Last year’s Flash/Arrow crossover came when the former was nothing more than a waddling infant. The exhilarating hour planted The Flash’s feet firmly, launching it into a whirlwind second half that demonstrated it was more than a good freshman show, it was one of the best on television.
In the short time since “Flash vs. Arrow,” The CW’s comic world has gotten demonstrably larger. The storylines Flash has run are grander in scope than anything Arrow attempted, though older brother is taking note in a major way in its fourth season. More importantly, though, the success of the Scarlet Speedster opened the door for Legends of Tomorrow, an ensemble nerd fest that will push the limits, so much so that The CW may not have enough cash to float a second season.
Both shows have spent portions of their seasons setting up Legends, leading to the two-part crossover event that began last night. Unlike last year, “Legends of Today” did not feel like a Flash episode featuring Team Arrow. With the show succeeding on its own merit and the connected universe expanding, there was little doubt that the 2015 crossover would be bigger. It is, but it’s also far from complete. “Legends of Today” was not an entry of The Flash, so much as the first half of something much larger. That’s fine, I just wish the show had embraced it fully.
There were two primary threads in the hour: the introduction of Vandal Savage, who will serve as Legends’ primary foe, and the origin (or reemergence) of Kendra Saunders as Hawkgirl. But, because this was technically episode eight of The Flash’s second season, there was some plot progression for the series’ Zoom storyline, most of which felt shoehorned. Given the spectacle that is a crossover event, benching Caitlin, Harrison, Jay, Joe and Patty would have been acceptable. Their inclusion was not a deal breaker, and the forward movement brought on by Harrison’s speedforce steroids is interesting, just unnecessary with the circumstances.
When it wasn’t squandering time in S.T.A.R. Labs, “Legends of Today” delivered in every capacity. It was the most action-packed hour of the year, and the visuals were stunning. From the outset, it was clear Savage is a force, and his power grew to frightening levels as the episode progressed. Even when the team was able to deal damage, the ease at which its foe recovered was both alarming and invigorating. Savage is being built as one of comic book television’s most powerful villains, and with each display of his ability, the hype for Legends grows. It’s also encouraging to see the world venture into mysticism and magic, which opens a wealth of character possibilities down the road.
After disconcerting still photos of Hawkgirl and Hawkman were released, I feared the two would look cheap next to the Flash and improved Green Arrow costumes. I’m happy to report the two look the part, the wings in particular are convincing (if only seen in dim lighting thus far). But, as Hawkman explained in a sequence that was delightfully tongue-in-cheek, Hawkgirl is destined to be with him. Cisco’s short relationship with Kendra has been lovely, giving the character a new wrinkle and offering Carlos Valdes new territory to explore. I’ll be saddened to see that aspect removed, but we knew it was coming. Hopefully, on either tonight’s Arrow half of “Heroes Join Forces,” or early in Legends, they’ll give both Hawks a proper background. The small attempt made last night was confusing and it can’t be clear who these winged heroes are, and just what is going on between them, to anyone unfamiliar with the comic iterations.
There’s not much to report beyond that, the episode being a clear setup for tonight’s hour of Arrow. It’s not a huge issue, but it does make the Flash entry feel half-baked. There was enough action to keep things moving, but not enough otherwise for the hour to stand alone. There were also some interesting absences. Firestorm is set to appear in Legends, and I expected the show to include him, in some fashion, in the crossover event. But, with the amount of faces on screen already, there wasn’t much space to do so. Diggle took a backseat, as did Thea (though she was given a few key scenes). Still, it would have been nice for the character to have an initial reaction with Vandal Savage. Same goes for Captain Cold and Heat Wave. There is still work to be done as far as explaining how (and why) Cold and Heat Wave trade-in their criminal cards to save the universe(s), with some of that legwork done for Leonard Snart, but nothing has been done Mick Rory. An initial showdown with Savage could have been the perfect reasoning for the two switching sides, but they remained on sabbatical. Another unexpected absence was Rip Hunter, the time-traveler that will unite the myriad heroes to take on Savage. I expected Hunter to be involved from the opening moments of the event, but he’s likely to make an important appearance this evening.
?One of my favorite aspects of last year’s crossover was its deep-rooted Flash DNA. Though Oliver and his crew were involved, it was clear they were playing on someone else’s field. This year’s crossover was not executed to the same standard. Not an hour devoid of Flash trademarks, but enough separation from the Central City storylines to make it clear this was the beginning of something different. I suppose that’s the point of a crossover, to get people to watch both shows, but it does make it difficult to look at either individually. It is maddening to put this episode into perspective, knowing the second half has yet to air. In future crossovers, I’d love to see the collective writing staffs pick a single night and have one, two-hour event. For now, I’ll patiently wait until 8 p.m., to see how Tuesday night’s Flash ends.
Eric Walters is the Assistant Tech Editor for Paste and a regular contributor to the TV section. For more of his thoughts on comic book television, listen to his podcast.