UK TV recap: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 5 (Fail-Safe)
Matthew Turner | On 02, Apr 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
Last week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow (effectively the first half of a two-parter) stumbled a little, as it split up the team and had them all doing not-very-interesting things alongside the main plot. This week’s episode addresses that problem somewhat – the team is still split into three parts, but at least their plots are all focussed on a single, clearly defined goal.
The previous episode ended with Stein, Mick and Ray all getting captured and imprisoned in a gulag, so the obvious mission for the remaining Legends is to break their comrades out of jail and stop Vandal Savage from creating an army of Soviet Firestorms that could potentially doom their own version of present-day 2016. As a fan of Prison Break (the first three seasons, anyway), I confess I enjoyed Wentworth Miller’s delivery of the line “This is not my first prison break”. A little bit on the nose, perhaps, but somehow the show gets away with it.
Meanwhile, Stein has a hallucinatory vision of Cisco from The Flash – allowing for a brief, but amusing, cameo for Carlos Valdes – but comes to his senses in time to realise he’s being tortured by Valentina Vostok for the secrets of Firestorm. Stein holds out pretty well, but then they bring in a chained and shirtless Ray and Mick and threaten to torture his friends in front of him and he wavers a bit.
Incidentally, this is a great episode for Ray and Mick (aside from their getting tortured, obviously). I’ve said before that one of the strengths of the show lies in the writers exploring different pairings of the characters and while Mick and Ray might not seem an obvious partnership, their relationship is nicely developed this week, with Ray impressing Mick by heroically taking a beating for him, leading Mick, in turn, to return the favour, something that would have been unthinkable even two episodes ago.
Meanwhile, back on the Waverider, Rip benches Kendra and Jax, despite the fact that Hawkgirl’s power of flight might actually come in quite handy for a prison break. They’re left with very little to do for most of the episode, although Jax does get the bright idea that he can communicate with Stein by carving a message on his arm, since they share a physical bond or something. (So… wouldn’t Jax have also experienced Stein’s torture? Or doesn’t it work like that?) Later on, both characters get a second chance to shine, as Kendra flies Jax into the gulag (but, oddly, doesn’t stick around for what seems like a pretty decent opportunity to kill Vandal Savage), and Jax gets to make a heroic run across the gulag grounds, leading him to quip, “Barry Allen who?” In general, though, Kendra and Jax’s scenes are the weakest part of the episode, which is frustrating, because they’re the two characters most in need of fleshing out, yet they don’t come close to sparking the same connection as any of the other character pairings.
Elsewhere, Rip and Leonard have an amusing fight in a Russian bath-house wearing only a towel. Or rather, Rip does – Leonard just sits back and lets him get on with it, but Rip turns out to be pretty good at fighting in a towel, so it all works out. Later, Rip tasks Sara and Leonard with rescuing Ray, Mick and Stein, but he takes Sara aside, shows her a terrifying vision of a decimated 2016 Star City and gives her a secondary mission – kill Stein, if it looks like the Russkies are going to get what they want.
Of course, anybody who’s ever seen an episode of television before knows full well that Sara isn’t actually going to kill Stein, no matter how many times she has him in the cross-hairs with a gun pointed at him. Still, it makes for the second of this week’s rewarding pairings, as Leonard figures out what her secret mission is and manages to talk her out of it. This is yet another important step on Leonard’s apparent journey from villain to hero, but it also fits in with his pre-existing code, which involves absolute loyalty to all team members. Hopefully, we’ll get lots more scenes of Sara and Leonard together, because Caity Lotz and Wentworth Miller have genuinely strong chemistry and, so far, at least, they also have the most interesting arcs.
As for Savage, he makes an appearance again this week, after a welcome absence, but he continues to be a rather underwhelming villain, especially compared with the big bads (that’s TV recapper talk for a recurring season-long bad guy) on sister shows Arrow and The Flash. However, there is one great moment this week, when Rip retrieves his locket from Savage, only for Savage to taunt him, by saying that he’s memorised the faces of Rip’s wife and child, so he’ll know exactly who to kill in the future, suggesting that it’s Rip’s actions in the past -remember, Savage is immortal, not a time-traveller – that led to Savage killing his family in the first place.
Back at the gulag, the stage is set for the climax. Valentina does indeed merge with Stein and briefly becomes Soviet Firestorm (a little too briefly, frankly – they should have her become a proper threat for a little longer – but Jax shows up just in time (thanks to a winged assist from Kendra) and is able to push her out by merging with Stein and becoming Firestorm himself, a moment that feels like it should have a bigger emotional impact than it does here. Valentina then apparently explodes with the force of a nuclear bomb, but if the show was planning on making any connection between that explosion and Chernobyl (which happened in the same year, 1986, so surely not a coincidence), then they bottle out of it at the end and it goes unmentioned. In fact, everyone seems rather blasé about the whole thing, chugging back vodka shots on the Waverider and slapping each other on the back for a job well done.
After that, the show closes with another great cliff-hanger, which seems to be becoming a pleasingly regular feature, as Kronos the bounty-hunter attacks the ship again, leading them to crash-land in Star City in 2046, whereupon they meet… a black Green Arrow! It’s very exciting that the show is going to do stories set in the future as well as the past and it’ll be fun to see where they go with this idea. Is Oliver Queen still alive in 2046? Tune in next time for another thrilling instalment, etc.
– The title of the episode comes from a chilling 1964 Cold War movie in which the U.S. accidentally launches a nuclear attack on Russia and President Henry Fonda offers to nuke New York in order to prevent the Soviets from destroying the whole country. So maybe Valentina did go nuclear after all.
Legends of Tomorrow is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can catch up on-demand through NOW, 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.