Friday, 4 December 2015

Review - 'Arrow', S04E08 - 'Legends of Yesterday'

The first part of this year's The Flash and Arrow cross-over event was, admittedly, a bit of a mess. It has some fantastic moments, sure - but, it was saddled with the task of introducing a variety of new plot-elements, while also finding space for a sub-plot to advance the show's own seasonal arc. It was a fairly straightforward example of an episode spreading itself too thin, in the end. But, as we move into the second half of the cross-over, with the latest episode of Arrow, we can do so knowing that all of the necessary set-up is out of the way - which will, hopefully, result in a much more focused episode.

Fortunately, that does seem to be the case, here, as we open with a flash-back to ancient Egypt, for a brief glimpse at the first lives of Hawkman and Hawkgirl - along with Vandal Savage, himself. A plot-line concerning continuously reincarnated lovers, and the immortal man-man who repeatedly murders them, is really just the latest in a long series of blows to the commitment to 'realism' we once had with the first season of Arrow - but, actually taking us all the way back there was still unexpected. At this point, I think that the creators have proven that they're willing to do just about anything.

In the present, 'Team Flash' and 'Team Arrow' are still united in their efforts to protect Kendra and Carter from Vandal Savage - though, for the moment, they are forced to content themselves with hiding out on a farm until they are able to learn something of use. Barry and Oliver had, after all, only barely been able to escape from Savage once he had gotten his hands on the Staff of Horus in their last encounter - and, that had only been because Savage was momentarily distracted when he had sensed Kendra's abilities emerging.

So, now, they need a plan. They need a way to get the Staff of Horus away from Vandal Savage. And, Kendra needs to learn to control her newly developed abilities. Of course, these aren't the only difficulties they have to deal with. When Barry once again finds himself running alongside what appears to be his own future self, he is naturally worried about what that could mean. After all, the last time that had happened had been when Barry inadvertently travelled back in time while trying to stop a tidal wave. Also, thanks to a chance encounter, Oliver has just learnt that he has a son that he has never met before.

I have to admit that I was a little confused about why the issue of Oliver having a son he didn't know about would suddenly become important again. This is, after all, the first we have heard about it since it was revealed last year - and, it hadn't been a terribly interesting development at the time, either. It had seemed to come entirely out of nowhere, then, and that remains the case, here.

Despite this, though, it was still interesting to see Oliver seem so genuinely confused and uncertain about the right way to proceed - and, the idea that he would genuinely want to have some sort of contact with his son, as he tried to reach out and do the 'right thing', was great. It felt like another important moment of character development for Oliver Queen, and Stephen Amell played the whole situation well.

But, of course, it all fell apart fairly quickly. In order to be allowed to have any sort of contact with his son, Oliver had to agree to keep the whole thing a secret. But, then, Felicity finds out anyway - they have a one-sided argument and, it seems, their season long relationship comes to a sudden end.

This was definitely a strange moment. Oliver had only just learnt that he had a son from a relationship that had ended ten years earlier (one where the mother had lied about having a miscarriage), and he was still processing what he intended to do when Felicity abruptly ended their relationship - presumably, because he hadn't told her in the 24 hours, or so, since he had learnt about it, himself. Were we supposed to take Felicity's side, here? Was this intended as a sign of exactly how flimsy their whole relationship actually is? Or, was it just another rushed moment as the writers tried to cover all the important plot-points? Honestly, I don't know. In the end, it felt like this entire sub-plot was intended to serve no other purpose than to provide Oliver with a distraction, and it was definitely the weakest moment of the episode.

I do have to admit, though, that there was definitely something morbidly amusing (for me, at least) about the fact that Oliver and Felicity's latest bout of relationship angst inadvertently led to the destruction of Central City, and the death of just about all of the cast (with Barry being the sole exception). Because, of course, that's exactly what happened. Oliver was too distracted to put together a decent plan of attack. Cisco's hi-tech gauntlets weren't enough to suppress the power of the Staff of Horus. And, Kendra wasn't able to access her abilities at the moment that she most needed them. And, Vandal Savage won.

But, the episode was only at the half-way point, and Barry was still alive. So, naturally, we reach the moment that we all knew was coming, when Barry finds himself travelling back in time. And, with Barry (somewhat reluctantly) sharing what he has learnt about that possible future, our heroes have another chance to get things right.

It would probably feel a bit cheap to rely on Barry's ability to travel through time, here, were it not for the fact that the episode was clearly built around that moment from the start. That early revelation, when Barry catches a glimpse of his future self, added a very real element of tension to the episode (since both Barry, and the audience, knew what it meant) - and, that whole sequence in which our heroes fail spectacularly in their efforts to stop Vandal Savage was wonderfully bleak. And, of course, it was a moment which properly raises the stakes for their second attempt.

There were other great moments in the episode, too. The idea that it would be Cisco, rather than Carter Hall, who would prove to be most useful in helping Kendra truly learn to use her new abilities was a nice touch - especially since I'm still not entirely sold on Carter as a character, yet. And, it was still great to see the cast of both shows interacting with each other, and fighting together - even if some of the cast, like Diggle, really didn't have very much to contribute. Vandal Savage, also, continued to be an entertaining new villain. Sure, he may not be quite as much fun to watch as Damian Darhk, or as intimidating as Zoom, but I am still a fan of the sense of calm confidence in himself, and his own abilities, that Casper Crump gives him. These episodes are, of course, only meant to provide the most basic introduction to the character - so, I am definitely looking forward to learning more about him when Legends of Tomorrow finally starts next year.

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