Grant Gustin, Stephen Amell/The CW

Holy Smoak, what an episode. The season so far has been hampered somewhat by the need to plant the seeds for the Legends Of Tomorrow spinoff, disrupting the larger Zoom/Earth-Two arc just as it should be ramping up. “Legends Of Today,” on the other hand, is a sterling example of how to do this crossover thing right: it’s like an old-school 80-page giant Justice League Of America annual (or, more accurately, like the first half of one, given that the story concludes tomorrow night on Arrow). It doesn’t ignore the ongoing Flash storylines, but expertly weaves them into an expansive DC Universe adventure. We can only hope Batman V Superman is even half this much fun.

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All the action is prompted by the arrival of Vandal Savage, one of the oldest villains in the DC playbook (in more ways than one). An immortal with a flair for knife-throwing and apparent magic powers, Savage arrives in Central City on a freighter and tracks down Kendra Saunders on a date night with Cisco at Jitters After Hours. As we know from Cisco’s vibes (as well as the advance publicity for Legends), Kendra is destined to be Hawkgirl. Savage knows her as Priestess Shayera, and as we later learn he has already killed her 206 times. Barry’s timely arrival (and some nifty slo-mo knife-catching) staves off number 207 for the moment, but he realizes they’re going to need some help to deal with this latest menace.

Barry immediately thinking of Team Arrow is a little convenient and out of the blue (the pretext is that they at least have some experience with magic, but that’s quite a leap for Barry to make based on Savage’s brief appearance), but I can appreciate the writers’ impulse to just get this show on the road. As entertaining as it is to see the Flash swoop in just in time to save Green Arrow from the Damien Darhk death-grab, it’s much more satisfying that the episode finds room for some downtime, with the characters just hanging out and interacting in different combinations. Cisco taking offense to the changes made to his specs for the new Arrow HQ; Thea’s “So we know the Flash?” confusion; Barry and Felicity exchanging capsule summaries of the weird goings-on in their respective seasons…all of this stuff is pure gold.

It can’t last forever, as Savage comes crashing in for another round of knife-snatching and arrow-shooting. Malcolm Merlyn drops by with a cadre from the League of Assassins in order to spill some knowledge on Savage’s history and tell Kendra she’s basically screwed. Hawkman himself swoops down to fill Kendra in on their centuries-long love transcending life, death, and numerous bodies along the way. The Flash brings Hawkman down with some whirlwinds and then delivers a lightning-bolt sucker punch for the win. It’s almost TOO MUCH, people.

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While all this is going on, regularly scheduled Flash business is still in effect back at STAR Labs. Caitlin and Wells-2 are working on the Zoom problem, specifically the fact that the villainous speedster is three or four times faster than Barry at top speed. They concoct a formula called Velocity-6 and hope to test it out on Jay, but he wants nothing to do with any speed steroids, at least until Patti shows up and shoots Wells-2 (what with no one, including her partner or her boyfriend, having clued her in to the fact that there’s a new Wells in town). Jay agrees to take a shot of the speed drug so he can phase through Wells-2’s wound and pull the bullet out of his chest, but once it wears off he storms away again. I can’t say I’m crazy about what the show has done with Jay Garrick so far; I’m sure his “cowardly superhero” arc will be paid off with a redemption episode down the line, but for now he’s mostly just a glum presence, and a non-superpowered one at that. Who thought it was a good idea to bring another Flash onto the show and deprive him of his speed from the start?

Fortunately, that’s a minor offense in an episode that gets most everything else right. The real grade for “Legends Of Today” should probably be “incomplete” with so much left unresolved until the second part airs on Arrow, but even without a real ending, this was the most purely enjoyable outing of the season so far. Best of all, it should pretty much clear the decks of franchise-building business for the time being (give or take an appearance by Captain Cold next week, but he still counts more as a core Flash character than a Legends spinoff in my book). These crossover events are a blast, but they cease being events if they happen every week.

Stray observations

  • I’m used to Barry giving out his secret identity like business cards at this point (except to whoever he’s romantically involved with at the time), so it didn’t shock me that he showed his face to Kendra after knowing her for about 10 seconds. I guess it’s contagious, since Team Arrow invited her into their secret lair without knowing her at all.
  • “Is that the only way this guy knows how to enter a room?”
  • The episode was so jam-packed with guests, someone was destined to draw the short straw. It turned out to be Iris, whose appearance this week was almost subliminal.
  • The deep cut in the “previously on” segment featuring Moira Queen paying off Oliver’s baby mama was a bit of a tip-off to tonight’s cliffhanger ending. It will be up to Alasdair Wilkins to deal with the fallout in his review of the second part of this crossover on tomorrow night’s Arrow.

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