[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 2, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
In comparison to season 1, Legends of Tomorrow season 2 has been taking its time introducing and establishing the show's major antagonist for the year -- which we know to be the villain quartet known as the Legion of Doom. Throughout the early episodes of season 2, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) formed a partnership with evil speedster Eobard Thawne, aka Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher). Meanwhile, the Legends team has been traveling through time in order to fix aberrations, some of which were caused by Darhk and/or Reverse-Flash.
Last week, Legends of Tomorrow took some time away from its main season 2 mysteries, like the Legion of Doom's endgame, to team up with the heroes of Supergirl, The Flash, and Arrow to take on the Dominators. However, the episode, 'Invasion!', also revealed future Barry Allen's message for Rip Hunter that warned of a coming war and claimed not all heroes can be trusted. Now, Legends of Tomorrow resumes its season 2 arc and gets much closer to establishing a fully formed Legion of Doom.
In 'The Chicago Way' -- written by Sarah Nicole Jones and Ray Utarnachitt and directed by Ralph Hemecker -- the Legends travel back to 1927 Chicago, Illinois and right into a trap set by Darhk, Reverse-Flash, and the newest member of the Legion, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). While the team works to thwart the villains' plans, Stein additionally wrestles with telling his crewmates about the aberration that created his daughter Lily (Christina Brucato). Plus, Mick Rory receives a surprise visitor when Leonard Snart aka Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) returns -- albeit not as the hero who sacrificed himself for the Legends in season 1.
The Legion of Doom Gains A New Member
In 'The Chicago Way', the Legion of Doom brings in Malcolm Merlyn and takes one more step toward becoming the fully formed quartet of villains we know the group will be. However, unlike Darhk's partnership with Reverse-Flash, Legends of Tomorrow skips over the how of Malcolm joining the Legion -- simply explaining his arrival with a throwaway line of dialogue from Sara about Malcolm and Darhk finding each other.
That said, Malcolm is given a flashy entry to the series, befitting of Barrowman's take on the character in Arrow, then ramped up to fit with the tone of Legends of Tomorrow. In the opening sequence of the episode, Darhk and Eobard meet with Al Capone to enlist the historical 1920s gangster for their scheme of trapping the Legends. While each of the three characters particularly excel at chewing scenery in this sequence, Malcolm's entry line -- "Actually, there's three of us." -- takes the overwrought cake.
After the opening sequence, though, the Legion members find a balance among themselves, with McDonough and Barrowman somewhat toning down the level of campiness in their performances while Letscher remains strong as the straight man among them. Certainly, they prove to be a formidable team, outsmarting, out-gunning, and out-maneuvering the Legends on more than one occasion throughout the episode.
In fact, the Legion wins the day in 'The Chicago Way', gaining possession of the amulet from the Legends and merging it with the amulet Eobard had already recovered to form a compass -- one that leads to something called the Spear of Destiny, which is capable of rewriting reality itself. Of course, the Legends technically achieved their own goal of fixing the time aberration caused by the Legion of Doom; but, since it was all a trap, the win doesn't necessarily hold as much weight as it maybe should for a midseason finale.
Dead Like You
Throughout the episode, Rory is visited by hallucinations of his dearly departed partner in crime, Leonard Snart. However, it's a somewhat twisted version of Snart -- not the hero who willingly sacrificed himself for his friends, but one with all the cynicism and selfishness that both Snart and Rory displayed in their early days on The Flash, and even Legends of Tomorrow season 1.
For much of 'The Chicago Way', Snart attempts to convince Rory to abandon his new team, and especially abandon Amaya who becomes bent on seeking revenge for Rex Tyler's death by destroying Reverse-Flash. However, though Snart is persistent, Rory proves he has come a long way since his days of living life for himself alone without a care for others (aside from Snart, of course).
The story device of using Snart as the voice of Rory's past self is a bit on the nose, especially since Legends of Tomorrow season 2 has made a point of showing that Rory has become more of a grouchy antihero than the uncontrollable criminal from season 1. Still, Miller's return to Legends of Tomorrow as Snart is welcome, even though it doesn't allow him much room to play with the character. It does, however, provide a nice tease to Miller's eventual return as a different version of Snart (one that isn't a figment of Rory's imagination) when he joins the Legion of Doom.
Rip Hunter Returns — Sort Of
Of course, 'The Chicago Way' wouldn't be a midseason finale without a cliffhanger of some kind, and Legends of Tomorrow delivers just that in the form of its final scene. The sequence plays out with a scene of someone called Rip Hunter (who is not Rip Hunter) being chased through an alley, though a director calls cut and the camera pans out to show a movie set. It's revealed that the real Rip Hunter is in 1967 Los Angeles, working on a movie that seems to be inspired by his true identity.
The final moments of 'The Chicago Way' certainly provide a mystery that fans will be puzzling over until Legends of Tomorrow returns. But, with so little connection to the rest of the episode -- aside from a namedrop by Eobard, who appears to need something from Rip in order to locate the Spear of Destiny -- it remains simply a teaser.
Still, Rip Hunter isn't the only mystery left hanging in the midseason finale -- the Legion of Doom has yet to recruit their final member, or reveal their final endgame (what does Reverse-Flash want with the Spear of Destiny, anyhow?). As for the Legends, though they fixed the time aberration in 1920s Chicago, the return of Rip and a new version of Snart will surely throw the team off balance. So, between the crew of the Waverider and the Legion of Doom, there's plenty for Legends of Tomorrow to explore when season 2 returns.
Legends of Tomorrow season 2 returns at its new night and time Tuesday January 24th @9pm on The CW.