Wednesday, December 2, 2015

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver Leads the Team Against Vandal Savage While Barry Changes the Timeline in 'Legends of Yesterday'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 4.08 "Legends of Yesterday"

Oliver and Barry take Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall to a remote location to keep them hidden from Vandal Savage while they figure out how to defeat him. Malcolm arranges a meeting between Vandal, Green Arrow and The Flash that doesn't go as planned. Felicity, Thea, Diggle and Laurel work with Team Flash to come up with a weapon powerful enough to destroy Vandal Savage.

Unlike last year's big crossover event between Arrow and The Flash, "Legends of Yesterday" is actually a continuation of the story from last night's episode of The Flash. That's apparent rather quickly into this episode as well. Some of the big stories include Barry traveling back in time to avoid the destruction of Central City at the hand of Vandal Savage, Kendra honing her newfound powers as Hawkgirl and Cisco dealing with his complicated feelings for Kendra. The Flash part of this universe has always been better at balancing light and dark moments. Arrow typically goes for the dark emotions - though it has gotten much better at balancing things this season. This episode has a lot of story to it just like this week's episode of The Flash. But it also feels more like a week with two Flash episodes that feature characters from Arrow than the balance being reversed in this episode.

Despite this not feeling completely like an episode of Arrow, it's still rather exciting to watch because the story was so interesting and compelling last night. Team Green Arrow and Team Flash have joined forces in order to protect Carter and Kendra - who are ancient Egyptian royalty who reincarnate every time they die - from the immortal villain Vandal Savage. Oliver and Barry actually get the opportunity to chat with Vandal when Malcolm Merlyn sets up a meeting. It establishes the threat he is to everything the two heroes hold dear. He vows to kill everyone they care about if they don't hand over Kendra and Carter in 24 hours. It creates an urgency for this episode that is able to drive the story forward despite some bumpy spots.

The teams come up with a plan to kill Vandal before he can kill Kendra and Carter. They believe they understand how his magical staff works because of a recorded message from the 1970s they get from A.R.G.U.S. They believe they can turn the tables against Vandal and use his power against him. They have Kendra and Carter pose as bait before launching this assault on him. It does not go according to plan. It's a great action sequence. But it also ends with Vandal using the staff to destroy everything around him. Multiple characters die which forces Barry to run fast enough to time travel. It's something he knew he has going to do. But the thing that he was running from was much more sinister and deadly than he could have imagined.

Barry traveling through time allows for a couple of key scenes and relationships to play out differently. It's because of that that the team eventually emerges victorious against Vandal. Barry warns Oliver of what has happened. He is the only person who knows that Barry has time traveled. That forces Oliver to be more of a leader. The first time the team went up against Vandal in this episode he was distracted due to a fight with Felicity. And now, Barry knows what went wrong and how Oliver can fix it. It doesn't make that problem of Oliver's go away but it does allow him to embrace the situation as something where he needs everyone's help in order to win. That means he needs to do things differently than before. Cisco needs to be the one to help Kendra unlock the secrets of her past. The entire plan needs to change after Barry's warning. Kendra is the only person who can possibly give some insight into actually destroying Vandal.

The team is successful in that venture as well. Kendra retells the story of her and Carter's first death and how Vandal gained his immortality abilities. The explanation is basically meteorites hit ancient Egypt and gave them all these powers. It's because of Cisco that Kendra was able to unlock that memory. So now, the entire team is able to go into battle with this new resource - a rock from the same meteorite - to fight Vandal with. It leads to an even more impressive fight sequence because the whole time is involved. This isn't a big episode for Diggle, Thea or Laurel. But they contribute their part during this final battle. In the end though, it's up to Barry and Oliver to turn the staff against Vandal. He is decimated to a pile of dirt. The team can celebrate. Though it won't be for too long, considering Malcolm has a nefarious plan to resurrect Vandal somehow. That's a tease that will probably be paid off on the spinoff, Legends of Tomorrow. But it's still a very tantalizing prospect for the future.

The only story in this episode that comes directly from Arrow is Oliver realizing he has a son with a past girlfriend, Samantha. That's a thread that has been teased over the past two seasons. It's now being paid off with Oliver learning the truth. And yet, it's just an excuse for Oliver to keep a secret from Felicity again. Secrets are a part of the comic book genre. But they never really make for compelling television. The reason why Oliver isn't telling Felicity about his son is very stupid too. Samantha will only let him have a relationship with her son, William, if he promises not to tell anyone about it. It's very infuriating. Felicity finds out the truth and confronts Oliver about it. But that is rendered moot once Barry travels back in time. After that, Oliver makes the same mistake and keeps it a secret. Felicity doesn't know by hour's end. It's a story that feels like it's just going to add needless drama to Oliver and Felicity as a couple. That's really not all that necessary right now. Still it doesn't bring down this episode too much.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Legends of Yesterday" was directed by Thor Freudenthal with story by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim and teleplay by Brian Ford Sullivan & Marc Guggenheim.
  • Those ancient Egyptian flashbacks were pretty rough. Ciara Renée was much more comfortable playing in that time period than Falk Hentschel and Casper Crump were. And yet, they were so much better than more island flashbacks. 
  • Not only does the Flash have an action figure already but so does Captain Cold. That's an amusing detail.
  • Diggle's new helmet is still the worse new piece of costuming. But the Hawkman and Hawkgirl outfits are pretty silly as well.
  • Barry teases that there will be consequences from him running back in time for Oliver and the rest of Team Green Arrow. That's an interesting tease for the future. 
  • Kendra decides to leave with Carter as soon as their battle with Vandal is finally over. It's just because her importance to the plot is no longer necessary which means she gets to leave town. It's just more setup for Legends of Tomorrow. And yet, her final conversation with Cisco was pretty good.