Sunday, February 14, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 4: White Knights

This week's Legends Of Tomorrow was a definite improvement, as the writers seem to be finding their groove and the actors settle into their characters.

While watching this episode, I kept glancing at the clock and wondering how they were going to wrap up everything in sixty seconds, when I finally realized this was the first of a two parter. Dontcha hate when that happens?

This week we finally get an episode without Vandal Savage! His presence was still felt though, as the various characters dropped his name every five seconds. But it was nice to finally go a week without actually seeing him. I feel like the only way this series is going to survive more than a season is if they occasionally change things up now and then and give us the occasional Savage-less episode.

One small complaint— this is the now the fourth episode in a row in which the Legends are forced to decide whether to continue as a team or go their separate ways. Using that subplot once was fine. Twice was stretching it. Four times is just ridiculous.

Part of the fun of this series is seeing the various Legends split up into smaller groups. The writers seem to be having a blast taking wildly disparate character, like Atom and Captain Cold, and forcing them to work together.

Once again Captain Cold gets the best bits and continues to dominate the show. Do not be surprised if he eventually gets his own Arrowverse series.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The Legends travel to 1986 to find Vandal Savage. Unfortunately once they arrive, they see that the document that brought them there has been almost completely redacted. To get the unclassified version, they'll have to sneak into the Pentagon. You'd think Gideon could have warned them about the redaction thing beforehand, but let's just go with it or we'll be here all day.

Atom and Captain Cold pose as janitors and get inside the Pentagon (I guess Gideon forged their I.D.?). Cold picks the pocket of a military officer and gets her key card. He passes the card to Hawkgirl and White Canary, who are posing as Pentagon personnel. 

Hawkgirl and Canary use the card to steal the document. Unfortunately they're stopped by security as they try to leave. Firestorm creates a diversion by blowing up the building's power supply, which seems like overkill. It's then every Legend for themselves as they try to make it back to the Waverider.

In the confusion, Hawkgirl's eyes turn red, she pops her wings and begins attacking Pentagon soldiers. Firestorm manages to grab her and fly off before she can kill anyone.

Back on the Waverider, Hunter examines the stolen document, which indicates Savage has defected to the Soviet Union. On the way there, the ship is attacked by both Russian MiGs and Chronos, the Time Master who's trying to capture Hunter and bring him in.

The ship is damaged, but Hunter manages to save everyone by tricking the MiG missiles into hitting Chronos' ship, which explodes. Hunter's convinced Chronos is dead, but since this is a comic book show, that seems unlikely. The Waverider then crashes in Russia. 

The document says that Savage has recruited Russian physicist Valentina Vostok to develop Project Svarog for him. Professor Stein, the big know-it-all, says "svarog" is the god of fire in Slavic mythology. Cold and Atom go undercover to find Vostok and see what she knows. 

Meanwhile there's a dull subplot about Canary trying to pick a fight with Hawkgirl to force her to accept her blood lust and learn to control it or something.

Hunter detects a temporal anomaly in a nearby woods, and he and Heat Wave go investigate. Instead of Chronos, they find Hunter's former mentor, Time Master Druce. He tells Hunter if he ends the Legends mission now, he'll see that he isn't prosecuted. He gives Hunter an hour to decide. Heat Wave tells Hunter that Druce is lying, and plans on killing him when he returns.

Atom and Cold find Vostok at the Russian Ballet. Atom tries to hit on her but strikes out badly. Cold suavely steps in and offers to escort her home. He picks her pocket and gets her key card to Luskavic Labs.

Hunter returns to the woods, and sure enough Druce and Chronos, who's still alive (told you so!), try to kill him. The Legends swoop in and rescue Hunter. Firestorm is hit in the process. Back on the Waverider, Stein lays into Jackson, telling him he needs to be more careful, because he can't stand to lose another partner the way he lost Ronnie Raymond.

Hunter assembles a team, including Stein, to infiltrate Luskavic and see what Savage is up to. Inside, Stein discovers Savage is trying to create his own evil version of Firestorm— aka Project Svarog. Stein discovers a thermal core Vostok has built to transform an unlucky volunteer into a Firestorm. 

Cold and Atom sneak into a control center to deactivate the core so Stein can steal it. Cold sees Vostok and goes to rescue her, but she turns on him and points a gun at his head. Atom is then captured by Vostok's men. Despite the fact that the core is still online, Stein grabs it anyway, absorbing all the radiation. He puts it into a shielded case. Heat Wave shows up to rescue his pal Cold. Everyone's captured except for Cold, who gets away with the core and makes it back to the Waverider.

Hunter vows to rescue Atom, Heat Wave and Stein. Meanwhile, Vostok is holding Stein in a gulag, and tells him the only way to save his friend is to help her create Svarog.

Thoughts:
 It must be tough writing stories about superhero characters, They can use their powers to easily overcome just about any hurdle a writer can come up with.

Case in point— the Atom could have used his shrinking ability to easily solve most of the plot points in this episode. He could have quietly sneaked into the Pentagon to steal the classified document, clandestinely lifted Vostok's security card, and easily infiltrated her lab and taken the Svarog core.

If he'd used his powers at any time, the episode would have been over in about ten minutes. The writers deliberately hamstrung him just so the rest of the team could get captured and turn this into a two part episode.

The Atom even notices this glaring discrepency, as he asks why the others don't let him simply shrink and steal the Pentagon document.

When a character points out a plot hole or other implausibility in a story, it's called lampshading. By deliberately calling attention to something stupid, the writer hopes the audience will accept it and just move on.

 Now that I think about it, why the hell was the Pentagon caper necessary in the first place? Gideon whips up authentic uniforms for the team, as well as forged I.D.s to get them through the tight Pentagon security. Later Gideon even generates a low level EMP that erases all the Pentagon's magnetic media and closed circuit TV camera records, including the footage of Hawkgirl flying around in full view of the staff.

If Gideon is capable of doing all that, why couldn't she just access the file they needed herself? The records wouldn't have been online in 1986 of course, but they would have been stored inside a computer that she could no doubt access with a few seconds of effort.

Obviously the reason the team had to physically sneak into the Pentagon was so we could have a cool superhero battle.

 Something I hadn't thought about until this week— how do Hawkgirl's wings pop out of her back without shredding the hell out of her clothes? And how do they manage to fold up and fit undetected against her body when not in use? Given that she's a reincarnated Egyptian priestess, I'm guessing they have to be some sort of magic wings.

 Hunter gives Atom and Cold "ingestible translators," which will allow them to speak and understand Russian. Shades of the Babel Fish! Someone on the writing staff's a fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy!

 Valentina Vostok is actually a character from DC comics. She called herself Negative Woman and was a member of the Doom Patrol. She had the power to generate a "soul self," a superpowered energy being that could leave her body.

So does this mean we could be seeing the Doom Patrol soon in the Arrowverse? How awesome would that be?

 As always, Captain Cold gets the best lines:

Atom: Wow, it's a MIG-21. No one's ever been this close to one before.
Cold: Did you just quote Top Gun?
Atom: Maybe.

Hunter: Better go bone up on Vostok's CV.
Cold: I guess I'll bone up on the ballet. Gideon— bone me.

 Back in the first episode I noted that the Time Masters were exactly the same thing as the Time Lords over on Doctor Who. Nowhere is that more true than this week.

The Doctor stole a TARDIS and began exploring time and space, aiding people and planets that needed his help. He was eventually captured by the Time Lord and put on trial (twice!).

That pretty much describes Rip Hunter and the Time Masters who are after him. The only difference I can see is that the Time Masters want to kill Hunter instead of trying him.

 When the Legends rescue Hunter, Firestorm is hit in the gut by a blast from Chronos' gun. Back on the Waverider, Firestorm splits, and we see Jackson has a nasty belly wound.

The mechanics of the whole Firestorm merging thing are pretty vague (no doubt deliberately so). If Firestorm is wounded and Jackson receives a corresponding injury, shouldn't it affect Professor Stein's body as well?

Jackson can hear Stein's voice in his head after the two men merge into Firestorm. But what happens to Stein's body? Does it somehow disappear completely after they combine? If so, that's sort of not the definition of "merging."

 In Luskavik Labs, Stein sees a powerful nuclear core that Vostok is using to create a Firestorm for Savage. He decides to steal the core in order to prevent this. He grabs ahold of the highly volatile core, confident his boy will absorb the excess energy.

I know that Firestorm is impervious to radiation, but what about Stein? Is he really immune to it even when he's not merged? I have to confess I don't fully understand his convoluted origin over on The Flash, but this seems like retconned info to me.

 Stay tuned for part two next week!

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