[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 2, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS.]
Since season 1 of The CW's Legends of Tomorrow told a complete story in terms of the villain Vandal Savage and his dealings with the Time Masters, season 2 has established a new mission in which the team are tasked with protecting the timeline. The final episodes of season 1 saw a major shake up of the Waverider team's dynamic with the death of Captain Cold as well as the departures of Hawkgirl and Hawkman -- which continued in the season 2 premiere as Rip Hunter disappeared.
Still, the first two episodes of Legends of Tomorrow season 2 have brought in a host of new characters, with the team meeting the Justice Society of America in last week's episode. However, while Nate Heywood officially joined the Legends, 'The Justice Society of America' also featured the death of Rex Tyler -- his last words to Vixen being "time traveler" -- which leads to another hero going aboard the Waverider.
In Shogun -- written by Phil Klemmer and Grainne Godfree and directed by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Kevin Tancharoen -- Vixen stows away on the Waverider in order to root out Rex Tyler's killer, who she believes to be one of the Legends (though we know it was, in fact, Reverse-Flash). Additionally, Nate develops new abilities as a result of Ray injecting him with the super serum, and the team travels to Feudal Japan on their first mission with Sara as their official leader.
Corporal... Mister... Citizen Steel
Since last week's episode established that the Legends' line of work could very easily kill Nate, though he chose to join the team despite his hemophilia, 'Shogun' sees his character dealing with his newly acquired powers -- powers he hasn't quite mastered yet. While the episode features a fairly typical origin story (one that fans of superhero media have seen play out onscreen plenty of times over the past decade), Legends of Tomorrow capitalizes on the show's fun popcorn-action style and its roster of characters.
According to Ray's break down of what he did to the Nazi super serum, it altered Nate's skin to an "alloy 100 times stronger than steel" -- prompting Nate to try out a handful of monikers including Corporal Steel and Mister Steel before seemingly landing on Citizen Steel in a fun nod to the comics. Additionally, though Nate doesn't use his ability too much throughout the episode (since he struggles to gain control of it), 'Shogun' does feature an entertaining scene of Ray using his Atom suit to shoot energy blasts at Nate to test out the durability of his alloy skin.
The Citizen Steel storyline of 'Shogun' is balanced by the trainer-trainee relationship between Nate and Ray as the former struggles to appreciate his new abilities while the latter needs to reconcile the fact that he will lose his powers because they must destroy the Atom suit. The dynamic between Nate and Ray, as well as their parallel story arcs, offer a somewhat fresh take on the origin story of Citizen Steel and offer depth to two of the main players in Legends of Tomorrow -- all the while upholding the theme of the show: discovering what makes someone a hero or a legend.
A Stowaway, A Thief & A Captain
'Shogun' features Sara's first full mission as the official new captain of the Waverider, and that leaves her dealing with Amaya. The 1940s JSA member stowed away aboard the time traveling spaceship because she believes Mick Rory murdered Rex Tyler. The episode opens with Vixen methodically knocking out each of the ship's passengers in a cool sequence (that is perhaps the most S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque sequence of the episode) before confronting Mick. However, Nate comes to Mick's rescue and Sara talks Amaya out of her revenge quest, promising to help the JSA figure out who is Rex's real killer.
After Vixen's revenge plan is put on hold -- perhaps more quickly than makes sense -- she seemingly becomes a full-fledged member of the Legends, joining up with Sara and Mick on their mission to rescue Ray and Nate from Feudal Japan. The banter between the three helps to showcase's Legends of Tomorrow's fun tone; Sara comes into her own as a leader and a teammate, especially in her conversations with Amaya and her fight sequences, though Mick's caricatured gruffness and excitability over ninjas doesn't quite hit the mark.
Still while many of the characters that appeared on Arrow and The Flash are different now that they're on Legends of Tomorrow, the spinoff series seems to be finding a groove in terms of its team dynamic. Given the upheaval at the end of season 1 and the beginning of season 2, 'Shogun' illustrates the Waverider crew at their best with their new roster -- and it certainly provides for some entertaining and compelling character moments.
The Secret of Compartment 36
For the most part, 'Shogun' seems to take a step away from what Legends of Tomorrow had been establishing as the major threat of season 2 -- the partnership between Damien Darhk and Reverse-Flash (which we know will become the Legion of Doom). Still, the episode does plant a story seed in the form of Jax and Stein discovering an extra compartment the crew knew nothing about. In Compartment 36, they find a transmission to Rip from Barry Allen himself, albeit Barry in the year 2056.
However, all we learn about the transmission is that Barry insists Rip keeps it to himself and doesn't share it with his team, and that Jax and Stein listen to the transmission, but decide not to tell their fellow team members. Presumably the message will have to do with one of the overarching mysteries of season 2: either the plan that Darhk and Reverse-Flash have for the timeline or the whereabouts of Rip himself. But, for now, 'Shogun' only gives the barest amount of information to keep fans on their toes -- a somewhat refreshing move after season 1 was so straight forward from day one.
On the whole, 'Shogun' illustrates what Legends of Tomorrow is capable of when the show embraces its more zany elements and grounds them in the relationships between the characters as well as the team dynamic as a whole. Moreover, with the Feudal Japan setting informing the arc of Ray in the episode, it helps the time travel element of the series feel more integrated into its story. Given this, it will be interesting to see how Legends of Tomorrow weaves in the American Civil War and zombies to the season 2 storyline during next week's episode.
Legends of Tomorrow continues Thursday, November 3 with ‘Abominations’ at 8pm on The CW.