Season One, Episode Eight — “Night of the Hawk”
By Jarrod Jones. We’ve run through the “groovy” gauntlet of the Seventies, endured Cold War paranoia during the Eighties, and even sauntered into the year 2046 alongside Legends of Tomorrow, so what the hell — let’s go to the Fifties too. Hey, it worked for Back to the Future.
Mick Rory is gone, and it seems that the team is handling it well. Sure, Leonard’s off sulking in the corners of The Waverider, but for the most part Rip Hunter and his merry brood have moved on to the more pressing matters of Vandal Savage and his Tuna Surprise. *sigh* Nevermind that the team has suffered a huge blow by having one of its members turn Rogue on them, a member that was unceremoniously put to pasture without due process or anything resembling justice. And nevermind that Mick’s heel-turn occurred because of the systematic abuse heaped upon him by their unstable leader. Legends has never been great with pathos. But after last week? I honestly thought we were moving forward, at least in terms of narrative quality.
It’s true, folks. As quickly as we arrived to television heaven last week, we’ve crash-landed back into tv purgatory once more. Fortunately Legends has an ace in the hole, in the form of Joe Dante. That’s right, the director of Gremlins is helming this week’s episode, and his craftsmanship is on full display with “Night of the Hawk”, a half-hokey, half-fabulous episode that gives the CW an opportunity to flex its progressive muscles by placing its rather muted diversity at the forefront of 1950s White America. It was a time of casseroles, hot-rods, cigarettes in the mashed potatoes, and all the casual sexism and belligerent racism you can handle. In other words, it’s the perfect, gee-whiz kind of episode that finally puts Brandon Routh’s dimples to work.
WHAT WORKED: Those Hawk-thugs looked righteously vicious, and their murder sprees caused me to shift in my seat more than I care to admit. That’s probably due to the director of “Night of the Hawk”, Mr. Joe “Gremlins” Dante, who knows a thing or two about makeup and practical effects, and more importantly, when and where to use them. With Dante’s guiding hand, “Night of the Hawk” is a rather disquieting episode, not just because of the wanton violence in which these creatures indulge themselves, but because they looked so damned scary while doing it.
Sara Lance finally gets a chance at love this week. It’s the first time she’s met someone who tickles her fancy since she found herself reborn in the bubbling cauldron of the Lazarus Pit, which means that while Sara recalls exactly who she is and who she desires, actually experiencing passion again is a whole other matter. Caity Lotz handles these sequences with her signature grace and wit, and the scenes she shared with Ali Liebert were easily some of the strongest Legends has enjoyed yet.
It’s certainly a sticky wicket to depict racism with any semblance of honesty, especially on network television, and there are moments where the depiction of racism against Kendra and Jax veer dangerously close to schmaltz. But “Night of the Hawk” handles its sequences of bigotry with care, and what’s more, it gives Kendra and her teammate plenty of room to fend off their personal attacks without the necessity of a white savior to come and ward off any xenophobes that come their way. A delicate thing indeed, and I certainly didn’t count on a show that constantly fumbles to make it towards the finish cleanly, but somehow Legends did precisely that. Now the show just has to do it again next week. Fingers crossed.
WHAT DIDN’T: With all this whacked-out Mayberry craziness, Legends wisely honed its focus on certain characters in order to drive this week forward (Ray & Kendra, Sara, Jax), but that means Leonard Snart — who was just forced to kill his partner only one episode ago — gets lost in the shuffle. There are a couple of doubting eyes cast Leonard’s way (mostly from Jax, in the episode’s lousiest attempt at creating an episode-length arc for Captain Cold and Firestorm), but for the most part, the loss of Mick Rory, and any fallout that came with it, remains in the show’s periphery. That’s a real shame, considering that’s about as mature Legends‘ content has ever been.
Realtor: (to Ray & Kendra) “You know, I have a lovely Tudor-style. In another town. A more… accepting one. Forward-thinking.” Kendra: “No, that’s fine! I like my towns backward.”
Marty: “Come along… Nurse.” Sara: “Just so you know, Ra’s al Ghul taught me how to kill someone slowly… over the course of days.”
“Don’t knock it ’til you tried it, girl.” – Jax.
“Say what you want about Savage — he makes one hell of a casserole.” – Ray.
BEST MOMENT: It’s a tie this week, between every second Ray & Kendra shared on screen, and any sequence involving Sara Lance and Nurse Carlisle. Any moment that exhibits actual chemistry has become a rare thing indeed for this show, but it’s experiment in fixing up The Atom and Hawkgirl is proving to be a qualified success. And Caity Lotz’s sequences where she casually woos a nurse were so effective that it was simply impossible not to smile. Now all I have to do is figure out a name for Ray & Kendra. “Rendra”? “Kay”? Ah, I’ll leave it alone.
EPISODE’S MVP: Another tie this week: Kendra & Ray. Brandon Routh and Ciara Renee have been languishing in the narrow hallways of The Waverider for too long. Ray’s been a literal punching bag for every bruiser that comes his way, and Kendra’s been the object of desire for too many males on this show. And while I’d prefer it if Hawkgirl was given her own agency as an individual, I cannot deny how well her relationship with Dr. Palmer works. Watching them dance around their nuclear home made me forget about Carter Hall more and more with each adorable step.
BE BRAVE AND BEHOLD:
– Back to the Future References: Thankfully only two, in the episode’s attempt some pop culture restraint. Unheard of for Legends, I know, but I welcome this as an improvement. (For the uninitiated, Jax calls some varsity shit-head “Biff”, and Ray asks if Jax is going to the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance.)
– Hmm. A Hall full of frothing maniacs who thrive on tearing things to the ground, labeled with the designation ‘H’. Now where have I heard that one before.
– Welp. It’s official: Legends of Tomorrow is coming back for another season. With this recent uptick in quality, I’ll admit I’m pretty happy about that. But this show better streamline its next path, or Season Two will not end in victory.
7 out of 10
Next: “Left Behind”, soon.
Before: “Marooned”, here.