Arrow S04E08 “Legends Of Yesterday” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Sky One, Weds 8pm
Writers: Brian Ford Sullivan, Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Essential plot points:
- Team Arrow and Team Flash get out of the city to hide in a remote farmhouse while they plan their attack on Savage.
- Oliver returns to Central City to speak to Samantha. He asks if her son is his child, but she denies it. However, Oliver sneaks a sample of the boy’s hair for DNA testing.
- Malcolm Merlyn arranges a meeting between Oliver, Barry and Savage to negotiate. On his way there though, Barry is overtaken by a ghost version of himself running in parallel.
- Savage gives the heroes 24 hours to hand over Kendra and Carter or he will wipe out both Central City and Star City.
- Kendra doesn’t want to put people’s lives at risk, but Carter tries to train her to fight and to develop her Hawkgirl powers.
- Team Arrow tracks down a tape from the 1970s that reveals more about Randall Savage – and how to stop him, using an object related to the calamity that created his immortality.
- Oliver has Barry run a DNA test on the boy’s hair which confirms his parental status. He asks Barry not to tell Felicity what the results of the test were, claiming it’s to do with Damien Darhk, but Felicity sees the printout.
- Oliver goes back to see Samantha, who reveals his mother gave her $1M to keep the child out Oliver’s life and not tell him about it. She never cashed the cheque, but has kept away. Oliver wants to be a father to the boy, but Samantha insists he can’t tell anyone about the child to prevent him getting pulled into Oliver’s destructive lifestyle.
- But when he returns to the farmhouse, Felicity confronts him about lying about his son, and breaks off their relationship.
- Barry, Oliver, Kendra and Carter go to confront Savage, but their efforts fail. He kills the reincarnated Egyptians, then vaporises the city with the energy staff. Barry outruns the blast, and goes so fast he travels back in time a day.
- Barry tells Oliver about his travelling back in time, and that Oliver being distracted causes their defeat. Oliver decides not to have the test done just now, and focuses on how to beat Savage – and change the future.
- Cisco speaks to Kendra and tells her not to focus on being a warrior – which failed to activate her powers in the alternate future – but on the priestess aspect of her past instead, as she’s a caring person. This triggers a flashback that reveals how the lovers originally died – and how to stop Savage.
- This time the full team Arrow joins the fight to stop Savage, and the new plan works, with Savage being destroyed.
- Oliver returns to see Samantha, but as per the now erased timeline she insists he can’t tell anyone about his son. He agrees, and lies to Felicity when they return home.
- Kendra and Carter leave Central City to help others – Cisco gives her a GPS tracker so he can find her if she gets in trouble.
- Malcolm Merlyn scoops up the dusty remains of Savage into an urn, as he will live on forever…
- In flashback, we learn how Chay-Ara and Khufu were lovers in ancient Egypt, before being discovered in bed together by Savage. He killed them both with a sword as strangely radioactive meteorites fell from the sky.
Last year’s first big crossover between Arrow and Flash felt like a really big deal. The idea of them going head-to-head, then joining forces and cementing a friendship felt important. But since then they’ve been popping up in each other’s shows so often, it’s almost a regular occurance.
All of which makes “Legends Of Yesterday” feel, if not bad, then at least nothing special.
The problem with “Legends Of Yesterday” is that there’s so much going on in here that has to be resolved, it’s almost unwieldy. There’s finishing off the story started in The Flash, continuing the build for Legends Of Tomorrow, plus developing both the Oliver and Felicity relationship and – two years after it first was hinted at in the show – starting the “Oliver’s secret son” storyline.
The latter’s inclusion is almost too much for the plot to take. While it makes sense to develop it while most of the action is in Central City, and the time travel element allows them to use it as an extra factor in the defeat, it feels like a story that could have been expanded over another couple of episodes. The pacing of Arrow so far this season has been largely perfectly judged, with the plots unfolding at a good rate compared to last term.
But the whole “Oliver sees his ex, meets his son, gets sworn to secrecy and lies to Felicity for the first time (twice)” could have been spun out another episode or two, even allowing for the mid-season festive break coming up shortly. The interesting development it might bring – Felicity’s anger and upset – is instantly undone, too, undermining Emily Bett Rickard’s heartfelt performance in the scene.
Elsewhere so much time is spent developing the stories of Hawkman and Hawkgirl that the regular Team Arrow suffers; indeed, Laurel gets so little to do this week she could have been replaced with a shop window dummy and it wouldn’t have made that much difference, while Caitlin barely even gets a look in.
Of course, that’s not necessarily a problem if you take this in isolation as an episode of Arrow, but as the voiceover makes clear the shows, and especially these episodes, are supposed to be seen as a unit.
It doesn’t help as well that Vandal Savage is, well, just there. As a villain he’s not hugely compelling, as a threat he’s fairly well dispatched and as a performance he doesn’t feel anywhere near as dangerous or frankly as big as you’d want him to be. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by Neal McDonough’s presence as Arrow’s big bad this year, but Casper Crump’s Rasputin-with-kitchen-equipment feels distinctly small time.
Likewise our two relative newcomers – Ciara Renee and the appropriately named Falk Hentschel – don’t exactly overwhelm with charisma either. It doesn’t help that Hentschel looks uncannily like Coldplay frontman Chris Martin; reason alone to want Savage to beat him, surely?
This all sounds negative and it shouldn’t be. “Legends Of Yesterday” is a perfectly decent episode of Arrow, especially visually – not only do the trademark fight sequences work well, but the FX team deserve real credit for managing to make Carter and Kendra’s flight look real and solid, although quite why they’ve never worked out how to do the same for Ray Palmer remains a mystery.
The destruction of the city and the gruesome nuclear blast-esque deaths in the pre-altered timeline are spectacular, looking almost like Dr Manhattan’s exploding of people in Tiresome Hack Snyder’s godawful Watchmen film; appropriate enough, as the Hawk costumes look decidedly like Nite Owl’s outfit from that movie.
It says a lot about the strength of both series currently that even an average episode of Arrow feels significantly stronger and more enjoyable than some of season three’s shakiest moments, but “Legends Of Yesterday” feels distinctly average at times, when it should be a big, loud, blow-away moment in the show’s progression. If last year’s big cross-over event was The Avengers, this is decidedly more Age Of Ultron.
- It’s worth saying again, the effects for Savage destroying the city are astonishing; up there with the best Arrow’s ever done.
- Thea makes a cheeky comment about superheroes hiding out in a farmhouse sounding like something she’s seen in a film. It’s a gag that seems especially pertinent given this seems to be a farmhouse owned by an archery expert with an apparently secret family…
- Barrowman. Especially the scene where he threatens Oliver if any harm comes to Thea. Given his winter normally involves him doing panto in Glasgow with the Krankies, he’s got the better end of the deal this year. (Incidentally, Hasselhoff’s doing that panto this year…)
- Director Thor Freudenthal grades the scenes in Ancient Egypt differently and brings the colour palette way down to washed out yellows, browns and greys. Given how colourful Arrow normally looks, it’s a distinct contrast, and makes the sequences as the rocks fall from the sky even more distinctive.
- For all this is the big confrontation with an immortal waving about a magic staff to kill two reincarnated flying Egyptians, it ends with a fight in a warehouse. Again. I know the stunt team are good at this kind of thing, but occasionally a different kind of ending would be nice.
- This feels more like a Flash story featuring Team Arrow, especially given it mainly takes place in Central City, but especially given the final shot of poor Oliver meeting his son, playing with Flash action figures, in a bedroom covered in Flash posters. Grief, how to give a guy a complex.
- At the risk of this sounding skeezy, if you’re going to all the trouble of creating Egyptian costumes and sets for your flashbacks, having poor Chay-ara in very visible modern underwear doesn’t half ruin the effort. Design better costumes, for goodness sake.
- Apparently Felicity’s magic laptop can stream betamax videos without any source of actual player? Aye, right.
And the Random:
- Editor’s interjection: I wrote the review for The Flash half of this crossover without reading Iain’s review first and vice versa. It’s uncanny how similar some of the comments are, right down to the Age Of Ultron comparisons! Back to Iain now…
- Arrow’s trend for turning to cinema directors continues with Thor Freudenthal returning to the show for his fourth episode (he did two of last season’s key stories, plus the season four opener). He also directed hit kids film Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and the second Percy Jackson film Sea Of Monsters – which was scripted by Arrow showrunner Marc Guggenheim.
- The big confrontation (both times) takes place at Jurgens Industrial, presumably a reference to former Green Arrow artist Dan Jurgens.
- The Staff Of Horus doesn’t appear to be related to the Orb Of Horus that Constantine was after on Lian Yu, even though he made off at the end of that episode with the shaft it was mounted on. If there’s more than one of these icons kicking about, then clearly Horus was overstaffed… (I’m sorry.)
- Renee, Henschel and Crump aren’t the only characters from these episodes to cross over to Legends Of Tomorrow: Peter Francis James, who appears on the old conspiracy theory group video as Dr Aldus Boardman, will also be featuring in the spin-off.
Review by Iain Hepburn. You can listen to his podcast at www.fromthesublime.com