Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Badass Patty And Rise Of The Spinoff With The Flash's "Legends Of Today!"

The Good: Decent performances, Engaging pacing, Good plot
The Bad: Very light on character development, Packs a lot in; obvious set-up episode.
The Basics: Despite the nature of the beast - "Legends Of Today" is a set-up episode both for a crossover on Arrow and the forthcoming spin-off Legends Of Tomorrow - The Flash delivers an entertaining episode ramping up for its midseason finale!

A midseason finale time looms, most television shows that are taking a few months off are going for the gimmicks. The midseason finale is a relatively new phenomenon and it's becoming almost as unfortunate for narrative flow of a season as commercials can be during an episode. While I continue to enjoy The Flash, the second season's narrative structure has been erratic thus far - though, fortunately, there have been very few ful-fledged "metahuman of the week" episodes in the season's first third. Before its big midseason finale next week, The Flash is softening viewers up with a tangent story that allows them a crossover with Arrow and provides a proper set-up for the next DC Television Universe spin-off, Legends Of Tomorrow. The set-up on The Flash is, appropriately, titled "Legends Of Today."

"Legends Of Today" follows "Gorilla Warfare" (reviewed here!) in only the loosest sense; one reference is made to the latest encounter with Grodd. Otherwise, the recapping done in "Legends Of Today" tends to encompass the entire season with fast exchanges of dialogue between Felicity Smoak and Barry Allen. For a crossover episode that makes a ton of references, perhaps the biggest surprise from "Legends Of Today" is how accessible it is to new viewers, without feeling expository.

Opening with Barry training and Dr. Snow and Harrison Wells worrying about how he is not getting faster, the S.T.A.R. Labs team begins to investigate how to make Barry faster. Wells wants to develop a drug that will unleash more of Barry's potential, which makes Dr. Snow nervous. At the port in Central City, a stowaway is taken off a boat in handcuffs, before magically removing the cuffs and killing those from the boat he was on. He is hunting the woman with the wings that Cisco saw in his vision. The man hunts Kendra Saunders during her date with Cisco and when the Flash saves them, Cisco accidentally outs Barry. Barry turns to the Green Arrow in Star City to hide Kendra and keep her safe.

Once in Star City, Barry's sketch of the assailant reveals that he has not aged since the mid-1970s and Oliver Queen interrogates Kendra. Back in Central City, Wells and Snow work on developing a biochemical solution to Barry's problems. Jay Garrick, however, wants no part of the Velocity Six drug and he does not want Wells experimenting with it on him or Barry. When Vandal Savage crashes the party meeting of the heroes, everyone is shocked by his speed and his ability to disappear after being shot by many, many arrows. Malcolm Merlyn arrives with information on the assailant - identifying him as the immortal Vandal Savage. Merlyn tells them that Savage is set upon killing Kendra and the team tries to keep her safe . . . until she is abducted by a man with giant hawk wings. When Patty shoots Wells and the man, Carter Hall, reveals that he and Kendra are linked and Vandal Savage will use all his power - and the power of the Staff Of Horus - all of Team Flash is thrown into chaos.

"Legends Of Today" packs a lot in and the unfortunate aspect of it is that it crams in a whole load of supernatural elements to a previously, surprisingly, grounded television series. The scientific basis of The Flash is singlehandedly undermined in "Legends Of Today." While Vandal Savage is an awesome villain to introduce into the DC Television Universe, immediately attaching the immortal villain to the reincarnating Hawkman and Hawkgirl throws a lot at the viewer at one time. Given how hard The Flash has worked to maintain a scientific basis for the metahuman concept and the speedsters, the "real world" of the DC Television Universe becomes some mixture of fantastic and ridiculous in "Legends Of Today."

Vandal Savage is a good villain, though he is introduced in "Legends Of Today" as a pretty generic psychopath, despite being an immortal. Savage gains power - though it is not made clear exactly what those powers entail in "Legends Of Today" - by killing reincarnations of Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall. He is powerful in "Legends Of Today" and the use of the Staff of Horus truly explodes the use of magic in the DC Television Universe. The fact that Savage hits his mark more often than not makes him a decent adversary.

Much of the character development in "Legends Of Today" comes from Kendra Saunders realizing her own potential to become Hawkgirl. Bringing out the reincarnated heroine leads to some super-cheesy speeches from Barry and Cisco, but they work well-enough to make Kendra Saunders's journey watchable. Perhaps the most intriguing concept in Saunders's journey in "Legends Of Today" is that Hawkgirl's wings are organic, not mechanical (which opens a whole new conceptual can of worms for the DTU). The other significant moment of character development comes when Jay Garrick is given the opportunity to save Harrison Wells's life.

Much of the rest of the character development comes in the form of simple exposition. Felicity and Barry exchange stories to catch viewers up on how Arrow and The Flash have changed since the last crossover event in season one.

"Legends Of Today" gives viewers hope for the potential of Legends Of Tomorrow by virtue of demonstrating decent special effects all the way through. Between the slow motion attacks, Barry throwing lightning again and the execution of Carter and Kendra as virtual characters for several shots, the visual effects are impressive.

That said, "Legends Of Today" is an entirely incomplete story. This is a crossover with Arrow and The Flash component is all set-up, little pay-off (only the Harrison Wells/Jay Garrick plot is actually resolved within the episode). Leading into next week's midseason finale, The Flash goes off on a tangent and it is a gimmick. Whether or not "Legends Of Today" actually works in the larger context of the second season of The Flash remains to be seen, but it is an entertaining episode on its own.

For other works with Neal McDonough, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"The Iron Ceiling" - Agent Carter
Tin Man
Minority Report
Star Trek: First Contact
"Facing The Fire" - V.R.-5


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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