[This is a review of Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 8. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week's tense Legends of Tomorrow left viewers on a cliffhanger, waiting to see if Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller) followed through on his threat to kill Mick Rory (Dominic Purcell) after he turned on the team. This week brought no new answers but Rory's absence was felt as Snart adjusted to a solo life, and Jax questioned both what happened, and they could possibly trust someone who killed their best friend. Before going into their only break of the season the Legends developed the different team partnerships, and reignited the hunt for Vandal Savage (Casper Crump).
In 'Night of the Hawk' directed by John F. Showalter and written by Beth Schwartz & Grainne Godfree the team travels to 1958, looking for clues on Savage and investigating a string of mysterious deaths in a small town in Oregon. The result of which is an episode that plays like the classic horror films Jax and his mom were so fond of. While undercover with Professor Stein (Victor Garber) at a psychiatric hospital, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) finds romance, and Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) and Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée) pretend to be married in the suburbs.
An Idyllic Past
Many shows, films, and often people in general tend to view the past in rose colored glasses, skimming over the everyday atrocities prevalent in history. This is especially true for post World World II small town America, where some prefer to remember the sock hops and muscle cars over the rampant social injustices. It was refreshing to see Stein, the voice of nostalgia, get shut down so efficiently by Sara and Jax who were quick to point out that the '50s were only a dream for the white, male, and straight. Everyone else was struggling. It's that conflict that displays previously unseen similarities between Jax and Sara. Both are faced with small minded prejudice - racism and misogyny respectively - and both stood up for others, then flirted like champions.
While Jax's romance was largely to gather intel (though he does seem better suited to high school girls than hawk demigods), Sara found a real connection with nurse Lindsay. Her attraction to Lindsay had her grappling with feeling lust and passion again for the first time since her resurrection, giving us more insight into the numerous side effects of the Lazarus Pit. Her debate with Stein over if initiating Lindsay's sexual awakening would ultimately do her more harm than good in this homophobic town was an equally intriguing subplot. These relationships set up an interesting exploration of what impact their progressive influence on these people would have once they left town suddenly. They don't quite stick the landing, with everyone parting easily and on good terms, but it was at least explored more thoroughly with Sara and not ignored altogether.
So Many Surprises
After two strong episodes without him, Savage's presence is a noticeable damper on the show. Cutting through the energy, Crump still comes across as a campy cartoon villain without any of the menace that should go along with the man who takes over the world. While it was novel to see Savage as Curtis Knox, even disguised as a normcore psychoanalyst Savage still has zero chill around Kendra, and their game of spy vs spy quickly turns uncomfortable as it highlights Kendra's uneven development.
We've already seen Kendra fail to kill Savage with Carter dying in the process, so it was baffling that Ray's suggestion of bringing backup to take down Savage was treated as mistrust. It was nice to see Kendra's training pay off and her fight skills develop (she needed a win), but they missed numerous obvious ways to kill Savage. Ray could have simply hidden in his Atom suit with the dagger, and helped restrain Savage if Kendra got into trouble. They also could have killed Savage when he was incapacitated from Ray's blast, and it's still unclear if anyone retrieved the dagger after Savage was blown through the window.
The rules of Savage's death are almost outrageously complex, and it is arguable that Kendra was trying to protect Ray - and the rest of the team - from dying in the same manner as Carter, but it feels more like a plot contrivance to keep Savage at large. Tying the series around the life of one immortal man is one thing, but turning it into a Tom and Jerry-like chase is not a very interesting arc.
A Team of Partners
Still hurting from Mick's absence, Snart spent most of the episode shying away from the idea of partnership. Even though he bristles at Rip referring to himself as his partner Snart still works with him, and later fights to save Jax rather than kill him despite his feral nature. Jax had the roughest time in Oregon, having to live out a high school horror movie and face down some very real racism, so seeing their reconciliation was a nice ending. Everyone now sees Snart as a hero, and his slow bond with the team continues to be an emotional high point of the show. Though with all that praise and acceptance Snart seems ripe for a villainous relapse. Ray and Kendra have also decided to be partners, in addition to figuring out their feelings for one another. While they work on building up chemistry, their relationship is now leading to some personal development. Over halfway through Season 1, the team is a lot smaller than when we began, but it is now comprised of members who both trust and respect one another.
While Savage's story falls flat, the episode is an interesting look at what the show could become once he has been defeated once and for all. Like The X-Files mixed with Star Trek, the show could be about a time travelling band of heroes, investigating paranormal activities in other times. Say one thing for Legends, it certainly doesn't lack potential.
Aside from the mystery of the hawks and the attack on Savage a few tantalizing questions were set up throughout the episode. They have now mentioned numerous times the side effects of time travel on the body. Will we soon start to see the medical repercussions of their jaunts through time? Will Mick make his inevitable return? Can the team finally determine how to defeat Chronos? There is a two week break until we get some answers, as Legends barrels into the second half of the season.
Legends of Tomorrow will return with ‘Left Behind’ on March 31st, 2016 at 8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: