Thursday, 3 December 2015

Review - 'The Flash', - S02E08 - 'Legends of Today'

While last year's big cross-over event, essentially, boiled down to nothing more complicated than a pair of loosely connected stories, it had still been fun to see the cast of characters from each show interact with his other. This year's cross-over event, though, seems to have set its sights a little higher - telling a single story which spans both shows while, at the same time, properly setting the scene for Legends of Tomorrow when it begins early next year, by introducing us to its villain.

Here, the focus of the story is Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renee), who finds herself targeted by Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) - an extremely dangerous, and seemingly immortal, figure who has arrived in Central City to kill her. Fortunately, though, Cisco happened to be with her when Savage made his attack - and, Cisco was able to call Barry. Following a brief struggle, Savage makes his escape, and Kendra is safe, for the moment. Barry, somehow (honestly, given the brief encounter, this isn't very clear), comes to the conclusion that Vandal Savage's abilities are mystical in nature and, therefore, well beyond his own experience - leading to the decision to take Kendra to Star City for help. But, of course, Vandal Savage follows.

The main problem with this episode, for me, is that its insistence on trying to cover so much in such a short amount of time ultimately works against it. It had seemed like such a simple set-up, on paper - with Kendra, and the need to protect her from Vandal Savage, acting as the catalyst to bring the two teams back together. But, as things progressed, the episode just started to feel increasingly messy.

There were plenty of genuinely entertaining elements to this episode, though, to be fair.

We had the introduction of Vandal Savage, which was entertaining - he may not be the most overtly intimidating villain that either series has had, but he is played with a casual confidence by Casper Crump. We, also, have the developing relationship between Cisco and Kendra - which is cute, though obviously set to end badly for Cisco. Then, there's the introduction of 'Hawkman', Carter Hall (Falk Hentschel), and Kendra's discovery of her own abilities - a development which adds even more outlandish comic-book elements to the CW's take on the DC Universe, as we move further and further away from the 'grounded realism' of the first season of Arrow. Also, we have those moments devoted to simply allowing the cast of both shows to talk. And, to top it all off, we have the simply joy of watching the Flash and the Green Arrow working together - against Carter Hall, following a classic misunderstanding (though, I'm not entirely sure what he thought was going to happen when he swooped in and carried Kendra off), then against Vandal Savage, himself.

But, then, there were also those elements which only served to make the episode seem overly convoluted.

There was the, completely unnecessary, appearance from Damian Darhk, for one thing. Honestly, I enjoy Neal McDonough's performance as Damian Darhk as much as anyone - but, if he wasn't going to have a part to play in this story, then he didn't need to be there. Whatever he has planned for that bomb he was trying to steals could have waited for an episode of Arrow.

Similarly, the sub-plot concerning Caitlin and Earth-2 Wells's efforts to develop a drug that could temporarily increase Barry's speed started to feel increasingly out of place as the episode progressed. Unlike with Darhk's appearance, though, it did at least make sense to move this plot forward (this was technically an episode of The Flash, after all). But, it simply took up too much screen-time. It was also further complicated by the fact that Jay Garrick chose this moment to make a sudden return. Then, to top it off, Patty Spivot also managed to get herself involved.

Neither of these elements would have been so bad, were it not for the fact that the primary plot of this episode suffered due to the split focus. There were so many elements, here, that just felt rushed. Carter Hall didn't receive anywhere near enough screen-time to establish himself, considering the character's importance in the future. And, Kendra's eventual transformation into 'Hawkgirl' lacked the drama and excitement that it should have had.

If that wasn't enough, there was also Malcolm Merlyn's sudden return to Star City. Malcolm, we are expected to believe, managed to arrive all the way from Nanda Parbat at exactly the right moment to deliver important exposition about Vandal Savage. This is especially ridiculous when you consider that this was clearly the only reason he made the trip, in the first place.

In all, this first part of the cross-over event seemed to be much too concerned with making sure all the bases were covered - with the end result being an episode that often felt unfocused. Honestly, it felt as though taking the proper time to establish the complex mythology of 'Hawkman' and 'Hawkgirl', and the part that Vandal Savage plays, should have taken up the bulk of the episode. But, instead, the time spent moving the seasonal arcs of each show forward forced them to cut corners.

So, this first part of the cross-over event as a bit of a disappointment. I will just have to hope that the next part will be more focused.

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