Season One, Episode Fourteen and Fifteen — “River of Time”, “Destiny”
By Jarrod Jones. As a stalwart DC Comics devotee, there are times when watching Legends of Tomorrow can be one hell of a trip. To see a small battalion of strictly B-list superheroes and villains (like, say, Captain Cold, Rip Hunter, and Hawkgirl, to name a few) bomb around the confines of a flat screen TV can definitely make one feel as though we’re living in some sort of fully realized comic book reader’s fantasy. (Probably because, well, we are.) This week we saw the Vanishing Point, also known as the temporal Valhalla of the DC Universe, certainly a signifier of the geek’s paradise in which we live if nothing else: with its labyrinthine technological grid laid over a brilliant swathe of phosphorescent nebulae, the Vanishing Point is easily the greatest visual in the history of the CW DC TV Universe, and a staggering testament to the CW’s dedication to bring the DC Universe to life — a feat I’m not sure entirely belongs to a show with such varying degrees of quality like Legends of Tomorrow.
Even though this particular DC show is often referred to as “the weird one,” what with time travel and space-faring being just two of the (maybe) four tricks up its sleeve, Legends of Tomorrow squandered any right to brag about its scope long before this week’s episode rolled around. Narratively, it’s a mess. Tonally, it’s bipolar. And as far as this week goes? Hah: “Destiny” is one of those aggravating hours of television that seems made to frustrate the viewer as much as it is designed to give a show some much-needed narrative breathing room. Don’t look now, but Legends just yanked out its fifth (possibly sixth?) Get Out Of Jail Free card.
When Martin Donovan’s Time Master tells Captain Rip Hunter, “it was us all along” even though it’s really been Rip who’s been the asshole this entire time, you know it’s Legends‘ way of asking for forgiveness. That the decisions were never Rip’s. The Time Masters have been manipulating the Waverider crew all along, Vandal Savage was always meant to rule the world, yada yada yada. But instead of dwelling on the concepts of free will with a semblance of grace, Legends tosses a plot device into the works. It’s called “The Oculus.” (Maybe someone should call a lawyer?) Why? Because there’s a second season to consider now, and the show’s written itself into a corner. “We have been following a script written by the Time Masters,” Rip says. You don’t say. Well, at least now we know who’s to blame.
WHAT WORKED: The flashback sequences in “River of Time” — which included some pretty killer cameos, by the way (Nyssa!) — worked its damndest to remind us of the stakes each of these characters have in this fight. And while it does remind us of some of their own personal failings (example: Marty lies to everybody, especially his wife), it brought us back down to the ground-level of the DC TV Universe. Maybe it should visit more often.
Now that the Legendeers have a more substantial enemy other than the officially ineffectual Vandal Savage — and in Martin Donovan, he’s one helluva rat-bastard to boot — the show finds a slight uptick in quality, say nothing of momentum. Maybe it’s just because we’re in the final stretch of this season, but “Destiny” is up there in terms of overall quality (even with that lousy rift caused by the Oculus), possibly the best since “Marooned”. (Even though the events of that particular episode have been retconned into oblivion.)
WHAT DIDN’T: Rip’s “by any means necessary” approach to leading his team has turned the man into a damn sociopath. That’s not news, I know, but this week our intrepid time-captain knowingly sent Jax to an imminent death. Why? Because the ends justify the means, even though his means generally amount to a giant heap of nothing-at-all. How often Rip has been wrong about his decisions could be perceived as a slice of covert brilliance, especially after the big Time Masters reveal, but really it feels like his particular arc was plotted out over key bumps of dishwasher detergent and shots of watered-down Clorox. It wasn’t the Oculus that made Rip send Sara to kill Martin Stein almost eight weeks ago. It was Rip, in all of his assholery.
Ray & Kendra. Kendra & Carter. Me & a barf bag. Watching Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders break up only to get back together every week like this was Gotham or something wore out its welcome long ago. With Falk Hentschel’s guest turn as one of Savage’s cronies, Legends‘ Over-It Couple make sure to fill some screen time with their trademark lack of chemistry. Since when are the Legendeers not taking out Vandal Savage? Since Kendra said so, apparently. Ray was ready to kill himself by the end of all this nonsense. Holy cow — Ray, it isn’t worth it!
And speaking of useless romantic subplots, who invited Leonard up Sara’s ass? Since when is Leonard into the idea of committed relationships? Maybe I’m reading too deeply into this, but I always had Captain Cold pegged as an asexual, what with his persistence to keep his partner’s eyes on the next big score and all. Never once — not once — has Leonard shown an interest in Sara, say nothing of literally every woman he’s come across, be it on Legends or The Flash. Bah.
Mick: “Why are all the snacks in the future sugar-free?” Leonard: “So much for progress.”
“What? It wasn’t what it looked like? You were reciting a love poem to your brainwashed ex-boyfriend.” – Ray, telling truths.
“For A Time Master, you sure do waste a lot of it.” – Mick, to a rather chatty Time Master.
“You wanna steal a kiss from me, Leonard? You better be one hell of a thief.” – Sara.
BEST MOMENT: Mick threatens Ray. Heat Wave’s repeated use of his adorable nickname for The Atom — “Haircut” — finally hit its payday this week. Ray and Mick have shared more downtime together than ol’ Mick has with his partner-in-crime Leonard Snart, so it should come as no surprise that Ray would be privy to a moment of Mick’s sentimentality. “You tell anybody about this, I’ll shave your head,” Mick says. D’aw.
EPISODES’ MVP: Sara Lance. She may not be The Waverider’s all-new captain, but there is definitely only one member of the team steering this ship. Sara better come back next season.
BE BRAVE AND BEHOLD:
– Rip said “Bollocks!” for the first time ever this season, which only serves to remind me that this whole “East London” version of the character is an inherently recent one.
– Felicity in a wheelchair.
– Jax: “You roofied me again?!” For real, Marty. You creep.
– So Savage was imprisoned in a cage that locks… from the inside. Sure, Show. Why not.
– How did Gideon not see that Savage escaped? I mean, GOD.
– “Jurgens’ Ridge” is almost certainly a nod towards Dan Jurgens, creator of Booster Gold, a superhero who — if you’ve been paying close attention — is Rip Hunter’s father.
– Turns out Vandal Savage is responsible for repelling the Thanagar invasion of 2170. That would sound pretty tantalizing — and as an Easter Egg, it would even be pretty exciting — had we not already seen Thanagar attempt to conquer the Earth in the Invasion! storyline of the 1980s, and again in the last season of the Justice League animated series. Also, Hawkman and Hawkgirl aren’t a part of Thanagar in Legends, which makes this particular shout seem particularly odd.
– Something that’s been bothering me — if the Time Masters are so hands-on about destiny, then why haven’t they stopped Barry Allen from hopping around the time stream? Or Eobard Thawne, for that matter? So much for a lived-in universe.
– That Time Master was definitely Mackenzie Gray, who is credited as playing Jax-Ur in Man of Steel, and, of all things, a Lex Luthor clone in Smallville.
– Captain Cold’s sacrifice is probably more definite than we’d like: Wentworth Miller won’t be returning as a series regular for Legends‘ second season.
5.5 out of 10
Next: “Legendary”, soon.
Before: “Last Refuge”, “Leviathan”, here.