Tuesday, December 1, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Flash' - The Flash and Green Arrow Team Up to Fight Vandal Savage & Protect Hawkgirl in 'Legends of Today'

The CW's The Flash - Episode 2.08 "Legends of Today"

Vandal Savage arrives in Central City and sets his sights on Kendra Saunders. Realizing how dangerous Vandal is, Barry takes Kendra to Star City and asks Oliver to hide her until he can figure out how to stop Vandal. Things quickly go from bad to worse when a man with wings shows up and flies off with Kendra. Harrison develops a serum to make Barry run faster and asks Jay to test it out.

A lot of "Legends of Today" is about character and world building for the upcoming spinoff Legends of Tomorrow (which is debuting in January). The piece of action that forces Team Flash and Team Green Arrow to unite comes from Vandal Savage attacking Cisco's new girlfriend, Kendra Saunders. Those two characters are going to be prominent figures in the upcoming series - as is Hawkman who makes his debut halfway through this episode as well. This hour is overflowing with big events and characters from all three shows. And yet, all of it works because it is just so much fun. The Flash and Arrow had a very successful crossover event a year ago. This one is even better because it unifies the team in ways that are both dramatic and playful. It showcases the best in all of these characters across all of the shows. That's such a rewarding and thrilling success that it infuses the hour with so much exciting energy.

"Legends of Today" throws a lot of information at the audience. Vandal Savage is an immortal who has been hunting down Hawkman and Hawkgirl in all of their reincarnated lives. Kendra is really just the latest life of an ancient Egyptian priestess who is destined to fall in love with Hawkman's Prince in every lifetime. Every time Vandal kills them, he gets more powerful. And yet, Vandal is an intimidating foe long before the team learns more about him. He has a penchant for knife throwing that makes for some really cool special effects work as well as some grisly deaths. He is a very intimidating villain. He's a welcome stand-in for the season-long villains and stories the Flash and Green Arrow are dealing with right now. Zoom and Damien Darhk are still threats that are discussed in this episode. But Vandal is the more immediate danger.

It's a bit suspicious that Barry thinks of taking Kendra to Star City and Team Green Arrow as soon as he learns she's in danger. His explanation is that they have a better understanding of what it's like to fight against an enemy who has magical powers. However, the Flash's brief fight with Vandal at the start of the hour really doesn't seem to suggest any magical abilities. Still, it's a great way to quickly establish this as the crossover episode. It's a celebration for the two teams. Everyone is in danger simply because they are near Kendra and they don't know her full story yet. But it's also a great time to catch up. Cisco complains about how Team Green Arrow messed up his designs for their new lair. Thea has a very awkward and funny reaction to learning that Oliver is best friends with the Flash. And then, Barry and Felicity just chat about how crazy all of their lives have gotten as of late. Yes, the stakes are incredibly high in this episode - especially as it seems Kendra's life is constantly in danger. But it's also great to see the human element of this story. This is a big reunion amongst friends. Diggle still hasn't gotten used to traveling at Barry's speeds. But everyone is happy to see each other again.

Of course, the additions of Malcolm Merlyn and Hawkman complicate this reunion. They are the ones who provide the team with all the information they need to know about Vandal Savage. Kendra needs to experience an awakening of sorts in order to truly protect herself from this foe. The team is immediately distrustful of Hawkman when he first appears. He just snatches Kendra up and no one knows why. They don't understand this world as well as he does. It leads to a pretty fantastic fight sequence between Hawkman, Green Arrow and the Flash. This episode also showcases the new tricks Barry and Oliver have picked up over the past year. It's impressive and fun to see the other use them in action.

All of this is building up to Kendra embracing her destiny and the heroes attempting to stop Vandal before he gets his hands on a powerful weapon. Even though Kendra has barely been a presence previously this season, she has so much value as the central point of this episode. This is all so life-changing to her. She can't explain why she moved to Central City. But she did so with purpose. She never could have imagined this kind of a life for her. And yet, it's also something she is willing to embrace. She jumps off a building and her wings emerge. She may need some more practice to get a hang of things but she is willing to embrace her destiny now. That's a good thing too considering Barry and Oliver are struggling in their fight against Vandal. This weapon of his is very powerful. It's much more dangerous than his knives. Barry and Oliver and skilled fighters but in this moment they are defeated. Vandal disappears knowing that Kendra has just become Hawkgirl. It's a slightly weird place to leave the story. But it also sets things up perfectly to continue tomorrow night on Arrow.

This episode isn't completely about Vandal Savage and The Flash-Arrow crossover though. Things are happening back at STAR Labs as well that directly tie in to Barry's fight with Zoom. Wells-2 and Caitlin have created a formula called Velocity-6 that may increase Barry's speed so he is better abled to fight Zoom in the future. They want Jay to test it out since he previously had the speed force in him. He refuses for some idealistic reason about science not being the answer to his or Barry's problems. Honestly, it's hard to understand exactly what the show is doing with Jay right now except him being a hero who has lost his way. Nevertheless, Jay takes the formula in order to save Wells-2's life when Patty shoots him believing him to be the criminal Harrison Wells she knows. It's an awkward story beat because it shuffles Patty off to the side as soon as she shoots her gun. Her reaction to it isn't important. It's just about Jay taking the formula and it being successful - both with it's desired effect and in saving Wells-2's life. But it's still a pretty effective moment.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Legends of Today" was directed by Ralph Hemecker with story by Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and teleplay by Aaron Helbing & Todd Helbing.
  • Barry sure is willing to reveal his secret identity to everyone except the women he is interested in. Sure, Cisco outs him to Kendra by mistake - a mistake Cisco would never do except for the purposes of the crossover. It's something that Oliver does as well since he and Team Green Arrow reveal their secret identities to Kendra without even knowing who she is.
  • A big deal was made earlier this season about the security system at STAR Labs getting an upgrade so that only members of the team could enter the building. And yet, Patty walks in right behind Wells-2 so that she can shoot him in the lab. She's going to need some answers after that action.
  • The "Previously On..." segment featuring Moira paying off Oliver's baby mama basically spoiled the final twist of Oliver realizing he may have a son out there. It's a reveal that will play more prominently in tomorrow's episode of Arrow. Though it's also interesting that this story has only been important during the crossover events.
  • It's nice to know that Team Green Arrow isn't able to drop everything just because Barry needs their help. They are still fighting Damien Darhk after all. But the Flash really didn't need to save them during that big encounter. Plus, it established Damien as a threat who was then never seen again.
  • It's also nice that Barry and Felicity speculate on what the Oliver Queen of Earth-2 looks like. They just agree that this is the best version of Oliver in all the multi-verse.
  • Barry: "Is that the only way this guy knows how to enter a room?"