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

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TV Review: The Flash – The Man Who Saved Central City (2×01)

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

My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive. It’s been six months since the Singularity. I’m on my own now. Decided it’s better that way. Keeps the people I care about safe.

The Flash is back! I have been looking forward to this ever since the season finale, which was possibly one of the best episodes of TV I watched during that year. Certainly, it was the best piece of superhero related TV that I watched that year, easily trumping both Gotham and Agents of SHIELD, and subjectively more enjoyable than most of Daredevil in terms of my own personal tastes. I’ve had October 6th marked on my calendar since May. (And I’ve had the 13th October marked on my calendar since I realised that the 6th was only the US airdate.)

Essentially, then, expectations were high for this episode. Last year’s Fast Enough ended on one of those cliffhangers – you know the sort where it’s really aggravating, because you’re really into the plot, and it’s got you on the edge of your seat, and then it’s got you standing shouting at the TV screen, but you know you can’t begrudge the show that, because it’s been so brilliant, it’s really earned that cliffhanger? (No one knows what I mean? Really? Oh, well, that’s the type of cliffhanger that it was, anyway.)

Rather cleverly, I think, they chose to subvert expectations and not pick up immediately from after the cliffhanger – they shifted a little bit, moved the setting around, and we picked up 6 months later, with a well executed dream sequence. It’s not the sort of thing I’m typically very fond of, but I think it worked rather well here – the direction was quite well done, and subtly pointed to the fact that it was a dream sequence, before the appearance of Eddie and Wells really confirmed that. The slow pan around the room, and then zooming out, served to emphasis how alone Barry had made himself, and quite how empty the cortex is without the rest of the STAR Labs team joining Barry. Again, that’s down to the direction – it worked very well.

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Now, admittedly, what I am not so certain of is quite how well they used this concept. I’m in two minds about it all, really – on the one hand, I’m glad that the production team have their own view of the Flash as being a relatively bright and optimistic hero, and I doubt that dwelling on Barry isolating himself would really have worked here.

But, equally, since they brought it up, I want them to have explored it, you know? We have a missing six months, which genuinely sound to have been quite interesting – I want to know about the immediate aftermath of the singularity. How did Cisco begin to work with Joe? What’s been happening to Caitlin? How did Iris cope with the death of Eddie? How did Dr. Stein and Caitlin cope, in their own different ways, with the death of Ronnie? The consequences and repercussions of the finale all seem to have been paid lip service, but essentially skipped over for a reset of the status quo.

It bothers me a little, because I feel like we maybe lost out a little bit; would it have worked better as a three episode arc, at the start of the series? An episode focused on Barry, an episode largely focused on Cisco and Joe, with episode three being where they get the band back together? It’s hard to say. That might certainly have been more effective in telling the story of those repercussions, but that doesn’t seem to be the story they’re interested in telling – the production team wants to get onto the story of the Multiverse, with Zoom and Jay Garrick.

And, you know, it is hard to begrudge them that, because I am really very excited for that story…

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Another thing that I quite liked was the concept of Flash day. It’s an interesting idea that really seems to have legs (haha), and I hope they really run with it (hahaha). It’s setting up the fact that the Flash, unlike Arrow, is a much more of a public figure – the city knows about him, and they like him, too. It’s something that I think they can do quite a lot with, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.

As ever, it was nice to see all the different characters returning – Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, Iris, Joe, and Dr Stein. Lots of fun moments from the all; Cisco remains as funny as ever, and it was great to see some scenes between Joe and Iris, which was one of the things I’d been hoping to see from this series. (The full list is linked to at the bottom of the page.)

Of course, one of the most important moments of the episode was the release of Henry Allen from prison, as a result of Harrison Wells’ confession video. That was a genuinely fantastic moment, which really added to the complex nature of the relationship between Barry and Wells. (There’s a link to an analysis of that at the bottom of the page.) I’m really looking forward to seeing Tom Cavanagh return at various points throughout this series.

Henry Allen’s release and return home was rather well handled, I felt; Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp conveyed the emotion of it well, and it was nice to see everyone together at the welcome home party, happy and laughing. I’m not so sure about their reason to remove Henry, admittedly – I realise that they couldn’t keep JWS as a season regular, but perhaps it’d have been easier if he’d simply said that he’d rather live away from Central City, but he wants Barry to visit him as often as possible? It felt that the reason they gave was a little weak and contrived.

Still, though. This was a fun episode, and whilst it wasn’t quite at the same heights as the best of last series, it was a strong opener, that managed to balance most of its responsibilities reasonably well. Very much looking forward to next week’s episode! 7/10

(I actually found a set of deleted scenes online, which you can see here, here, and here. I think the episode would have improved a fair bit if they’d been kept it, so it’s a shame they were lost!)

Related:

The Flash reviews

Supergirl reviews

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