[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 2, episode 14. There will be SPOILERS.]
Unlike season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow, which laid out the villain and major goal of the team even prior to the show's pilot, season 2 has featured a slow unraveling of the antagonist and their evil plan to rewrite reality. In the early episodes of season 2, the Legion of Doom began to assemble, now featuring Eobard Thawne aka Reverse-Flash (Matt Letscher), Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) - with the goal of acquiring the pieces of the Spear of Destiny in order to rewrite time itself to their advantage.
With the Legion in possession of three out of four Spear shards, the Legends are scrambling to discover the final piece before their villainous antagonists. In order to do so, they must find Nate Heywood's grandfather, Commander Steel (Matthew MacCaull), who was tasked with protecting the last piece. Legends of Tomorrow essentially took a pitstop in last week's episode, 'Land of the Lost', which largely worked to -- finally -- restore Rip Hunter to the Time Master and hero he'd once been. Now with their team one member stronger, the Legends get back on track with their mission.
In 'Moonshot' -- written by Grainne Godfree and directed by Kevin Mock -- the team's search for Commander Steel and the final shard of the Spear of Destiny brings them to NASA in 1970, during the Apollo 13 mission, where they detect a time aberration. The Legends must travel to space in order to intercept the Apollo 13, but when things don't go according to plan, Ray winds up stranded on the Moon. To make matters worse, now that Rip is back a tense power struggle begins between him and Sara, who took over the role of captain in his absence, as they're unsure of who is -- and should be -- in charge.
To the Moon and Back
'Moonshot' ostensibly revolves around the Legends attempting to thwart Reverse-Flash's plan to hijack the Apollo 13 mission, land on the moon, and recover Commander Steel's shard of the Spear of Destiny from inside the American flag planted by Neil Armstrong. However, the emotional core of the episode's narrative focuses on Nate reuniting with his grandfather and coming to terms with the fact that - no matter how much he and Henry want to - they cannot return him to his family for fear of changing history, and changing Nate himself.
The team from Legends of Tomorrow season 1 was chosen because they had very little impact on the timeline of history. So the addition of both Nate and Amaya in season 2 - as well as their connections to each other and their family members otherwise established in the Arrowverse - has given this year a different kind of stakes, which help to ground the time-travel drama in some reality. Certainly, Nate is hypocritical in his desire to want to right his family's history while knowing Amaya must return to her own destiny, and that's what gives this particular storyline a real emotional weight. Humans are flawed, and the Legends especially must face the temptation that time travel provides in righting the wrongs in their lives.
But, where previous characters who have dealt with this same dilemma on Legends of Tomorrow have ultimately chosen to preserve history - Sara not killing Damien Darhk before he murders her sister, Rip not saving his wife and son from Vandal Savage - Nate isn't given that chance. Instead, Henry sacrifices himself (in an altogether too convenient circumstance in which one member of the crew must die to save the others, and he's the only real option), taking the decision away from Nate. Of course, fans may believe Nate would have eventually arrived at the same decision as his teammates did previously, but with Henry gone, we may never know.
Still, Nate does take an opportunity to talk to his dad, Hank Heywood - who is visiting NASA as a young boy - and impart some wisdom about father/son relationships. The words likely don't have too much of an effect on history, since Nate remains the same, but it gives the youngest Heywood a chance to exorcise some of his familial demons. And, as all the moments of weakness of the Legends have done before, the scene gives Nate a nice moment as a flawed hero.
Rip Hunter - Outcast, Misfit, Legend
After returning to the Waverider crew at the end of the previous episode, Rip Hunter struggles to find his place among the Legends in 'Moonshot'. The team has seen quite a few changes since he was last among them: They gained new members in Nate and Amaya (in fact, it was Nate who brought the Legends back together after they were time scattered by Rip), Sara became their captain, and - perhaps most importantly - they learned to work together. Their camaraderie is pointed out to Rip by Henry partway through 'Moonshot', though Rip defers the praise to Sara - rightfully so.
Of course, there was plenty about Legends of Tomorrow season 1 that didn't quite work: Vandal Savage was either too difficult or too easy to defeat through much of it, too many episodes dealt with one-off villains, and the show didn't seem to know what to do with certain characters (including Sara), just to name a few. However, season 2 has managed to correct many of these criticisms, especially when it came to giving Sara more purpose. Reintroducing Rip as the season nears its conclusion allows fans to take a step back and recognize how different the Legends are now than they were even at the beginning of season 2.
Perhaps Rip cedes his position as captain to Sara a little too quickly, since he barely puts up a fight in 'Moonshot' to reclaim his power, but instead it comes across as a smart storytelling choice. Legends of Tomorrow could have easily allowed Rip and Sara to vy for the power of captain, but that conflict seems petty in the scope of their ongoing fight against the Legion of Doom. Rather, 'Moonshot' sees Rip feeling out of place as he realizes he doesn't know where he fits in the team anymore - a much more realistic and compelling character arc that may be explored in the coming episodes.
Ray's Unexpected Alliance
After being trapped on the moon, Ray is forced to work with Eobard Thawne in order to repair the Apollo 13 and return to his friends. While the storyline in 'Moonshot' doesn't offer too much insight into Ray, it does give viewers a chance to see Reverse-Flash away from his fellow villains in the Legion of Doom. Through Eobard's conversations with Ray, we learn exactly why the evil speedster wants to obtain the Spear of Destiny - for the simple pursuit of survival.
Eobard was meant to be erased from history at the end of The Flash season 1 when his descendant, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), killed himself. But as was explained earlier in Legends of Tomorrow season 2, Eobard is attempting to outrun his fate - personified by Black Flash - just long enough to rewrite his destiny in order to survive. Of course, how exactly his survival will affect not just Legends of Tomorrow by the Arrowverse as a whole remains to be seen. With the Legends in possession of a part of the Spear, the Legion cannot yet assemble it. But there's plenty more still to come in season 2 of Legends of Tomorrow - including Captain Cold's return and something called Doomworld.
Legends of Tomorrow continues Tuesday, March 21 with ‘Fellowship of the Spear’ at 9pm on The CW.