Synopsis of 2×08: When the immortal Vandall Savage tries to kill Kendra, Barry and Cisco take her to Star City for Team Arrow’s protective services; Jay is forced to help his foe when Harry and Caitlin’s experiment goes awry.
At this point, it is hard to not be fed up with the lead-in to Legends of Tomorrow. The CW branch of DC TV has been all about that ensemble adventure program this season and has been doing a lot of heavy-lifting to ensure we are all tuning in when it launches this winter. It’s all hands on deck for Legends of Tomorrow, and the groundwork is being laid by the legends of today*.
*I’m not sorry. I’m never sorry.
Previously, it’s been easy to be on board. I’ll be watching Legends of Tomorrow whether or not we spend ten episodes across two shows setting it up. It’s been good. As a casual Arrow fan who only watches when I hear something cool about an episode (like an appearance by Constantine, or having Lexi Alexander direct), I’ve found its set-up revolving around the Atom and White Canary to be some interesting material.
The Flash has earned very high marks all season. The Legends set-up has meant excellent, character-centric episodes for Dr. Stein and Captain Cold, and the show’s delegation for setting up Hawkgirl hasn’t slowed things down at all. Though there’s been plenty of slow-down to incorporate all of this extra material, The Flash still managed to pull out some bang-up material for Zoom, Linda Park, Gorilla Grodd, Harry Wells… I could go on.
But “Legends of Today” is where the line must be drawn.
“Legends” is the first one of these that hasn’t felt like a Flash episode. It was an enjoyable-enough hour to be sure, with some fun interplay scattered throughout*, but this was an Arrow episode. The action takes place almost entirely in Star City with the Arrow cast overwhelming the Team Flash we tune in for each week (apparently in missing Season Three of Arrow I missed the plotline where everyone became a superhero).
The three bleed-overs from last season were all definitively about The Flash. “Flash vs. Arrow” was a Barry story where Oliver Queen donned the gruff mentor role. In “All Star Team Up,” the Flash and the Atom joined forces to take down a queen bee and her drones. “Who is Harrison Wells?” might have been too much too quickly when played back-to-back with “All Star,” but still serviced to advance the greater mystery of Eobard Thawne when Joe and Cisco popped over to Starling City.
*Here’s hoping these shows can come together for an Age of Ultron-style cocktail party featuring the full casts of each show.
In “Legends of Today,” the character moments go to Thea, Oliver, and Kendra. Barry and Cisco are on hand merely to hand the plot over to them. Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes will never cease to be able to make winning moments out of very little, and there is a great, relaxed dynamic between each of these characters. It’s impressive how each of these relationships feels unique, and there are some solid running jokes to keep the fans happy. But short of one speech for Barry, Team Flash gets sidelined this week. It’s sad, like how Bilbo has to war for screen time in the trilogy where he is the title character.
What certainly doesn’t help matters is the weightlessness of the A-story. New villain Vandal Savage arrives and murders many dudes. After he attacks Kendra in CC Jitter’s (budgetary concerns mean that 10% of The Flash’s crucial moments must take place in CC Jitter’s), Barry and Cisco ship her on over to Star City to be under Oliver’s watchful eye. The reasoning’s a bit flimsy—Oliver himself questions Barry’s rationale—but I’ve allowed The Flash to get away with more in the past.
From there’s it’s mostly hang-out time with some punching sprinkled in for good effect, something I personally will never turn down. Casper Crump makes his every moment as Savage count. The man has earned his spot as the primary (or only?) villain on Legends. He has a presence and a snarl that border on camp without crossing that line and I feel as if I could watch the guy take a bubble bath all episode every episode on Legends and still at least be marginally entertained. Whether or not you find his quest to acquire the staff and kill the Hawks compelling is immaterial because this can chew the scenery in the glorious fashion of a proper supervillain. If there’s one thing that kept me going this week, it was this guy.
On the other side of things, the Hawks are going to have to do a bit more to win their place. Neither Kendra nor Carter has really won be over to the Birdbrain Train just yet. Falk Hentschel does his best with the material but doesn’t prove he’s much more than a—notedly very pretty—face. Ciara Renee has had a few episodes to build up Kendra but simply hasn’t left the same impression that similar newcomers like Jay or Patty had right out of the gate.
Credence must be given that she’s been playing a cypher of a barista without much of a backstory (that she knows about), but, again, I’m not quite won over on any idea besides just how attractive she really is. The CW has come a long way from their days where bland attractiveness was the status quo, but these two are dangling dangerously close to that old precipice. Here’s hoping their plot-relevance on Legends gives them boost in dynamism (like the Hunger Games flicks always gave its leads) as opposed to their being the bland leads at the center of a great ensemble (like Revolution or… well, there’s no better example than Revolution).
The B-story this week, however, where Harry and Caitlin develop a possible serum to give Barry a boost to his powers, was a real knockout. The Team Flash character-centrism very absent from the main plot is fully on display back at S.T.A.R. Labs.
Caitlin and Harry, concerned that Zoom can run circles around Barry and never popular enough with the fans to be the crossover characters, get to work on Velocity-6, a capital-S Science experiment to help the user tap even deeper into the Speed Force. Jay Garrick, being equally a man of science and a really fast dude, believes it crosses the line. He posits that the Speed Force isn’t something you can experiment on. It’s a living force with a mind of its own. You can’t just Science your way into manipulating it.
What happens next is going to have crazy ramifications going forward.
Patty sees Harry, a man believed to be very evil and very dead. She slips past S.T.A.R. Labs’ very lax security and puts Harry at gunpoint. “Take another step and I’ll shoot,” she says. Harry takes another step and she shoots. She warned you, dude. Joe arrives and Patty is dismissed, disheartened. I imagine this will be brought up next week, when it’s also very likely that Barry will reveal himself to her for good or ill.
At Caitlin’s behest, Joe calls up Jay so that he can take Velocity-6 and remove the bullet from Harry’s chest. Jay takes the serum and saves the day, going against his own words to save a man he despises, whose very arrival made Jay leave the show for three episodes. Jay tells them to get rid of their miracle serum and leaves.
It was killer. All the characters involved are so dynamic and rich at this point that the emotions at play are so crisp and dynamic it’s hard to not be compelled. Jay has been greatly missed these past few weeks but they saved his return for a real doozy. The Flash of Earth-2 is on his way to some real redemption, but he wants to earn his stripes the old-fashioned way, without your fancy serums, man.
And poor Patty. Poor, poor Patty… She’s just trying to do her job and everyone she cares about is keeping secrets from her. If she doesn’t start demanding answers out of Joe and Barry soon, it will be cause for great alarm. This plot has advanced story and played with emotions in a way that makes it more interesting that the main flux of the episode.
Will I watch Part 2 tomorrow when the Savage/Hawks throwdown continues on Arrow? Absolutely. But here’s hoping the rest of the season’s crossovers stick closer to the hearty examples from Season One. Episodes of that quality will truly be the legends of tomorrow.
Not sorry. Never sorry.
Author’s Note: I have looked up the plot description for next episode and it is just everything I want it to be. I love you, The Flash. Will you marry me?