‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 8: ‘Legends of Yesterday’
It’s time for another installment of Pointed Commentary, the feature where grizzled Arrow watcher Matt D. Wilson and newcomer Chris Haley dig into the details of Team Arrow cleaning up the filthy, crime-ridden streets of Star City.
This week’s episode, “Legends of Yesterday,” reunites the Flash and Arrow teams, and fully sets the stage for the upcoming spin-off series, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Oh, and everyone dies. Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Brian Ford Sullivan wrote the episode, which was directed by our new name champion, Thor Freudenthal. For our discussion of the first half of the Flash/Arrow crossover, check out Up To Speed.
Matt: Well, Chris, our heroes totally failed and everyone perished, so I guess this is the last one of these. And they did it with such expediency, too! Green Arrow got vaporized with about half an hour to go. I’m writing this sentence before I see the last half of the episode, so I’m just assuming we stare at his bones for the remaining half hour. You’ve seen the rest; am I right?
Chris: Yeah, the rest of the episode is just slow pans over everyone’s ashes and solemn music… AND THEN DOOMSDAY SHOWS UP!
Matt: Ah, I wish, Chris. I wish. As it turns out, the Flash runs back in time, tells Ollie all about how they both totally failed, and they come up with a new plan that involves Hawkgirl getting control of her powers (oh, I should mention that Hawkman and Hawkgirl are in this, and are genuinely from ancient Egypt) and, perhaps the most important element of any plan, a van.
Chris: A van that no one is driving, apparently. That’s probably the biggest takeaway from this episode. Team Arrow has a self-driving stunt van.
Matt: Maybe it’s Ollie’s son... from the future! Came back in time to drive a van for his dad.
So, here’s the thing: There were parts of this episode that were kind of... too crazy to hate? Like, the Flash speeds offscreen to go to a museum in Keystone City and steal some Nth metal so Cisco can build gauntlets to enable Barry and Ollie to hold an ancient magic staff, the Staff of Horus. Like, that’s the zaniest Silver Age superhero stuff you can do, and it’s on a TV show. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have died and been reborn dozens of times over thousands of years. It’s all very silly, but also undeniably fun. It feels like the Flash influence seeping through.
And yet, there’s the crummy Arrow stuff. Like, Ollie knows he’s got to fight Vandal Savage (more on him in a minute) and the fate of Central City is in his hands, and still he goes off and tries to find out if this kid he saw in the coffee shop is his son. That couldn’t wait until tomorrow? It’s a manufactured reason to have him screw up.
Chris: Absolutely. This episode also has the fun (not fun) problem of trying to fit way too much into one episode, even though this was the second part of a crossover, so you’d think it had more than enough time to get all the story paced out properly. So many of the character interactions and plot contrivances felt like they’d been edited down to the bare minimum to make sure the episode didn’t run long.
The two halves of this crossover felt really disconnected because both shows were still trying to give all of their individual characters (plus the new ones) something to do/say at the expense of the big story they were supposed to be telling. I don’t know if I’m making sense at this point, but that at least means I should fit right in with these shows where no one says or does anything that makes sense.
Matt: It did seem like Laurel and Dig were just there to jump out of a van, didn’t it? Like, why did they come to begin with if they weren’t even going to get involved in the plan the first time? It’s like Barry came back in time and said, “Hey, let’s make use of these other superhero people we have to fight this supervillain.”
Speaking of the supervillain, something about Vandal Savage (played by Danish actor Casper Crump) just seems... off. There’s the obvious size and look thing --- he looks like Cat Stevens --- but the performance is also just weird, isn’t it? Is it maybe because he strictly seems to be motivated by the fact that a priestess he had a crush on had sex with a prince?
Chris: Saying he only felt “off” is being kind. My take on Vandal Savage was always that he’s this kind of terrifying but charismatic ultra-sophisticated caveman, and this guy clearly had none of that going for him. If I didn’t know he was supposed to be the big bad for Legends of Tomorrow, it might not have bothered me as much, but I just do not see how he’s going to be compelling enough to keep that show interesting. I guess maybe they’re banking on all the interplay between the various team members since they’ve got such a big cast.
Matt: It’s a weird casting choice, right? I don’t want to malign Crump, but he does not really come off as intimidating, in the present-day scenes or the flashbacks, which have a real regional-theater-production-of-Antony-and-Cleopatra vibe to them. When Savage says he learned to avoid feeling pain from Robin of Locksley, it looks like he's stifling a laugh, which honestly isn't too surprising.
And yeah, that placement of the Legends of Tomorrow promo was super strange. It was a reveal that Savage isn’t dead well before the real reveal on the show.
Chris: “Synergy is fun when it spoils your plot, but who cares, just watch our new show!” I don’t think you could have hit the nail on the head any more precisely with that assessment of “Egypt”. It was hard not to laugh out loud the first time they cut to that throne room set, but I mean, I don’t know what else I could have possibly expected.
Speaking of “what did you expect?”: what did you think of this take on Hawkman and Hawkgirl?
Matt: I’ve never been a big Hawkman fan to begin with, and this version didn’t do much to convince me. Again, I don’t want to throw an actor under the bus, but Falk Hentschel seems like he’s kind of sleepwalking through his scenes.
Chris: Oh man, another candidate for the name championships.
Matt: Casper Crump, too. That sounds like the name of a one-time gangster villain from a Golden Age Batman story.
I liked Hawkgirl (and Cisco names her that straight-out here) a lot more. Ciara Renee does a pretty good job with what she’s given (on The Flash it was jumping off a building just to test something, here it was surprise at being able to sprout wings or not). Renee at least plays her with some personality and livelihood, you know? She’s going through a lot --- her whole life is changing in front of her --- and that did come across. I hope she gets more of the focus on LoT than Hawkman does, quite frankly.
One question, though: Where do their wings go when they put them away? I don’t think they just tuck under their jackets. Are they hologram wings?
Chris: They absorb back into their bodies, because the television producers have finally said, "F--- it.”
Matt: I want to be clear, too: I’m glad they said that. There’s a lot of superhero craziness in this that’s at least enjoyable, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Like, honestly, if Barry could go back in time and stop things from happening, it seems like he’d be doing that constantly. But, you know what, it makes for one fun story with him and Green Arrow, and that’s fine. We got a big magic fight with a staff (which everyone pronounces as either the “Staff of Horse” or the “Staff of Horace” here, never “Staff of Horus”).
Chris: Ohhh, okay, I assumed the staff belonged to Horace Hogan.
Matt: That joke was just for me, wasn’t it?
Chris: That joke is for anyone that’s unfortunate enough to understand it.
I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but now that you’ve said it, Hawkman definitely felt like he was sleepwalking, or even worse, like the whole thing was boring or beneath him and he was just ready to get it over with. And what’s worse, I can’t tell if that was a character choice or the actor just rueing his place in life.
Matt: There’s a scene in the revised timeline where he’s trying to advise Kendra to embrace her warrior side, but Cisco interrupts it to tell her to focus more on the priestess side (shockingly, it works). When Cisco comes up and asks Hawkman if he can talk to her, Hawkman peaces out like he’s been waiting to do it the whole show. It’s the only time he seems excited at any point. “I get to leave!” he should say.
Chris: “Anything to not have to act a second longer in this garbage!” Man, I really want to talk to this actor now and try to figure out if he absolutely hates that he was cast. My brain is already frantically filling in the blanks of a scenario where he went in for the audition because his agent made him and he tried to do his absolute worst, most disinterested take on it, and the producers loved it for some reason, and now he’s stuck. I like this episode and this Hawkman so much more if I imagine that this is what was going on behind the scenes.
Matt: It was this guy’s only choice. WWE doesn’t need a fake Edge at the moment. (Wrestling joke #2 for anyone counting.)
Chris: I’m hoping that by the end of this week’s column we’ve just devolved into straight up discussing last night’s NXT.
To hop back in time just a little and talk about Barry’s time travelling (see what I did there?), I really like this version of that power they’ve established where he has no control over it. That lets them have fun with it when they want to, but also keeps you from constantly asking, “Well why doesn’t he just go back and fix _____?” Barry gave possibly the worst explanation of “I can time travel” imaginable to Oliver though, until he saved it with that “my world is weirder than yours” line.
Matt: There’s also the whole “the timeline tries to fix itself” explanation, which is why Barry advises Ollie to tell Felicity about his son. He did it the first time around, so he’s got to do it again. But the kid’s mom insists he tell no one about him (for reasons that... aren’t super clear) so Ollie chooses to keep his mouth shut about it.
Do you expect this to pay off? I found this whole subplot mega-weird, beyond just the really terrible timing of Ollie choosing to investigate this during a world-threatening crisis.
Chris: Oh, it will absolutely be continued, but I don’t know if anything on this show “pays off”. None of it makes sense though. If she doesn’t want her son to get pulled into Ollie’s weird world (which she explicitly states even though she doesn’t even know how weird it really is), why on Earth would she suddenly say, “Okay, you can be this weird friend of mine that comes over occasionally and plays with him, but you can’t tell anyone he’s your son, ever. Because no one will ever question why a guy that’s running for mayor likes to come hang out with a little boy he’s not related to.”
Matt: Also, this is a good a place as any to get this out: Why is his name William instead of Connor? Why? Why why? WHY WHY WHY (Note I added after blacking out: In the comics, Ollie's son Connor Hawke is the second Green Arrow.)
Chris: Connor will be his middle name or his middle name is William because that’s the way these things are done now. ::long exasperated sigh::
Matt: Do you think this is some kind of long road to an Ollie/Felicity breakup? It broke them up in the timeline that got re-done (Felicity said she couldn’t trust Ollie because he kept it from her, despite his entire deal being keeping secrets of various kinds), and he’s keeping it from her again, almost certainly for it to become something she finds out. Like, this situation of not even telling the kid himself he’s his dad is totally untenable, right?
Chris: Yeah, this is all handled poorly and in a way that stretches the limits of what the mind can imagine possibly happening… and I’m saying that on a show where people sprout giant bird wings out of their backs. I’d certainly be delighted if it did break them up though. But only if they break up and then Felicity leaves for some city DC doesn’t own, so we never have to see her again.
Matt: Time travel, bird wings, magic staffs: All totally fine and fun, easy to ignore the problems with. Complicated family situation: What the hell is even happening with this.
Chris: Ollie, just tell Felicity and explain the whole weird situation and then don’t tell your ex-girlfriend that you told your current girlfriend what’s up. You will definitely be in less trouble with the woman you’re not in a relationship with. Also, why the hell would Ollie not go, “Wait, Barry said not telling Felicity totally screwed things up in the timeline where we all died… so I’ll also not tell her in this timeline. Queen, you’re a genius.”
Matt: Heck of a politician, this guy. I don’t know, I’m just wondering where any of this could be going. Are we going to get several weeks of Ollie coming up with increasingly strained excuses to drive to Central City, which is an indeterminate distance away, and awkwardly play action figures with some kid who only knows him as “a man who came into my house”?
Also, why does that kid have a Captain Cold figure? That is a real criminal who did real crimes in this world!
Chris: Matt are you telling me you don’t think I could get on eBay right now and find a Nailz action figure? They make toys of bad guys all the time.
Matt: I’m glad you didn’t make that a Chris Benoit joke. You pulled out Nailz instead. My goodness.
Chris: I won’t let you down. So, anyway, last night’s NXT…
Matt: Blue Pants was robbed!
And that’s it for this week’s recap! Join us next week for the midseason finale, where the lukewarm conflict with Damien Darhk warms up a bit!