DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 1 Episode 5
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow picks up where it left off last week with some of the team imprisoned in a Russian gulag as the rest try to mount a rescue.
This show has lacked a sense of focus in the early episodes. Part of that has been having so many characters around and not finding anything decent to do with them. As a result the plots tend to meander along until something happens that the team muddles through. It’s fine to have the team incapable of working well together in the beginning but that means the story needs to be that much stronger to show why they need to find a way of working together.
In many ways this is the episode the show needed as it gives the team a single unifying goal to focus on and has a role for everyone. Those in the gulag are concerned with making sure they survive long enough to either be rescued or escape and everyone else has to concentrate on rescuing them. It’s a simple story with a clear objective and allows plenty of room for character development.
This episode succeeds in some aspects of that but drops the ball in others. Having Kendra and Jax completely benched while Snart and Sara do all the heavy lifting was a bad idea as it prevents those characters from having much in the way of meaningful development when they are the two that need it the most.
It was Rip’s idea to have them stay on the ship as Savage will find Jax useful in figuring out the secret to Firestorm and Kendra is the object of his obsession. His logic makes a lot of sense but if he was so concerned about Kendra’s potential as a liability to the team then why did he bother recruiting her in the first place. Rip is also in dire need of some development as the driving force for his mission doesn’t seem strong enough. Saving his wife and son is fine as a motivating factor but it feels so distanced from the rest of the story since we have never really seen why those relationships are worth him betraying the oath he took to preserve the timeline.
The episode does attempt to give Kendra and Jax some development by having them interact. Most of this is informed by the connection Jax has to Stein. When he feels pain, anxiety or fear Jax is made aware of it and suffers along with him. This links back to The Flash episode “Fallout” where Ronnie experienced something similar. The plan to send a message by cutting skin is recycled to let Stein know that help is on the way. It’s a good use of the connection between the two characters and continuity is always good to see, particularly between different shows.
Kendra does very little other than support Jax. The two actors work pretty well together but they don’t really have that much to do. At least Kendra managed to get through an entire episode without reminding us that she is a Barista so that’s something.
Rip does eventually listen to reason and takes them to help the others. There is some payoff to Jax hating sitting on the side-lines when his pep talk to Stein proves to be pivotal in separating him from the Soviet Firestorm. He accomplishes this by simply getting in the way to use Stein’s fear of losing another partner after Ronnie as motivation for finding the strength to force a separation. Jax believes that he is capable as well which definitely has something to do with it.
Stein went through a lot in this episode as well. He is tortured and forced to watch his friends suffer to gain his cooperation. He remains strong throughout but his resolve does weaken. Victor Garber does a great job showing the slow erosion of Stein’s ability to resist.
The torture method was a really interesting one. He hallucinates being at S.T.A.R. Labs working on the Firestorm formula with Cisco who is completely different to how Stein knows him. I wonder if having Cisco be unrecognisable is Stein’s mind resisting the torture and giving him a clue that this isn’t reality. The more sedate version of Cisco was really eerie and I continue to be impressed by Carlos Valdes’ ability to play different versions of this character.
Stein’s various interactions with Valentina Vostok were really well done. She clearly has a keen scientific mind but also doesn’t have a conscience holding her back. Nothing is too great a sacrifice when it means making a historically significant discovery. Stein does everything he can to discourage her from pointing out that Savage doesn’t care about the Soviet Union to mentioning that the economy fails and the whole thing falls apart in 1991. Neither seems to work as she is loyal to Savage and thinks that creating Firestorm will keep the Soviet Union powerful.
The turning point for Stein is watching Ray and Mick be tortured. He tries to bluff not caring about them but when it becomes clear that they will be killed he breaks and agrees to help with the Firestorm project. It works really well and shows that the adventure of traveling through time to save history isn’t the light hearted adventure romp that he hoped it would be.
Valentina is cartoonishly evil in a lot of ways but she fills her role in the episode capably. If the intention is to use her as a focal point for hatred then mission accomplished. She is far more effective a presence than Vandal Savage is which definitely shouldn’t be the case.
Savage does remain the weakest part of the show. The dialogue demands a better performance than Casper Crump delivers. What he says is really cold and sadistic but it is played as being too campy to be taken as a serious threat. I’m not sure what can be done to fix Savage’s effectiveness as a villain at this point but it’s impossible to see him as someone who can achieve world domination.
Ray’s personality was used as an effective contrast to the prison situation. His attempt to be friendly to the prison population was never going to go down well but it says a lot about him that he sees the other prisoners are people who deserve respect. He shows himself to be traditionally heroic when he sincerely says that he can’t watch an old man be pushed around.
His loyalty to Mick was really well done. He makes himself more of a target to spare Mick a beating and is respected for his strength after that. Mick is definitely warming to the group and returns the favour by making sure that Ray escapes.
Snart and Sara were the strongest characters as usual. There’s a connection between them as they both have darker leanings that they are fighting against. Snart seems eager to steal but is torn between doing that and his loyalty to the group. Whenever Sara and Snart talk they instantly understand each other and make a great team whenever they work together.
Sara is given a secondary mission by Rip to carry out if things get really bad. In order to preserve the timeline she may have to kill Stein. To motivate her Rip shows her a projection of the future that will come to pass if their mission fails. Sara understands what she will have to do and is willing to do it if necessary. Snart immediately understands Rip’s thinking even though he isn’t in on the discussion which further shows how similar the two characters are.
Rip and Sara have really good chemistry and there seems to be a bit of sexual tension between them. It could be interesting to have him fall for another woman when his objective is to make sure his family survives. The potential exists for a lot of good character drama there as Rip’s objective becomes a lot more complicated.
Snart being involved in a prison break is a fun nod to Wentworth Miller’s role on the TV show Prison Break. Not being familiar with that show I’m not sure if there were any direct references but having Miller and Purcell involved in the plot is definitely reference enough. Snart again shows that he is loyal to the team by going back for Stein when Mick and Ray are definitely going to be safe.
The action was a mixed bag in this episode. All of the hand to hand combat was really well choreographed but anything that involves visual effects is a little bit lacking. There’s still no visible damage being done by Snart and Mick’s weapons and Ray’s Atom suit doesn’t even appear. The “evil” Firestorm was barely used as well but looked great when it was featured.
I liked the post rescue scene of the team bonding over a drink after actually succeeding in a mission without breaking the timeline for the first time. It was a light moment that allowed everyone to relax and simply be around each other. It definitely proves that this is a good cast with a lot of potential that needs to be tapped into.
As a cliffhanger the ending was pretty effective. Chronos is still a terrible villain who shows up whenever plot needs to be moved on but isn’t seem like much to worry about. The tease of Star City in 2046 and seeing a different Green Arrow really built excitement for the next instalment. I look forward to seeing this show move forward in time.
An improvement on the previous episode by having a clear objective for the team. Some of the characters are being underused but others like Sara and Snart definitely stand out. Vandal Savage still needs a lot of work but the story in this episode hangs together really well.