DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 2 Episode 2
“The Justice Society of America”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow introduces the Justice Society of America while the team struggle to decide who should lead them in Rip’s absence.
The Justice Society of America consists of Rex Tyler aka Hourman (Patrick J. Adams), Amaya Jiwe aka Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) -the grandmother of Mari McCabe seen in Arrow last season-, Henry Heywood aka Commander Steel (Matthew McCaull), Obsidian (Dan Payne), Courtney Whitmore aka Stargirl (Sarah Grey) and Dr. Mid-Nite (Kwesi Ameyaw). I thought I would start the review off by listing the members as it might be difficult to catch all of the names in such a busy episode.
This is the second time that we have seen the Justice Society of America adapted on a CW show. The first was in the ninth season of Smallville and the roster was a lot different but the purpose seems to be the same. It’s no secret that the Legends –that’s what they seem to be calling themselves which doesn’t seem arrogant at all- aren’t the most cohesive unit. They bicker, fight, disagree with one another constantly and let personal agendas impact their missions.
The Justice Society of America –hereafter known as JSA- are very much the opposite. They are professional, disciplined and completely focused on their goals so having them around sets an example for the Legends to follow.
Of course their first meeting leads to a fight as that’s what superheroes do when they first meet. The JSA assume that the Legends are Nazi spies and immediately attack. This gives us the first indication of the differences between the two teams as the Legends are completely outclassed. The JSA are well organised, skilled and show that they have mastered the ability to work as a team where the Legends are completely uncoordinated so lose the fight very quickly.
There are some really impressive visual touches and tactics involved in this fight. Obsidian making the fight take place under cover of darkness was a nice idea and gave any of the various light sources much more impact. Firestorm, Stargirl and Vixen created the light show with their abilities and it made the whole thing more memorable. As a tactic it confuses the Legends who aren’t able to adapt to it and shows how seasoned the JSA are. It was a great introduction and a well put together action sequence.
Leadership is the running theme through this episode. With Rip Hunter missing the team need a new leader and the JSA assume that Martin is in charge simply because he’s an old white guy. Jax wastes no time informing Martin of that fact as he is all too aware of what time period they are in. This was actually a nice touch as it reminds us that the JSA might be a team of heroes but they are still active in 1942 which means that some of the prejudice of the period is part of who they are.
They aren’t racist by any means as shown by the diversity on their team with Vixen and Dr. Md-Nite being obviously not white but there’s a sense of things working a certain way in the 1940s as culture hasn’t moved to the point that women are accepted in leadership roles.
Martin is definitely the wrong choice to lead the team and he knows that as well as anyone else. As a physicist he deals with theory and needs data before he can make a decision which is obviously no use in a combat situation. His one attempt to lead the team from afar fails miserably and ends with the capture of Ray and Amaya. Jax tells him that the team need someone calling the shots but this isn’t something he needs to be reminded of. Victor Garber plays Martin’s reluctance really convincingly as well as the guilt he feels for not realising sooner.
With Martin being ruled out as a leader someone must naturally be built up as one. Sara is the clear choice as evidenced by her actions in this episode. She makes smart and quick strategic decisions, knows the team inside out, projects a natural authority that forces people to listen to her and generally tells it like it is. Her noticing that Nate is a haemophiliac is a clear example of her leadership skills but there are so many throughout the episode. Having Sara lead the team is an exciting prospect and will hopefully develop along interesting lines.
It’s very fortunate that Nate is on the Waverider at this point otherwise the Legends would be in an even worse situation. The only reason that they managed to establish a dialogue with the JSA is through Nate’s ties to Commander Steel. Nate is Commander Steel’s grandson and has a certain reverence for his grandfather. He grew up hearing stories about his heroic grandfather and in many ways this inspired him to learn more about history. He manages to create a connection by talking about the dog tags that only the JSA could have known about. Nate wears the dog tags belonging to his grandfather around his neck showing his respect and it allows them to start talking.
A lot is revealed about Nate in this episode. His admiration of his grandfather turns out to be a defining trait as he yearns for the life of an adventurer. His medical condition didn’t even stop him from running off with a group of time travelling superheroes to enable his thrill seeking. This doesn’t go his way when he is caught in a bomb blast while trying to save his grandfather but his fearless desire to be a hero says a lot about him. He’s very naive and unskilled but his heart is definitely in the right place.
His Grandfather, Henry is an interesting addition to the cast beyond how he relates to Nate. At first he seems like a righteous Captain America type who acknowledges that he’s a hero to a lot of people and idolising him doesn’t make Nate particularly special. As the episode goes on we find out that Henry has a lot of self doubt and finds it difficult living up to the idealised view of himself when he knows how flawed he is. To many he’s a hero but as far as he’s concerned he’s a soldier who makes his share of mistakes. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time but a lot is made of what he has. It’s an interesting perspective on heroism and the effect that can have.
Ray is paired with Amaya who is initially unimpressed with him. He starts a brawl in a French bar after refusing to salute Hitler which means that Amaya’s cover becomes blown and she can never go undercover in France again. She takes her role as Vixen very seriously and doesn’t like when someone steps on her toes.
Once they are captured there is time for them to get to know one another and it follows a really predictable path. Amaya transitions from disliking Ray to eventually respecting him because of his integrity and his bravery. This completely pays off when he uses the serum he wanted to use on himself to save Nate.
The whole idea of the serum is problematic in a few ways. Having the Nazis gain access to something that can turn people into Metahumans is fair enough and adds weight to the universe when these things happened decades before Metahumans were officially discovered. I have to say I was less than impressed with the CGI on the hulking brute Nazi metahuman. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the action was competently executed but that wasn’t the case either. The whole thing was very messy and proves that ambition doesn’t always win out.
Another place this serum idea falls down is that it becomes another reason for Ray to feel inferior because he doesn’t have super powers. We’ve been through Ray lacking self confidence for one reason or another several times and it’s really played out at this point. Yes he’s proud of the Atom suit but the fact that it is constantly damaged means that it’s not as sturdy as it should be as far as Ray is concerned. I would think we’re at the point now where Ray feels like he’s worthwhile to the team because of his ability to use science as a weapon rather than having abilities of some sort.
I’m not sure I like where I think the Amaya and Ray interactions are going. It feels like they’re headed for love interest territory and it doesn’t really work for them. Maybe it’s going down the strong and respectful friendship route and I’d prefer that but I would be very surprised if that were the case.
Aside from that, Amaya is a really good character. She’s strong, sure of herself and clearly exceptionally well skilled. So far there isn’t much to her beyond that but she is a good counter to the more gentle Ray and seems to have a valuable place in the JSA. Whether there is any more behind her character remains to be seen but so far she’s a likeable presence.
Last week established that Reverse Flash is active in 1942 for reasons unknown other than he wants to get a hold of items that the Nazis happen to have. He gives them a sample of the serum with the promise of more in exchange the thing he wants. I’m not sure why he couldn’t just run in to retrieve it himself without anyone seeing him but if he’s going to be an active villain then I suppose he needs to cause problems for the various teams.
Thawne’s murder of Hourman at the end of the episode was actually quite a shock and reminds the audience of how evil Thawne really is. He didn’t need to kill Hourman so he only did it because he could and he seems to enjoy using his powers in that way. I do wonder what point in the timeline this version of Thawne is from but I’m assuming it’s an earlier part of his career where he is less calculating than when we saw him posing as Harrison Wells.
Speaking of Hourman, we see the entirety of the conversation he had with the Legends at the end of last season and it turns out to not be much more than we see at the end of last season because he is promptly erased from existence. It seems that Reverse Flask killed him at this point to make sure that he is erased but I’m not sure why he would have done that other than trying to prevent the Legends from coming after him. There are a lot of holes in this if you give it any thought.
Further to that there is the problem of the haphazard altering of the timeline by Thawne. Over in The Flash we know that Time Wraiths exist to clean up the timeline when people mess with it and it seems like Thawne is casually doing that to suit his own agenda. Might we see how he discovers that Time Wraiths exist through his meddling or will it never be addressed? I suppose time will tell.
There was no organic place to put this but I was really impressed by Martin’s rendition of “Edelweiss” to prove that he was the famous tenor Max Lorenz. It may have been one Back to the Future reference too many but it was a good scene that allowed Victor Garber’s other talents to shine through.
A fun episode that creates a fun dynamic between the seasoned Justice Society of America and the directionless Legends. The theme of leadership runs strongly through the episode with Martin being proven as the wrong choice and Sara being built as the clear choice. It’s handled well and makes sense from a story and character point of view. Some things don’t work quite as well such as another bout of self doubt on Ray’s part but in general the episode works.
Eobard Thawne aka Reverse Flash has a plan that makes no clear sense so far and fails to make full use of his abilities but having him around is good for the show in terms of villains and his murder of Hourman is a definite shock. There are a lot of interesting elements brought in here that should provide good fodder for development in the coming episodes.
- the Justice Society of America
- well executed action
- the strong leadership theme through the episode
- interesting perspectives on heroism
- less well executed action
- Eobard Thawne’s plan being confusing