[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 9. There will be SPOILERS.]
Legends of Tomorrow is, at its core, a tale of revenge and redemption. It also happens to be a space opera, and a superhero all-star team up that pushes the space-time continuum. While each of these themes have been explored thoroughly separately – and occasionally in pairs – this week’s episode had every attribute on full display. In ‘Left Behind’, directed by John Showalter and written by Beth Schwartz & Grainne Godfree, Sara (Caity Lotz), Ray (Brandon Routh), and Kendra (Ciara Renée) adjust to being stuck in 1958, where they remain for a full two years.
After being attacked and sabotaged by Chronos, the Waverider goes into a freefall, plunging Rip (Arthur Darvill), Jax (Franz Drameh) and Stein (Victor Garber) through time and space. This causes a two year gap where Ray and Kendra settle into domestic bliss, while Sara retreats to the League of Assassins. With Snart (Wentworth Miller) captured by Chronos, the rest of the team launches a rescue mission to get her back from Ra’s al Ghul himself.
Where do we truly belong, and who do we belong with? These are the questions Ray, Sara, and Kendra have to contend with the moment they see the Waverider pull away. The crisis cuts to the core of each of them: Ray is an Eagle Scout who wants to do good, Sara is an assassin who struggles to see beyond the darkness, and Kendra is getting really good at going with the flow. While ‘Night of the Hawk‘ introduced suburban Ray and Kendra, this time jump sped through their entire courtship which, like their lucky ceramics, is probably a long but endearing story. This time around they didn’t linger on the social implications of an unwed bi-racial couple living together in the 1960s, or the grief of moving beyond Anna and Carter. Instead we see them react very differently to picking up their old life. Kendra leaping at the opportunity to leave the past behind and become a superhero showed how much she had come to love her evolution into a demi-god, and her anguish as their time in the past sucked everything away. It was refreshing to see Kendra not struggling to adapt but instead embracing her Hawk side with more enthusiasm than ever before.
The decision to timehop two years into the future, and keep that timeline from being erased was one of the strongest narrative choices Legends has made to date. Previously it seemed any problem could be fixed by time travel, but now there is proof of what can happen when they fall out of time. Two years was long enough to build a life, start imagining a new future. What would happen if they were left behind for ten years? Or twenty? They certainly wouldn’t be able to hop back on the ship like they took a long lunch break, as Kendra did. They cannot travel back to events they were involved in, and they can lose friends for years at a time. Legends finally has some real stakes, and it’s all the better for it.
This episode shares a title with season 3, episode 10 of Arrow, which is entirely appropriate as all of the scenes with the League of Assassins feel straight out of last season. Let down by the crusade that was her shot at redemption, Sara returned to Nanda Parbat, in a twist that showed us Ra’s long before he ever met Oliver Queen, and Nyssa’s older sister Talia Al Ghul. While it was entertaining to see the familiar setting and villain appear, Sara’s trip didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: she is still torn between being the assassin and the White Canary, still searching for a place to fit in.
Nanda Parbat also highlighted the many flaws in Rip’s leadership, including his inability the lead a stealth mission. For a group of heroes trying to infiltrate a spy stronghold the team was comically loud, and were it not for the sudden Chronos Ex Machina, they all could have died for it. Their capture did lead to a nice moment mid-battle between Kendra and Sara, and their parallels are beginning to feel more earned as Kendra steps into her role as a warrior. The final fight plays out like a fun, fast, videogame with all of the players in their element.
Hello From the Other Side
Of course, the biggest twist came the moment when Chronos removed his helmet, revealing himself to be none other than Mick Rory. It was an easy jump in logic to guess who was behind the mask once he took Snart instead of Rip, but even the most eagle eyed viewer would have been hard pressed to call this when Chronos first appeared on the show. His threat to kill Snart’s sister over and over again feels more cruel and pointed than anything we’ve seen from Savage, and Purcell sells his conviction and malice with ease. These two have long been stand out scene partners, and Miller does excellent work with Snart’s shock and desperation, his affected snark and swagger dropping immediately, panic evident on his face.
If two years felt like a long time for Ray and Kendra to evolve they’ve got nothing on Rory, who was picked up after Snart left him and was trained by the Time Masters many lifetimes over. This isn’t the same Rory who betrayed the team, or the same man who befriended Snart so many years ago. He’s quiet, focused, no longer “the dumb one”. Regardless, he is held as a symbol of redemption with the team – save Snart – and they are all convinced they can rehabilitate him. It’s unclear how effective this will be, but as Rory quickly turned into one of the most nuanced characters keeping him on the Waverider bodes well for the show.
Just as the Legends establishes stakes with the timeline, it removes them from injuries. Snart’s sacrifice of a hand – while heroic on its own – was short lived, as Rip has the technology to regenerate any body parts the team might lose, giving them a lizard-like leg up. Seeing as they are now just as far from killing Savage as when they began, they can use all the help they can get.
‘Left Behind’ was an ambitious and dense episode that explored the dangers and physical toll that time travel exacts. It once again ended with the team recommitting itself to the mission, and wisely turned a faceless bounty hunter into a character we are already invested in. It was a strong return from a show that now seems to know exactly where it is going.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Progeny’ on April 7th, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: