Warning: This contains spoilers.
This week’s Arrow is the second part of the show’s annual crossover with The Flash, so woe betide you if you’re not currently watching both. As well as putting the last pieces in place for the upcoming spin-off show Legends of Tomorrow (this week’s Flash was entitled Legends of Today), this was a highly enjoyable crossover with a strong, stream-lined plot, plenty of action and some intriguing hints for what’s to come on the back half of this season.
The first episode of this two-parter suffered a little in that it was mostly set-up for the main action here. In case you missed The Flash, Cisco’s sort-of girlfriend Kendra gets a visit from a winged man named Carter (aka Hawkman), who tells her that they are long-lost lovers from Ancient Egypt, who keep being reunited in new incarnations and that a mystical figure named Vandal Savage is trying to kill them, as he has done 206 times previously. Short version of the rest of the episode: Barry decides to bring Team Arrow in on protecting Kendra, so they all get together. Oh, and the cliff-hanger to the end of the Flash episode is Oliver spotting the 10-year-old son he never knew he had – who was last mentioned two years ago, in a flashback sequence back when Moira McQueen was still alive. That is some hardcore seed-planting, Arrow.
With the set-up taken care of, Arrow is free to be pretty much all action, with a side-helping of soap opera for the stuff with Oliver’s son. However, what’s clever is the way the time travel element (we’ll get to that) impacts both the main plot and the soap opera subplot.
So, as The Flash is running somewhere or other, he spots himself running alongside himself (stay with us, non-Flash watchers), so he immediately knows (because it happened once before in a previous episode) that a) he’s going to be time-travelling in the very near future (by running really fast – look, it’s probably better if you just don’t ask), and b) that something really bad is about to go down.
And that’s more or less what happens. Oliver asks Barry to do a DNA test on the boy (William) he believes is his son. He is. William’s mother (Samantha) tells Oliver he can be in his life, but he can’t tell Felicity about it, for some reason. Unfortunately, Barry unknowingly lets Felicity know that Oliver has a Secret Son, so they argue and split up and Oliver is distracted during the big fight with Vandal Savage, so EVERYBODY DIES. Everybody except The Flash, that is, who realises this is probably his cue to do that time-travelling he saw himself doing and runs back and resets everything. (To be fair, the bit where EVERYBODY DIES is a great moment, involving each of the characters from both shows getting incinerated in a city-wide energy blast.)
The second time around, Barry lets Oliver know what has already happened (“My world is just stranger than yours, okay?”), so Oliver avoids the argument and break-up with Felicity, but, crucially, leaves her in the dark about his Secret Son. Which basically means he’s lying to the woman he loves to appease a woman he has no real allegiance to (he was unaware that Samantha was pregnant, after all, and didn’t know that Moira paid her to leave town). Anyway, this time around, Oliver is focussed for the battle and also, crucially, realises that instead of protecting his friends by insisting they stay out of the fight, that he actually needs them by his side. So they all pull together, Vandal is turned into a pile of dust thanks to a mystical object thingy and the Hawkpeople fly off to be in Legends of Tomorrow. Oh, and then Malcolm shows up to scoop up some Savage dust, saying “You owe me one, buddy”, because Vandal Savage has already been announced as the villain in the spin-off series. Man, this show sure loves a bit of resurrection.
To be fair, this all works pretty nicely and there’s lots of fun interaction between the supporting characters from both shows. Thea, in particular, has several great lines, given that she wasn’t yet part of Team Arrow during the previous crossover episodes. (“Did I know we know The Flash? I didn’t know we know The Flash.”) Similarly, as we’ve come to expect with Arrow, the action scenes are of a high standard and seeing Green Arrow, Black Canary, Speedy, The Flash, Hawkman and Hawkgirl teaming up against one villain is the closest we’ve come to a live action Justice League since those episodes of Smallville with The Flash and Aquaman.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few problems. For one thing, the prospect of the upcoming Secret Son storyline isn’t entirely welcome and has the potential to really mess with Arrow’s dynamic. That said, it seems highly likely that either William or Samantha or both are in the Mystery Grave glimpsed back in Episode 1, which would be a neat get-out.
The other thing that doesn’t really work are the Egyptian flashbacks (replacing Flashback Island this week) to Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Vandal’s origin story (short version: magic asteroids, ancient curse), largely because their chemistry is less than convincing, especially considering they’re meant to be eternal star-crossed lovers. It doesn’t matter that the chemistry wasn’t there in the present-day scenes, as the characters had only just met, but either way, they’re not particularly compelling characters (or indeed actors) at this point, so hopefully Legends of Tomorrow will address that issue.
One quick side-note: although they both happened in the Flash episode, there are two great Arrow moments that are worth mentioning here. First, the debut of the magnetic arrow (during a fight with Damien Darhk’s goons), and second, a delightful moment when Damien chuckles to himself, after The Flash zips Oliver out of his evil clutches, as he’s about to drain his life-force.
All in all, this is an enjoyable episode that had a lot of fun contrasting the madness of the current season of The Flash with Arrow’s more down-to-earth approach. And, best of all, with the spin-off set-up now out of the way, we can concentrate on the back half of the season and finally find out what Damien Darhk is up to.
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.