[Review] - DCTV: The Flash Season 2 And Arrow Season 4, Episodes 8, "Legends of Today" And "Legends Of Yesterday"


So here it is, what frankly too much of this season of both series has been building up to: a big ass crossover events that saw Team Arrow and the SuperSTARS come together for a massive, shared universe free-for-all that also paves the way for the team-up series Legends of Tomorrow. And the net result was a really funny duel pair of episodes that showcased the chemistry between the two leads and assorted members of their supporting casts (and highlighted the pointlessness of others), while simultaneously being a pretty terrible pair of episodes. And I mean that technically: from a plotting point of view, these episodes were bad.

Contrived is the big time word flashing in neon letters above both, and that is actually just a symptom of the larger problem that Legends has created for these shows. While some viewers might walk away from this episode pair content in their "squee factor" of seeing the heroes tag-team (which isn't that rare; they've crossed over into each other's shows multiple times at this point), the keen-eyed observer will note that in terms of narrative purpose, it was a lot of effort for a lot of pointlessness.

Oh, and Supergirl continues to make my brain cry. For the time being, that is my last word on that series.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that spent five years on an island in the North China Sea; they don't get cold.

A lot of my feelings about these two episodes can be summed up with:


See, here's the thing. The idea of a major event crossover between these two shows is not, on the surface, a bad idea. It is, in fact, a very good idea. And I'd say a solid 40% of these episodes showcased that well. But we already knew that that 40% would be strong. Amell and Gustin have great chemistry together, as do Rickards and Valdes with literally everyone. They've all done the let's go visit the other city at the end of the train line (it just keeps getting weirder that Star and Central city seem to be the only cities in the entire Arrowverse). So really, any amazing purpose to these episodes is an opportunity to bring the entire casts together, and to unite them with an energetic plot that would necessitate that kind of fire power. And that is where these episodes trip and spill cold soup all other themselves.

The problem is two-fold, and I'll list them in no particular order, because it doesn't matter which you consider first, the second is informed by it. The meat of the narrative was not properly meaty enough to justify the crossover, and it was too early in the season to bring it together cohesively. And while I run the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was all because of that damned Legends spin-off forcing its way into the parent series like a raccoon getting wedged in a chimney. At this point, I feel like Berlanti and Kreisberg have no faith that the audience will accept the Legends cast without a ridiculous amount of set-up. Or, they terrified of alienating viewers with exposition setting up the cast within their own show, but are content alienating viewers of the spawning series. Each series has taken care of their own characters at this point, and the crossover elected to introduce Hawkman and Hawkgirl into the mix, along with their ridiculous backstory.

Here is where this starts being an issue: it is all meant to hinge on our emotional concern for Kendra's safety when Vandel Savage shows up and starts throwing flint knives at folks. Which would be great, if she had appeared in more than one episode of The Flash before this. Aside from the fact that she likes The Princess Bride and Cisco enjoys making lip-mashing with her, we know literally nothing about her. We, as an audience, have no emotional connection to her. And because we've seen nothing of her relationship with Cisco, his emotional connection is entirely informed. Had this revelation happened to concern Patty, then we'd have some investment in the outcome. But because Kendra was a literally blank slate, when Savage showed up she could have unfurled her wings and when full Bird-Of-Prey on his ass, and we wouldn't have known the difference. And now that I type that, it sounds like a far better version of Kendra than the one we got. At least she would have had some agency in the plot, and not spent the episodes being Yoda'd at by everyone else.

Here is where it continues to be an issue: nothing about the situation necessitates the involvement of Team Arrow. Pretty much every action in part one was built on a bread crumb foundation of contrivance, while pretty much everything in part two was built on the gummy stilts of manufactured drama (sorry about the food analogies, I must be hungry). Cisco blurts out Barry's name in front of Kendra despite this being completely out of character, so that Kendra can be brought into the SuperSTARS. Barry immediately says that only Team Arrow can help them solve this mystery because it is mystical in nature despite 1) pulling that deduction out the ass of thin air, and B) last episode they fought a telepathic gorilla and won by punching him into another dimension. I think Barry is dramatically underestimating his team's ability to investigate weird. Once the teams are merged, they don't actually do anything of value for the rest of the episode. They fight Savage twice, and get all their intel from Malcolm Merlyn, who literally pops out of nowhere to deliver his exposition and then buggers off.

It is lazy, half-assed writing that betrays the fact that the writers aren't interested in having the characters do anything to earn their victory. Or, is equally likely, they don't have the time to properly set up and follow through with all these ideas, so they take the path of least resistance, which is also the least dramatically interesting. Moving into part two, pretty much every big narrative cog is there to illicit a jump-scare style emotional reaction. the revelation about Ollie's son, Felicity's over reaction to learning the truth (coupled with the hilariously terrible line of "don't you think I recognize your DNA sequence when I see it?"), the traumatic sight of seeing every character on both shows vaporized like they were living in Sarah Conner's night terrors. All of it structurally pointless because the writers whipped out a little time travel and put right what once went wrong. It is again lazy, blatant emotional manipulation, and is insulting.

Personally, I'd be far more satisfied with a streamlined plot that serves the truer natural of the characters than this insincere bullshit. To make it all the worse, they managed to do that too. The quieter scenes, when the characters were allowed to just react to one another, to be themselves with one another, were great. They were very funny, which was a nice change to see Flash-esque levity rub off on the Arrow characters. Diggles' continued unease with the speed force, Thea not being told they knew the Flash, everyone sparing with Cisco. It all worked just amazingly well. I was far more interested in watching that crossover, not the 15th pilot for Legends. Strangely, both episodes felt the need to sideline and constrict the main event even more by including a subplot in each that had no barring of relevance on the crossover. On the Flash, Patty shot Wells in an incredibly out of character moment that was really insulting in a "go stand in the corner and think about what you've done" sort of way. And seemed very out of place, and really just a way to remind us that Jay Garrick continues to be a thing (you think he's a fry cook at Big Belly Burger when he isn't angrily barging in and out of STAR Labs?). And Ollie had the segue with his bastard child does actually further the emotional arc of the character, and will likely result in some drama down the line as we've seen Felicity's tendency to over react already.

Of course, in highlighting the chemistry of these casts so well, the writers also inadvertently stumbled upon the continued flaws in the shows. Neither Iris or Laurel show up in part one, and neither are missed in the slightest. Even in part two, Laurel provided no substantial assist to necessitate her inclusion. Arrow has a mystery death hanging over it's head, and more and more the show is providing a clear line that Laurel is the expendable character (she hasn't had a substantial arc since... umm...). Though Malcolm's threats against Ollie if Thea dies suggest a direction for season five, the truth is that this crossover did a fair job of highlighting cast bloat. On both sides.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

2 comments :

  1. Absolutely agreed. Two questions, one comment, followed by a PS, in no particular order other than the PS comes last:

    1. Do you think the network is behind the 15 pilots for Legends, or the writer/producers? It seems out of the ordinary based on the history of these shows (ie., what was wrong with the way they introduced Barry on Arrow?), and I'm wondering if the 15 pilots were part of what Berlanti had to agree to in order to get Legends greenlit.
    2. I got the squee factor from Gorilla City, but I'm a huge Grodd fan. Always have been. No clue why. This didn't do that for me.
    3. Do you realize how much fun a show set at Big Belly Burger, with Jay Garrick as the lead fry cook, could actually be? I know you're successfully unpublished, but you should get to work on a script for that idea ASAP. If not, it would make a fantastic comic book.

    PS - Please don't waste your time reviewing Supergirl, at least not on my behalf. I think Flash/Arrow are just superior shows. I'd much rather see you fill that viewing spot with better fare - I'd vote for a Man in the High Castle review, for example, and maybe the X-Files once that returns.

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    1. Alright, two answers and a comment in a very particular order.

      1) My feeling is, this Legends nonsense is entirely down to Kreisberg. He runs The Flash, and will be running Legends. As much as we might refer to it as a Berlanti-verse, he's really just the boss. That's not to say he's not deeply involved, but Kreisberg seems very much the man in the trenches, keeping all these plates spinning. So while the network likely mandated when they could do their crossover, the actual pacing of the season would be left to the Exec. Producers and Showrunners. Now, that's not to say the network wouldn't have ask them to do some amount of prep work on Legends - from what I've been reading, it is a very expensive show - and the network is going to want to know that the parent series have done everything possible to secure success of their investment. But the specific "how to do that" would have been left to the writers.

      The thing is, in abstract, this is exactly how I would have done it too. The problem is, in execution, the result is... what we've gotten. If Legends had a spring release, and the crossover had been pushed to the post winter or sweeps period, allowing for the writers to more organically incorporate all this extra material, then it wouldn't be an issue.
      2) Squee factors are nothing to dismiss. Never discount the effect of a good squee factor moment. I squeed a little when they pulled back on Gorilla City too (which I would have and planned to write about in much greater detail except I had extreme levels of Supergirl hate on that week, and I got very, very ill about half way through writing the review, and had to publish as was). And I can see why this should have been a big ass moment for both series. But it played to much less effect then something like King Shark/Wells returns.

      3) I know, right? OK, so where is Jay going? How is he spending his days? Like... he's in an alternate dimension, he has no powers, but he's obviously close enough that every time the SuperSTARS texts him, he can barge in all growly and self righteous. I think this is another example of the writers having an idea, and likely knowing exactly what they want to do with him in the end, but having no idea of where to take it in-between. Having him as a mentor to Barry is a great idea in Stein and Wells' absence, except bringing back Wells is a much better idea because we already have an emotional connection to that character. So, now Garrick is just a character that make me wonder if he spends his days hanging out in the Starbucks across the street from STAR Labs, pawing at the window while "Everybody Hurts" plays on endless repeat in the background.

      I think the new game should be coming up with the saddest, most pathetic things for Jay Garrick to be doing on his days off. I seriously... This needs to be a thing... I'm going to... Yeah. Yeah, this could be something...

      PS - Don't worry, I'm not doing Supergirl reviews for anyone but me, and I'm not doing it anymore. I was looking forward to Supergirl, and decided to throw it in, but that show has seriously disappointed me. I will likely be covering The Expanse, as it starts up after Doctor Who finishes. I'll have a pair of Luther reviews mid-December. I very much believe that I will be doing the X-Files when it returns. Man in the High Castle I will admit to not being familiar with before the premiere, and will at this point hold off until season 2 before I make a decision there. January will also see Agent Carter return, and I'll be doing that, as well as Better Call Saul. The good thing about living in a golden age of the medium, there never isn't choice. All I need to do is find time to cover it effectively, or else I disappoint myself.

      So long as I know people are reading, I'll do my best to keep writing. Cheers.

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