“This time we do things differently.”
“Legends of Yesterday” is the direct continuation of The Flash’s “Legends of Today.” This is the big showdown between Savage and well…everyone so there’s a lot of work that has to go in to the setup. Right from the start this episode moves very fast. The characters are all well established at this point, so there’s virtually no pretense as they jump right in to troubleshooting mode. It’s still incredible to see the characters draw conclusions by discussing them out loud in a matter of moments, when a lot of shows take full seasons to do so. All these perspectives working together just goes to show something that I’ve always praised Arrow and Flash for, and that’s the fact that the characters are people who actually get things done.
Vandal Savage is a little more subtle this time. He’s still comically bad, as far as villains go, but at least he backs it up. Carter and Kendra are just as complicated in their interactions as they are in the comics. They have a very unique way of communicating that comes across very exclusively and lends a remarkable amount of credence to their uncanny background. Also this reveals them to be more than just “people with wings” which are words that have been responsible for many an argument in my past. Their outfits are effective. They call back to the comics without sacrificing functionality. Sexualization is still a problem for Kendra just like it was for Canary, but it seems to be less blatant so that’s a bit of an improvement. The Egypt scenes are well designed. The costuming, set layouts, and camera filter really set it apart, making it not only look but feel like another lifetime. It’s a first time kind of situation for Arrow, and it’s surprising how well it’s handled despite how unusual it is.
Samantha is a hard character to convey. She is very harsh and unfair, but all of her actions are made based on her love for her son. What makes the scene difficult is how much sense she makes about how complicated Oliver’s life is, and how unsuitable he is to be a proper father. All of this compounded with Felicity’s reaction totally sets this drama apart from what we’ve previously seen in the show. This is very real and personal drama that people can actually relate to. It’s a conflict that might be too personal for a superhero show, and that is part of what makes it so powerful and cut so deep. The other part however is the vulnerability that Stephen Amell injects in to Oliver. As a newer father himself, he delivers a stirring performance with subdued emotion the likes of which we’ve never seen him tap in to as the character. This is easily the standout, and it’s no wonder that its effects reverberate through the course of the rest of the episode.
Cisco’s conversations with Kendra are great moments that develop her character beautifully in a short time. We’ve seen the science and action in both shows, but this is the slow evolution of an emotional superhero beyond the realm of both, and it’s refreshing to see them giving an equal amount of energy to developing her without irony or cynicism inherent in most big superhero movies and shows. Carlos Valdes helps make a scene that is by nature very sappy and sentimental in to something more genuine. His empathy along with his powers make his character unique in the world of Arrow and Flash.
Final Word: That was a lot, huh? The episode is very complicated in its themes, and the character drama is some of the absolute best we’ve ever seen in Arrow. Oliver’s crisis reaches a new level, and it means there are sides to the character, that we have never seen before, coming out; including a rare interaction with Cisco and Oliver as a liability in the final fight. Barry’s reluctance to take advantage of the knowledge of the future is well founded. This is a can’t win sort of story. The episode constantly reminds us that even if things have worked out this time, there is some possibility somewhere in the future hanging over both shows like a vulture. Even though there’s a relatively happy ending, the episode manages to end on a very ominous note.
“Legends of Yesterday” gets a 9.5/10. The destruction is incredible. No character is spared, and it brings fragility in to the world of Arrow and Flash. These characters are not invincible, and we’ve seen now just how horrifying the world they have been called in to really is. The winds of change have swept over both of these shows and a new level of danger has been added. This is escalation, and it has officially been burned in to the DNA of DC’s TV Universe. It’s exactly the kind of evolution that makes Marvel consistently kick DC’s ass on the big screen; good to see that it’s a lesson the CW has learned.