After taking a week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, The CW’s The Flash returned this week with the first part of a two-night crossover event with sister series Arrow. Not only does this two-episode event allow more time for a story big enough to encompass two teams of superheroes battling new villains across two cities, it also sets up The CW’s spin-off series Legends of Tomorrow. Both The Flash and Arrow have a done a good job of bringing back the characters who will be comprising some of the new series’ heroes, but tonight’s episode provided the introduction of new heroes and villains alike, all of them legends.
With all of those heroes on the same small screen, it’s actually easier to mention who wasn’t on screen rather than who was. Since this was an episode of The Flash, after all, the usual suspects all make an appearance. However, Team Arrow got to join in on the fun, except for Laurel and Sara Lance who were visiting their mother before the re-resurrected Sara starts her sightseeing trip around the world. Quentin Lance is name-dropped as well but only provides off-screen assistance. Even The Flash himself takes a backseat to this episode’s story so that Kendra Saunders can emerge as Hawkgirl, Vandal Savage can make landfall in bloody fashion, and Carter Hall can swoop in as Hawkman and singlehandedly ruin Cisco’s best relationship in a long, long time.
That’s not to say Barry Allen doesn’t have troubles of his own. He’s still attempting to train up and improve his speed since Zoom far outpaced him in their previous meeting. The problem is that training alone isn’t cutting it, so while Barry is off juggling knives and meeting and greeting bird-people, Caitlin Snow and Harry Wells stay behind in Central City to develop a speed drug that will boost Barry’s abilities. Wells had tried to do the same for Jay Garrick when he lost his speed, but could never get the chemistry right; then again, he never had Dr. Snow on his side.
They manage to synthesize a speed drug that they name Velocity-6, but Jay Garrick still wants no part of the testing process since it’s likely incredibly dangerous. But when a well-meaning Patty Spivot shoots Wells – in his own lab, no less – Garrick is forced to inject himself with the experimental drug so that he can temporarily use his new speed to vibrate his hand fast enough to pass into Wells’ chest and remove the offending bullet. While it’s a testament to this show’s comic book origins that this nutzo plan actually works, it’s not nearly the craziest thing that happens in this hour.
That honor is reserved for Chay-ara and Khufu, ancient Egyptian royalty whose love has lasted for millennia. It’s so strong, in fact, that they’ll find themselves drawn to each other again and again once they emerge from their cycle of reincarnated forms to become Hawkman and Hawkgirl. In this lifetime, they are Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders. While we don’t learn too much about Carter in this episode – beyond his sudden arrival, battle against Arrow and The Flash, and confession of undying love for Chay-ara – we do get to see Kendra progress from a confused young woman to a powerful winged warrior. In order to do so, she must let go of anything holding her back – doubt, fear, feelings for Cisco… – and plunge off the roof of a highrise. Good thing it worked (the second time)!
Though this turn of events complicates Cisco’s relationship with Kendra, the arrival of Vandal Savage provides a much bigger threat. He makes his first appearance to the viewing audience by way of slaughtering a team of dockworkers and police after arriving as a stowaway on a boat; his fighting prowess and magical abilities are undeniable from the outset. It’s not until Malcolm Merlyn and his League of Assassins step out of the shadows to provide some assistance to Team FlArrow that we learn that this man is Vandal Savage, an immortal who has played a major part of some of the world’s most infamous military and political events. We learn more about Savage from Hawkman, who confesses that the villain’s immortality is tied to that of Carter and Kendra, and that he’s killed them in each of their previous 206 lives. Sounds like The Flash and Arrow are in for a fight!
Speaking of fighting, let’s take a moment to appreciate the different fighting styles on display in this episode. Savage makes his appearance in a fight at the docks that befits his name, stabbing over a half-dozen men to death with his blades. Though we do get to see a brief skirmish between Team Arrow and Damien Darhk’s Ghosts (we’ll talk more about them in a moment), the real fun is watching Barry fly around as The Flash. His speed comes in handy for snagging Savage’s flung knives out of mid-air before they can impale his friends, but he also employs his tornado punches and lightning javelin to take down the mysterious Hawkman. Green Arrow also gets to show off, not just with a display of rapid-fire archery or firing arrows while riding a motorcycle at break-neck speeds, but with new gadgetry like super-powerful magnetic arrows!
The biggest fight took place between the principal heroes and the legendary villain, a fight that more or less ended in a draw when Savage used his newly acquired Staff of Horus to blow up a church from inside. Though Flash and Arrow escaped, it was made quite clear that they’d need the entirety of both teams to take this threat on a second time. Good thing another episode is about to air!
Not only did “Legends of Today” – ie Hawkman and Hawkgirl – do a good job introducing most of the main players of Legends of Tomorrow, it also provided a solid setup for the new Arrow episode, “Legends of Yesterday.” Presumably, we’ll learn a bit more about Team Arrow’s battle with Damien Darhk as he attempted to steal a chemical bomb from A.R.G.U.S., a skirmish that nearly ended with Oliver’s death. Thankfully, The Flash arrived in the nick of time to save Ollie, much to the surprise and delight of Darhk himself.
But Darhk will probably have to wait, because in addition to Vandal Savage, Oliver Queen has a new problem on his hands. Remember his Baby Mama that Moira Queen paid off a couple of seasons back? Well, she’s returned, and is apparently living in Central City along with her (and Ollie’s?) son! Any guesses on just what his name might be? Maybe we’ll find out on Wednesday’s Arrow, which concludes the crossover special just one week before their mid-season finale.
As for The Flash, a lot happened in the name of setting up Legends of Tomorrow and that facet of the show was big, adventurous fun. Very little happened, however, to advance the main show’s storyline beyond Wells tinkering around with speed-drugs (and almost getting shot to death). This is the same problem I had with last season’s Arrow; when it started giving screentime to upstart series The Flash, it lost sight of its own identity. The Flash seems quite capable of sharing screentime with the gathered heroes and villains of the DC TV Universe, but they don’t all have equal time to breathe. I’ll be happy to see Legends of Tomorrow standing on its own starting January 21st.
Rating: ★★★ Good
S.S. Tithonus, the ship which Vandal Savage arrived on, is christened after a character of Greek mythology who was made immortal but lacked eternal youth.
Vandal Savage: “Soon another sacrifice will be made. I feel you out there.”
I dig the The Flash/Arrow crossover logo.
Cisco: “Kendra’s not going anywhere with you, Highlander.”
Cisco: “Thank God, Barry!” Barry: “Cisco…come on.” So it’s official: Patty is pretty much the only main character who has no idea of The Flash’s true identity.
Damien Darhk: “You brought arrows to a gun fight.” Arrow: “What guns?” The magnetic-arrow trick was pretty cool, and Ollie has Felicity to thank for the suggestion.
Thea: “This is The Flash? Did I know we knew The Flash?”
Barry: “Is this what it’s like dating her?” Oliver: “More bruises than I got from Deathstroke.”
Who knew speed-drawing was in The Flash’s wheelhouse?
Vandal Savage: “I will always find you, Chay-Ara.”
Cisco: “Since when did our lives become an Indiana Jones movie?”
Velocity-6 sounds like a nod to Velocity-9, a drug developed by Vandal Savage that grants super-speed but at the cost of premature aging, exhaustion, and an early death.
On the next episode of Arrow, Baby Mama Drama!