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.

arrow the flash legends of tomorrow legends of today crossover review caspar crump vandal savage aaron helbing todd helbing

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.

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TV Review: The Flash – Gorilla Warfare (2×07)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

Sometimes you just have to slow down to get back to where you want to be.

One of the things which is, in many ways, the most fun about The Flash is how totally and unashamedly it’s willing to lean into the more ridiculous comic book-y aspects of the premise. I mean, just a few weeks ago, they used King Shark totally and completely seriously, just for a throwaway scene. Like I said at the time, you’ve got to admire the panache of The Flash.

It’s even more apparent, though, in the Grodd episodes. Because on this program we are actually getting a massive great big telepathic Gorilla as the main foe for the episode. How ridiculously wonderful is that? And this isn’t even the first, or the last, time that we’re getting Grodd as the bad guy; he was in the first series last year, and by the looks of the end of this episode, we’ll probably be seeing Grodd again – in a full on Gorilla city episode, no less!

The production team do a really wonderful job of realising this character, actually; the CGI work is genuinely pretty impressive, managing to give this Gorilla some genuine weight and screen presence, and the fact that the reactions from all the regular cast are played entirely straight really helps to make Grodd a threatening, imposing adversary.

the flash gorilla grodd gorilla warfare review dermott downs

Another impressive aspect, I thought, was the way they reversed the usual status quo of the episodes; with Barry recovering from Zoom’s attack last week, he was stuck wheelchair bound within STAR Labs, while Cisco, Caitlin and Wells all ended up out in the field, doing the work that Barry normally does. It was an interesting set of parallels, which added a nice new aspect to the episode; the whole thing ended up feeling a little more distinct from the normal set of episodes, which is always a nice thing to see. There was a great, bitter irony to the fact that Barry ended up stuck in Wells’ wheelchair, whilst Wells was out and about in a Flash suit.

It’s worth commenting on Barry’s recovery arc, actually, because I think it was actually really well handled; Grant Gustin is a fantastic actor, who I really haven’t been singling out enough in these reviews, and Aaron and Todd Helbing (the writers) did a pretty impressive job with the actual course of the recovery, and developing the fact that this was, for Barry, much more of a mental block than a physical one. It was a rather effective way to show the repercussions of Zoom’s attacks, and I’m really hoping that we see this aspect developed further when Zoom eventually does reappear.

the flash season 2 gorilla warfare review cisco reverse flash harrison harry wells carlos valdes tom cavanagh

The performances were strong all round, really; Tom Cavanagh and Carlos Valdes remain excellent together, for one thing. It’s actually fascinating to see the slow evolution of their relationship – Cisco is starting to become a little more accepting of the E-2 Harrison Wells, and it’s interesting to see the changes in their interactions to reflect that.

John Wesley Shipp also deserves some plaudits, actually, for another great performance as Henry Allen. It is a little bit of a shame that he couldn’t just be a series regular, because he’s such a wonderful character, and a genuinely decent individual; he’s the only one of them who, despite everything, unconditionally accepted the new Wells. The handshake between the pair of them was a really nice moment.

In the end, then, this was another really entertaining episode. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and I’m looking forward to the next one – crossover episode! Fantastic. Seems like it’ll be really awesome!

8/10

This review was recently posted on the Yahoo UK website.

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TV Review: The Flash – Flash of Two Worlds (2×02)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

You defeated him because you trusted in people, because you believed in them.

Once again, we return to The Flash. It’s nice to be getting back into the swing of things again; having this show as a weekly occurrence, something to look forward to, feels very good.

We picked up from the end of the last episode, opening with Jay Garrick – the Flash of the other world – explaining his origin to the team, and introducing what’s going to be the overarching story for this season; the Multiverse. Teddy Sears has joined a fairly long (and growing!) list of excellent casting choices from the CW, bringing Jay Garrick to life with an impressive performance. I was similarly impressed by Shantel VanSanten as Patty Spivot, actually – she had a great rapport with Grant Gustin, and I’m actually quite interested to see where their relationship goes.

‘Twas also another great week for the cast we’ve come to know and love, of course. It seems worth singling out Iris in particular; whilst I never really held the same level of animosity towards Iris last year as other fans did, I think it’s fair to say she was at times under utilised, and poorly treated by the narrative. (Indeed, more scenes and deeper characterisation for Iris were amongst the things I called for prior to the beginning of the series.) It’s great to see the character being given more to do now, though, and living up to her potential; not just the love interest kept in the dark, but Barry’s closest friend, helping him when he needs it. It’s a much more effective use of the character, and I’m glad to see this change.

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Wasn’t this such a fantastic shot, by the way? I really appreciated that. That sort of thing is the kind of reference I appreciate; I’d never advocate sticking slavishly to the comics, because that’s limiting, but it is always nice to see little things like this.

The visuals were fairly impressive throughout, I’d say; I liked the flashback (haha) sequences to Earth-2, which had a nice, distinct looking visual design – I hope that’s explored further when we inevitably return there. Similarly, I quite liked the design of Sand Demon, which I thought was rather effective.

But that does bring me onto one of my two main concerns with regards to this episode – the fact that, for the second week running, the villain was killed at the end. And, actually, in a fairly brutal fashion too – this week, Sand Demon was turned to glass and smashed into tiny pieces, and last week, they irradiated Atom Smasher until his body was riddled with cancers.

It was more than a little uncomfortable, to be honest. I hope this is picked up on at some point, within the narrative, because to leave it unaddressed would be a failing on the part of the show. The Flash has always aimed to portray more traditional heroics, with an eye towards a certain level of moral integrity; it’s concerned with questions of Doing Good and Being Good, rather than anti heroism and morally grey areas. Frankly, even Arrow, as early as it’s first season, never quite let killing the bad guys go unexamined. I’d expect The Flash to do the same.

the flash review flash of two worlds jay garrick teddy sears caitlin snow danielle panabaker
Basically about as much subtlety as a glow in the dark rhinestone studded hammer. That plays electronic dance music. Loudly.

The only other thing that bothered me, really, was the way that the relationship between Jay and Caitlin was handled. Now, it seems to me to be fairly obvious that they’re trying to set up a romance there, but it felt quite poorly handled; they seemed to sacrifice any semblance of subtlety or characterisation for a few cheap jokes about how well built Teddy Sears is. (And, frankly, the best of those jokes came from Cisco anyway!) I realise it’s a bit of a difficult situation that the show is in – obviously, they don’t want to retread the “Ronnie is gone” plot arc from last year, for fear of feeling repetitive, but it does seem like a bit of glaring omission if they do leave it out. I’m not entirely convinced there’s any need to start a relationship between Jay and Caitlin anyway, mind. Likely there are other, more interesting routes to go down.

So, in essence: Another fun episode, replete with plenty of entertaining moments, but on the whole, not quite as strong as the debut episode. Nonetheless, I’m still looking forward to the next episode (why wouldn’t I be?), and I’m particularly interested in the subplot with Iris’ mother.

7/10

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