DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 1 Episode 14
“River of Time”
After a lot of blockbuster spectacle last week, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow keeps things mostly on the Waverider as the team takes their new prisoner, Vandal Savage to the Time Masters to face punishment for his crimes.
It was always going to be the case that this episode would have a much lower budget when compared to the impressive visuals last week. There are still two episodes to go so presumably some further action spectacle is being saved for them. Low budget can often be an asset in science fiction shows as the writers have an opportunity to show how strong the characters are when visual flair can’t be relied on. Some of the best episodes of Star Trek were “bottle shows” so having less money to spend is a real opportunity.
This episode achieves this in some ways and completely fails in others but that has pretty much been the case in every episode of this show so far. The strongest characters in the episode were Mick and Snart as usual but they were unfortunately sidelined in favour of less interesting character stories. Their objective for the episode is simple; they feel that their work here is done and just want to return to their old time. Snart repeatedly mentions a woman called Alexa because he associates her with a feeling that things are about to go horribly wrong. He has that feeling now so wants to leave before things turn sour and he has to deal with it. Mick is completely on the same page so their relationship seems to be repaired and they are partners again.
Whether Snart and Mick will simply go back to their old ways when returning to 2016 is unknown but one thing this show has done very well is add further complexity to these characters while staying mostly true to their roots. They are still thieves and still look out for one another but they have both grown as a result of their experiences with the Team. Snart has repeatedly referred to them as his “crew” so I think that loyalty will stick but it’s also consistent for him to look out for himself before anyone else.
The rest of the characters were handled with varying degrees of success. Sara is handled really well with her own brand of paranoia keeping her ahead of the situation that she’s in. Now that Savage has been captured she has become fairly suspicious of Rip because she knows that his capture has made absolutely no difference to the timeline. He tries to pass it off as the change taking a while to assert itself but it’s clear he doesn’t believe that and Sara picks up on that. Savage plants the seed of doubt in her head that causes her to question whether Rip would betray them all to save his family which Rip confirms. Sara decides to stay around because there is a fight to be fought and she never runs away from a challenge but her trust in Ray has wavered.
She also exhibits real sympathy towards Ray when she sees how much he is hurting from the apparent failure despite his success. She understands what it means to lose people and doesn’t want to see anyone go through that. The conflict between her suspicion and sympathy is nicely played by Caity Lotz and further shows how complex a character Sara is. She won’t act on her suspicion until it’s proven that Rip will betray them so until then she is still on his team.
The least interesting part of the episode was –as usual- the tired love triangle between Ray, Carter and Kendra. This episode has the notable difference of having Carter around to complicate the situation rather than the idea of Carter as before. Carter’s mind is still under the control of Vandal Savage so Kendra tries to use the most intimate details of their past lives to encourage his real self to emerge. Savage’s control seems to be really strong and the task proves more difficult than Kendra would like it to be.
Ray sees this going on and tries to bear in mind that Kendra loves him but eventually he resigns himself to the fact that he simply can’t compete with Carter so he breaks up with her. There is a positive side to it as she taught him to love again which he didn’t think was possible after losing Anna so it’s not a complete bust as far as Ray is concerned. Kendra assures Ray that her feelings for him were real and shouldn’t be devalued but it seems that her connection to Carter is simply too strong to ignore especially when he is back.
The scenes where Kendra tried to break Carter’s programming were really superficial. She mentions all of the major things that she feels he should remember but the connection between them that is mentioned never really comes across. Ciara Renée does a capable job with the material she is given but the writing isn’t strong enough to actually bring this across. This has been an issue with their relationship since the show began and the constant exploration of Kendra and Carter’s past has done nothing to enhance this relationship. The only indication we have that this centuries long romance is a strong connection is the fact that we’re constantly told that it is but there’s little evidence otherwise. It really doesn’t help that Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renée don’t have much chemistry. It worked when she was resisting the connection but now that she has accepted it the whole thing falls flat.
Despite that, this version of Carter is the best we’ve seen. Falk Hentschel does a really good job playing the emotionally distanced warrior type. It might have something to do with his lack of range but this type of character seems to be well within his wheelhouse. His menacing laugh when he attacks Kendra was really effective and generally remaining strong while silent really worked for him.
Jax and Martin fade largely into the background but Jax finds himself afflicted with rapid ageing after being hit with temporal energy when trying to repair the Waverider’s Time Drive. I’m still not sure how qualified any of the team outside of Rip are to repair any of the advanced technology considering they are from a time centuries in the past of when the ship was built. Being able to fix cars surely doesn’t qualify someone to fix an engine designed to get around the laws of physics. It’s a small problem but it has never been addressed.
Jax’s rapid ageing is treated like more of a nuisance than a genuine problem despite the fact that he will probably die from it. The only solution seems to be sending him back to 2016 because the trip will apparently fix him which makes no sense to me but never mind. Why isn’t combining into Firestorm considered as an option to see what happens? Maybe it wouldn’t work or be too dangerous but not even addressing it is a massive oversight.
The solution creates another problem as Martin removes the notion of choice from Jax by sedating him again. He claims to be doing it for his own good but Jax would clearly rather stay with the team. I don’t care what way the show tries to paint it because Martin is wrong in doing this to Jax for the second time. This whole plot was a missed opportunity to explore Jax dealing with his rapidly approaching death but instead it was just another thing that was going on. I imagine this was included for plot purposes to setup Jax as being the one who can rescue them in the next episode.
Vandal Savage was handled fairly well in this episode but Casper Crump’s performance still got in the way. I liked the idea of him calmly manipulating the entire team to magnify the fears and doubts they already have. He preys on Ray’s insecurities about his relationship with Kendra and manages to intensify the feelings that are already there to get what he wants.
Ray’s behaviour in this situation is baffling for someone of his intellect. He completely gives in to his emotions and lashes out at Savage who overpowers him easily and manages to escape. I get what the writers were trying to do but it doesn’t make sense for Ray to be the one to react in this way. It’s possible that Kendra or Mick might have reacted in this way but Ray should definitely know better especially since he has never been an overly violent man. It’s another example of characters acting against what has been established about them simply to further the plot.
Savage manipulates the other members of the team in different ways in the hope of getting a reaction. With Kendra he puts freeing Carter on the table and knows that he holds all the cards in this situation. Ultimately Kendra doesn’t give in but it’s clear that she’s thinking about it. As mentioned above he manages to magnify Sara’s doubts about Rip’s loyalty to the team.
There is also some development to his infatuation with Kendra through his tale of being in a relationship with her during one of her lives. It adds something to the way he pursues her that slightly distracts from the creepy stalker vibe he has been giving off. Nothing will ever remove that but giving some justification is promising.
It is made clear that Savage has access to Time Travel technology through the scans of the Leviathan showing more advanced technology than should exist in 2166. This can be directly attributed to the team messing with time as he has been working on it since the 1970s. He describes it as being “like giving fire to a caveman” which is a fun nod to Savage’s comic book origin but it also perfectly explains how driven he was to develop the technology. This gives us yet another example of the team making an absolute mess of the timeline while trying to save it. It’s pretty clear to me that they have actively helped Savage which was definitely not the plan.
His conversation with Rip about the differences between being immortal and being a time traveller was really interesting. I liked Savage’s perception of himself as a “master of time” because he lives through it all and experiences everything in a linear fashion. He mentions that he has watched his children die of old age so understands the sense of loss that Rip feels but feels that it doesn’t even compare. Savage also seems to be deluded into thinking that the only way to save the world is for him to rule it.
It’s just a shame that Casper Crump isn’t able to convey the depth that is implied through the dialogue with his performance. His Vandal Savage seems too goofy to be taken seriously so the scenes of him manipulating the team lack the charismatic menace that they are supposed to.
The reveal at the end that the Time Masters were in league with him all along was an opportunity for Savage to be completely secure in his imprisonment knowing that there was no way for him to lose this situation. Either he manages to escape or is let go when they arrive at their destination. Whatever happens he gets to go back to ruling the world.
Savage being in league with the Time Masters is no surprise as they have been a shady organisation since the beginning. My theory is that Savage created them through his immortal influence so is never in any danger from them since he is their boss. It makes the most sense given that they have been presented as the antagonists more than Savage has but we’ll have to see if that comes to pass.
The use of flashbacks throughout the episode that show some of the characters before they decided –or were forced in one case- to come on this mission was a nice touch in theory but weren’t executed all that well. Ray’s conversation with Felicity did nothing other than remind us that Ray felt out of place at that point and wasn’t ready to love again, Sara’s conversation with Nyssa didn’t provide any new information and Jax’s conversation with his mother only served as a reminded of the fact that he’s worried about leaving her alone. Martin’s conversation with his wife adds nothing as well other than the fact that he sometimes forgets about her when focused on his work. These could have been handled better to give some deeper insight into these characters but the information presented doesn’t develop anything beyond what we already know.
In terms of action the only major sequence was Savage’s escape attempt and it was fairly boring all told. There was some banter between Savage, Mick and Snart but it wasn’t really that exciting, dynamic or interesting to look at. It felt like an action sequence just so the episode could have one. It was competent but far from memorable.
An uneven episode that succeeds in some areas but fails in others. Vandal Savage being a prisoner is a good idea in theory but his success in manipulating Ray strains believability because it hinges on him behaving out of character. Casper Crump’s performance isn’t strong enough to put across the necessary charismatic menace that these scenes need. The Ray/Carter/Kendra love triangle is as dull as ever but at least seems to be over now with Carter’s return. Mick, Snart and Sara were the strongest characters but largely fade into the background. Jax and Martin are also background characters here with the clear intention of setting up Jax as being the one who can rescue them in the following episode. The use of flashbacks was a good idea in theory but executed poorly and the major action sequence was dull. As always it’s frustrating to see this show trip up on problems that could easily be fixed.
- Snart, Mick and Sara standing out as the strongest characters
- Some scenes that add a little depth to Vandal Savage
- The strongest version of Carter that we’ve had
- Ray behaving out of character to advance the plot
- Casper Crump’s performance