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After the goofy roller-coaster last week, where the cast took a trip into Arrow’s future, this week’s episode finds the Legends not only taking a detour into unchartered territory, but finally letting their issues and feelings boil over. If there’s one indisputable statement about DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, it’s that it has range. It varies tonally between episodes in ways that work. The characters each serve different dynamics and dramatic functions when the story calls for it. And in episodes like “Marooned” – arguably their best by a wide margin – the show reaches its funniest, its most exhilarating and its most heartbreaking, all within the same hour. If “Star City 2046” was a make-or-break episode, this is what an assertive follow-up looks like. Come for the cool time-travel stuff. Stay for the guffaws and gut-punches.
Legends solved a whole host of problems this week, and surprisingly, one of the solutions was more Rip Hunter. This was a Rip episode through & through. In fact, it was a Rip flashback episode, and it afforded both Arthur Darvill and his character the opportunity to shine. Adrift and stagnant for a full week, the Waverider crew looks to their captain to plan the next move, but Rip’s lost track of where and when Savage could be. He’s caught in his own time loop, re-living his family’s last holo-message to him as he lets his anger fester. His wife, an American woman who sounds like she watched too much BBC, was once a time master herself. In fact, she was the more level-headed and capable of the two, as she boldly proved during the show’s version of Star Trek’s Kobayashi Maru. After the simulation however, the secret couple is found out by the Council of Time Masters and put on trial. Hunter plans to resign in order to let his wife stay on, but she beats him to the punch. Everything he is, is because of her, and she’s dead because of him. That’s gotta hurt.
Rip has been positioned firmly against the Time Masters since day one, but a distress signal from a wayward time vessel in outer space forces him to reconsider. Luckily, said ship has just the thing they need to be able to locate Savage (its computer gets regular updates from the Time Masters, Rip’s does not) so it’s off to the races! The only problem however, is that when the landing party consisting of Rip, Stein, Jax and Mick come aboard, they discover the vessel has been taken over by space pirates. Yes, space pirates. They don’t have a particularly interesting look, but the fact that Legends of Tomorrow now involves space pirates is cool enough to begin with. Martin Stein seems to think so, recalling the Space Ranger comics of his youth as they approach the rogue ship, and he even gets to re-enact his childhood fantasy of being a space cop and shooting space lasers! Even when the episode is absolutely not about him, he gets to shine during a weirdly touching moment. The same courtesy however, is still not extended to Kendra Saunders. On the bright side, she’s evolved beyond mentioning how she was a Barista three months ago, but despite having a more prominent role this episode, she doesn’t actually get to do much. Her conversation with Ray Palmer as he floats outside the Waverider is nice enough, although her side of it is more like dropping pop culture references, while Palmer’s the one reacting to them. She saves him and kisses him, which I guess is technically a thing she does, but I hope we get to see her become her own person, since that’s something that would work on multiple levels.
Speaking of references, this episode is chock-full of Star Trek and Star Wars jokes, but in ways that make sense. Palmer compares himself to Kirk when he’s acting captain (and to both Sulu and Solo when he’s the pilot!) and Jax’s dialogue throwback even references itself as such, but each instance stays true to the characters, giving them just the right touch of goofy. Outside of that, the show is back to being awash with great one-liners that are extensions of the characters and their interplay, but there’s no dearth of heavy moments either, as Snart and Sara face certain death by cold unless Palmer can fix the ship in time. The born-again assassin gives us first-hand insight into the experience of dying, while Snart recalls the genesis of his friendship with Mick, a friendship that’s been slowly waning.
Mick hasn’t found his place on the team yet. He was dragged away from the one place he actually fit in (post-apocalyptic Star City), and to make matters worse, Rip’s anger issues result in a condescending outburst at the fiery bulldog, targeting his lack of intelligence or discernible skill beyond arson. And then it finally happens.
For a guy whose whole deal is being hot-headed and on edge, his breaking point manifests as a sad silence, making it all the more difficult to digest. His own teammates bully him, and we also learn he and Snart became friends when he protected his chilly friend from bullies in juvie! Like well planned WWE heel-turn, Mick finally goes back to being a villain, making a deal that would guarantee the pirates a ship and him a safe return home. As despicable as his actions are, you can’t help but feel for him. Then again, it’d be hard to hold his betrayal against him when you consider the kind of action it leads to. Legends of Tomorrow has been spot on with its larger set pieces, and this week it gets to show Agents of SHIELD a thing or two about staging fights in constricted spaces. The camera floats between each character’s micro brawl, pulling back just enough to give you a sense of the bigger picture, though not nearly as much as when they’re fighting outdoors. It’s the same visual style made more erratic and claustrophobic, because the worst-case-scenario is being sucked out into the black nothingness of space. The Legends come out on top as usual, only this time, their victory isn’t a without major loss. Well, there was that time Carter died, but it pales in comparison to Snart disagreeing with Mick! Sorry, Hawkman.
Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell ham the ever-loving shit (excuse the language) out of their respective ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ personas, but they manage to infuse them with the most genuine, heartfelt quality. It’s some of the best acting I’ve seen on any of these shows, and it’s downright perfect for this universe – conceptually over the top, laced with the utmost sincerity. It’s why Captain Cold and Heatwave work as individuals, and it’s why their chemistry as brothers in arms is so vital to the show’s dynamic. They’re the only ones who really start out on the same side, so to see them go from best buds to sworn enemies over the course of seven episodes is hard, especially since their dynamic is akin to a boy and his dog. That might sound condescending towards Mick, but he really is a fiercely loyal creature. He’s also aggressive beyond repair, and seeing Snart even consider putting him down was the series’ roughest moment yet. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, since that would undercut his own development (besides, their final scene takes place in a setting similar to the where Snart first told The Flash he wouldn’t kill), but the ending wasn’t so much a cliffhanger as it was a cold-hearted cutting of ties. The final nail in the coffin, at least for the time being.
How did we get here? Batman & Robin is barely old enough to vote, and we’re mourning the breakup of two characters who speak almost entirely in temperature puns. By all accounts, not only should it not work, it’s also something that no one ought to have even tried. But they did, and it works like gangbusters. The whole show works at this point, regardless of whether or not they’re chasing Savage, because almost every single character gets their due, be it comedic, dramatic, or some strangely perfect combination. I’ve even grown to love the fact that Jax looks perpetually confused, even if he’s the only person who knows what’s going on. It’s like he’s constantly learning, whether or not he means to, and it works because everything that comes out of Franz Drameh’s mouth is exactly what he means without any obfuscation. His aged counterpart shows up wearing a beret and wielding a massive prop gun, but he has the hugest grin on his face, because it truly seems like Victor Garber believes he’s a kid again. I could sit and talk about each and every one of them in detail, but I wouldn’t finish until next week. All I know for sure is that there’s a childlike sweetness to the show’s approach, even when dealing with dire situations, and that’s ultimately what’s going to make this show last.