The Flash S02E08 “Legends Of Today” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on: Sky 1, Tuesdays, 8pm
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg (story); Aaron Helbing, Todd Helbing (teleplay)
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Essential Plot Points:
- Immortal villain Vandal Savage (the best argument for nominative determinism ever) arrives in Central City by stowing away on a ship (presumably he was worried about getting all his knives through customs if he’d flown in).
- He immediately starts randomly killing people then goes off to search for some woman with wings called Chay-ara (who we know as Kendra, even if she doesn’t know it yet). Turns out he needs to kill her and some guy with wings called Prince Khufu to retain his immortality and grow stronger. Chay-ara and Khufu then reincarnate so the process can happen all over again. Khufu retains his memories each time but Chay-ara always needs a memory jog.
- After the Flash saves Kendra from Savage he takes her and Team Flash to Star City where Team Arrow can help keep her safe.
- Prince Khufu turns up and after a bit of fighting and bickering convinces Teams Arrow and Flash that Kendra needs to jump off a building to encourage he wings to appear. Despite some scepticism this eventually happens.
- Savage also seeks the staff of Horus in Central City. Oliver and Barry try to stop him but fail. He now has a stick that blows things up.
- Wells and Caitlin produce Velocity 6 – a drug that creates artificial Speedsters. They want Jay to try it but he’s reluctant.
- Then Patty shoots Wells and the only way to save him is to remove the bullet, fast. So Jay injects himself with Velocity 6 and uses speedy hand power to phase into Wells’s chest and pluck out the bullet.
- The drug wears off and Jay vows never to use it again, warning Wells not to use it on Barry. Yeah, right.
- While queueing in CC Jitters for a coffee Oliver sees old flame Samantha, with a boy who would be the right age to be his son…
Last year the Flash/Arrow crosssover event was two self-contained episodes, both of which were quality hokey fun. This year it’s a two-parter which also has to bear the weight of setting up key elements for the spin-off show, Legends Of Tomorrow, was well. Sadly, like Joss Whedon’s Age Of Ultron, while this first part has a lot of fun elements, it also shows the strain of having to tick off a check list of “thing that must be included”. The result is choppy, uneven and lacking in depth.
You have to feel sorry for Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renée. This should be their big entrance as Hawkman and Hawkgirl and they’re pretty much reduced to exposition and clichés because there’s no room for anything with more depth. By the time Kendra stands on a rooftop wailing, “This is my destiny,” you’re ready to push her off the edge just to stop the stream of cringey dialogue. Luckily the flying effects are impressive and the Hawkman Vs Flash and Arrow fight is a blast (it looks like it’s come straight out of the pages of the comics) so the Hawk duo debut isn’t a total wet squib.
A scene early on is symptomatic of the scripting shortcuts going on; a rare moment when the mechanics of the writing process show through. Barry’s had one encounter with Savage and out of nowhere announces that he’s “mystical” and as Team Arrow has more experience with “mystical” they need to travel to Star City to ask for help. This is unconvincing on so many levels the writers may as well have just had Barry say, “I really want to see their new secret hide-out!” Cisco tries to plaster the cracks over with a comment about Zoom but it only highlights how desperately flimsy the reasoning is.
The whole episode is full of such easy fixes and convenient leaps of logic necessitated by the fact that it’s simply trying to do too much. This is Vandal Savage’s debut too – you know, the guy who’s going to be crucial in Legends Of Tomorrow – but he’s given little chance to come across as anything other than a by-the-numbers ranting moustache-twirler. The shtick with the metal fan is good fun, though.
Oddly the most effective strand in the episode is the one least concerned with the crossover: Wells creating Velocity 6 and Jay being forced to use it. We’re betting Jay is going to regret that in future episodes. The only real jarring moment here comes when Joe orders Patty out of STAR Labs and she meekly complies. She strikes us more as the kind of officer who’d demand to know what’s going on, even if she has just cocked up massively. No: because she’s just cocked up massively, because the cock-up only happened because nobody’s telling her what’s going on.
Other than that there’s some great quipping going on between the composite casts (Cisco offering to find a better code name for Speedy for example) and Felicity steals every scene she’s in. The action is as top-notch as ever and the effects continue to impress. “Legends Of Today” certainly isn’t a disaster, it just feels like a bit of a mess that doesn’t launch its new characters in any great style.
- Oliver and Barry taking the piss out of each other, especially the comment about the Green Arrow costume having no sleeves (that sounded like something Stephen Amell may have said and an answer one of the producers gave him).
- Both of the slow-mo Barry-chases-flying-knives scenes are very effective.
- Felicity! Ah, if only Flash could swap her for Caitlin…
- Having said that, Caitlin has a technobabble scene with Wells in which Danielle Panabaker actually sounds half convincing!
- The flying effects for Mr and Ms Hawk are much better than we’d feared they’d be. We didn’t think “Gordon’s aliiiiivvvvvveeeee!!!!!” once.
- Wells doesn’t get much to snark about this week but the way Tom Cavanagh delivers the word “attitude” in a list of things that might be preventing Barry running faster is petty needling of the highest calibre.
- “The first time I kissed Kendra I got a vibe… no, not that kind of vibe.”
- Sorry, but that helmet has clearly been designed to make Diggle feel better about his one.
- The plot struggles to justify the crossover then struggles to contain all the elements.
- Darkh lacks the usual chilling presence he has in Arrow and comes across more like a ’60s Batman villain.
- But Darkh is Marlon Brandon in Apocalypse Now compared to Casper Crump as Vandal Savage, who looks like he’s about to burst into a musical number at most points. He also has some terrible dialogue.
- It’s all a bit of a mess really.
- And why introduce the Samantha plotline into an already overstuffed episode?
And The Random:
- Velocity 9 (rather than 6, but give Wells time) is a drug in the DC comics universe created by Vandal Savage that, like here, creates artificial Speedsters. But users become addicted and there are many side effects: premature ageing, exhaustion, salivating, and eventually death. It first appeared in Flash Volume 2 #12 (1988).
- Vandal Savage is much older in the comics having originally been a caveman who was exposed to a meteor that somehow made him immortal. His comic version’s history is not intertwined Hawkman’s and Hawkgirl’s as it is here. He was created by SF author Alfred Bester and Martin Nodell, first appearing in Green Lantern #10 (1943).
- Hawkman was first introduced in Flash Comics #1 (1940) as was “Shiera Saunders” who would go on to make her first appearance as Hawkgirl in All Star Comics #5 (1941). At this point they were simply reincarnations of an Egyptian prince and princess. It wasn’t until the mid-’90s that DC retconned the Hawk couple’s history with the idea that they had been continually reincarnating over and over since ancient Egyptian times. In-between they spent a period reinvented as aliens from the planet Thanagar.
- Did Barry really refer to Damien Darhk as “Flock Of Seagulls”? We’re struggling to think of anything else he can be referring to other than the ’80s band of the same name who has a US Top 10 hit with “I Ran”. But that’s a VERY obscure reference, and while the lead singer did have white hair, it was more the style of his barnet than the colour that he was infamous for, and Darhk certainly doesn’t have hair like that. However, a cover version of “I Ran” was used in episode five of season one of The Flash, so you never know. Maybe someone on the production team is the Flock’s biggest fan?
- Oliver jokes that he gets more bruises from Felicity than he did from Deathstroke, who was the big bad on Arrow season two.
- Magnetic arrows have been seen many times in the comics.
- In the Arrow episode “Haunted” John Constantine was looking for an artefact called the “Orb of Horus”. Is it related in any way to Savage’s “Staff Of Horus”, do you reckon?
- The ship Savage arrives on is called the Tithonus, who in Greek mythology was made immortal by Zeus, but with a catch: he wasn’t given eternal youth to go with it. So he aged until his body no longer worked and he begged for death. In some versions of the tale he’s turned into an eternal tree.
- The image of Jay inserting his hand into Wells’s chest to save his life is an inversion of the famous scene from season one when Reverse-Flash inserts his hand into Cisco’s chest to kill him. Deliberate? You decide.
Review by Dave Golder