[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 14. There will be SPOILERS.]
So close, and yet so, so far. After tracking Vandal Savage through time, disrupting both the timeline of the world and their entire lives, the team finally had the madman at their mercy. We were left with a cliffhanger, Savage’s life would come at the price of Kendra’s soulmate’s mind. For many, it seemed like a simple choice: kill Savage, save the world. Sacrifice the few (or just Carter) to save the many. However, this week’s episode focused on the team’s blind spots, and Rip’s weaknesses were on full display as he chose to take his imprisonment of Savage not as the means to kill him, but as an opportunity to redeem himself with the Time Masters.
In ‘River of Time’ directed by Alice Troughton and written by Cortney Norris & Anderson Mackenzie, Rip learns that Savage is using technology from the future, proving that he has been manipulating the timeline. Pushing the Waverider to its limits he struggles to get the ship to The Vanishing Point, while Kendra works to help Carter regain his memories. All the while Savage is locked away, doing his best to set the crew against one another.
A Selfish Leader
Perhaps one of the more puzzling aspects of ‘River of Time’ is Rip’s insistence on taking Savage to the Time Master stronghold, rather than finding a way to free up Carter’s mind and then simply kill him. At this particular point in time, Savage hasn’t killed Rip’s family, so offing him would save them. It’s possible he thinks he can kill two birds with one stone – let the Time Masters punish Savage and reclaim his good name – but it seems like an awfully risky move considering the stakes, and how often that particular group has betrayed him.
In his effort to get to the Vanishing Point Rip acts selfishly, both consciously and unconsciously. First his actions damage the ship, then they have nearly fatal repercussions for Jax. When Snart first joined the team he wondered just how cold and calculating Rip really was, and though we’ve seen shades of this before this week demonstrated his concern for his family (or himself) outweighs his feelings for his crew. While he did arrive in time to help Kendra, it’s only one step toward being a Captain a team could, or should, rally around.
The Time Masters sudden but inevitable betrayal was obvious to everyone except Rip and the logic around sparing Savage again arises during the battle with Savage and Cater, after Rip was shot and confirmed that Carter was alive. Kendra had the perfect opening with Carter’s mace nearby. Why not kill him then, with Carter’s mind back in working order? Kendra’s reluctance to kill Savage makes some degree of sense, but Professor’s Stein’s sudden shock and condemnation of killing Savage comes out of nowhere. He has always been the voice of moral reason, but the team has always been explicit in their plans to kill Savage, having just forged a new murder weapon last week.
Of course, the relationship problems Kendra and Ray have struggled to come to a head with Carter alive and onboard. Their breakup makes sense, but lacks any real emotional weight. This pairing has suffered from numerous narrative issues, one of the largest being their time together as a happy couple took place during a past that viewers never saw. Savage’s easy manipulation of Ray was painful, both in how heavy handed it was and how easily Ray fell for it, giving Savage exactly what he wanted. Hopefully this was a learning moment for Ray, who very nearly got the entire team killed due to his hurt feelings. Despite all that, both Brandon Routh and Ciara Renée turned out excellent performances, turmoil and anguish clear in every interaction.
Ray’s conversations with Savage revealed that in another life Kendra and Savage were together, until Carter arrived and reunited with her. The conversation wasn’t enough to turn Ray into a jealous ex, and Savage’s transition from ignored suitor to jilted ex-boyfriend didn’t do much to develop the character or alter his motivations. He also revealed that he has witnessed numerous children die from old age, one would think that this much life experience would help him get over an ex-girlfriend.
The highlight of Legends continue to be the pragmatic and scenery chewing Snart, wisecracking and violent Mick, and the fierce warrior Sara, who acts as both the brawns and the voice of reason. Taking over briefly for Rip as Captain highlighted just how suited she was for the job (a trait that runs in the family). Both Snart and Mick were only onscreen for short periods of time, but their defense of Jax and sixth sense for trouble was excellent.
This week also employed more flashbacks than usual, and while they were a nice tie in to sister shows Arrow and The Flash, they didn’t serve any purpose except reinforce themes that were already clear. That said, it’s always a pleasure to see Felicity and Nyssa onscreen, even if they didn’t have much to do. This marked the first hint of Laurel’s fate finally reaching Sara, something sure to come to a head by the season’s end. Did Rip know that Laurel would die while Sara was in another time? Did Jax make it back to 2016, restored to his appropriate age? Are the Time Masters truly in league with Savage, or is there another agenda at work here? Many interesting questions still remain, hopefully the show finds a way to answer them coherently by the season’s end.
This was a weak Legends of Tomorrow episode overall, as it lingered over Rip’s failings as a leader and the overplayed love triangle. One of the most challenging aspects of Legends is that the show has the potential to be so much more than it is. With only two episodes left, and presumably the end to Vandal Savage in sight, the writers can still course correct, focusing instead on developing these characters, showcasing more fun action scenes, along with fast paced time travel adventures.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Destiny’ on May 12th, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: