Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Arrow 4x08 "Legends of Yesterday" (Time Travel is Really Hard to Write About)

"Legends of Yesterday"
Original Airdate: December 2, 2015

Recently, my sister lamented the fact that she had to work on a group project with people in her Marketing class. She's in college, after all, and it seems absurd that a professor grade everyone in the class based on how they work together in a group. I think it's absurd, but I also can understand where the professor is coming from. In the real, working world, it doesn't matter what skills you possess as an individual. Not really. What matters is how you function with your team. Your success as a department within an organization isn't founded on one person's ability to code or someone else's interpersonal skills. Your success as a team depends on how you function as a team — a unit of individuals working toward one goal.

Barry and Oliver have changed a lot since they last worked together. Actually, if you remember, the last time Barry saw the team from Star(ling) City was in a cell in the spa retreat known as Nanda Parbat. And the Oliver that he meets in "Legends of Today" should be wildly different from the Al Sah-Him character that he was rescuing the team from last season (oh, don't worry... we will be discussing this in a bit). What will always be interesting to me is the fact that Oliver and Barry are dynamic personalities — each man thinks that he knows what is best for the people around him, and neither is afraid to vocalize those beliefs.

Oliver and Barry often butt heads which I think is wonderful. They have such a sibling dynamic and it's important to realize the importance of this — while Oliver is older and, in a lot of ways, wiser, he's not always right. Sometimes he needs the fresh eyes of Barry for clarity. And Barry is often far too eager and believes himself to know it all. In these instances, he needs to hear the harsh criticism from Oliver to set him right again.

... Unfortunately, it's up to Oliver to take or leave the good advice that others give him. It's up to Oliver and Oliver alone to grow, to not make the same mistakes and repeat the pattern of behavior that he did last year. And "Legends of Yesterday" was an example of Oliver Queen backsliding in his characterization, and the writers' decision to follow the soapy trope of a secret child rather than the carefully constructed path of change that they crafted at the beginning of this season. As you might surmise, I was not a fan of this episode. While a majority of it was good (we need more of Team Flash to interact with Team Arrow, or maybe we just need more Cisco Ramon in our lives), the most important aspects of the episode were decidedly not.

So let's talk more, then, about "Legends of Yesterday." But before we do, be sure to read Deb's review of The Flash's "Legends of Today" to catch yourself up to speed (ha, ha). All right? Let's head to Central City with our favorite Team Arrow friends so we can fight off Vandal Savage together.


Before the baby mama drama even occurred on screen, I was already 10000% done with this story. 

And it's not because Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards can't act — they could act themselves out of a box. The problem is that it's a story that has been done approximately one hundred thousand times before. And, much like this season of Doctor Who, Arrow tends to set up "drama" in early episodes only to return to that drama dozens of episodes later and fixate on it for no other reason than to remind us that it existed in the first place.

So when I realized that "Legends of Yesterday" would be focusing on the fact that Oliver has a son, I wasn't exactly looking forward to watching the drama unfold on screen. The problem with storylines involving life-altering secrets is that — nine times out of ten — the main character, when faced with the decision to keep the secret or tell the person they love, will keep the secret. And this decision will always backfire on them, no matter how good of a reason the secret was kept for. And, to be quite frank, every time this occurs? It leads to character regression and not progression.

Let me be upfront and honest and say that I really didn't care for Oliver's decision to keep the secret about William from Felicity both times ("really didn't care" is actually a mild way of putting it because I was ready to throw my phone at my television). But let me be more frank about the reason WHY I didn't care for this decision — because this was never a storyline that needed to exist anyway. There is absolutely no way the writers could have written this story without using it as a source of conflict in Oliver and Felicity's relationship. However — and this is a big however — there is a way that they could have written it which would have furthered Oliver's character development, strengthening the bond between he and Felicity.

... But that doesn't make for good, CW-worthy drama, now does it? Unfortunately, it also doesn't make for a happy reviewer who spent seven episodes reveling in the "new" Oliver — a man who realized all of the repercussions of what he did last year by keeping secrets and grew because of it. Uh, duh-doy, Oliver. Remember the HUGE, LIFE-ALTERING PROBLEMS THAT HAPPENED BECAUSE YOU REFUSED TO LET FELICITY INTO YOUR LIFE LAST YEAR?

The thing about this baby mama drama story is that it doesn't serve to enhance the overall arc of Oliver and Felicity, nor does it really serve Oliver's characterization in a way that aligns with what we know to be true of him in season four. Therefore, it doesn't even serve a purpose on Arrow. And before you jump down to the comments and chastise me, pointing out that characters can regress and then still manage to progress... I know. Characterization isn't linear. Good characterization never is. But there is a difference between a source of drama being shoehorned into a story and it developing organically.

(Obviously, my opinion is that the drama that William's presence caused in Oliver's life and decision he made to withhold this information from Felicity falls under the former, not latter.)

As far as characterization goes, I think it's extremely interesting — and maddeningly frustrating — that Oliver learned 99% of his lessons the second time around. The first time that Oliver was confronted with the reality that he has a son — the REAL time — he made all of the wrong decisions. He lied, point-blank, to Felicity. And you know what? I think Felicity Smoak was completely justified in her response and her accusation of him not trusting her. I've been lied to, you guys, in relationships. I've been on the other side, too. I used to be a compulsive liar. And you know what? It sucks. It is like a cancer that destroys every single cell it touches until it ravages you with sickness. Lying is one of those things that I don't remotely stand for in relationships.

And if Oliver couldn't be upfront with Felicity about something this big — if he excused his behavior and shut her out — then what does that reveal about him? It reveals that when things get really tough, he will run from her, not toward her. Apart from being a really crappy thing to do, it also seemed extremely out-of-character that this Oliver (the man who baked souffles and told Felicity everything he was thinking and feeling) would be so harsh and have such blatant disregard for her feelings that he would hurt her on purpose.

The most appalling thing to me, though? This was the real timeline. This was how Oliver behaved before he knew it would backfire on him and everyone. This was Oliver Queen's real, actual reaction to a problem and that... is absurd. There is no other way to say it, apart from that. Instead of Oliver using this problem as a way to grow closer to Felicity — as a way to demonstrate to her, himself, and to us that he has changed — the writers decided to use this story as a way to push a crappy soapy mess into our hands.

Do you all have the gift receipt? Because I would like to return mine, please and thank you.

Not only was Oliver's initial reaction wildly out-of-character, but it also LITERALLY GOT AN ENTIRE CITY, INCLUDING EVERYONE HE LOVES, KILLED. If you thought Oliver hadn't learned his lesson after pretending to become Al Sah-Him, "Legends of Yesterday" solidifies the fact that he definitely didn't. The only reason that Oliver considers doing things a different way is because Barry breaks the rules of time and space in order to try and convince him. So Oliver: gives Cisco good advice which helps out Kendra; has Diggle, Thea, and Laurel join him in the field which saves everyone's lives; and... doesn't tell Felicity about William.

I watch Doctor Who, so I know that time travel can be a messy thing to deal with. And I understand Barry's concern with messing up too many things in the timeline as is — he has no idea what the decision to kill Vandal Savage will actually do to the events in their future. He has absolutely no clue if saving Hawkman and Hawkgirl doomed someone else in their team. As the Tenth Doctor once said: "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff."

And so, as a Whovian, I know that there are certain rules of time travel. But Barry doesn't. Not really. All he knows is that he's traveled back in time once before, and it threw things for a loop. He doesn't know how much it affected, but he seems to be more scared than certain that bad things will happen if Oliver tells Felicity about William. And so, when faced with the choice, Oliver does not tell Felicity. He lies. And that is the most maddening thing of all.

Because now, you see, the writers have added to their snowball. At first, the problem was that Oliver had a secret. Now, the problem is that Oliver is lying about aforementioned secret. Secrets are easily dealt with in stories. Lies? Not so much. Lies create doubt and disconnect between characters, but also between audience members and characters. The Arrow writers backsliding in Oliver's development is problematic from a character-driven standpoint, but it's also problematic from an audience-centric standpoint, too. How can WE trust and root for someone who is blatantly lying to the supposed love of their life about something that has weight and merit? How can we root for a love story while one person has proven to us — not to Felicity, mind you, but to US — to be so untrustworthy?

Therein lies the problem of the baby mama drama story, no matter what television show or movie it is depicted in. That is why I have problems with Oliver Queen right now. And that is why my faith in the Arrow writers has (for the first time all season) been questioned.

And, in honor of half-reviewing a show that Deb does, I will conclude with how she always ends her reviews: with a GIF of a puppy that perfectly encapsulates Barry Allen in the episode.

Because the only way to end the review of a thoroughly disappointing episode is with a puppy.



Observations & favorite moments:
  • MVP of this episode goes to a non-Arrow player: Grant Gustin. Honestly, he carries everything that he is in. He is the lead on The Flash and sets the tone for the show. And while he was absolutely stellar in last night's episode, I loved seeing him take charge and provide honest advice in Arrow. Grant Gustin has this amazing charm and likability to him that not many actors possess. Because apart from being absolutely adorable, Barry Allen is a character who is also not to be trifled with. We get to see him frazzled, scared, jovial, and every emotion in between in this week's episode. Grant embodies this character so well that I literally cannot imagine anyone else trying to play The Flash.
  • Ancient Egypt is most definitely the Nanda Parbat set, only redressed.
  • "I love your tongue." That was... a line.
  • THERE WERE NO FLASHBACKS THIS EPISODE THAT INVOLVED OLIVER AND THE ISLAND. Praise be to the Arrow for that, at least. I'll take a victory in any place I can get it, I guess.
  • I love that there was so much daylight in this episode and I absolutely loved the opening scene where all of the characters were together and talking over one another. Honestly, if we could have Arrow and The Flash combined into one superhero show, I would be okay with that. There's something about the chemistry between each cast member that just makes the crossover episodes click. Deb mentioned in her review that tonally, these shows are polar opposites. So it's really impressive that episodes like this work as well as they do. (Well, minus the crappy storyline for Oliver.)
  • "Well maybe it's too bright and sunny here."
  • "When it rains, I can still feel where you shot me with those arrows." Oh, what a delightful callback that was.
  • "SHOW ME." "... Okay." Superheroes bend to the whim of Felicity Smoak.
  • "But you don't trust me. You never will." She made a valid point. If someone lies to you about something THAT monumental and then IMMEDIATELY USES THE CHILD AS AN EXCUSE TO LIE... what else are you supposed to think?
  • Laurel was the first person to notice that Felicity wasn't with Oliver and honestly, Laurel, I've never appreciated you more than I did in that moment.
  • "Run, Barry. Run."
  • Vandal Savage needs to learn to not monologue as much as he does. Dude, that's how Ra's basically met his demise.
  • "... I know stuff." All hail, queen Felicity.
  • "We're not leaving each other." THAT is so important to me, because that was the one thing that Oliver did differently the second time around, too. You would think that all of these cues and heavy-handed lines about teamwork (including Felicity's final little monologue) would affect Oliver's decision to lie but nope. Apparently not.
  • Barry forced Oliver into a hug. It was adorable.
  • I have no idea what Malcolm is doing or what is plan is, but suffice it to say that it doesn't involve taking the team out to ice cream or buying Thea a puppy.
Well... what did you all think? Was I too harsh on the baby mama storyline? How do you feel about next week's midseason finale? Hit up the comments below (or tweet me!) and let me know. Until then. :)


  1. i think your baby mama thoughts were perfect! how am i supposed to root for Oliver in anything Felicity related now i know he's keeping a secret? the writers have obviously forgotten nearly everyones remarks about season 3 and have gone down the drama for dramas sake route again.
    As for 4x09, if the spoilers are am i supposed to be happy? especially when he probably wont come clean quite that soon.

    1. Ambi -- Thanks so much for your comments!

      As for 4x09, if the spoilers are am i supposed to be happy? especially when he probably wont come clean quite that soon.

      See, this is the corner they have backed themselves into. WE know he's lying but Felicity doesn't. So how are we now supposed to root for them to succeed when we know that one half is hiding something pretty pivotal from his other half? It's a really, REALLY bad storytelling move akin to season three. I thought the writers learned from their mistakes. Apparently... not.

  2. Your baby mama comments were so on point! I left the episode feeling season 3 deja vu. I hate where they went with this story, especially baby mama's assertion that he couldn't see his son unless he kept it a secret from everyone. It's 2015, and father's have rights. Even Oliver should be able to figure that out. Also, how would she even have known if he told Felicity? Barry already knows, so there was no reason not to tell Felicity. The writer's are creating soapy drama without considering the character they have developed.

    1. Sabrina -- Thanks so much for your compliment! I definitely also left with a season three deja vu and not in the good way. HOW DOES THAT BABY MAMA LOGIC MAKE ANY SENSE? Why is keeping it a secret going to benefit William in the long-run?

      Also, how would she even have known if he told Felicity? Barry already knows, so there was no reason not to tell Felicity. The writer's are creating soapy drama without considering the character they have developed.

      That's such a fair point. In slight defense, baby mama doesn't know that Barry knows. So for whatever (stupid) reason, she wants Oliver to be the only one who knows. I don't honestly know how that benefits anyone and logically, for Oliver, what you said makes absolute sense. There is no reason for Felicity to not be told about this except to create shoddy, soapy drama. Because we all know she will find out. She's already suspicious and is like, a billion times smarter than Oliver will ever be. The writers are literally delaying the inevitable at this point.

      Thank you for your comment and I'm glad you enjoyed the review. :)

    2. Also in slight defense (and it took me a while to process my crushing disappointment before I got there), Barry didn't actually witness the fight between Felicity and Oliver, so he doesn't know that she was upset over the lying, not the kid. So now, in the new timeline, all Oliver knows is what Barry assumed about the fight, namely that Felicity dumped him over the fact that he has a kid. Knowing that makes it a little easier to understand why Oliver would keep it from her - he's absolutely terrified of losing her.

      It's still a lot of boring, tedious, bullshit though, and doesn't excuse the writers for being absolute blockheads about the whole thing. Argh. The rest of the season is now really tainted for me. And I was so enjoying it up to this point.

      Anyway. Great review, and I agree with you on pretty much all of it.


  3. Not too harsh! I usually wait to read your reviews until after I write my recaps (been falling off lately on both fronts) but I needed some context as I worked out some of my own thoughts. And all the things you said are so true. The trust, the learning 99% of the lesson but also WHY IN THE WORLD DOES OLIVER TRUST THIS WOMAN WHO LEFT AND LIED TO HIM OVER FELICITY!? Especially when no scenario she presented was "be his long distance dad." It just doesn't.... UGH. I know that Oliver is so desperate to get to know his kid, but this doesn't track, since Baby Mama lied to him and still isn' t letting him get to know him. Also: 1. Felicity isn't fooled. She's totally gonna be watching him. 2. "Sorry, honey, gotta go to Central City to see Barry." ::Barry zooms to visit Felicity as he leaves:: LIE IS BROKEN. How is he gonna get away to see this kid every so often?! 3. This lets Oliver get to know his son, but the kid doesn't get to know his dad... He just knows this strange man who suddenly wants to hang out with him (that wasn't creepy or concerning AT ALL). This is a one sided relationship full of lies that will not end well for anyone. Le sigh. You were going SO WELL with the character growth, Ollie.

    (real side note: No one in the post Arrow time of Oliver's life calls him Ollie but Bary and he's the only one who can properly get away with it. It brings me joy amongst badly plotted arcs.)

    Oh look, I worked out some feelings. More thoughts in my recap laterzzzz.

    1. Among my MANY problems with this storyline is one that you mention so beautifully. I do not get Samantha as a mother- having some random guy interact with you does not provide you with a father. It's weird and creepy. (The only way some new guy who has no role in your life taking major interest in you is normal is if he is in a relationship with your parent.) The only way to truly have your father in your life is if KNOW he's your father. Oliver just having random playdates with her kid does absolutely nothing for William. The secret arrangement assuages some of Oliver's needs (although not in a healthy way) which might make her feel slightly less horrible for lying all this time - but she is still lying to her son and, in the long run, harming her son, the one whose best interests she should really have at heart. This is about protecting herself I think. She gets rid of the threat of Oliver doing something legitimate to see his child and she doesn't have to come clean with her own son for keeping something so vital from him for his whole life. Boy, she's like a little Moira copy. Does no one learn anything from Moira Queen?? The instinct for self-preservation by lying and keeping secrets so you don't have to deal with difficult emotions just postpones and enlarges the pain. Those secrets are ALWAYS time bombs which serve to damage lives and relationships, sometimes irrevocably. Arrrgh! Nothing about this secret arrangement between baby mama and Oliver can be maintained for any period of time and it will only damage everyone in their lives. These two parents need to be less concerned about their own pain and more concerned about their child. It's called being the grown up.

    2. You both are SO accurate. Samantha, wtf are you doing as a mom? You're basically saying "leave my son alone or hang out with him but as mommy's friend because that's how I protect my kid?" William seems smart. He's going to start figuring things out or at least asking questions. And so... what? Samantha is going to repeat a cycle of lies to him, too? None of this makes any sense as to how it'll protect William in the long run.

      Also, BIG YES CONNIE -- WHY DOES OLIVER TRUST SOME RANDO OVER FELICITY, THE SUPPOSED LOVE OF HIS LIFE? Also you're totally right. This story serves to do NOTHING because we know Felicity will figure it out eventually ("I know things") and then we'll be back in the same spot that we were before they changed time. So... what is the point of this all anyway? OH WAIT THERE IS NONE.

      Also, Connie, I love that Barry is the only one who can call him "Ollie" without me inwardly cringing. It's adorable and something Barry would definitely do.

      Thank you for commenting and I'm glad I could help you process all of this! Look forward to reading your recap. :D

  4. "Whatever tragedy you think you've just averted, time will find a way to replace it." -Eobard Thawne. I love this quote BTW.

    Acorrding to the rules the established in the Flash someone must die. Its why Mason died instead of Cisco someone will die on Arrow for the alteration of the timestream. I mean Oliver doubted that the timestream would give him karma for lying to Felicity. Felicity is most likley the one in the grave. I mean think about how important she is to the whole show and to Oliver.

    Her death would be a massive karmic retribution to Oliver Queen. Now chances are its not her but I think this event pushed her up the list just to make Queen pay. Plus Mason's death did cause a game-changer on the Flash so it may go the same way on Arrow.

    Now as for the baby mama stuff no complaints massively on point. I can see why you would be so angry that Oliver who has changed so much would backslide so hard. I mean yes there would have been drama between Felicity, Oliver and Samantha but that would have been more intresting than the same old drama about lying. Plus I would have loved to get everyone's opinions on the matter including Thea and Diggle who should have alot to say on the subject. Thea would be an Aunt right?

    Anyway this episode was also not as fun as the one on the Flash and the Vandal Savage plot was weaker here but I wanted the baby mama stuff to be handled back in Season 3 so good we are getting it out of the way now. But now with Felicity possibily dying Oliver queen may be sliding back into Darhkness.

    Pun fufilled for this recap. I regret nothing.

    1. Honestly, I still don't think Felicity is in the grave despite the idea that time will find a way to recoup its loss of Vandal Savage. That said, I am leaning more toward the idea now that it's William in the grave and that not telling Felicity and making the child become a part of his life will have repercussions for Oliver in a way that will shake him in a way nothing else has before.

      I mean yes there would have been drama between Felicity, Oliver and Samantha but that would have been more intresting than the same old drama about lying. Plus I would have loved to get everyone's opinions on the matter including Thea and Diggle who should have alot to say on the subject. Thea would be an Aunt right?

      You hit the nail right on the head -- any kind of friction between Oliver's new life and his old one with Samantha would have been INFINITELY more interesting than the shoddy "drama" they're creating by lying. ALSO YES THEA WOULD BE AN AUNT, HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN THIS?!

      Can Barry please run us all back in time so we can forget this plot even existed?

    2. Jenn, you're not harsh, you're right on points. My problem with this storyline is that no matter what is the intention, lying and keeping secret to the person you love is not a good thing, it will backfire to you at the worst point and you might not come back from that. I could not get pass the lie every time I see Oliver with Felicity and even worse if he propose without telling the truth, for me, it's tainted with lie and broken trust! The writers should have learnt their lesson in Season 3...apparently they're not, they went that road again for what? for the sake of the TV Drama Bullshit! They should have handled it differently but they went with the obvious one! A lie is a lie no matter how you justify it. It's not difficult to break a trust what's difficult is to earn it back!

  5. I feel like everyone has already stated most of the things that concern me about this storyline. It's more than a bad episode, it affects how much I want to watch the rest of the season.

    I feel that Samantha didn't have a good reason for not wanting Oliver in her son's life (although part of me nodded when we discovered we didn't take the money, she just didn't want anything to do with Moira Queen). What exactly does she think is going to be so destructive about knowing Oliver? I mean, we as the audience know that Oliver's life is very dangerous. His enemies, both current and future, could certainly threaten his son's life (which kinda puts a different spin on whether Oliver and Felicity decide to have kids someday). But Samantha doesn't know anything about that. She states what she knows: he's running for mayor, he's lost his mother and Tommy, he probably isn't the person she knew 10 years ago (who is?), she sees him talk so tenderly about Felicity (obviously a more mature relationship there). Where exactly is the "crazy" in all this that she needs to protect her son from? Obviously the writers can't have her know all that we know but that also means it makes her objections to Oliver REALLY weak. It felt contrived just to create drama in more than anything else in this episode. I wonder what she has told William about his father. Is she just avoiding the talk where she has to explain that what she told him before was a lie? Does she realise that she sounds so much like Moira Queen, the very woman she was trying to avoid?

    Barry's caution seems a bit much to me. The "death" of Vandal Savage is going to have major consequences, surely, but Felicity did find out in the last timeline so that's no major change. If they were going to break up (which Barry seemed to think was the case and I think that is impossible to know) keeping them together with a lie seems like a bigger change than telling her. Oliver was considering not being in William's life due to the dangers before Barry talked him out of it but Barry is ignoring the fact that from William's point of view it will not be growing up with a dad, it will be a random friend of his mom's stopping by occasionally (which he is going to feel differently about when he is 15 or 18). There is no way this lie doesn't damage that father-son relationship Barry talks so passionately about. Barry may not have had his father around for a good chunk of his life but he always had an honest relationship with him. Also feels very contrived just to create the lie time-bomb.

    And the last thing that didn't make sense to me. Oliver doesn't have to tell Felicity everything in order to be honest with her. It would have been better to just say - "I found out something upsetting regarding an old friend of mine who lives in Central City. I want tell you all about it but this friend has sworn me to secrecy and I'm going to respect their decision." Boom. Oliver hasn't told her about his son but he's also made it clear that it is something that concerns some other person's life who would not like it discussed. I don't know about Felicity but that would go a long way in helping me to understand. Just sayin'

    All these things combined with my general feeling that Oliver has progressed beyond this kind of drama to make this whole plot line feel really heavy-handed and totally inorganic. The painful and somewhat stupid decisions Oliver made last year felt painful and somewhat stupid but never so contrived.

  6. All that said,
    - I like Kendra. I like that she doesn't just fall into her "pre-destined" relationship but that she also knew her life couldn't be with Cisco. I feel like all the screwing with Olicity kinda made it hard for me to care about or pay attention to the Kendra/Carter stuff.
    - Cisco Ramon is a gentleman and a scholar and the most wonderful person who I just want to hug all the time. The way he reacted to loosing Kendra, the way he still supported and helped her to remember even if it meant changes in their relationship, the way he knew her enough to help even though they've only known each other for a little while. Oh, I love Cisco.

  7. Oh my! I can´t believe they did that to us! I follow The Flash, and even so I didn´t realize Barry could go back in time and Olicity´s argument will never happen, so I was petrified when Oliver decided to listen to Samantha (oh, I hate her already, if she is the one in the tomb six months from now I won´t feel a thing) and don´t tell Felicity. But then time travel happened and I thought this time Oliver would do the right thing, he can trust Felicity with everything, and tellin her he has a son wouldn´t be a problem, because Felicity won´t tell a soul! Bu no, he did the same. Also, with Olicity´s aparmet shattered I thought we could see the ring lying in the floor somewhere...
    In a whole I love these two crossovers, I laughed a lot and saw almost anything of Laurel, but Oliver keeping something so important from Felicity makes it all wrong... :(

  8. I v much agree with like everything everyone has already said, but also: I don't think telling Felicity would disrupt the timeline, right? Because after that day is over, they are caught up on the timeline and can live their normal life, right? So...he could just tell her?

    Also, logistically, this just will not work out. It's sort of a big bomb for both Oliver and Samantha, so maybe they could have taken more than one surprise of a conversation to figure out their future with their son? Just an idea.