The Flash: Legends of Today review

The Flash / Arrow crossover of 2015 kicks off with an episode that gets the Legends of Tomorrow together. Here's our review.

This Flash review contains spoilers.

The Flash Season 2 Episode 8

It’s tough for me to judge this episode objectively, because the things I would single out as glaring problems for me as a critic (a lot of exposition, an awful lot of time spent on fan service) are really kind of written for me as a fan. On the other hand, I’m really kind of amazed at just how much work “Legends of Today” gets done without just becoming a massive mess. The fact that it really is a proper two-parter this year (last year’s crossover was two individual stories) helps, because this was never intended to be one completely satisfying hour.

What might be the most important part in terms of all three shows, though, was the introduction of Vandal Savage. And what an entrance he makes! Casting on both The Flash and Arrow tends to lean towards the impeccable, and Casper Crump is no exception. His barely identifiable accent adds to the worldly appeal of a villain who has lived for millennia. Make no mistake, Vandal Savage is a big deal, and of the dozens of hero and villains we’ve seen across these two shows (and hell, I’ll throw Supergirl in for good measure), this is one that would have been an absolute disaster if they chose wrong. They didn’t. 

I’m impressed with Falk Hentschel as Hawkman so far, too. The real key to whether he works long term in the role is how well he clicks with Ciara Renee’s Kendra Saunders, though. We won’t get a real indication of that until we’ve at least got an episode or two of Legends of Tomorrow under our belt. But so far, so good.

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It’s going to hurt when she leaves Cisco for him, though. Poor Cisco.

I do have some issues with how quickly everyone came around to trusting Hawkman, and how willing Kendra was to simply jump off a building. There’s enough storytelling shorthand happening with their wings (although it beats explanations like Nth Metal or Thanagarian technology, so that can all be forgiven), but that’s an awful lot to swallow in one episode. These things (and Malcolm Merlyn stepping out of the shadows to offer convenient exposition at every turn) all kept “Legends of Today” from being as strong as it could be.

But I get it. I get why it has to be this way. There’s always the chance that someone who watches The Flash doesn’t watch Arrow (or vice versa), and I can see why some moments needed a little more set-up. I should be okay with that, and I like that even the visual styles of the shows are replicated and/or exaggerated depending on which city we’re in at any given moment.

Amidst all the Legends of Tomorrow hooplah and the fun of getting the teams together, “Legends of Today” still manages to move the main Flash season 2 storyline forward in a couple of neat ways. They find time for more with dickhead Harrison Wells, Jay Garrick shows up (albeit rather conveniently), and something is introduced that I believe will contribute further towards the mystery of Zoom (more on that down below). It’s good, but it felt a little perfunctory in the face of everything else going on. That “Harrison Wells shot by a well-meaning Patty Spivot” thing could have been an episode all its own, and perhaps should have been, but again, I have my suspicions about why it wasn’t (again, more down below on that).

Legends of Tomorrow looks like the nerdiest show imaginable. Like the kind of thing a kid would think up when he only has half of the heroes from an action figure line, and not even all the best ones. It’s taken a ton of heavy lifting (mostly done on Arrow) to get this world to where a show like that can be possible, and “Legends of Today” is just one big part of that. As much as I love world building, I sometimes caution against these shows getting too caught up in cutesy nods to each other, but in this case? I can forgive an awful lot.

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So, yeah. I had fun. I bet part two will be even better.

Flash Facts!

– Vandal Savage is actually one of the oldest characters that either of these shows has ever showcased (Jay, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl still win, though). He first appeared in Green Lantern #10 in 1944. Since then he’s…oh, honestly, you’re better off just reading this other article about his history. Trust me on this. It’s too much for this space.

– It appears that Vandal stows away on a ship called the SS Tithonous. In Greek mythology, Tithonus was the mortal lover of Eos, the goddess of the dawn. She loved him and wished he would live forever. Her wish was granted…but he wasn’t granted eternal youth. As you can imagine, things didn’t work out for Tithonus. You can probably see a parallel here with the immortal Vandal Savage, who has a withered, mean old soul inside him.

Then again, this could all be a coincidence…

– One of the many cool things about Hawkman and Hawkgirl is that they both appeared in (wait for it) Flash Comics #1 in 1939. That’s right, the same comic that introduced Jay Garrick, and the very concept of The Flash to the world, is the one that brought us Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

Now, let’s not get too crazy with digging into the comic book origins of those two, because it’s complicated. It appears that they’re going with the version Geoff Johns and David Goyer set down in the excellent JSA series from the late ’90s, though, which is kind of a combination of many different Hawkman stories (and there were lots…seriously, it’s a mess).

In short, Carter Hall was once Prince Khufu of Egypt, and he, along with his soulmate Chay-Ara, has lived many lives. In the original version of the story, Khufu and Chay-Ara were killed by Hath-Set, another guy who keeps popping up in new lives. It appears that Vandal Savage is stepping in for Hath-Set in this version of the story, though.

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Now, this is where things get messy…

In early versions of the story, Carter Hall’s eternal lover was Shiera Sanders. But Kendra Saunders was introduced in the pages of JSA Secret Files #1 in 1999. She was a distant relative of Ms. Sanders, and when Kendra attempted suicide, Shiera’s soul stepped in, Carter Hall came into her life, and…well. Yeah. It’s better than it sounds and mildly less confusing than I’m making it out to be.

None of this takes into account the fact that for decades Hawkman and Hawkgirl were intergalactic policemen from Thanagar names Katar and Shayera Hol. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms to feed your birds. I bet you all a tall glass of chocolate milk that we get to see some Thanagarian shenanigans when things start flashing back to Ancient Egypt on Legends of Tomorrow, though.

– Velocity 6 is a big deal, folks. The fact that they chose this episode to introduce it is an even bigger one. Vandal Savage is going to want that drug, and it was the subject of a major (and awesome) Flash storyline in the late ’80s (albeit one where Wally West was Flash), which dealt with Vandal dealing a drug called “Velocity 9.” There’s a little more about that in the Vandal Savage article I keep telling you to read.

In short, though…”Velocity 6″ won’t be the only version of this drug. And I have to wonder now, since Zoom clearly has some pharmaceutical proficiency, could this play into his story somehow? It might. I’m gonna have to update my “Who is Zoom?” article with this information, pronto.

– Diggle puking after Flash zips him out of a room kind of reminds me of Silk Spectre’s issues with Dr. Manhattan’s teleportation in Watchmen.

– Hawkman and Green Arrow have had some rather violent differences as fellow members of the Justice League in the comics, so seeing them slug it out here felt appropriate.

– Oh, hello there surprise appearance of Oliver Queen’s son. Do you think it’s at all a coinicidence that Connor shows up as we’re setting up another show about time travel? I don’t think so.

Alright…there was a lot to unpack this week. What did I miss, my Justice League? Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter!

Rating:

3.5 out of 5