UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow, Episode 15 (Destiny)
High emotional stakes9.5
Matthew Turner | On 12, Jun 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers.
Episode 14 (River of Time) of Legends of Tomorrow was a disappointingly dull hour that felt suspiciously like the show was treading water, as it approached the season finale. Thankfully, it comes roaring back to best ever form for Episode 15, with a genuinely thrilling episode that raises both the emotional and dramatic stakes and pulls off a handful of moments that showcase what Legends of Tomorrow is really capable of when it’s firing on all cylinders.
Destiny begins with a flashback to Episode 1, when Rip first assembled the Legends on that fateful rooftop and asked them to join his cause. The purpose of the flashback quickly becomes apparent – Stein and Jax leave the roof with Jax adamant that he won’t be taking part and Stein begging him to reconsider. That leads straight into a clever riff on a certain film trilogy, where as soon as 2016 Jax disappears, Jax-from-the-Jump-Ship pops up and asks Stein to help him get – wait for it – back to the future!
As it happens, Jax’s return to the future is a matter of life and death for Stein, who is currently imprisoned in the Vanishing Point (along with Rip, Mick, Ray and Kendra) and slowly dying as a result of not being able to merge with Jax “in order to maintain nuclear cohesion”. Things quickly get worse for the group – Kendra is stunned by guards and taken off to Vandal Savage’s time ship, while Mick is taken away by the Time Masters, who plan on putting him through the same brain-washing programme that turned him into Kronos.
Meanwhile, Time Master Druce (Martin Donovan, currently playing untrustworthy types in both the Marvel and D.C universes) lays the mother of all truth bombs on Rip, when he tells him that there is no such thing as free will and that every single one of the team’s previous failures all season have been deliberately orchestrated by the Time Masters with only one goal: to ensure that Vandal Savage is ruler of the world in 2166. Druce tells Rip that a machine called the Oculus has made all this possible and – in true supervillain fashion – can’t resist showing him how it works, during which Rip sees a vision of the future in which Ray dies.
To be fair, it turns out that the Time Masters do, in fact, have the world’s best interests at heart. They say that in 2175 (roughly a decade after Savage conquers the world), the Earth is due to be invaded by a race of Thanagarians (the same race that Hawkman and Hawkgirl belong to) and that Savage’s ruthlessness is the only way to ensure victory in that upcoming attack.
However, Rip’s not having any of it and neither are the rest of the team, when he explains it to them (including the news of Ray’s death), so they decide to destroy the Oculus and regain free will. It would be nice to have a little more detail of just how exactly the Oculus works, but let’s not dwell on that right now. Only one problem: they’re all still in prison.
Fortunately, help arrives in the nick of time in the shape of Leonard and Sara, who have been hiding out on the Waverider. With Gideon rebooted, the pair stage an imaginative rescue attempt that involves effectively hacking all the other Time Ships at the Vanishing Point so their computers can only sing “Love Will Keep Us Together” (in a nice callback to an earlier episode). This, in itself, is a lovely little moment that once again acknowledges the debt the show owes to Guardians of the Galaxy – it pays off beautifully and is very funny to boot.
So, the Waverider time-jumps away, the Time Ships attempt to follow but are disabled by the hack, at which point the Waverider reappears and starts firing on the Vanishing Point, which causes a distraction that allows Leonard to break into the prison and free the captives. Except – oh no! – he’s confronted by a presumably brain-washed Mick, who’s back in his Kronos gear and pointing a gun straight at his erstwhile partner. However, in a twist that takes precisely no one by surprise, the brain-washing hasn’t worked, because, as Mick previously explained, he defeated it by focusing on hatred and vengeance. Instead, he turns his gun on the brainwasher-in-chief, before fulfilling the promise he made and, um, very graphically stomping on his head. (You don’t see anything but the soundtrack makes it very clear that Mick basically just flat-out stomped someone to death.) That’s actually a fairly nasty moment that the show just brushes over, presumably assuming that the audience will be fine with it because, hey, the dude deserved it. It ends up leaving a rather bad taste, though, not least because the man is already disarmed, beaten and begging for mercy before the stomping happens.
Back on board the Waverider, the team regroup as Rip fills in Leonard and Sara on the smash-the-Oculus-save-the-world plan, with Leonard amusingly referring to Druce et al. as the Time Bastards. Curiously, no-one suggests they attempt to rescue Kendra, who is currently in Savage’s clutches, just as he’s wanted all season long. They also don’t seem bothered about zipping back to 2016 to pick up Jax, despite the fact that Stein is, you know, still dying. But a plan’s a plan, right, so it’s off to the Oculus they go, pausing only for a nice hero moment for Ray, where he helps them escape a tractor beam by convincing the Vanishing Point that the beam cancellation order came from the Kronos suit. (Actually, to be fair, they do suggest both rescuing Kendra and heading to 2016, but they rule out both options because they figure maybe that’s what the Time Bastards want them to do.)
Meanwhile, back in 2016, Past-Stein and Jax have figured out how to get the Jump Ship to jump back to the future (because science) and have a little rooftop heart-to-heart, where Jax tells him “Oh, by the way, I’m going to be real pissed about the whole roofie thing, but don’t worry, I get over it – it’s actually the best decision I never made”. Stein is horrified that he would even consider such a thing, which isn’t exactly an apology (after all, this Stein hasn’t actually done any roofie-ing yet), but still works as a clever get-out for the show, because now it looks like Jax gave him the idea in the first place. Either way, it’s the show addressing one of the issues that audiences have had problems with, which is a positive step that’s in line with the Arrowverse’s attitude to its shows in general.
So, back in, um, the future, Rip and his crew set a course for the Oculus Wellspring, allowing time for a couple of small but significant character moments. First, Mick confesses to Ray that he didn’t focus on hatred and vengeance to defeat the brain-washing this time, but instead focused on the team and how much they needed each other. He follows that up by telling Ray that if he tells anyone he said that, he’ll shave his head, but still, it’s a sweet moment, given an extra boost by the fact that they’re both enjoying Waverider canteen cupcakes at the time – as Ray points out, nothing like finding out you’re fated to die in an explosion for removing the urge to diet.
Secondly, Leonard and Sara’s season-long flirtathon finally comes to a head, with Leonard telling Sara “Being on this ship, travelling through time, I’ve started to wonder what the future might hold for me… and you… and me and you…” Sara rebuffs him (“If you want to steal a kiss from me, Leonard, you’d better be one heck of a thief”), but the chemistry between the two is as smoking hot as ever (Lotz has chemistry with just about everyone on the show) and there’s a lot more electricity between them than there has ever been between Ray and Kendra, or Carter and Kendra. It’s an intriguing development for Leonard, who has previously seemed closed off to any romantic development (he is Captain Cold, after all), but it makes sense that this side of him might be beginning to thaw, given what he’s been through with the team. Of course, it’s also setting up where the show is going in its closing moments, but we’ll get to that in a second.
As the Waverider touches down at the Oculus Wellspring, they are surrounded by Druce and his Time Agents, but Jax arrives in the Jump Ship in the nick of time and saves the day, bonding once more with Stein. There’s a gorgeous overhead / upside-down shot of the whole team heading into the Oculus Wellspring that’s just one of several great choices made by the show’s director, Olatunde Osunsanmi – the oppressive angles in the brain-washing chamber also spring to mind.
With the clock ticking, Ray (in the ATOM suit) desperately tries to get the Oculus to self-destruct, at which point Rip realises that this is where he saw Ray die in his vision of the future. However, Mick seizes control of his destiny, knocking Ray out and taking his place, because somebody needs to hold something in place for the Oculus to explode or something. (Amusingly, Rip shrinks an unconscious Ray down to tiny size and sticks him in his pocket.) Then Leonard arrives, knocks out Mick and takes his place and there’s a moment where you think Sara’s going to do the same thing, only instead she kisses Leonard (so he is a heck of a thief, after all) and takes Mick to safety instead. Leonard then gets his total hero moment, when Druce arrives and he says “There are no strings on me”, before the whole thing explodes, taking everyone in the immediate area with it. This is the perfect end to Leonard’s character arc for the season, who’s been slowly gravitating towards his destiny of becoming a true hero, and it gives the episode serious dramatic and emotional stakes in the lead-in to the season finale.
Admittedly, the network’s weakened the impact a little, because it has already been widely announced that Miller will be back for future episodes of all three (now four, with Supergirl) CW superhero shows next season, but still, it’s a great moment. There are also plenty of potential get-out clauses for his assumed resurrection (if they choose to go that way, rather than using a past version of Leonard or an Earth-2 version), with a lot of pointed business involving a ring that Leonard’s wearing (a ring he plants on Mick after knocking him out) and also the whole exploding-on-top-of-a-time-nexus-machine thing. That sequence is intercut with the scene we’ve already seen, where Savage murders Rip’s wife and child, so it’s apparently set in time for good now. It’s a little annoying to have Savage commit those murders at the Time Masters’ behest (as Druce explained before), because the show had done a good job of hinting that it was Rip himself who had given Savage the idea, as well as inadvertently providing both their names and the time period in which it happened. Ah, well.
The episode ends with both a big victory (the destruction of the Oculus, the regaining of free will) and twin defeats (the deaths of Leonard and Rip’s family), but the Legends vow to see their mission through to the end and defeat Savage, even if it will no longer save Rip’s family. Meanwhile, on a not especially inspiring cliff-hanger, Savage learns of the Time Masters’ defeat and vows to a still-captive Kendra that he will, somewhat vaguely, change the world. Tune in next week for the season finale! If the show-runners can keep this level of intensity up for one more episode, we could be in for quite the treat.
– Judging by its importance to the overall Savage plot, the 2175 Thanagarian Invasion would seem to be a lock for next season, which could finally make things a bit more interesting for Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
– The show’s special effects budget is back up to its usual high standard. Notable highlights included all the different Time Ships trying and failing to take off, and the Waverider’s attack on the Vanishing Point, as well as the subsequent tractor beam escape. All very Star Wars, but if you’re going to steal, you might as well steal from the best.
Line of the week:
Mick punching Ray’s arm. “Are you saying the Time Masters wanted me to do that?”
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Photo: © 2016 DC Comics. © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.