Season Two, Episode Eight — “The Chicago Way”
By Jarrod Jones. You’d think that with its pitch-perfect cast of colorful superheroes, pretty damn decent special effects, and the fact that it’s about as dorky as a school bus filled with Middle Earth cosplayers on their way to Wellington, New Zealand, Legends of Tomorrow would be a big enough hit among the DC Comics faithful. Enough, at least, to garner more than the measly 2.01 million viewer average it’s dropped to this season. (That number, by the way, has been bolstered by last week’s “Invasion!” crossover.)
Seeing’s though The CW can’t afford a four-part crossover with The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl every single week, the best thing for the show is to make it good. Not “just okay.” Good. The Flash good. Considering that all four of these shows share producers, there’s no reason why Legends of Tomorrow can’t be as good — if not thematically superior — than all the shows that surround it. All of the advantages to do so are already Legends‘ to exploit.
For one, it doesn’t have to succumb to the typical CW DC TV mold. There isn’t a sole “computer/techie” guy like Winn Schott, Cisco Ramon, or Felicity Smoak; there’s no “wise elder” figure like Detective Joe West, Cat Grant, or (oddly enough) Oliver Queen; and there’s certainly no “on again/off again” love interests running around, like Iris West, Jimmy Olsen, or *ahem* Felicity Smoak. Every single character on Legends is a hero in their own right. (Yes, even Mick Rory.) This is a team of legends, we are told. It’s high time everybody started acting like it.
It’s safe to say that Legends of Tomorrow finally went and cracked its own code — in order to boast that “legendary” qualifier, they need to earn it. Generally, for a hero to establish their general moral superiority over everybody, they need a villain — a real villain — to overcome. Batman needs The Joker, Superman needs Lex Luthor, we need Donald Trump, etc. This season, Legends of Tomorrow has assembled a literal murderer’s row of sinister assholes for our scrappy motley crew to do battle with.
Eobard Thawne, Damien Darhk, and Malcolm Merlyn (and presumably Captain Cold, if Heat Wave’s hallucinations are to be believed) have united in a common purpose to royally screw up the timeline. It’s an embarrassment of riches on Legends part to corral all the charismatic heavies from the Arrowverse to dangle in front of its dwindling audience, but it’s a conceit, much to my surprise (and relief), that is definitely working.
“The Chicago Way” is Legends of Tomorrow at its best and most banal: The dichotomies between the crew of the Waverider have never been stronger (Nick Zano and Maisie Richardson-Sellers, as Citizen Steel and Vixen respectively, are welcome additions to the team), but the Prohibition-era Chicago setting should send historical buffs and Chicago residents screaming to social media (lousy production values don’t necessarily recreate 1920s Chicago, as trample all over it). If the future is expensive to realize on a CW budget, then you’d think recreating era-appropriate settings would be of the utmost importance. (No computer-generated vistas as you’d see with The Flash‘s Earth-2, I fear.)
The episode’s period setting means what you might assume it would mean, considering: Fedoras, jazz music, at least forty references to The Untouchables, and our cast not walking two feet without stepping on the likes of Eliot Ness or Al Capone. (There’s even a baby carriage hat-tip stuffed in for good measure.) Legends of Tomorrow may not be killing it with subtlety and nuance, but they sure have finessed their “we’re just here to have a good time” shtick.
Shockingly, that’s no longer a deal breaker, not as much as it would have been last season anyway. The show has taken exceptional care with its crew, digging deeper into the conflicting emotions that come with hurtling through time. When seeing what’s to come and knowing how you could fix past mistakes, everyone, especially Victor Garber’s Professor Stein, spend much of their screen time grappling with the consequences of being a time traveler. (With the exception of Sara Lance, who’s only too keen on stabbing her problems away, consequences be damned.) The stakes have never been higher, and with this cage match of heroes and villains, it’s never been more personal.
“Ray, 1920s Chicago PD was the most corrupt police force in history. Almost all of them were on Capone’s payroll! Did you or did you not see ‘The Untouchables’?” – Nate.
“Well, we’re in this situation because you learned history from a movie.” – Nate, who’s beginning to sound a lot like me, when I talk to this show.
“Jefferson, the speedster is here — run!” – Dr. Stein, who was originally had a recurring role on The Flash, and should retroactively regret that line.
“Y’know, for a homicidal gangster, Capone was very organized. And he had exquisite penmanship.” – Nate.
Jax: “Whatever you’re gonna do, do it now!” Thawne: “In a rush to die?” Jax: “I wasn’t talking to you.”
BEST MOMENT: The second everyone realizes the Reverse-Flash is on the Waverider. The moment of panic, coupled with the visual of Sara Lance stuck in a room with him unawares, got me to sit upright. Legends has been honing their ability to surprise, and even frighten, its viewers. Hopefully they keep it up.
EPISODE’S MVP: Nick Zano’s Nate Heywood has officially won me over — he’s affable, goofy, and downright earnest in all the ways that made Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer such a great fit for the show. (They’d cancel each other out if they didn’t have such great chemistry together.) The man I referred to as “a sentient haircut” has become a bonafide citizen of the Arrowverse.
BE BRAVE AND BEHOLD:
– “The Chicago Way” is also the name of a notable Chicago-centric podcast. (What? I live here.)
– Lemme just say that the guest stars on Legends this season (Lance Henriksen and Jeff Fahey to name a couple) have been astounding.
– A woman with a baby carriage, Show? Little on the nose, don’tcha think? (Look who I’m talking to here.)
– If only Legends had the moxie, they could have chipped in and flew the crew out to Chicago and filmed at The Green Mill, an actual bar in Chicago that looks and behaves like a Prohibition-era bar. Feh.
– Thawne uses the same device on Stein that he used on Harrison Wells all those years ago. Thankfully, Stein survives the experience.
– I’m grateful for any extra John Barrowman, and his scene with Caity Lotz — where they discuss the death of Sara’s sister, Laurel — was a welcome dramatic nod to all the wacky goings-on over on Arrow.
– Ah, the Spear of Destiny. Definitely a JSA reference, as that was the mythological tool that kept DC’s fictional heroes out of World War II. (Uh… Google it.)
– So Rip Hunter’s using all his free time to be… a self-obsessed Hollywood director? I smell a late-season character arc brewing.
7.5 out of 10
Next: “Raiders of the Lost Art,” soon.
Before: “Invasion!”, here.