[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 2, episode 2. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last year, Legends of Tomorrow spun off from The CW's other DC Comics series, Arrow and The Flash, utilizing characters from both shows and combining them into one team of heroes, assassins, thieves, and time-travelers in order to hunt down Vandal Savage. At the end of season 1, Legends of Tomorrow saw a number of characters depart, whether through death or simply because the team had completed their mission in defeating Savage. Those departures continued in the season 2 premiere when Rip Hunter disappeared after saving the Legends' lives.
However, the Legends of Tomorrow season 2 premiere also brought plenty of new characters into the fold, particularly Dr. Nate Heywood, a modern day historian who becomes a member of the team after rescuing the Legends from all over time and space. Additionally, the premiere kicked off what we know will become the Legion of Doom as Damien Darhk and Eobard Thawne, aka Reverse-Flash, were revealed to be working together. That said, the premiere episode, 'Out of Time', most notably introduced famous DC Comics superhero group, the Justice Society of America -- who are the focus of the second episode in the season.
In 'The Justice Society of America' -- written by Chris Fedak and Sarah Nicole Jones and directed by Michael Grossman -- the JSA is resistant to help from the Legends, though the time-travelers are happy to lend a hand when they learn of a time aberration that threatens the superhero society. However, with the Legends team in a bit of disorder without Rip as their leader, Nate keeping a secret from his fellow time-travelers, and Ray Palmer working too hard to impress the JSA, the mission doesn't go according to plan.
The Justice Society of America
The episode picks up immediately following the season premiere, with the Legends confronted by the JSA while in 1942. However, the superhero society is there to arrest the time-travelers and they overpower the Legends fairly quickly, taking the Waverider team back to their headquarters to figure out what to do -- going back and forth between sending them to prison or a mental institution. Needless to say, it isn't quite what any of the Legends expected when confronted by a team of fellow heroes.
Even though the JSA is based in the 1940s, for a group of heroes with superpowers -- none of which are explained in the episode aside from a nod to Vixen's amulet -- they are unbelievably resistant to the idea of time travel. Considering Stargirl (Sarah Grey) shoots blasts of energy out of a staff and Obsidian (Dan Payne) darkens the sky, time travel shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.
Furthermore on the powers of the JSA, while they're utilized in the opening fight against the Legends, the majority of the members take a backseat throughout the duration of the episode. Still, aside from Vixen, the other JSA members don't use their powers much -- if at all -- in any of the other fight sequences throughout the episode. For the most part, only Commander Steel (Matthew MacCaull) and Vixen are given much to work with in terms of character stories, while Stargirl and Rex Tyler (Patrick J. Adams) are simply in the story as to create conflict with the Legends. As a result, Dr. Mid-Nite (Kwesi Ameyaw) and Obsidian are relegated to background characters.
Considering the massive tease in the season 1 finale for the Justice Society of America -- and the fact that Legends of Tomorrow left the team of superheroes' appearance in the season 2 premiere until the final moments -- the reality of the JSA is somewhat underwhelming. Certainly, seeing two groups of superheroes fight each other in the opening moments of this week's episode was exciting, but the majority of the JSA doesn't serve much purpose throughout the rest of the episode. Plus, with Rex Tyler killed by Reverse Flash and, if the season 2 poster is any indication, Vixen joining the Legends, the JSA won't stick around long in the series -- at least not in its original form.
Two Generations of Steel
While the Justice Society of America may not have been used effectively in the episode, one member of the team that had more to work with was Commander Steel, who doesn't necessarily jump for joy when confronted by his grandson. The Commander gives Nate a rather cold reception in fact, later revealing he struggles with being anyone's hero, let alone his grandson's.
As for Nate, he's hidden from the team that he has hemophilia (a blood disorder in which blood doesn't clot properly, causing those with it to bleed excessively). However Sara figures it out quickly enough, and the two butt heads about whether he should be a member of the Legends team, and whether Nate needs to be sheltered or allowed to live his life how he wants. It's Commander Steel who inevitably gives Nate the courage to be a hero -- a recurring theme from season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow carried over into season 2.
Still, while Nate's desire to live his life by his own terms leads to him saving Commander Steel from the Nazi berserker on superserum, it also ends with Nate getting seriously injured in the field. However, thanks to Ray Palmer's tinkering of the superserum (which also isn't explained within the episode), they're able to save Nate's life -- and, presumably, send him on his way to becoming Citizen Steel in next week's episode
A New Captain
While the JSA and Commander Steel's relationship with Nate take up a great deal of the episode, the core struggle of the Legends in 'The Justice Society of America' is figuring out who will take Rip's place as the leader of their team. Although it's quickly decided -- mainly by Sara -- that Professor Stein should call the shots, he winds up freezing under the pressure of making tough calls while leading a mission. Since Sara has stepped into the role of the leader, either consciously or subconsciously, a number of times in both this episode and the season premiere, she's a natural choice for the new leader of the Legends.
Considering the shuffling around of leaders in this episode, it's as if Legends of Tomorrow is still settling into place in its new premise (and new cast). Certainly, this is exacerbated by the addition of the JSA members, which introduces an entirely new element to the series -- and nearly doubles the cast of heroes. However, with the series still settling into season 2, the mission to protect time, and a fluctuating roster of Legends, it's unclear what exactly will be the status quo for Legends of Tomorrow as it continues in its sophomore outing.
That said, with the murder of Rex Tyler and the brief appearances of Reverse-Flash, there's certainly an overarching mystery that the season is building toward. But, it remains to be seen whether or not Legends of Tomorrow will improve in season 2 without a main threat hanging over the team's head from the very beginning. Of course, with more of the villains' plans being revealed with each episode, it may not be long until the major antagonist of season 2, the Legion of Doom, makes their official debut.
Legends of Tomorrow continues Thursday, October 27 with ‘Shogun’ at 8pm on The CW.