2015 Flash-Arrow crossover review – Fun and entertaining, but far from perfect

NOTE: Spoilers follow for both parts of the crossover, and plot points related only to The Flash will also be discussed. Proceed with caution.

It’s hard to deny that this year’s crossover was jam=packed full of cheap thrills, one-liners and flashes (pun intended) of pure entertainment. It’s what I wanted, and it’s what I’m expecting from Legends of Tomorrow. And for the most part, it works. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from seeing ten different characters that you know and love (well, some of them at least – excluding Hawkgirl and Hawkman, plus any other character whom you don’t like) interact for two hours.

It’s somewhat fortunate, then, that this served as somewhat of a saving grace, because narratively, these episodes were a real mess. More frustratingly, they were both, individually, a mess for entirely different reasons. The Flash suffered as The Flash will always suffer in these crossovers: as the first of the two to air, it has the job of setting up the basis for both its own instalment as well as Arrow’s. Last year’s attempt was far easier, given how loosely the two episodes were related and how simplistic things were in terms of story. Here, Flash juggled: the Legends of Tomorrow set-up it’s created during the show’s sophomore season, the Legends set-up originating in this episode, six different Arrow characters, one scene to further Arrow’s ongoing Damien arc and its own narrative progression in terms of Earth-2 Harrison Wells developing a drug to enable Barry to run faster to defeat Zoom.

Phew. That was a lot.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this wasn’t ever going to work. The fact that it worked as well as it did is a credit to Flash’s writing team. So, one the one hand, I’m thankful that Legends of Today was so watchable. On the other, I’m left frustrated by how overcrowded the episode was. While I love The Flash and am enjoying the Earth-2 story arc on the show (more on how those who watch one but not the other in the next paragraph), did we really need it here? It’s frustrating, because things were developing nicely and so to altogether put a halt to things for one week would have felt off, but in an episode that was crammed with story that it needed, shedding some moments unnecessary to the crossover itself may have been the best worst option.

Which brings me onto another issue. The arc would have been lost on those Arrow fans only tuning in for this week’s Flash. While I have been loving Damien Darkh on Arrow, and I really enjoyed his brief appearance in The Flash (Neal McDonough was even more fun than usual), I can imagine that those viewers who only watch The Flash were left confused as to what was going on, particularly given that the episode assumed that viewers were aware. Both of these were scenes that could have easily lifted out, but the big problem both for non-Flash viewers and for Arrow narratively arose in the second part.

God only knows how viewers of Arrow only felt as they saw Barry Allen run alongside a ghost of himself, only to travel through time 15 minutes later. Time travel is a concept used twice in Flash’s debut season, but to throw it into Arrow, even this season as we’ve witnessed heaps of magic, is somewhat of a dumb move, particularly given that it shaped the second half of the episode. While I appreciate that the minds behind the shows are building this shared universe, and I enjoy that aspect, it’s naive to assume that everyone who watches Arrow watches The Flash, and vice versa.

Both editions of “previously on…” attempted to make these aforementioned arcs more accessible to those who only watch one show, and I commend them for trying. But while a crossover in which both shows are merged to be like one sounds like a good idea on paper, it’s not necessarily a good one in practise.

Arrow was also guilty of attempting to further a couple of its own plots, but these were far more accessible to non-watchers (this is the last I’ll mention of that accessibility, as I’m sure you’re all bored of me droning on about it by now), despite taking up far more screentime. That aspect didn’t bother me so much given how little was going on in comparison to the first part, but instead the execution wasn’t fantastic.

The topic of Olicity has long been argued amongst Arrow fans, and, more often than not, I sit firmly in the anti-Olicity (or #nolicity, as Cory tells me is the Tumblr tag) camp. That being said, I’m less against them as a couple and more against the poor writing of them and the show around them as a result. Melodrama definitely falls into that area, and so the entire plot between the pair in the second instalment left me nothing but frustrated.

Frustrated because it did very little in terms of character development – regressing on some of Oliver’s instead – as well as being generally badly written and not at all fun, which, again, is all I was really hoping for. Since his stint in the League last season, Oliver has tried his utmost to not keep secrets from, or tell lies to, his friends and family (Thea, since he has no one else in that regard). So, the ending of Legends of Yesterday, in which Oliver decided to keep from Felicity the fact that he has a son bothered me greatly, because it was an unnecessary step backwards in this department.

Equally as problematic is the rift it will cause. Season four has been relatively free of the kind of melodrama and relationship angst that plagued season three (Green Arrow and Lost Souls excepted), but Legends of Yesterday not only used it greatly before Barry reset the timeline, but set up the show to do more in the episodes to come. That’s not something the show needs, particularly given how well the Damien Darkh story is playing out. This will only distract from the main plot, which is the one I actually care about. Sure, Oliver and Felicity’s relationship needs to build and go through problems if the writers are serious about them lasting, but that doesn’t make it especially interesting.

Speaking of Oliver’s son, that entire plot felt forced, and a lot of that stems from how Oliver met William. I can get on board with Oliver accidentally running into either Samantha or William in Jitters once, but to run into Samantha last year and then William this year at around about the same time (across two visits total) is far beyond coincidence. Equally as forced was Oliver being able to get one of William’s hairs for a DNA test. If you watched the episode, I shouldn’t need to say how stupid that scene was, aside from the fact that it was.

With all that in mind, introducing William into Oliver’s life could make for some good story, particularly given that I am convinced he will be the one in the grave. It’ll be interesting to see just how the show handles this, because I think this will be a big, big step for Oliver to take. It’ll also likely cause issues with his mayoral campaign, and just in his life generally, and as a fan of complete chaos on television (both in general storytelling and a character’s life), this prospect excites me.

The main objective of this crossover was to further set up the new Legends of Tomorrow spinoff that is coming in the New Year. Both The Flash and Arrow have been required to do so in their seasons so far, and both have been pretty heavily affected by this task. In that regard, it was nice to see a pair of episodes that could be devoted to setting up these characters (though if only they had spent more time doing so rather than with each show’s own story).

Kendra Saunders had made a couple of appearances on The Flash before this crossover, and so isn’t unfamiliar to those of us who watch. However, in terms of introducing Hawkgirl, I thought they did a pretty solid job. Granted, her transition was perhaps a little rushed, but every character moving across to Legends of Tomorrow has suffered from that. Her struggle as she learned of her abilities and attempted to work out what to do made for interesting viewing, while her finally getting her wings (and even her first, failed effort) was fun to see. Her training scenes in the second episode weren’t quite as compelling, but it was one of the better aspects of the episode.

Hawkman’s inclusion was pretty cool too. He was hostile, straight-to-the-point and determined enough that while it was pretty easy for most of the characters to dislike him, it was extremely easy for me to love his character. Again, he’s the kind of pain-in-the-ass that is great fun to watch, and I think he’ll fit in perfectly alongside Captain Cold on Legends of Tomorrow.

On the flip side, Casper Crump’s Vandal Savage left a lot to be desired. He was more like a Ra’s al Ghul than a Damien Darkh, though that isn’t to say he was as bad as Ra’s – I have to give him some credit. However, he rarely came off as threatening, certainly nowhere near as much as Damien does. While he did destroy the entirety of Central City (and all of our characters, save Barry, along with it) in the deleted timeline, up until that point, I didn’t really feel as though he’d do much. Sure, he can throw knives and is immortal, but he didn’t feel like a danger.

Perhaps that had something to do with his motivation, which, I have to say, was less preferable to a villain coming in and plotting to destroy Star City just because. Once Carter (Hawkman) explained the whole reincarnation/killing thing, it was a little more solid, but even then, his obsession with Priestess Chay-Ara (thanks Wiki for the spelling) just felt off. I mean, this guy has a thing for her for four thousand years? Really? Trying to pass this off as the pair having a connection due to their tethered life-force isn’t really an explanation, despite how much the show would try and suggest it is. If they keep this up in Legends of Tomorrow, and I have a feeling that they will, Savage isn’t going to be the most compelling villain.

In terms of what I had hoped to get from this crossover, these were two reasonably disappointing hours of television, particularly given that I’m hoping for the same from Legends of Tomorrow as I was this crossover. While not flat out bad episodes, they left a lot to be desired. The fun interactions between the two teams provided a much-needed relief from all of the other storylines going on, but it didn’t make up for it. I’m glad that we’re done with the Legends of Tomorrow set-up, and hopefully Arrow can now propel itself forward into next week’s midseason finale and then on into 2016.

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