[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]

As last week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow found the team reeling from Carter’s death and recommitting themselves to their enormous mission of saving the world, this week forced everyone prove it. The stakes were life and death as our heroes chased Vandal Savage deep into Soviet Russia and their adventure not only brought two different capers, but also hit some emotional high notes and ended on its first ever cliffhanger.

In “White Knights”, the team infiltrates the Pentagon, stealing a classified file that sends them to Russia in search of scientist Valentina Vostok (Stephanie Corneliussen) who might be able to help them stop Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). While Ray (Brandon Routh) and Snart (Wentworth Miller) attempt to get intel without violence, Rip (Arthur Darvill) is confronted by a fellow Time Master, and Sara (Caity Lotz) and Kendra ( Ciara Renée) train together.

THE ART OF LETTING GO

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After again dodging Chronos and crash landing in Russia, Rip finds his former mentor and current Time Master Zaman Druce (Martin Donovan) looking for him. He warns Rip that “A team is a liability, they keep you from making the tough choices,” and proceeds to offer him an easy choice: surrender his team and mission and all is forgiven. Druce alludes to the damage that they’ve caused, and the hundreds of years it will take to fix it. It’s an pointed jab and it seems to land, which is strange since they’ve reiterated that the timeline has remained unchanged throughout their misadventures. Exploring these repercussions and what qualifies as enough of a change to impact time itself is an interesting and unique concept, hopefully this is something the writers will address later in the season.

Rip’s motivations for returning to Druce under the guise of surrendering with Rory and Firestorm as backup are unclear. Rory had already pointed out that Druce meant to kill them all, and Rip obviously never planned to turn himself in, but he also didn’t seem eager to kill his former friend. It seems as though they could have hid or evaded them, but perhaps that wouldn’t have given them enough time to investigate Valentina. Either way, Legends‘ message so far has been that everyone would benefit from thinking less like heroes and more like thieves as they use Rory’s insight to battle it out with his former friends.

This battle brought the simmering resentment between Jax and Stein to a boil after Jax was injured in the fight. Rather than rehashing the same argument we’ve heard over the last few weeks, the two were finally emotionally honest with one another as Jax yelled at Stein for forcing him to abandon his life, and his mother. Stein is rude and dismissive of his pain, but later reveals that this is his only defense in his grief after the loss of Ronnie Raymond, and is terrified of losing Jax the same way. Franz Drameh was outstanding this week, delivering his best performance to date, and bringing a real pain and humanity to Jax. It was a moment that easily could have slid into melodrama, but Drameh’s restrained hurt made every beat land.

ANGER MANAGEMENT

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After her berserker-like rage during the Pentagon mission, Kendra finally gets some battle training – League of Assassins style. Sara is charged with helping Kendra get her warrior in control, which means both accepting her fear, and channeling her emotions. Neither one of these things come easily to either woman, and they take turns releasing their blood lust on their other. It is nice to see a friendship blossom between the two women on the show, even if it does feel like they are spinning their wheels trying to figure out what to do with Kendra.

Out of the large cast, Kendra is still the hardest to pin down, having gone from the crisis of discovery on The Flash directly into grief on Legends. The only thing we really know about Kendra’s life before this point was that she used to be a barista – something the writers take great pains to remind us – and isn’t sure how to adjust to her new powers. It’s an understandable struggle but doesn’t help to distinguish her in this crowded landscape.  Though she clearly has untapped abilities waiting to be revealed, right now her main ability is flight – something that both Ray and Firestorm share. By now everyone’s talents have become clear and utilized: Ray and Professor Stein are geniuses, Snart and Rory are fighters and criminal masterminds, Sara is a trained assassin who excels at espionage, and even Jax can fly the plane. Kendra remains the odd woman out and in desperate need of more development now that her Carter-centric story lines are at an end.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

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Ray and Snart were again paired off to find out what Valentina knows about her scientific benefactor Savage. Not that it was ever in question, this week proved that Snart has way more game than Ray after he easily charms Valentina and takes her ID card (and wallet). When the two are sent as backup to help Stein infiltrate her research lab, their very different codes of ethics are on display. Twice we see Ray choose a single person’s life over the greater mission, first with Valentina, then with Snart. He might be an Eagle Scout, but his dogged commitment to saving every life may get him – or the team – killed in the process. Snart had no such scruples and was able to snatch the thermal core and make it back to the ship, but Ray, Stein and Rory weren’t so lucky and were taken hostage by the Russians who work for Savage.

Snart listened to Rip and chose the mission over saving his partner – something his thieves code normally wouldn’t allow for. It also gave him a greater insight into Rip’s calculation and dedication to the mission, which is chilly even for Captain Cold. Willing to sacrifice a few for the many and play the long game with Savage, Rip was correct in his decision to not send the team backup, but also demonstrates the sacrifices he is willing to make in his quest for the greater good.

Legends of Tomorrow found the fun in some classic heist work, while continuing to develop the Firestorm relationship. Taking a break from direct clashes with Savage and introducing more side characters like Valentina kept the momentum moving along nicely. Hopefully the show can find a purpose and place for Kendra as the remaining heroes work to save their friends from a Russian gulag.

Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Fail-Safe’ on February 18th, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below:

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