Warning: This contains spoilers.
With the heavy lifting of the two-part pilot out of the way, Legends of Tomorrow is free to explore various character dynamics this week, trying out a trio of different combinations in an episode that doesn’t advance the main plot to any significant degree, but finds room for some important character development.
With the team sticking around in 1975, the main plot involves Rip and Sara deciding to strike at Savage by crippling his finances. They head to a bank run by sinister-looking European types, but get made before they accomplish their goal, resulting in a terrific fight sequence that sees Sara wreaking havoc with an arsenal of knives stashed about her person – Rip, as she whips yet another one from a garter belt: “Just how many knives do you have?” – and Rip more than holding his own, by wielding a coat-stand.
That whole Rip and Sara sequence encapsulates a lot of what makes Legends of Tomorrow such a fun show so far, as before the fight starts, we get Rip and Sara in cool-looking ’70s costumes (the Waverider has a machine that makes period-appropriate clothing – did we not mention that before?) striding into the bank in slow-motion with a funky ’70s song on the soundtrack. Speaking of which, the Guardians of the Galaxy influence makes itself felt again during the fight sequence, which is set to Montrose’s I Got The Fire, making an already very cool scene that much cooler.
However, this is also a show that knows what it’s doing when it comes to its various character combinations, so we also get Sara succumbing to Lazarus Pit-induced bloodlust (a very familiar concept if you’re also watching Arrow, not so much if you’re not – short version: bringing her back from the dead came with complications involving RAGE) and Rip trying to reassure her, when she tells him she’s a monster. At any rate, Rip stops her from decapitating the bank manager with a sword, reminding her that they still need him for access to Savage’s finances.
However, the bank manager (and kudos to the casting director, because the actor playing him is as slimy as hell, and looks a bit like Jurgen Prochnow) instead tells them that Savage has a plan to give all his followers immortality, by draining the blood from Hawkman’s corpse, so they abandon their financial sabotage scheme and head to Savage’s Hall of Sacrifice for a bloody finale, which we’ll get to below.
Meanwhile, with Rip and Sara off doing bank-related things (why Rip didn’t take seasoned bank robbers Snart and Rory with him isn’t entirely clear), Leonard comes up with a more personal plan of his own and recruits Mick and Jax to help him. In essence, Leonard intends to steal the emerald that got his jewel thief father arrested in 1975, hoping to avoid him turning into the abusive monster he became after he got out of prison, thereby protecting not just young Leonard but his sister as well.
In terms of execution, Leonard’s plan works perfectly – he steals the emerald and manages to give it to his father, meeting his younger self and giving him some valuable life advice (“Never ever let anyone hurt you – ever”) along the way. Wentworth Miller really sells this section of the episode – the look of hope in his eyes as he accomplishes his plan and waits, hopefully, for his life to somehow change (Mick reminds him that Rip has told them the time-line takes time to solidify) is quietly heart-breaking, culminating in him disappointedly concluding that he doesn’t feel any different.
In fact, it turns out that although he didn’t actually steal the emerald, Leonard’s father still went to prison after getting busted for trying to sell it to an undercover cop, resulting in no significant change to Leonard’s childhood and suggesting that certain elements of the past simply cannot be changed, or rather that time itself can, and will, auto-correct. This is something that both The Flash and Arrow have also suggested in the past and it will be interesting to see how the show continues to play with time in this way. It certainly seems like that’s on the cards, given that we’ve already had two separate characters meet their past selves in the space of two episodes.
However, the important thing about this sub-plot is the emotional depth it brings to Leonard’s character – he’s been presented as a world-weary character with a protective shell of hard-bitten cynicism, but here he shows real vulnerability, as he dares to let himself believe in a better life for his younger self and sister. We’ve said this before, but the prospect of Leonard essentially renouncing his criminal past and becoming a true hero is one of the most promising potential arcs of the series so far and this seems like a big step forward in that direction.
The third sub-plot this week involves Ray Palmer / The Atom shrinking down to microscopic size and entering Kendra’s bloodstream (in a nice nod to The Fantastic Voyage) in order to prevent pieces of the mystical dagger from piercing her heart. Once again, the show expertly uses fantastical action as a way into important character development, with Ray having a crisis of confidence and Martin having to give him the appropriate pep talk, thereby strengthening the vaguely teacher / student dynamic between the pair. All in all, this is a fun sequence, but it doesn’t particularly hit home emotionally, especially not when contrasted with what’s going on with Leonard.
And so we’re back to the climax, minus Ray, Martin and Kendra, as they’re still busy with the shrinking action when it all kicks off. Acting on a tip from the slimy bank manager, Rip and Sara infiltrate Savage’s Hall of Sacrifice, where everyone’s dressed like they’re at one of those kinky masquerade parties. They get caught, but Leonard, Mick and Jax arrive in time to save them – Mick to Sara: “I didn’t have you pegged as the Eyes Wide Shut type” – resulting in another superb fight scene.
There are two note-worthy Rip-related developments in said set piece. First, we learn that the reason Rip needs the team is that he tried to kill Savage on his own back in ancient Egypt and failed. And second, as he slits Savage’s throat – he doesn’t die, obviously, but it’s the thought that counts – he says “This is for Miranda and Jonas”, thereby giving him their names for the first time, as Savage himself points out. D’oh! You’d think he’d be more careful, being a Time Master and that.
With the team finally leaving 1975 at the end of Episode 3, it’ll be fun to see which time periods they end up going to in future episodes.
Side note (1): Rip has a fairly clunky line this week, where he says “I’ve seen men of steel die and dark knights fall”, which is interesting in that it’s the first official confirmation that Superman and Batman exist in this universe, but less interesting in that, according to Rip, they’re both dead.
Side note (2): Next week, we’re off to 1986! Ray: “Better stock up on parachute pants!” Jax: “What the hell are parachute pants?”
Legends of Tomorrow is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.
Photo: © 2016 DC Comics. © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.