[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 2, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
After losing a handful of team members at the end of Legends of Tomorrow season 1 – including Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée), and Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) – the crew of the Waverider additionally lost their captain when Rip Hunter went missing in the season 2 premiere. In the wake of Rip’s disappearance, Sara Lance stepped up as the Waverider’s new captain, while the team brought in new recruits: Nate Heywood aka Citizen Steel and Amaya Jiwe aka Vixen. However, the mystery of Rip’s disappearance was seemingly solved when he appeared in the last moments of the Legends of Tomorrow midseason finale – but not quite as himself.
When Legends of Tomorrow returned from its midseason hiatus with a George Lucas-focused episode, ‘Raiders of the Lost Art’, it was revealed that Rip’s memories of his life and time with the Legends had been lost and he believed himself to be a film student named Phil. In ‘The Legion of Doom’, the episode’s titular villains attempted to torture information out of Rip in their search for the Spear of Destiny, but instead came across his memories. Rather than restore Rip to the Time Master and Legend he had been, though, Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher) did some tinkering with the memories – which resulted in a very different Rip going to 1776 and shooting George Washington.
In this week’s episode, ‘Turncoat’ – written by Grainne Godfree and Matthew Maala and directed by Alice Troughton – the Legends head to Christmas Eve 1776 in order to protect George Washington and the American Revolutionary war from their former captain. Meanwhile, Jax and Stein are tasked with protecting the Waverider, which has become incapacitated.
Die Hard… But On A Time Ship
It turns out – as Sara suspects following the time quake resulting from Rip’s attack on Washington – that 1776 is a trap for the Legends. But, rather than the Legion of Doom laying in wait for the Legends to arrive, they’re taken by surprise when a more ruthless and unfeeling Rip Hunter not only captures Mick and George Washington, and shoots Sara. Additionally, Rip unleashed an EMP that rendered all the technology typically at the Legends’ disposal useless, meaning Mick is without his Heat Gun, Ray’s suit is stuck being very small, and the Waverider – including Gideon – is incapacitated.
With Sara gravely injured, she leaves Jax in charge of the Waverider. Although he’s more unhappy about taking on the role of captain than Sara was earlier in season 2, he quickly orders Stein to tend to Sara – to which Stein replies with a line for Star Trek fans: “Dammit, Jefferson, I’m not a doctor!” – and Ray to get the Waverider back online. But, their respective tasks are made more difficult when the Waverider is boarded by Rip and two soldiers from the British army. The ensuing game of cat-and-mouse between Rip and Jax is entertainingly reminiscent of Die Hard – all the more when Jax starts getting in the Christmas spirit, leaving “gifts” for his pursuers and dressing an unconscious British soldier up like Santa Claus.
Of course, Jax trying to evade Rip, who has already proven he doesn’t care for his former crew even the slightest bit, has an emotional throughline that elevates this particular arc in ‘Turncoat’. Arthur Darvill, for his part plays the cunning and merciless villain exceptionally well. Plus, given Rip is a former ally, his willingness to try to kill Sara not once, but twice, has all the more emotional impact – on Jax especially. Jax, meanwhile, is driven to a point of ruthlessness that rivals the newly evil Rip Hunter, almost pulling the trigger to kill his former captain, though a revived Sara is able to stop him in time. Not everyone is suited to the role of captain and although Jax gave it his best, the Legends may not be able to survive the loss of another captain.
Thankfully, Ray is able to get the Waverider back online in time for Gideon and Stein to save Sara – though ‘Turncoat’ does give the White Canary a chance to joke about dying once already in the Arrowverse continuity. Still, the episode is a relative loss for the Legends team since Rip Hunter is able to use his ruthless new sensibility to obtain the shard of the Spear of Destiny that they had hidden in the ship.
The American Way
That said, Mick, Nate, and Amaya are able to mostly preserve American history, though ‘Turncoat’ does conclude with Mick getting a statue of his likeness in Washington D.C. Throughout the episode, Mick teaches George Washington just how Americans would win the Revolutionary War – and becomes responsible for the turning point in the war on Christmas Day in 1776. It’s interesting to see Mick influence American values, with him changing Washington’s mind about how to deal with the British and win the war, but perhaps pushes the limits of believability (especially given the focus recent pop culture has given this period in time thanks to Hamilton).
Elsewhere, Nate and Amaya attempt to track Mick and Washington. On the trail, Nate gives Amaya a future-history lesson about dating, courting, and the wonders of swiping left/right on a smartphone. While the opportunity presents itself, ‘Turncoat’ refrains from making a Netflix and chill reference – though only just barely. Still, the dating throughline is developed as Nate and Amaya use their time recovering from Nate’s dip in a freezing cold river for the 18th century version of Netflix and chilling. However, with Amaya not wanting to form a relationship with another team member and Nate playing it cool, the two leave their relationship at that.
‘Turncoat’ ends with a fun sequence in which the Legends celebrate Christmas, decorating part of the Waverider in the spirit of the holiday and giving each other gifts. Legends of Tomorrow is, at its heart, an time travel adventure series about a group of not-quite-heroes. Although ‘Turncoat’ featured the team split, for the most part, among their various missions, this final sequence brings them all together again. Of course, with Rip now on the side of the Legion of Doom – and Captain Cold expected to join their ranks soon – the Legends will need to get back in the game as they head to the Middle Ages in next week’s episode.
Legends of Tomorrow continues Tuesday, February 21 with ‘Camelot/3000’ at 9pm on The CW.