a little unreasonable – if that’s how the character was depicted throughout last year, I can understand why people became so aggravated with her.)

I’m not certain where it’ll go, but I am looking forward to eventually seeing how it all pans out – it’s a really interesting storyline, with a lot of potential, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they explore that. (As an aside – does anyone think it’s possible they’re going to depict William as having autism? I’m speaking from a place of ignorance, but the character did seem to fit most of the TV stereotypes for depictions of autism – obsessed with the Flash, quiet, didn’t make eye contact much. It’s perhaps more likely that I’m reading too far into it though.)

In the end, then, this was a very enjoyable episode of Arrow; it managed to improve on the flaws of its counterpart, whilst at the same time building a fun and engaging storyline, and laying the groundwork for a compelling ongoing plot.

9/10

This review was recently posted on the Yahoo UK website.

Related:

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TV Review: The Flash – Legends of Today (2×08)

The Flash Arrow Crossover Logo legends of tomorrow legends of today legends of yesterday review

When did our lives suddenly become an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie?

This week, we’ve got the now traditional annual crossover event between The Flash and its parent show Arrow. (They even have special logos! How nice.) This time around, though, unlike last year, it’s a two-part story – rather than the largely self-contained episodes we got last season, this time, you need to watch both episodes to get a satisfactory, complete story.

Of course, what’s also new is the fact that these two crossover episodes are also acting as set-up for the upcoming spin-off program, Legends of Tomorrow – which you can probably tell from the titles! That means, then, that we’re here introduced to two new characters who are going to have pivotal roles in Legends of Tomorrow, and get the superhero origin for a third: Vandal Savage, the main villain in the new program, as well as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, two iconic DC heroes.

Hawkgirl, of course, is someone we’ve already been introduced to – Kendra Saunders, played by Ciara Renee, who we’ve seen enter into a relationship with Cisco over the past few episodes. She’s very much filling the role of a fish out of water here, given the pretty seismic revelations about her life that are going on; not only is Kendra a metahuman, but she’s also a 4000-year-old reincarnated Egyptian warrior princess. It’s definitely the sort of knowledge that’s going to make you question a few things, and Ciara Renee does a great job of portraying a subtle, understated reaction to this change.

It helps, though, that we already sort of know the character, having seen her relationship with Cisco develop over the past few weeks – and, of course, the fact that Ciaran Renee gives a fairly charming performance anyway. Falk Hentschel as Hawkman, or Carter Hall, doesn’t really fare quite so well; he’s in the position where he already knows about his past lives, and in his attempts to explain it to Kendra, comes across as a rather condescending and obnoxious character. The character is borderline insufferable, and I really hope that changes when he returns on Legends of Tomorrow in January.

Most successful of all the new character introductions, though, is Vandal Savage. Casper Crump does a great job of portraying this villain as someone who’s genuinely powerful; he’s got a very commanding, very threatening screen presence. He’s an impressive villain, who you can believe would be a significant enough threat to warrant a spin-off program dedicated to him; none of our heroes this week, from Arrow or The Flash are able to properly beat him. They can barely hold him at bay; the episode ends with him achieving his aim, and both parties simply leaving. Barry might have rationalised it as a tie, but it’s undeniable – Vandal Savage is the winner at the end of this episode, and it really sets him up as a properly intimidating villain.

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Naturally, though, we still have our main cast – of both shows, that is.

This episode starts with Barry pushing himself, trying to get faster, and reflecting on his battle with Zoom once more. It’s nice to see a callback to this confrontation, and delve into how it’s beginning to haunt Barry; it shows a certain vulnerability to him, and emphasises the fact despite his superpowers, Barry is still impacted by what goes on around him. It’s something that’s returned to later on in this episode, with Barry admitting to Oliver that, despite everything, he’s “never felt so powerless”. I do really appreciate the fact that, even though this is primarily an action adventure show with a focus on superheroics, The Flash isn’t letting character moments take a backseat, and they’re still making sure to keep including them in the narrative.

Similarly, we had a lot going on for Cisco this week, in terms of his relationship with Kendra – which is obviously now in a very different place, after the revelations as to her true identity. Carlos Valdes does another great job here, really proving quite how talented he is, and demonstrating that there’s a lot of depth to Cisco as a character – he’s not just a comedic side character who gives the occasional technobabble explanation. There’s an interesting examination here of how Cisco has been dealing with his own powers as a Metahuman, which does in fact have some nice emotional weight to it – like I’ve already said, I’m glad that these characters are being developed throughout each episode.

In terms of the Arrow crew, the most significant appearances were reserved for Felicity and Oliver, as you’d likely expect – although Thea certainly got some good lines it too. I’m a little behind on Arrow (by which I mean, I’ve not yet caught up past the end of season 2 yet) but it’s nice to see these characters interact with the ones from The Flash. It does help to remind us of the fact that there is a shared universe here – I’m consistently impressed at what the CW has managed to achieve over the past few years with these characters and this world.

the flash review barry allen grant gustin cisco ramon carlos valdes legends of tomorrow

Admittedly, though, not everything about this episode is perfect. It’s more than a little overstuffed – with quite so many things going on, it’s difficult to really let any of them breathe. Appearances from John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn aren’t really as effective as they should be; they happen so quickly and with little explanation that it means Merlin is reduced to simple exposition dumps at times when the script needs to move along somehow. Neither Thea nor Diggle (nor Iris, come to think of it) had a huge amount to do in these episodes, because they were simply crowded out by everything else that was going on.

Similarly, the subplot with Harrison Wells, Caitlin and Jay didn’t really work either. It very much felt like something that was shoehorned into the plot for the sole and only purpose of ensuring that there was something that wasn’t crossing over this week. It would have been better, I think, had this simply been excised to allow the main plot more room to breathe, and just dedicate more time to developing different aspects of the plot. Whilst I can understand the need to set up Velocity 6, given that it’ll likely be important in future episodes, I’m not really seeing any reason why it had to be this week – there’s nothing here that’s going to follow over immediately, so why not just save it for an upcoming ‘freak-of-the-week’ episode that has fewer responsibilities?

Ultimately, it’s this feeling of being overstuffed that hampers the episode, and holds it back from being quite as good as it should have been. It is a shame, because I’d been looking forward to it for quite a while. Regardless, though, this was a thoroughly entertaining episode of The Flash, and I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of this story on Arrow.

8/10

This review was recently posted on the Yahoo UK website.

Related:

The Flash reviews

Supergirl reviews

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