UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 4
Mick of the Living Dead4
Matthew Turner | On 25, Nov 2016
Warning: This is a recap and contains spoilers, so do not read this until you have watched the episode. For information on how to watch it, click here.
The new season of Legends of Tomorrow seems to be firmly establishing a time-period-of-the-week set-up, with the team visiting 1940s New York, feudal Japan and, now, America during the Civil War. This would all be fine, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Legends are supposed to be tracking down Rex Tyler’s killer and no one even mentions poor old Hourman this week, despite the fact that he’s the only reason Amaya stowed away aboard the Waverider in the first place.
Instead, the ship receives a distress call from a rogue time pirate that brings them to Mississippi in 1863, slap-bang in the middle of the Civil War. Ever the buzz-kill, Gideon promptly informs the Legends that, whoops, the Union Army lost the war, because of a deadly zombie outbreak that wiped them all out. So that’s their mission in a nutshell this week: stop the zombies, win the war, save the world.
The team duly splits into three for the remainder of the episode, giving us three very distinct storylines: in the first, Jax and Amaya go undercover, intending to steal battle plans from a Confederate mansion that just so happens to be owned by an evil slave-owner. In the second storyline, Sara and Nate team up with General Ulysses S. Grant (John Churchill) to fend off the zombies and help him win the war. And in the third, Mick contracts the zombie virus and Ray and a terrified-of-zombies Martin have to stay out of his way long enough for Ray to find a cure.
This is a big episode for Franz Drameh, who doesn’t usually get all that much to do, but is front and centre for some moving, if slightly heavy-handed, anti-slavery material. There are two really great moments – the first, a throwaway line at the beginning, where Stein warns Jax that he may face some deeply upsetting racism and Jax calmly replies that as a Black man from the 21st century, he’s painfully aware that he’s going to encounter racism wherever he goes, regardless of the time period. And the second is at the end of the episode, when Jax lingers a moment to watch the slave-owner’s mansion burn to the ground. Mmm… the great taste of symbolism.
There’s a lot of other stuff going on. First, Jax and Amaya witness a woman being whipped by the slave-owner (and congrats to central casting, because Dean S. Jagger’s Collins really is a nasty piece of work) and Jax stops Amaya from interfering because they need to safeguard the timeline and there’s this thing called the Butterfly Effect. (He doesn’t actually name-check the Butterfly Effect, but that’s what he’s getting at.) That raises a potentially interesting conundrum for a time-travelling superhero show (i.e. should they always be saving people and hang the consequences to the time-line, or should they interfere as little as possible?), except that the treatment of the woman is so horrific that Jax actually comes across quite badly for not stepping in. You just know, say, Scott Bakula would have been in there like a shot, for example.
Anyway, Jax gets locked up for not being enough of a slave and Jax and Amaya encounter a basement full of chained-up slaves, whereupon Jax realises that his true duty as a hero is to save people, no matter what, so he and Amaya free the slaves. Luckily, no one notices, because their house is burning down and they’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, so the time-line isn’t damaged too badly. There’s also a good Walking Dead-ish bit, where Jax tries to help Collins but he gets eaten by a zombie anyway.
As a side note, I like what they appear to be doing with Amaya, i.e. having her spend quality time with a different character each episode. She’s hung out with Ray in 1940s New York, Sara in feudal Japan and now Jax, so I’m guessing it’s Rory or Stein’s turn next. This is in line with the show’s tradition of throwing various pairings together and seeing what works and I’m fully in favour, based on what we’ve seen so far. (It also means my fears about a potential Ray / Amaya relationship may have been unfounded. Fingers crossed.)
As for Sara and Nate, their encounter with Grant is very enjoyable, even if they have rather softened the real-life character for their network-friendly version of the Civil War (he’s usually portrayed as older and boozier). Here, Grant turns out to be extremely progressive, immediately accepting Sara as a leader (especially after she drops a still-twitching zombie head on his desk) and welcoming the fugitive slaves and offering them protection.
We get some fun stuff from Nate, too, as he displays some more unabashed heroism and concocts a cool plan, whereby he lures all the zombies out to some explosives, with a flare, and then detonates the bomb by jumping on it in his Steel form (his performance issues are apparently no longer a problem, although it might have been cooler, if he’d still not been 100% sure he’d cracked the whole turning-to-steel thing).
Back on board the Waverider, Stein confesses he’s terrified of zombies (which isn’t nearly as funny as the show thinks it is, and Garber doesn’t quite put his heart into it the way he usually does), so, of course, Mick turns into one, after getting bitten in the opening encounter. So, while Ray races to find a cure (and we should point out here that these aren’t traditional undead zombies, but rather the victims of a bio-weapon), Zombie Mick stalks the pair of them through the ship, like a rubbish slasher movie. It’s all a bit annoying, if you’re a zombie purist, and the speed with which Ray whips up A Cure for the Undead is, frankly, a little insulting. So, yeah, Ray injects Mick with the antidote just as he’s about to bite Stein to death and Mick is so grateful that he offers a still-upset-about-the-loss-of-his-suit Ray the use of Leonard’s Cold Gun and asks him to be his new partner. Hashtag bromance, etc. (No, really, it’s all very touching.)
All in all, the individual stories in the episode are fine, even if the Ray-Mick-Stein comedy shenanigans don’t quite work and some of the slavery stuff is a little heavy-handed. The main problem is that the three stories don’t really connect in a satisfying way and it ends up being quite jarring to jump from one to the other, particularly when the tone is so different in each story. It’s like flicking channels between a zombie comedy, a worthy slavery drama and a period war movie. Tune in next week for a trip to the White House in 1987!
Footnotes of Tomorrow
– We get a tiny bit more of Future Barry Allen’s message this week. It basically says a war is coming. Jax and Stein decide to keep it secret a bit longer. I’m thinking this won’t actually tie into the upcoming four-way crossover, but will instead be a plot-line for the back end of the season (which, incidentally, has just had its order extended from 13 to 17, so that’s nice).
– As much as I’d love to see Ray as Captain Cold for an episode or two, I really want the ATOM suit back as soon as possible. In fact, it should be mandatory that Ray uses his shrink powers at least once an episode.
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