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[TV Review] ‘Arrow’ Episode 4.08 – “Legends of Yesterday”

It might be cliched to start the second part of a two-night crossover event with a flashback, but “Arrow” went for it nonetheless.  As the episode opens, we are treated to a sequence from Ancient Egypt involving the initial lives of Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Vandal Savage.  Later we are given a deeper look into their past, giving us the origins of their respective powers.  Is The CW’s Egyptian set hokey and a little cheap looking?  Of course, but at least for me, it added a certain charm to the proceedings.  There’s an Old Hollywood style to these sequences and as someone who grew up watching films like The Ten Commandments, El Cid, and The Fall of the Roman Empire, it brought a smile to my face.

Naturally all of this revolves around Kendra attempting to remember her past lives as Hawkgirl, now that her powers (including her wings) have finally emerged.  Carter (aka Hawkman) aids in the remembrance of her warrior priestess training, but it is ultimately Cisco who helps her break through to her past self.  Their relationship is an adorable one, but as with Cisco’s flirtations with Lisa Snart (aka Golden Glider), a romance is simply not meant to be at this stage.  Poor Cisco, you’ll find love eventually.

Before we get into all that is the fight against Savage, let’s take a look at everything else that transpires here.  First up, Laurel finally shows up, so we do indeed get some Black Canary action.  Our team has relocated temporarily to the country home of Laurel’s mother in Central City.  Laurel, Diggle, Cisco, Caitlin, Oliver, Felicity, Thea, Barry, Carter, and Kendra all hole up there as they figure out what to do next.  No Harrison Wells this episode, as he is still recuperating back at STAR Labs.

While the combined teams try to come up with a plan to defeat Savage, Oliver takes a little side trip to look into the potential paternal shock he got in downtown Central City during the first episode of this crossover.  There he witnessed an ex-girlfriend of his, Samantha Clayton, with a young boy that is very likely his own son.  If you remember back in the second season of “Arrow”, in a flashback, Oliver’s mother Moira paid off a then-pregnant Samantha to break up with Oliver and state that she had a miscarriage.  So yes, the now-8 year old boy that she is the mother of during the present, William, is Oliver’s son.

EgytianHawkman

This revelation hits Ollie like a ton of bricks and is further complicated by Samantha’s terms for Oliver.  If he wants to spend time with William, he cannot tell the boy that he is his father and he cannot tell anyone else that he has a son.  Why?  On-going drama, of course!  On a more serious note, Samantha’s reasoning isn’t all that crazy.  While she doesn’t know about Oliver’s career as Green Arrow, she has seen all of the personal tragedy that has hit the Queen family over the years.  Oliver’s pre-island paparazzi shenanigans and arrests, Thea’s kidnapping, Moira’s murder, all of the terror that is ever-present in Star City, and now Oliver running for mayor in a city that has a habit of murdering its public officials.  That’s not safe environment in which to toss a child, so I get it.

Naturally this is going to cause some massive friction with Felicity (as well as their friends) once it becomes clear that Oliver is once again hiding something.  It’s likely to tear apart his relationship with Felicity (something shown, but later undone…we’ll get to that).  Samantha’s insistence on no one else knowing is a bit sketchy narratively (there’s no good reason for it), but the writers clearly want an axe to dangle over Oliver’s relationships for the next few episodes.  I just hope that they continue such threads as they have this season and have that aze drop relatively soon.  Too many of this show’s past arcs (especially last season) were drawn out for far too long and to the detriment of the narrative & characters.  Let’s not make that mistake here, please.

So what did I mean by undone?  Well, there’s a bit of time travel that factors in here, folks.  Yep, Barry is forced to travel back to an earlier event to undo a catastrophe.  So what initially occurred?  Well, for one, Felicity finds out about Oliver’s son and confronts him about it.  After Ollie continues to try and lie his way out of it, their relationship is pretty much ended on the spot before the big battle with Savage.  As for that battle?  It does not go well.

After an attempt at negotiations (facilitated by Malcolm Merlyn) between The Flash & Green Arrow and Vandal Savage fails earlier, they meet him again in a more antagonistic fashion.  Backed by Hawkman and Hawkgirl, the four of them attempt to take him out and fail.  Not only do the gauntlets…meant to allow Barry & Oliver to hold the Staff of Horus…devised by the combined science might of Caitlin, Cisco, and Felicity fail, but Vandal overcomes them all.  After killing Kendra and Carter, he then incinerates Oliver as Barry runs as fast as he can to travel back in time to stop it all.  Before he can, we also see all of our beloved characters burned to a crisp in an instant as Savage uses the power of the Staff to level Central City.

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While we already know that Barry will undo it all (it’s teased earlier), it still doesn’t make the deaths…especially Oliver’s intentional sacrifice…any less impactful.  Team Arrow & Flash are wiped out super quick, leaving us little time to mourn them even in the moment, but Oliver’s death is given a few beats more.  We see him urge Barry to outrun the blast, despite knowing full well that he will die as he stays behind in a last ditch effort to hold Savage back.  We also see him fail to do so, falling to the ground with a sorrowful, but accepting look on his face before he is obliterated by the power of Vandal Savage.

On the second go around, all of this is avoided.  Not only is Oliver spared Felicity finding out about William (for now, at least), but Kendra (who froze during the initial fight) is coached better this time out (the aforementioned Cisco moment) and finally steps up.  As added insurance, Barry and Oliver actually bring Diggle, Black Canary, and Speedy with them this time to help distract Savage.  Furthermore, due to Kendra finally having a breakthrough in regards to her past lives, they realize that they need a sample of the meteorites that created their powers back in Ancient Egypt to help make the aforementioned gauntlets actually work.  Everything goes off without a hitch (though some of them surely have bruises) and Vandal Savage is destroyed.  Ash to ash, dust to dust.

But wait, isn’t Savage the big baddie for the upcoming third DC TV Universe, “Legends of Tomorrow“?  Yes, he is, and that’s where Malcolm Merlyn comes in.  Oh Malcolm, you fool.  Why did you have to collect Savage’s ashes at the end of the episode for sure-to-be-nefarious use?  I guess you wouldn’t be Merlyn if you didn’t.  We all knew Oliver agreeing to hand over control of the League of Assassins to Merlyn at the end of Season 3 was a terrible idea and that it would bite everyone in the ass eventually.

While he has mostly be of help thus far this season, he was bound to do something truly terrible eventually and here it is.  It’s no wonder that we will now need a new team of heroes to take the soon-to-be-resurrected Savage down.  After all, Oliver has his hands full in his fight against HIVE and Damien Darhk.  The Flash still needs to close the portals to Earth-2 and put a stop to Zoom.  Neither hero has time to deal with a third massive threat to the globe, so our backdoor pilot for “Legends” is now complete.

Was this 2-night crossover perfect?  Of course not.  There were some tonally wonky moments here and there and some dramatic beats didn’t land as hard as they should have.  Overall though, I had a great time with the whole event, which basically combines to form a feature-length crossover.  Not only were the big moments satisfying in most instances, but so were the small character bits.

Here are my personal favorite moments.  I’m sure I’ve already forgotten a few and will be hitting myself later over them, but these are the ones that stick out to me the most right now…

  • Oliver’s amazement at how much Central City loves The Flash, from them have a “Flash” drink at the cafe to kids playing with Flash action figures!
  • Barry’s trolling quips aimed at Vandal Savage and Malcolm Merlyn.
  • Thea geeking out a bit at finally meeting The Flash.
  • The “geek squad” interactions between Felicity, Cisco, and Caitlin.
  • Oliver’s (now undone) death.  I see some complaining it was drawn out long enough, but it worked for me.
  • Oliver’s emotional breakdown over finally realizing that William is his son.
  • The aforementioned hokey Ancient Egypt sequences.  Goofy or not, they made me smile.
  • Casper Crump having a young Peter Stormare thing going on in his portrayal of Vandal Savage.
  • Oliver finding out that his son William’s favorite hero is The Flash and playing action figures with him.
  • The existence of a Captain Cold action figure.  Surely Leonard Snart is going to be pissed that he’s not seeing royalty payments or a check for likeness rights?
  • Oliver and Barry, side by side.  Amell and Gustin have great chemistry together, no matter the scene.
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