Warning: This contains spoilers.
After three terrific episodes in a row (Marooned, Night of the Hawk and Left Behind), Legends of Tomorrow hits a major stumble with tonight’s outing, which provides largely unsatisfactory outcomes to both its main plot and its key subplots. It’s not a total disaster, by any means, and it certainly has its moments, but it’s hard not to be disappointed after the no-holds-barred excellence of the previous three episodes and it makes you wonder just how strong a grip the writers really have on what they’re doing here.
The episode begins with Rip and the team landing in Kasnia 2147 (a full 101 years after the events of Star City 2046), where Vandal Savage is mentoring young Per Degaton (Cory Gruter-Andrew), a future despot who’s destined to unleash the Armageddon Virus that kills hundreds of thousands and paves the way for Savage’s rise to power. This gives the show the opportunity to play around with the ‘If you could go back in time and kill Baby Hitler, would you do it?’ conundrum that’s one of the mainstays of time-travel fiction.
So Rip argues that Degaton is essentially Hitler and that they should kidnap him, attempt to reason with him, and then kill him, if he doesn’t see sense. As the most morally ambiguous team members, Leonard and Sara are basically okay with this idea, although Stein, Jax, Ray and Kendra are mortified. An extra wrinkle is added when the team step outside (there’s an awful lot of drab-looking concrete in 2147) and discover that Ray’s ATOM suit technology has been used to create an army of “peace-keeping” robots, so Ray, Stein and Jax (“Team Robot”) head off to discover how that might have happened, while Rip, Leonard and Sara (“Team Kidnapping”) attempt to get hold of Degaton, whose father, incidentally, is the current ruler of Kasnia (and therefore heavily protected), with Savage as his right-hand man.
Offered a tour of the robot cop facility, Ray discovers that Doctor Bryce (Firefly’s Jewel Staite, making a welcome but sadly under-used appearance) is one of his descendants. The problem is that, rather than having Ray deal with the massive guilt involved in the future use of his technology – after confirming, via a massive statue of his head in the facility, that he really is responsible – the show instead throws him into a tizzy over the idea that he must have had an illegitimate child before he left 2016, since the show has already established (on Star City 2046) that once they left the time period, time essentially treats them as missing-believed-dead. This leads to some agonising over whether or not to tell Kendra that he might have had a child he previously had no knowledge of, all of which is very annoying and completely ignores the much more interesting issue of the whole technology thing.
The resolution to all of this is, admittedly, amusing and Brandon Routh gets some good comedy value out of his reaction, but it relies on too much information that the show had previously withheld. Essentially, Doctor Jewel (sorry, Doctor Bryce) – who, incidentally, seems remarkably unruffled by the fact that Ray is her distant relative from hundreds of years ago – tells Ray that actually, no, the statue isn’t of Ray Palmer, it’s of Sidney Palmer, at which point Ray goes “Gah! My identical twin brother Sidney that I’ve never mentioned before! Damn him!”
It turns out Sidney stole Ray’s tech and used it for his own ends, eventually selling it to be used for law enforcement or something. This would all be fine, except Ray is now completely fine with the whole thing and apparently feels entirely absolved of all guilt, while his relief at not being a secret parent is palpable. And yet… none of that changes the fact that it is his tech and his suits are still being used as scarily-powerful flying robot cops. So, yes, frustrating. (I do like that Ray has an Evil Twin (or Idiot Brother), though. Hopefully we’ll get to meet him at some point.)
Oh, right, Kendra. Well, Kendra ends up getting some more of her memories back, which means a flashback to her and Carter in the 1920s, with their young son (who was killed as an old man in the pilot episode), which is a nice callback. Being reminded that Carter is her One True Love complicates her feelings for Ray and it’s clear that the show is setting up some serious heartbreak here, once they meet a new incarnation of him. Still, this is a lot more interesting than what Kendra was doing before she spent two years living with Ray, so I’m all for it, in principle.
Meanwhile, over on Team Kidnapping, it’s clear that no one’s heart is really in killing the boy. Rip does, indeed, end up kidnapping him but, as expected, he can’t pull the trigger, and there’s no tension in that scenario, because the show hasn’t really put the work into making you believe that Rip might actually kill a child, if it came down to it. (They should have cast Joffrey from Game of Thrones.) While that should be a really powerful moment, it just… isn’t. In the end, Sara gets kidnapped and Rip has to exchange Per Degaton for Sara, whereupon the little blighter straight up murders his own father, several years ahead of schedule, and Gideon informs them that he ends up releasing the Armageddon Virus much earlier too, so the Legends actually end up making things much, much worse.
Now, this is a potentially interesting idea that is firmly in-keeping with the don’t-mess-with-time line most time-travel shows tend to stick to – the problem is that it’s almost completely ignored. No one, not even Stein, seems bothered that their actions have resulted in an entirely different set of hundreds of thousands of people being murdered, plus you would have thought that an event of that magnitude happening several years earlier than planned would have some sort of knock-on effect on Savage’s own future (and, indeed, the murder of Rip’s family), yet nobody even hints at that possibility – the Legends basically shrug, get back into their ship and fly away and that’s it. So, again, frustrating, although there is a very cool fight between the Legends and the flying robo-cop army, which boasts some impressively high production values (it looks like all the Iron Men in Iron Man 3) and is more or less the highlight of the episode.
That leaves Mick and Leonard, who are given some form of resolution this week, partly because the show can’t afford to leave Mick in a cell on the Waverider for too long. In parallel with Rip trying to find a spark of human goodness in Per Degaton, Leonard tries to appeal to Mick. When it becomes clear that Mick won’t be appeased by anything other than Leonard’s death, he steps into the cell and tells Mick that they’ll have to fight to the death, whereupon Mick beats the hell out of Leonard, but stops short of actually killing him. That apparently seems to do the trick, revenge-wise, for Mick, because afterwards he’s more or less back to his old self, albeit with centuries of Time Master-trickery up his sleeve and a lot more going on in the old knowledge department. Again, this seems like too swift a resolution to an otherwise really promising plot (Mick’s redemption / re-conditioning), but you can see why they might have wanted to speed that up. Anyway, Mick warns the Legends that the Time Masters will be sending the Hunters after them all, now that they know he has failed in his mission, and they will be attempting to wipe them out of history. So they decide to hide out in… the Wild West! Tune in next week for special guest star Jonah Hex! Hopefully this episode is just a blip and the show can regain its high standards for the remainder of its run.
– Per Degaton is apparently an old-school D.C. villain, although he’s not normally depicted as a child. This could well mean we’ll be seeing the character again.
– Surelym Jewel Staite originally had more to do than what we see in her handful of scenes? Because that seems like a shocking waste otherwise. Unless, again, they’re planning on bringing her back at some point?
– A slow week for Jax and Stein this week, who are mostly relegated to observing Ray’s comedy reactions to his various discoveries.
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Photo: © 2016 DC Comics. © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.