UK TV recap: Legends of Tomorrow, Season 2, Episode 8 (The Chicago Way)
Legion of Doom8.5
“Return” of Snart6
Matthew Turner | On 23, Dec 2016Reading time: 9 mins
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.
After joining forces with Arrow and The Flash to fight aliens in a crossover episode, it’s back to business as usual for the crew of the Waverider, as Legends of Tomorrow heads into its mid-season break. Following the pattern set by both sister shows, Legends of Tomorrow uses its mid-season finale to have its main villains make their first big move against our heroes, raising the stakes significantly for the back half of the run.
The main villains are, of course, Eobard Thawne and Damien Darhk, otherwise known as the Legion of Doom. No one has actually said the words “Legion of Doom” on the show yet, but that’s what the showrunners are calling them in the publicity materials and that’s what they’re called in the comics, plus it’s a cool-sounding name for a supervillain team-up, so Legion of Doom it is. At any rate, the Legion of Doom get a new member in the shape of Arrow’s Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), who gets a stylish entrance, emerging from the shadows with the line “Actually, there are three of us…” in the episode’s cold open. It’s not entirely clear what Malcolm brings to the party, so to speak, as Darhk and Thawne are both significantly more powerful, but Barrowman immediately sparks strong chemistry with both McDonough and Letscher and that’s reason enough to be excited.
The main plot involves the Legion of Doom setting a trap for the Legends in 1927 Chicago, during the time of Al Capone (played by Isaac Keoughan). This involves deliberately creating a time anomaly by tipping off Capone as to the imminent arrival of Elliot Ness (Cole Vigue), the FBI agent who will eventually take him down for tax evasion. When the Legends get a time-quake alert and discover that instead of getting arrested, Capone now becomes Mayor, they head to Chicago 1927 to investigate.
Of course, Ray and Nate turn out to be big 1920s nerds, so they figure out that they need to protect Ness. Unfortunately, they bungle the job and Capone’s men kidnap Ness instead. The Legends rescue him from getting the old concrete-shoes-in-the-harbour treatment (Amaya gets to use her dolphin powers and dives into the drink to save him), but Ness is a mess and needs time to recover, so Nate and Ray have to pose as the G-man and his G-men to get their hands on the ledger that will eventually send Capone to prison.
While Nate and Ray stage a raid on Capone’s Chelsea Club, Sara, Martin and Jax go undercover in the bar, which basically seems like an excuse to put Sara in a cute 1920s Cigarette Girl outfit, rather than serving any particular plot purpose. At any rate, it turns out to be a really terrible idea, because Darhk recognises them and kidnaps Sara and Stein, after Thawne speeds in to prevent Stein and Jax becoming Firestorm.
It’s around this point that the Legends figure out that this has all been a trap set by Thawne and Darhk and that they’re after the amulet. Meanwhile, Malcolm tries to convince Sara to let him fix her life (in exchange for the amulet), by never blowing up the Queen’s Gambit in the first place, meaning she would never become the White Canary (or the Black Canary, come to that), Oliver would never become the Green Arrow and Laurel would still be alive. This seems like an odd plan on Malcolm’s part, since so much of his own timeline is intricately linked to Sara and Oliver. At any rate, Sara doesn’t go for it, having learned pretty much the same lesson as Oliver from the alien pod flashback experience during the crossover episode – namely, that her pain and loss have made her the person she is and she’s stronger because of it. Having tried the softly, softly approach, Malcolm hands over Martin to Thawne, who begins torturing him with a special pain device. It all sounds pretty nasty, and we get a shot of an anguished Sara having to listen to Martin’s screams.
Luckily, the rest of the team have tracked them down and they’re rescued by Amaya, Mick, Nate and Ray and taken back to the Waverider. Except – oh no! – Stein isn’t Stein at all, but Thawne, using a face-changer disguise thingy. He begins tearing the ship up looking for the amulet, but he gets caught in the act, leading to what is perhaps the season’s best fight sequence so far, as the Legends take on both Malcolm and Thawne (I’m not entirely sure where Darhk is at this point), using the weapons Jax digs out of Rip’s secret storage room. However, Malcolm, with Sara’s knife to his throat, reminds her that they still have Stein, so she brokers a deal and agrees to hand over the amulet in exchange for Stein’s life.
To be fair to Sara, she doesn’t know exactly why the Legion of Doom want the amulet so badly, but it’s fair to say she’d probably be kicking herself if she did. In the closing moments, Thawne attaches the amulet to another amulet to reveal a compass that will lead them to the Spear of Destiny, the legendary artefact that can rewrite reality itself. This sets some pretty high stakes for the back half of the season, not least because – in DC Comics continuity, at least – the Spear was in Hitler’s possession during the war, and was used as the reason the superheroes couldn’t just end the war with their superpowers, as their close proximity to the Spear would put them under Hitler’s control. Or something.
That’s not the cliffhanger moment, though. Oh no. After laying out his plan, Thawne practically turns to camera and says: “But first, we need to find a gentleman by the name of Rip Hunter!” (I’m paraphrasing, but he might as well have done.) Cut to: A still-alive Rip Hunter in 1967, who’s apparently directing a trashy-looking movie about himself in Los Angeles. So it looks like Rip will be back in the second half of the season. Has anyone actually missed him? I can’t honestly say that I have, especially not with Sara doing such a bang-up job as the new team leader.
Speaking of Sara, she’s front and centre for the episode’s main subplot, when Martin confesses to her about his time aberration daughter, Lily. At first she’s angry, because it was Martin who talked her out of changing the timeline when she wanted to murder Darhk to save Laurel, but by the end of the episode, she’s decided that family is everything and that includes Stein’s family, time aberration or no time aberration. No doubt Lily’s existence will play a big part in the second half of the season. There’s a particularly interesting line from Martin, when he’s trying to justify his decision not to erase her. He says that if her impact on the world is small enough, maybe she won’t cause a time anomaly. Which is an odd thing to be doing, as a parent, to be actively hoping your child doesn’t succeed (and bear in mind, he knows she’s a genius already), but it gets brushed over here.
There are a handful of other subplots this week, with pretty much everybody getting some decent character work, except poor old Jax, who always seems to draw the short straw. I think he’s even told to stay behind and guard the Waverider at one point. Bless.
Anyway, the episode’s other key development involves Mick, who starts having hallucinations of Leonard, his dearly departed former partner. But this isn’t the nice guy Leonard who sacrificed himself so the team could survive. Instead, it’s the mean old Leonard from their criminal glory days and he wastes no time in taunting Mick about how he’s gone soft and isn’t really a criminal anymore and that he should watch out for that Amaya, she’s trouble. Mick has the good sense to realise that he’s cracking up and that Leonard isn’t real, but he’s clearly rattled. Still, the experience ends up bringing him closer to Amaya, as he saves her life during the battle aboard the Waverider, so she rewards him with a chaste kiss on the cheek and a bottle of moonshine she nicked from Capone’s bar. I’m not entirely sure where the show’s going with this, but they do have an appealing chemistry, so let’s wait and see.
The other fun relationship at the moment is the comedy double-act of Ray and Nate, which is part best bros and part sibling rivalry, as noted by Sara when she has to play Mom and stop them fighting in the cargo hold when they’re testing each other’s powers. Later in the episode, they squabble over who would make the best Eliott Ness when one of them has to replace him – because, of course, they’re both big history nerds. At any rate, it’s a lot more fun seeing them bouncing off each other than seeing them fall for Amaya (the show having already tested those waters with both characters), so long may their bromance continue.
All in all, this is an extremely strong mid-season finale, giving a firm sense of direction and purpose for the back half of the season and having a lot of fun with the time period, as well as delivering some excellent action. Tune in next year for Rip’s return!
Footnotes of Tomorrow
– There were lots of great lines this week. Nate: “You can reverse brain damage? Why haven’t you helped Rory out?” Gideon: “Who says I haven’t?” Has Gideon always been that cheeky? Sassy Gideon is the best Gideon.
– I’m less convinced by this line, but I won’t deny it made me smile. Jax tells Ray that Stein’s about to kill Sara in the library and Ray says: “With the rope or the candlestick?” Now, OK, good line and everybody loves a Cluedo reference, but Jax’s statement is pretty damn urgent and he delivers it in a clearly panicked manner, so now is not the time. Jeez, Ray! Learn to read a situation.
– Woe betide you if you haven’t seen The Untouchables, because the show goes hell for leather with the references to Brian De Palma’s movie this week, including the episode title, which is a reference to a line in the movie. You’d have thought someone might have slipped in a Boardwalk Empire reference, but no, it’s The Untouchables or nothing. In fact, with all the referencing, it’s a little disappointing that they don’t find time for a scene with a baby carriage going down a big flight of stairs, but at least Ray gets to deliver the line “Who brings a tommy gun to an ion blaster fight?”
– Best superhero action moment this week? Ray’s size-changing sucker punch, after a beauty of a set-up from Jax. More of this please, show.
Legends of Tomorrow is available on Sky Box Sets. Don’t have Sky? You can catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.