[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
Does anyone truly have free will? Or is everything in life prewritten? Does anything we do even matter in the grand scheme of things? Weighty questions and concepts dominated this week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow, after being locked in the Vanishing Point and watching Vandal Savage travel freely to 2166. Faced with the betrayal of the Time Masters, the team fights for their own future, and demonstrates exactly how far they’ve come since they first set foot on the Waverider.
In ‘Destiny’, directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi with the story by Marc Guggenheim and the teleplay by Phil Klemmer & Chris Fedak, Rip’s former mentor Zaman Druce (Martin Donovan) reveals that the Time Masters have been in league with Vandal Savage in anticipation of aliens invading Earth. Reeling from the Time Masters’ incredible manipulation, the team works to destroy the Oculus and restore free will – while Savage takes Kendra and Carter to 2166.
An Appointment With Destiny
We start at the very beginning, with Rip motivating the team to join him on his crusade against Savage. The original divide between them is stark, and the juxtaposition is especially clear watching Firestorm interact. This has been one of the most satisfying relationships that has slowly grown over the season, and their actions reflect that. ‘Destiny’ reveals another big twist, as the Time Masters finally tip their hand. Not only are they colluding with Savage, they have been using the Oculus to manipulate time and the actions of everyone in the timeline. They were behind the death of Rip’s family (for proper motivation) and all actions since. On the one hand, that explains why things have gone so terribly. On the other, this strips agency from an entire season, and the impact of the reveal is glossed over in the quest to destroy the Oculus. Once again it is the Time Masters who come across as the more insidious evil, far outstripping Savage.
The action at the Vanishing Point effectively split up the team, and once again the smaller pairs made for effective storytelling. With Kendra (and the love triangle) as well as Savage largely sidelined, we were able to focus on a smaller number of people, and almost everyone had a standout moment. While this wasn’t a comedic episode, it did have more humor, and this small bit of joy goes a long way to making the show the madcap adventure it was advertised as. Hopefully, that’s a sign of good things to come for the revamped season 2.
Even if their hunt for Savage has often gone more wrong, and they’ve been acting without any free will at all, at least their friendship marks that something has gone right in their journey across time. The Oculus’ self-destruct mechanism was a nice way to tie in the theme of sacrifice that has been weaved in and out since the beginning of the show, and took center stage with Stein sacrificing himself to save Jax from accelerated aging. Every character risked death this week: Ray Palmer, who only ever wanted to be a hero, was ready to die to save the world. Mick, once marooned due to his disloyalty, gives an inspiring pep talk and then sacrifices his own life to save Ray Palmer. Jax, back to his usual age, risked his life to return and save his friends. Everyone’s instincts are to save the person fighting beside them.
Of course, right as the slow-burn relationship that’s been building between Sara and Snart finally gets center stage, Snart one ups everyone in the game of sacrifice. He succeeds in saving his partner, and dies as the Oculus self-destructs, asserting his own free will (and getting in one last killer one-liner) in the process. Miller was outstanding as he rotated from grandstanding to grim acceptance, and his final kiss with Sara was a bittersweet goodbye. His death marks the completion (or at least, rotation) of his hero’s journey as the thief/villain slowly morphed into a hero.
With news already breaking that Miller is no longer a series regular on Legends, and will instead be contracted across all Berlanti productions, it’s hard to separate this charachters action from the larger business of The CW. Losing Snart as a mainstay on Legends is a blow, as he is easily one of the most dynamic and charismatic charachters on the show, and his interplay with Sara and Mick have provided some of the best moments.
With casting already underway for Season 2, they are clearly looking to refresh the team, while keeping Captain Cold around the DC-verse. It’s a twist that takes away some of the emotional devastation that would have followed his outright death, but is absolutely the right choice to keep Miller onboard. Of course, with the advantage of time travel (and a contract that has him appearing on both The Flash and Legends) Snart won’t be away from the Waverider for long, bringing his snark and charm back to the team when needed. As Savage says: in a cosmic sense, it’s already done. Whether he will be around to help the team finally defeat the evil dictator remains to be seen.
A quality episode with real, personal stakes provided not only forward momentum for the story but also character development, as each team member fights and sacrifices to save the others. Escaping from prison, regaining free will and losing a teammate is a lot for one episode, but the ramifications of time becoming unmoored are promising, as is the (near) inevitable death of Savage in next week’s season finale.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Legendary’ on May 19th, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: