UK TV recap: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 12
Terminator plot idea8
Terminator plot execution4
Matthew Turner | On 21, May 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
In theory, the concept of the Legends taking on a time-travelling assassin who’s targeting their helpless younger selves is an excellent idea, allowing for multiple Terminator riffs (Ray is straight in there with “Come with me if you want to live”) and the opportunity for some tricksy time-travel shenanigans before the show heads into its presumably Savage-dominated finale. Unfortunately, the show’s writing team lack the imagination to make this story work and Episode 12 collapses under the weight of confused plotting, unclear ideas and poorly handled emotional moments. It does have an unexpected appearance from Celia Imrie, though, so it’s not all bad.
Following on from Mick’s warning last week, the Time Masters have had enough of Rip and his crew’s meddling and dispatch a time-travelling assassin, named The Pilgrim (played by Faye Kingslee), to kill their helpless younger selves. This immediately generates a new set of time-travel rules that will once again be broken later, as Rip announces that The Pilgrim can only attack each person once at a specific point in time, because reasons.
Rip’s solution is to abduct each of their younger selves before The Pilgrim can get to them and to stash them at his mother’s place, until they defeat Vandal Savage. His mother – or rather, his foster mother – turns out to be Mary Xavier (played by our very own Celia Imrie), who runs a school for future Time Masters in one of those locations that is conveniently hidden from Time.
What this boils down to is the Legends narrowly beating The Pilgrim to the punch and picking up teenage versions of Mick and Sara, followed by baby versions of everyone else (including an adorable Baby Snart), with Rip himself already present at the school as a scrappy young tearaway.
This whole idea really smacks of the writers not really knowing what to do with their core concept and cobbling something together in ‘Will this do?’ fashion. The key issue is that it creates just as many problems as it solves – for one thing, Young Sara and Young Mick come face-to-face with their older selves, with no apparent consequences to their lives (Mick even tries to talk his younger self out of a life of crime, apparently oblivious to what that could do to the mission), while it also creates a whole bunch of presumably deeply traumatic experiences for the families of all the characters who were abducted as babies. (Stein: “It’s somewhat disconcerting that my father would give me up so willingly to two complete strangers.” Ray: “Well, the ’50s was a much more trusting time. Trust me, I lived then.”)
On top of that, the episode ends with the crew leaving their younger selves removed from time, in the care of Celia Imrie, while they go off to defeat Vandal Savage. The idea is meant to be that they have a loudly ticking clock on the remainder of their mission, because if they don’t succeed quickly, then history will forget all about their younger selves, but this is poorly communicated, leaving the whole thing rather frustrating. (Also, there are still four episodes to go in the season, so they’ll all be there for at least another three.)
The episode then gets even more annoying by having The Pilgrim kidnap the Legends’ loved ones in order to draw them out. This lacks the desired emotional impact, largely because the majority of the characters – Lisa Snart, Stein’s wife, Ray’s fiancee, etc. – are only represented by photographs, presumably because the actors weren’t available. The one character that is physically present is Jax’s father, but since we’ve only really seen him briefly once before and then again in this episode, there’s very little personal connection there (not least because he’s supposed to be dead anyway).
It’s also fair to say that despite looking cool, The Pilgrim is ultimately rather disappointing as a villain, partly because she never actually succeeds in completing any of her missions (her reputation as the world’s deadliest assassin taking a serious hit there), and partly because Faye Kingslee plays the character in rather robotic fashion, when she’s actually meant to be human. She may well have been directed to play it that way, of course, to heighten the Terminator comparisons, but if so, that was a bad call.
That’s not to say the episode is a total wash-out, however. Mick and Sara interacting with their younger selves is a lot of fun, particularly when Sara breaks up a fight between the pair – “You! Hands to yourself. And next time hit with a flat palm. And you… you’re not her type” – while Franz Drameh (as Jax) does manage to pull off a surprisingly moving father-son conversation, despite the relative lack of set-up for that relationship. The problem here is that the show once again falls into the trap of making and breaking its own time-travel rules with no apparent consequences – first, Rip tells Jax not to tell his father about the IED that will kill him in Mogadishu, because Time finds a way of making things happen, but then, when Jax ignores Rip and tells his father anyway, Rip says that maybe Time will have a change of heart and allow Jax and his father to have a life together after all. Make your mind up, show! (And you, Rip.)
Oh yeah, Ray and Kendra. Sadly, they’re stuck in the same rut, with Kendra still obsessing over what her past self told her last week about any relationship with a man that isn’t Carter being doomed (doomed!). Ray decides to ignore all that, though, and proposes anyway, which probably means that Carter will be back next week.
As for Martin, he gets short shrift this week, other than being present for his own abduction as a baby, while Leonard is also short-changed for once and barely even gets in any good wise-cracks.
Anyway, the episode ends with a bizarre slow-motion fight in an empty-looking, albeit brightly lit, warehouse that makes it look like the show just couldn’t afford to shell out on a decent location. The image of everyone firing their ray guns / energy beams / laser blasts at The Pilgrim in slow-mo is cool at first, but quickly starts to look a bit silly, effectively reducing what should be a cool fight sequence to a single, long-drawn-out shot. It’s also a little uncomfortable that Young Rip turns out to be such a psycho, basically stabbing The Pilgrim in the leg while she’s distracted. Is that not cause for concern, behaviour-wise?
All in all, this is a frustrating episode that certainly doesn’t cater to those who like their time-travel stories to make the bare minimum of sense. Also, if the show is going to keep making and breaking arbitrary rules, then it needs to establish some damn consequences. Hopefully, the writers can get the show back up to the form of Marooned, Night of the Hawk and Left Behind, as we head into the final four episodes.
– It’s good to see Paul Blackthorne (with hair again!) in the Teenage Sara sequences, although he’s largely under-used.
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Photo: © 2016 DC Comics. © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.