[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 5. There will be SPOILERS.]
There was quite a bit of discussion and rumination on codes, credos, and humanity throughout this week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow. With the fate of the world – and the lives of three teammates – hanging in the balance, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) and Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) grappled with sacrificing the few to save the many. Though separated from one another, both Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) stuck to their thieves code, while ultimately expanding those rules to include the rest of the team.
In ‘Fail-Safe’, directed by Dermott Downs and written by Beth Schwartz and Grainne Godfree, Sara and Snart go on a rescue mission to save Ray, Mick, and Stein from the Russian gulag. In an effort to keep the Firestorm technology from scientist Valentina Vostok, Sara is tasked with killing Stein should the rescue mission fail. Meanwhile, Ray and Mick try to survive in prison using very different methods, and Jax and Kendra team up to create a backup plan.
Code of Honor
Still angry that Rip ordered him to leave Mick and Ray behind during the fight at the lab, Snart easily identifies Rip’s contingency plan and in the process highlights a much larger conflict that is shaping up to be the central point of contention between Rip and the team: is their captain really just using them as pawns in his larger game with Vandal Savage? Clearly impacted by Carter’s death, there is still not much distinction between how much Rip is willing to sacrifice in the name of the greater good and his desire to protect his team. It is Snart’s code to never leave a man behind that turns him from the snarky thief to the voice of reason.
Snart’s urging to not shoot Stein because Sara is no longer a killer not only adds a nice layer of emotional connection between the two, it also has shades of an Arrow relationship in its early stages. Though it is far too early to compare the burgeoning friendship of Snart/Sara to the Season 1 angst of Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak, it does follow the same pattern of broken souls gravitating to people who harness their light, and see the good in them. That’s something that could be significant down the road, as the two shows share multiple executive producers.
Over the first four episodes we have seen Ray repeatedly cling to his own code of squeaky-clean ethics, often to the determent of the team. We see this play out again in the gulag, only this time he doesn’t need Snart to beat some sense into him, he’s got his fellow inmates for that. For the first time we see how Ray’s morals, his choosing his team – and Mick specifically – over his own survival truly make him a hero in his own right. It’s a nice win for a guy who hasn’t yet excelled in heroic field work.
The Great Escape
The team’s collaboration to break their friends out of jail displayed just how powerful they are all working together. Even as Kendra struggles to distinguishing herself from her counterparts, she is slowly beginning to be a more active part of the team. While her main asset still seems to be her ability to kill Savage, she was at least working with Jax on the rescue operation. Her optimism and faith in her friends hint at a more layered character underneath, though it would have been nice if she had more to do than drop off Jax and stalk away from Savage.
The stakes in this episode are huge: save/kill one man or an army of Soviet Firestorm’s will destroy the world. But then again, the stakes are impossibly high in every episode, with the fate of civilization hinging on their every mission. It’s difficult to sustain that type of momentum for an entire season, and beyond. Hopefully the show’s writers will begin to layer in smaller, more personal stories to balance out their epic quests.
It’s All Connected
After an intense cross promotional lead up to the show, Legends has cooled in highlighting its connection to Arrow and The Flash after the pilot. This week was stuffed with sister show references and Easter eggs, with more than just Giedon to remind you that they are all connected. The opening hallucination of Valentina as Cisco Ramon was a fun cold open – and Carlos Valdes’ Ramon is always a welcome addition. Sadly with Valentina now (presumably) dead we won’t get to explore whatever power or manipulation allowed her to control Stein’s mind without drugs, or get to see her try for a more convincing Cisco. Echos of Arrow were especially strong as the team negotiated with the Bravta, the Russian Mafia who were all sporting tattoos that match Oliver’s. The episode even managed to sneak in a wink to Miller’s other hit show Prison Break, as they determined how to, well, break into another prison.
Of course, The Flash cameo and many references to Star City were all in service of the ending cliffhanger: after another attack by Chronos the team finds themselves in a dystopian future version of Star City. In this world, Palmer’s skyscraper has been renamed in favor of a certain hacker genius – with “Smoak” now emblazoned where Ray’s name used to be.
The episode also brought up many questions about the nature of time travel itself, and the rules that govern it. It’s been repeatedly emphasized that the timeline is resistant to change, but this week’s episode brought devastating results cementing a new future almost immediately. So far Legends has done a good job of world-building, but as the team’s time-bending adventures get wider in scope, so too do the implications of their actions. Hopefully, the series’ writers will be able to establish a clear set of rules, and then abide by them as the fight against Savage intensifies.
This week proved that the Legends of Tomorrow works best when all of the pieces are on the board, working together against a common enemy. It managed to anchor the action in heart and emotion (even with a few narrative missteps), while advancing the plot. Next week should bring a host of Arrow characters into play as the team explores the future Star City, facing down a Green Arrow who is most definitely not Oliver Queen, and uncover what went wrong in the timeline.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Star City 2046’ on February 25th, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: