UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow, Episode 14 (River of Time)
Plot treading water4
Matthew Turner | On 05, Jun 2016Reading time: 7 mins
Warning: This contains spoilers.
After delivering one of the season’s best episodes with the massively entertaining Leviathan, Legends of Tomorrow drops the ball in spectacularly clumsy fashion – and you can practically feel the audience slump in disappointment. It’s entirely possible that Leviathan’s bonanza of special effects and imaginative set designs meant that there was no budget left for Episode 13, but if that was the case, then the show-runners should have redoubled their efforts on the writing. As it is, it feels very much like the show treading water, as it heads into the final two episodes of the season.
The episode begins with Vandal Savage held prisoner aboard the Waverider in one of those glass cages made popular by Hannibal Lecter (see also: Loki aboard the Helicarrier in the first Avengers movie). Savage is clearly aware of the visual reference, as he sets about doing exactly what Lecter / Loki did, messing with the minds of the crew of the Waverider until he gets what he wants. The Legends themselves are aware of what he’s up to, of course (him being an immortal tyrant and all), but still end up falling for it anyway, which makes it extremely frustrating to watch.
The primary target of Savage’s manipulation is Ray, who listens to Vandal taunting him about Carter and Kendra (especially now that a still-brainwashed Carter is also on board) and then behaves like a big, dumb idiot and actually opens the door to Savage’s glass cage in order to fight him. Needless to say, Ray gets his ass kicked and Savage walks free. There’s only one relatively interesting piece of information that emerges from this encounter and that is there was a period in the past where Savage did indeed have a loving relationship with one of Kendra’s incarnations… until Carter came along and stole her from him. But since we don’t actually see any visual evidence of it (an odd decision, under the circumstances – more on this later), it’s rather difficult to believe. Still, it adds a tiny bit of depth to Savage’s creepy-stalker-through-time vibe, so at least there’s that.
The upshot of all this – coupled with the fact that Carter regains his memories just in time to help defeat the escaped Savage – is that Ray decides to break things off with Kendra, acquiescing to their pre-destined relationship despite the fact that a) the show has spent the last six or so episodes going to bat for the idea that love can transcend destiny, and b) this isn’t even Kendra’s Carter anyway – this is a future Carter, which means there’s probably a future Kendra out there too? (Unless our Kendra has to die for that to happen – I’m a little hazy on the rules of reincarnation.) The point is that having spent all that time and effort on getting us to invest in the Ray / Kendra relationship (with a modicum of success, post-Left Behind), it then goes and drops the entire plot with the bare minimum of fuss. Ray doesn’t even seem all that cut up about it, telling Kendra that at least she taught him to love again. Whatever, Ray.
Elsewhere on the ship, Jax and Stein are having a non-Savage-related adventure of their own. Rip needs someone to do a dangerous job that involves becoming exposed to “time radiation”. (Have we heard of time radiation before? I don’t think so.) Jax volunteers, like some red shirt on Star Trek, and sure enough, he ends up with a fatal dose of time radiation sickness and soon starts looking like an old man, courtesy of some very dodgy old-age make-up. Theorising that he could cure Jax by sending him back in time to 2016, Stein drugs Jax again – seriously? You’d have thought the show would have learned that lesson by now – and bungs him in the Time Shuttle, or whatever the tiny attached spaceship is called.
Given their enormous success with getting rid of radiation back in the pilot episode, it seems a little odd that Stein and Jax don’t at least attempt to merge and become Firestorm, just to see what effect it might have. In fact, no-one even discusses it, which makes you wonder just how much the Firestorm effect costs and whether the budgetary restrictions for this episode meant that was off the table too. The other odd thing is that Stein will apparently die, if Jax isn’t around, so why he didn’t get in the ship with him is yet another mystery that goes unexplained.
Meanwhile, Leonard and Mick decide that they’ve had enough of the whole stop-Savage-and-save-the-world quest and that what they really want to do is head back to 2016 and pretend none of this ever happened. However, their timing really sucks (oh, the irony, etc.), because they arrive at the Time Shuttle just as Stein pushes the button to send Jax back in time. Leonard and Mick: annoyed. To be fair to both, they are the only ones talking sense this episode and their frustration at not being listened to keys into their reasons for leaving. Snart, for example, knows full well that bringing Savage on the ship / leaving him alive will lead to trouble (it turns out he and Mick have a sixth sense for trouble and even a little code-word between them for when things are going pear-shaped), while Mick points out that Carter will just reincarnate anyway, so why are they so worried about him? (He has a point – we’d care much more about Carter if the scriptwriters had bothered to flesh out his character, and if Falk Hentschel wasn’t such a wooden actor.)
This isn’t a particularly good episode for Rip, either. Between putting Jax in mortal danger (when it turns out he could easily have done the job himself) and freely confessing that he’d sell every member of his team down the river if it meant he could save his family, Rip comes across as the least likeable he’s been all season. You wouldn’t catch Captain Kirk saying stuff like that. He does attempt to redeem himself later by taking a laser blast meant for Kendra, but that seems like too little, too late. Also, the show has done some sterling work on Rip in the past, moving him into a position where he genuinely cares about his team, so his selfishness actually seems out of character at this point. It’s not even like he has a reason to lash out.
Lingering suspicions that the show is largely treading water this week are compounded when the writers start throwing in entirely superfluous flashbacks, none of which make any real sense for the characters. Supposedly, they are flashbacks to whatever the characters were doing just before they left with Rip, so we get: Ray talking to Felicity, Sara visiting Nyssa, Jax having a chat with his mum, and Stein spending some time with his wife. Since the flashbacks use a couple of sets from Arrow, it’s obvious that it’s another money-saving device on the show’s part, and while it’s nice to see both Felicity and Nyssa pop up, their appearances serve no purpose in the story. In particular, it doesn’t make sense that Ray would flash back to this specific, not-very-interesting moment with Felicity, given everything he’s going through with Kendra. Why not give us a scene with Ray and his wife? Or another scene from when they were trapped in 1960 together? Similarly, the scene with Nyssa could have acknowledged what we now know about Sara – that she came to Nanda Parbat in 1960 – and perhaps hinted at how that might change things. The only thing we gain from the flashbacks is a scene with Jax’s mother giving him a watch meant for his father, which will no doubt be Important For Later.
Finally, the episode pulls off a twist that will come as a surprise to precisely no-one, namely that the Time Masters – gasp! – have been working with Savage all this time. To be fair, they weren’t exactly hiding the fact, given that they sent assassins after the Legends every other week, but it turns out they were actively protecting the Savage-as-ruler-of-Earth time period, for reasons that are as-yet-unrevealed. Anyway, they chuck the majority of the crew of the Waverider in Time Jail and let Savage go.
All in all, this is an extremely dull, poorly thought-out episode that feels especially painful coming after one of the show’s best-ever outings. Let’s hope they can get back to something approaching that form.
Line of the week:
Savage: “Who are you to stand against me, Vandal Savage, destroyer of Empires!”
Snart: “Leonard Snart, robber of ATMs!”
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Photo: © 2016 DC Comics. © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.