Oh, was last night’s Agents of SHIELD some kind of tour de force? Did it have you on the edge of your seat? Was it a game changer? I hope so, because as good as it was, there’s absolutely no damn way it was as fun as last night’s The Flash, the first part of this year’s tremendously enjoyable Arrow/Flash crossover.
To be fair, taken just as an episode of The Flash—or perhaps even as an episode unto itself, period—“Legends of Today” could be considered so-so. More than all the other Flash and Arrow episodes that have been trying to set up the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series, which is really saying something, it has to introduce and explain not only Hawkgirl and Hawkman, but Vandal Savage, the evil immortal who will be LoT’s main antagonist. The show handles Vandal Savage well, making him a credible threat that Barry and Oliver can’t beat, even together; the Hawk-couple are more clunky, although if you know anything about the insane mess that is the origin story nightmare of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, their TV introduction is merely “clunky,” and it could be considered an amazing success.
However, the show forces an incredibly clichéd “Ya just gotta believe in yourself!” storyline on Kendra, which culminates in her literally leaping before she looks, off a building, to kickstart her wings and memories as ancient Egyptian priestess Shayera. And there’s a wholly unnecessary side-story about Wells and Caitlin making some sort of Speed Force Drug, which is probably going to have no effect on future episodes even though Patty Spivot shoots and nearly kills Wells (Hey, SuperSTARS—this is the kind of easily avoidable crap that happens when you keep people out of the loop.)
Also, this is barely an episode of The Flash. It’s really the first half of a two-hour special, where the Flash and Arrow casts get about the same amount of screeentime and are equally important. It’s not bad—at all—and I assume the same will be happening on Arrow later tonight in “Legends of Yesterday.” But if you are judging it purely on terms of being a Flash episode, you could find it lacking.
So what makes “Legends of Today” a success? Pretty much everything else. Every time Barry and Oliver get together it’s fun; when basically all of Team Arrow and the SuperSTARS join forces, it turns out it’s amazing. I laughed out loud a dozen times, and had to pause and rewind a couple dozen more, just so I could write down some of the awesome lines the episode gave us. But even beyond the dialogue, “Legends of Today” was basically pure dessert.
It begins with a date. Kendra is cooking Cisco dinner at the coffee shop when Vandal Savage bursts in. He wants Kendra dead, but luckily Cisco stalls him just long enough so that he can text Barry. Barry arrives just in time to stop a bunch of knives that Vandal throws strangely quickly, but the villain disappears immediately thereafter. An utterly relieved Cisco says, “Thank you, Barry!” …right in front of Kendra. It’s a ham-fisted way of bringing Kendra into the SuperSTARS, but it’s worth it just for Barry’s plaintive reply: “Dude. Come on.”
Barry can tells that Vandal Savage isn’t just a run-of-the-mill metahuman, but has some kind of mystical powers. Since that’s more Team Arrow’s bag, Barry, Cisco and Kendra head to star City to ask for their help protecting their new pal. In between some of the most delightful dialogue I ever hoped to hear out of DC characters’ mouths, Felicity discovers the name of their new foe—as well as the fact that in 1975, he somehow looked exactly the same age.
But never mind that mystery! Everyone heads to Oliver’s fancy, highrise apartment for a few cocktails and some more amazing dialogue (seriously, just read “Assorted Musings” below. Or better yet, re-watch the episode). This is of course when Vandal Savage somehow jumps through the window—again, it’s supposed to be at least 100 feet up–and starts tossing knives at everybody. Barry is able to catch all the knives (including one with his shoulder, unfortunately) while Oliver tries futilely to shoot him with an arrow; Vandal blocks them all. However, when he joins in he’s briefly overmatched, gets stuck a few times, and falls off the balcony to his death (except not, because he has, of course, disappeared).
Although Cisco has not wanted to tell Kendra about his powers, he’s finally forced to explain his vibe—that he saw a vision of her with giant hawk-wings (no one finds this revelation at all silly). Enter… the Barrowman! Yes, Malcom Meryln, the new Ra’s al Ghul, suddenly appears in the Arrow Cave from out of nowhere to spill some exposition about Vandal Savage—mainly that he’s immortal, he has major but undefined powers, and he’s responsible for pretty much every war ever. The exposition is perfectly adequate, but if you didn’t laugh when John Barrowman basically teleports into Arrow HQ, you may be dead inside.
Obviously, the fact that 1) an immortal with a strange accent wants her dead and 2) she may have bird wings has caused Kendra some agitation. She goes out to get some air, and Cisco follows her, and comforts her. After all, he suddenly received powers, and his life also changed. Please note: If you didn’t laugh when Cisco compassionately tells Kendra “Every day gets a little bit more normal” and then immediately she’s grabbed and carried off by a dude with wings, you may be physically dead. Consult your doctor.
The dude with wings is of course Hawkman, who has the unenviable jump of trying to explain the origin Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Sure, the DC CW TV Universe streamlines it reasonably well—Hawkman and Hawkgirl are the constantly reincarnated souls of an Egyptian prince and high priestess who love each other, and Vandal Savage keeps killing them because it makes him more powerful for some reason—but this is still pretty ridiculous, even by Arrow/Flash standards. Some appreciation of how extra-bonkers this is would have gone a long way. I mean, just try not shake your head when Hawkman, a white dude named Carter who needs a shave and perhaps a sexual harassment seminar, utters his first line and it’s “I am Khufu.”
But this brings me to possibly the biggest problem in the episode, and possibly for Legends of Tomorrow: Hawkman is an asshole.
This could be intentional on the part of the showrunners, and Carter is supposed to be an enormous jerk who Kendra spurns, despite his being ostensibly her eternal love, until he shapes up. But I don’t know if the show is going that way. It seems just as plausible that to them, Carter is just rough-around-the-edge in a sexy Indiana Jones kind of way.
But he’s not! He manages to tell Kendra her own origin in a shockingly condescending way, basically Hawkmansplaining it. He pushes her off a building ledge after he says her powers may be blocked (it works, and Kendra sprouts her wings, but he literally had just said he wasn’t sure if it would work). At no point does he display any real affection for Kendra/Shayera, but instead simply repeats that they belong together.
Maybe this is just a bit of a narrative shortcut since this is already a pretty packed episode, or maybe it will be dealt with in more depth in Legends of Tomorrow. But for now, he seems like such a stereotypical bad, possessive, self-centered boyfriend that the character is my first real concern about LoT.
Having John Barrowman basically teleport into the scene again to deliver more exposition, almost makes up for it. This time he says Vandal is going after a powerful artifact called the Staff of Horus, which will make him powerful. The short version is that the staff is Central City—in what appears to be a very non-Egyptian Christian church for some reason—and Vandal gets ahold of the staff. It does make him more powerful, allowing him to kick Flash and Green Arrow’s respectively colored asses before he disappears, undoubtedly to attack the Hawkfolks in the Arrow episode tonight.
Oh, and the episode ends with Oliver seeing his ex-pre-island-girlfriend—you know, the one he got pregnant and his mom paid to disappear—and what is very clearly her 8-year-kid with Ollie’s sandy blond hair. Watching Oliver’s face cycling through pretty much every emotion in existence is amazing, and some of Stephen Amell’s best acting. Honestly, I’m not sure why The Flash/Arrow team dropped such a major, Arrow-changing bombshell in what is technically a very silly episode of The Flash, but holy crap. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
Bombshell Oliver revelation aside, this recap does not do this episode justice. It’s just telling the story, and the story ranged from pleasantly fun to eyerollingly bad. But it’s everything else that makes “Legends of Today” so damn fun. The great dialogue. The way Barry and Oliver bounce off each other; the way their respective casts do the same. Seeing the other characters and stories in new ways. All the little acting that goes on in the margins of the scenes. I almost never re-watch episodes of TV, but I’m really looking forward to giving this a second viewing—if only so I can experience it without having to pause all the time to write down all the great lines.
• Cisco is basically an unstoppable force of awesome in this episode. First, he calls Vandal Savage “Highlander” not because he’s an immortal (they don’t know that yet), but because he has the same bizarre accent Christopher Lambert has in the original Highlander film, even though he was supposed to be playing a Scottish guy. It’s amazing.
• Felicity rigs a magnetic arrow that pulls all the guns out of Damian Darhk’s goons’ hands. Attention: FELICITY IS MAKING TRICK ARROWS FOR OLIVER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
• Uh, why did Kendra cook Cisco dinner at the coffee shop and not, say, her apartment? Besides the fact that The Flash obviously didn’t want to build another set?
• Barry, upon seeing Oliver’s new Green Arrows outfit: “No sleeves. Don’t you get cold?”
• Cisco is the only one brave enough to point out the Arrow HQ sucks, because Felicity didn’t use his specifications. There’s a copper wire issue. I kind of want an episode just of Cisco and Felicity talking shop.
• Line of the episode goes to Barry, referring to Damian Darhk: “Oliver, I just saved you from whatever the hell Flock of Seagulls was about to do.” If you’re my age, this is fucking hilarious.
• The other line of the night (in a close second place) goes to Cisco, who is legit offended that Thea is using the terrible superhero name Speedy instead of seeking his renowned super-person naming skills. “Excuse me, are you familiar with my body of work?”
• I would also watch a TV show that is just Cisco and Felicity’s flubbed high five, on repeat, forever.
• I say we all refer to Carter Hall as Hawkdouche until such time as he isn’t a raging asshole.
• Oliver’s pained reaction when he sees the “Flash” coffee special at Jitters is exquisite.
• I don’t know if you caught it in the Legend of Tomorrow preview that aired during the episode, but it looks like the new Firestorm is wearing an orange/red/yellow version of Robbie Amell’s uniform. Looks pretty sweet!