[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 11. There will be SPOILERS.]
Eleven episodes into its first season one thing has become clear: Legends of Tomorrow has a premise problem. The show's purpose is based around the hunt for Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), with Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) assembling a team to hunt him through time, killing him before he comes to power. This long-term game of cat and mouse leads to a high number of foiled plans as they save his eventual capture until (one assumes) the season finale. With his eventual death their only goal, episodes that don't focus on Savage seem oddly detached from the rest of the action, and largely unimportant to the central plot.
This formula of one major Big Bad and other smaller stories/battles balancing out a season is something we've seen done effectively on both Arrow and The Flash over the last few years. The only difference is on those show Oliver and Barry could pause from hunting Slade Wilson, Damien Darhk, Reverse Flash, Zoom (etcetera, etcetera) to save their cities from the various villain of the week without missing a beat. Legends has no metahumans to hunt down or a faulty Iron Heights Prison to release a steady stream of thugs - so when the series has an off-Savage week the energy goes up, but it often feels like we are just spinning our wheels.
The Good, the Bad & the Campy
This brings us to this week's 'The Magnificent Eight', an episode directed by Thor Freudenthal, with a story by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, the latter of whom also handled the teleplay. This entirely Savage-less episode takes the team to Salvation, Dakota in 1871. They are laying low in the Wild West hoping to either buy time before the Hunters find them or figure out a way to defeat them. Apparently this era is a temporal blind spot, which somehow blocks them from the Time Masters' view.
The logic doesn't matter too much here, as the threat of the Hunters is a flimsy premise for some good old-fashioned Western fun: gambling, barroom brawls, drinking duels, and real duels. Once again, Rip tells everyone to stay on the Waverider and be good; once again, everyone leaves to make trouble. As with most of their trips to the past, their introduction to the Old West is a little silly, kind of campy, and just plain fun. It's a big set up to bring in the famous outlaw Jonah Hex (Johnathon Schaech), who turns out to be an acquaintance of Rip's. Hex's introduction plays a bit like insider baseball, as the show doesn't bother with delving into any of his lore. Instead, he has a long history with Rip, and their relationship was nice to watch, even if it did give Rip (yet another) tragic backstory. Schaech is serviceable in the role, playing up the drawl and camp, but never pops off the screen. There is already not much room on a team packed with loud, scenery-chewing characters, and Hex was relegated to supporting player duties.
He presence and history with Rip brings up an issue we've already seen play out on the show before. As Hex says, "For a bunch of time travellers, you don't seem to understand the future much. They day will come when you all leave, and Salvation will fall." It's the same problem we saw when Sara met the nurse in the 1950s, and when Ray lost pieces of his Atom suit. These people land in different timelines, mix things up and then leave, without thinking about the consequences for the people left behind. It's not an issue that's resolved, but hopefully something the writers explore more as the team continues their crash through time.
As anyone who watched Kendra's memories emerge last week could tell, the hunt for Carter is on and this episode brought about a whole new twist on Kendra's reincarnation. After finding an older woman (Anna Deavere Smith) who triggered her flashbacks, Kendra somehow realizes this is another incarnation of herself, from the past. Deavere Smith brought a lot to a role that was largely a cautionary tale, there only to further Kendra's main plot purpose: her relationship to Ray. This older Kendra serves as the Ghost of Relationships past, warning her - not about Savage, or ways to stop him - but that she will never ever love anyone like she loves Carter. Sorry Ray, the Carter-clock just got a whole lot louder.
Her older-self also brings up another flaw in the time travel logic, as the rules clearly state that they cannot visit a time they've been in before. Do reincarnated-selves not count? It now seems futile to try and track the fast and loose rules of time travel and reincarnation, but it's difficult when they continually restate the rules.
A Posse of Saints
Rip is also clearly struggling as the Team Captain. His plan's have gone wrong before, but this week saw him exceptionally contradictory. Throughout their stay in the Old West he urges caution, reiterating the life and death stakes of anyone glimpsing the space-age technology, and even risked Jax's life in the interest of fitting in. However, as soon as the Hunters show up, he immediately stops caring about hiding themselves from the locals. Saving the life of a young boy isn't worth risking the timeline, but threaten the team and it's all-clear for Hawkgirl, Firestorm, and The Atom to mess things up, since apparently no one will believe the townspeople anyway. So, it's a good thing Professor Stein didn't let a young H.G. Wells (big wink to the camera there) die before Rip changed his mind.
Morality aside, the fight was fun to watch, despite the Hunters being far less threatening than promised, with the team easily defeating them in battle. This also showed Mick fully back into the fold, after his knock down drag out with Snart got him out of jail. It's a much quicker redemption story then expected, but Dominic Purcell is doing great work showing the small but substantial changes in Mick. It's clear the only team he's on is his own, and his development continues to be the most intriguing. We'll see how he responds to Omega Protocol, which sets a killer called The Pilgrim out to murder their younger selves. Past Central/Star City, here we come!
Once again, the show has more fun when it sheds the hunt for Savage, and contents itself with time travelling antics. However, this episode was bogged down by faulty logic and recycled plot points. The Time Masters have the potential to become an interesting spin on the villain of week, if they can keep the show's momentum moving forward.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with 'Last Refuge’ on April 21st, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below:
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