With titles like these, it’s no great surprise that the now-traditional mid-season crossover story is being used to launch the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series. What is perhaps more surprising, is that whilst it feels more like the sort of 1970s Giant crossover story that used to appear in the summer before comics invented ‘Events’, this two-parter feels like it’s working within the ongoing plots of the respective shows, rather than taking a step away for the duration.
The premise sees Vandal Savage arrive in Central City hunting Kendra Saunders. In the comics, Vandal is a caveman who was exposed to radiation from a crashed meteor and gained heightened intelligence and immortality as a consequence. This version takes the basic origin, but transplants it to the Egyptian era and entwined it with the original incarnations of the two who would eventually become Carter and Kendra (Cisco’s barista). Over the centuries, Savage has killed over two hundred previous incarnations, and Kendra is next on his list.
When Savage attacks, Barry is able to save Kendra, but it’s not long before ever-cheerful Merlyn turns up with a potted history of Savage, someone even he’s afraid of. Perhaps fortunately, it’s just the right time for Hawkman to drop in before being zapped by Barry.
Meanwhile, back at STAR Labs, the show’s story arc continues with Harry and Caitlin working on something called Velocity 6 in the hope that it might give Barry an edge against the much faster Zoom. Jay refuses to be a guinea pig, but after Patti turns up and shoots Harry (you’d think someone might have told her), Jay agrees in order to remove the bullet. As has been his common feature this season, once this is done and the speed burst wears off, Jay stomps off in a huff again. I wouldn’t be surprised to see future iterations of this speed steroid being worked on, until we reach Velocity-9 as in the comics – perhaps the way Jay eventually gets his speed back.
And so to the Arrow half of the story – though this year’s crossover has played much more as a movie-length story that just happens to shift the viewpoint halfway through.
Despite being the spin-off character, it’s interesting just how much the elements of both shows change around Barry – similar in many ways to how Captain Jack became almost a different character when he appeared in the parent show.
With Savage having killed over 200 previous incarnations of her, it seems that finding a way for Kendra to remember her past might help in finding a way around being killed again. To that end, the two teams head to a farm site away from the cities (acknowledging the similarity to a certain blockbuster movie element along the way, and allowing Oliver and Caitlin to engage in some witty banter about the security of STAR Labs and the Arrowcave).
Although technically an Arrow episode, it manages to lift itself from much of the usual gloom and discord that tends to permeate the show, with the exception of a particular plot thread. The episode needed issues in order for Oliver to be off his game, and to that end, dredged up the previously ‘unknown son’ plotline from season 3 and used it to drive a wedge between Oliver and Felicity. Unfortunately, this just didn’t feel a good fit for either character, particularly given their recent circumstances and felt shoe-horned in for no other reason than to provide the antagonism behind Oliver’s distracted behaviours and to act as the trigger leading to Barry’s time travel trip. With luck, this was a one-off, but it felt like the start of an ongoing thread about Oliver keeping secrets from her again, and that never ends well.
The two episodes worked well to lay out the last few pieces ready for Legends of Tomorrow, and it’s only a shame that we still have a while to wait for that show to start. In the meantime, this was probably the nearest thing to a live action Justice League/Society on TV since Smallville’s Absolute Justice double-length episode over half a decade ago.