This Legends of Tomorrow review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Episode 5
Could you believe that in a show about The Atom, Captain Cold, and Firestorm travelling through time to kill Vandal Savage, the weakest point is the plot and the strongest are the quiet character moments?Legends of Tomorrow is a good show. More than anything else on TV right now (and my DVR is full of superhero shows), this is the one where I’m home to watch it every week. And I love it: my point about Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell having the time of their lives stands. But the show has to grapple with a very real problem, and one I hope it started to at the end of this episode:Rip Hunter is a REALLY shitty captain.
We’re five episodes in now, and the show has started to fall into a routine. They land somewhere; Hunter develops a plan; the plan involves two or three people doing one thing, two or three doing something else, and two or three people being left on the ship, yelling about how messed up it is that they’re being sidelined. Then Hunter’s plan goes to shit, the people on the ship figure out that they’re an integral part to the success of the group, they revise the plan to include everyone, and the team skates out of trouble…just barely.Why the hell do you recruit nine people if you’re going to lock some of them away? And their absence leaves really gaping holes in Rip’s plans: this week, we pick up where episode four left off with Professor Stein, Heat Wave and Atom being held in a Soviet gulag by Valentina Vostok and Vandal Savage, with Vostok trying to force Stein to help her recreate the Firestorm Matrix. Hunter’s plan is to leave Hawkgirl and Jackson on the ship while him, White Canary and Captain Cold try and break them out-slash-have White Canary shoot Stein in the head if they can’t get him out.
Fun story, though, it seems like they’re going for degree of difficulty points: Jackson could get dropped next to Stein, merge into Firestorm and they could fly out together rather than run back through a gulag full of Soviet torturers. But they don’t do that until the end of the episode, because apparently we need Rip to be shitty at his job for a little while longer. That lasts until about five minutes left in the episode, when they do finally drop Jax in, but nobody calls Sara, who’s sitting on a hill with a .50 caliber sniper rifle pointed at Stein’s head. SHITTY LEADER. The shame of it is literally everything else about this show is fantastic. Either they’re spending a bunch of money on effects or the team they have working on them is amazing, but whatever it is, they’re very good for a weekly TV show. The character work is better than any of the other DC shows. Between last week when Stein pushed Jackson away and this week, when he gets some good back and forth with Vostok, including taking direct ownership of Firestorm in a way he hasn’t ever before.
Meanwhile, the writers keep mixing the group up, and every combination works. Rip and Sara get time together this week, and they connect over shared ruthlessness a little (something that gets resolved by the end of the week). Heat Wave and Atom are sharing a cell in the gulag, and we get really direct views of both of their personalities through their conversation: Ray wants to help everyone in there, and Mick wants them to shut up and do their time.
Speaking of Atom, Brandon Routh is incredible on this show. For all the jokes they make about him being Superman, he might be giving his best Superman performance here. He’s inspiring and hopeful and positive and Ray is making everyone around him better through his example.
Wentworth Miller, too, is doing maybe my favorite version of Captain Cold anywhere. Snart figures out early on that Rip wants Sara to kill Stein, and he immediately starts giving her shit about it. He’s the one who eventually talks her down from shooting him. The thing that makes Captain Cold interesting in the comics is his code, that honorable core that they developed a little bit on The Flash, but are making almost plot-essential on Legends of Tomorrow.
Ultimately I’m still loving the show. And I’m hopeful that by the end of this week’s episode they’ve resolved Rip’s plot-necessitated terribleness. Hawkgirl and Jackson convince Rip to let them fly into the gulag; Sara doesn’t take the shot; Snart breaks Ray and Rory out; Stein, after merging with Vostok to become lady Firestorm, touches Jackson and expels her; Hunter blows up Savage and his Firestorm research and everyone gets to do vodka shots back on the ship. Hunter recognizes that he needed everyone, and then they get blown out of the timestream by Chronos. Hopefully the writers don’t go back on that epiphany to keep the formula going.
DC UNIVERSE TIME BUBBLE
– Cisco appearance! Obviously in his head. Wait does this chick have psychic powers?
– Of COURSE Savage was buddies with Stalin. I was half expecting a “my good buddy Adolph” at some point, but I forgot this was before Putin started trying to rehab the image of the Nazis in Russia.
– It’s like they tried to work in references to the two greatest fight movies of all time: Rip et al enlist the aid of the Russian mob to break into the gulag, and fight with some gangsters in a Russian bath house a la John Wick. Then at the end, there’s a prison riot in the mud like The Raid 2. Both of these fights, while good for TV, are pale reflections of their source material.
– Ray drops some BOSS Your Mom jokes on his Soviet torturer.
– Jax runs across the prison yard (did I hear right that it was 150 yards in 12 seconds? Because blown ACL or not, I’m pretty sure that’s faster than world record pace) and lets out a “Barry Allen who?”
– Stein tries to stall Vostok’s Firestorm solution by telling her about the Soviet Union’s collapse, and he makes a point of calling out their anti-gay law. Good job, Martin.
– They don’t officially do the Doom Patrol thing with Vostok – when she’s split out from Stein, she doesn’t go full Negative Woman. She just explodes in a blue mushroom cloud as they fly away.
– When they get shot down in the timestream, they land in 2046 for some Dark Knight Returns-style Arrow. They’re greeted by a complete stranger in the Green Arrow costume.