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If you stuck through the initial episodes hoping DC’s Legends of Tomorrow would eventually find itself, you’ve likely had your faith rewarded. These last few episodes have been pretty remarkable, but what’s especially noteworthy about “Night of the Hawk” is how restrained it feels, especially since the last episode took place in space. Gremlins’ Joe Dante is at the helm (yes, you read that correctly) and it’s almost entirely devoid of action until the last few scenes, which is a-okay since it features some of the show’s most fun character scenes to date.
The Legends travel back further than ever before, to small-town Oregon in 1958. Savage has been discreetly experimenting on teenagers using meteor juice (okay, not quite, but hey may as well have been) in order to create his own army of flying baristas, which is about the most ‘comicbook villain’ thing he’s done. Since this is before Savage is aware of them, the Legends invest in a more long-term plan, rooting themselves in a town they slowly discover is backward and uncomfortable. The straight white men, anyway. Jax, Kendra and Sara are attuned to it from the start, and the plan feels longer to them than to anyone else. It probably doesn’t even last more than a few days, but since this episode focuses on the three of them, the length and the growing discomfort feels just right.
Rip and a rather silent Snart pose as FBI agents in order to track down the missing teens, Kendra and Palmer move in across the street from Savage to assess the situation, Stein and Sara pretend to be a doctor/nurse duo at Savage’s psychiatric facility, and Jax… well, Jax goes on a date, but he may actually have the most dangerous task of all - getting information from a white girl in a town that doesn’t take too kindly to that sort of thing. Kendra is also constantly mistaken for ‘the help’ despite being more well-dressed and well-spoken than anyone around her, and if all this seems sort of patronizing, or perhaps some kind of gloat about how far we’ve come, keep in mind that stuff like this hasn’t exactly gone away. Even Sara’s Carol-esque interaction with a gay nurse just coming to terms with her sexuality isn’t all that far off from what closeted folks in small towns still experience, but Sara’s keen on letting her know the future is going to be better, despite Stein’s insistence on not changing her worldview too quickly.
The tension ramps up when Savage, unaware of Kendra’s time-travel credentials, pays her and Ray a visit with some ‘surprise tuna.’ Forget genetic experimentation, that’s actually the most evils thing he’s done. Kendra has to play a cat & mouse game where she’s simultaneously both cat and mouse in order to get close to Savage, and her fake husband Palmer, for whom the fantasy starts to become real, begins to doubt the mission because of his feelings for her. I guess she technically has more to do this episode, and she stands out as strong and capable, though I’m still waiting to get to know her.
Strangely enough, it’s Snart who ends up being the most interesting part of the episode, despite having the least dialogue and screen time. He suffers in silence as Jax accuses him of murdering his best friend, but when he’s up against a now hawk-ified Jax swinging his deadly claws at everyone, he refuses to put him down. Jax sees his brand of loyalty in Snart, and even though he’s still under the impression Mick is dead, he understands Snart’s actions were for the good of the team. Sara comes to her own realization once she’s kissed by the nurse, in that she’s been resurrected, she’s now experiencing everything from feelings to physical affection for the first time again, which is as terrifying to her as her bloodlust.
Things wrap up about as you’d expect, another happy ending for the Legends with reconciliations all around as they prepare for their next adventure – only Chronos throws a wrench in their wheels by showing up with superior ammo, forcing Rip and those on board to take extreme measures. Sara, Kendra and Palmer look on as the ship leaves without them.
To say that this episode stands out would be an understatement, and its visual panache is something I really hope future episodes manage to live up to. Everything from Stein and Jax talking in a diner as one soaks up the nostalgia while the other avoids the stares, to actors’ growing comfort with one another, allowing the same to be true of their characters, to the holding of a mirror up to the past in order to hold us accountable today, is pretty stupendous. It’s the first episode that feels distinctly cinematic, visually and otherwise, and it’s also the first that I’m really struggling to find an issue with. I didn’t even mind them namedropping Hall H, since it’s where all the violent psychopaths were.
Sadly, we’re going to have to wait another three weeks to see what Hawkgirl, Atom and White Canary have been up to in the ‘50s, but there’s a good chance I’ll be revisiting this episode in the meantime. I hope they invite Joe Dante back next season.