Saturday, February 20, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 5: Fail-Safe

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow, the team finally scores their first victory! It's about time. Actually I kind of like that it's taken them this long to win one. It seems more realistic for them to fail their first few times out, and not immediately gel into an unstoppable force.

There was lots of character development this week, especially for Professor Stein and Heat Wave. Mick Rory's actually turning into a complex and well-rounded character, instead of a cardboard super villain, or I guess anti-hero. Kudos to the writers for making me actually care about a serial pyromaniac!

One thing I've noticed during these first few episodes Rip Hunter's assembled quite a powerful team. So powerful in fact, that they can beat just about any threat they face. The writers have to constantly hamstring them in order to generate any tension. Case in point if the Atom had had his suit stuffed in his pocket, this week's episode would have been over in about five minutes! The only reason he doesn't have the suit on him at all times is because it would make the team too hard to beat.

Savage was back again, after taking last week off. Yawn. As I've said many times before, there's no way this series is going to last more than a season if they're going to battle the same bad guy every week. This first season of Legends is thirteen episodes long. If the writers are smart, they'll kill off Savage in the finale, and then bring in a brand new villain to pose a season-long threat next year. That's the only way they're going to sustain this show. Let's see if they take my advice.

One very interesting development in this episode: Rip Hunter apparently thinks of the Legends less as teammates, and more as faceless pawns he can use to further his own ends. That's a cold attitude for him to have, but it makes sense. He's from a hundred and fifty years in the future. These people all lived and died before he was even born. As far as he's concerned they're all ghosts. No wonder he doesn't think twice about eliminating them for the good of history!

I kind of picked up on a hint of a relationship developing between Rip Hunter and White Canary in this episode. If that really happens, how might that affect his quest to change history and restore his wife and child?

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Professor Stein is in STAR Labs, chatting with the Flash's pal Cisco about the Firestorm matrix. Stein notices something's not right, and realizes he's hallucinating. He's really being held in a Russian gulag in 1986, being interrogated by Valentina Vostock. Vandal Savage enters, and tells Stein he remembers him from 1975 when he tried to buy a warhead from him (in Pilot Part 2), and wonders why he hasn't aged. Stein refuses to tell him anything, and Savage says he'll get the secret of the Matrix from him no matter how long it takes.

Back on the Waverider, Jackson senses Stein's in trouble. Hawkgirl tells Hunter they need to rescue Stein from the gulag, as well as Atom and Heat Wave, who are also being held there. Gideon scans the gulag, and says there hasn't been a successful prison break in two hundred years. 

White Canary says they should contact the Bratva, aka the Russian Mob, as they would have valuable info on the gulag and how to get in. Hunter and Captain Cold pay a visit to a Russian mobster, but he refuses to deal with them since they have no tattoos (?). Canary earns his respect by beating the crap out of his goons, and he says his organization regularly delivers black market goods into the gulag, and they can sneak in that way.

Meanwhile Atom and Heat Wave are tossed into the general population of the gulag. Atom tries making friends with the other prisoners like the goofball he is, while Heat Wave tells him to mind his own business if he wants to survive the night. Ray doesn't listen and ends up getting a beatdown from an enormous prisoner.

On the Waverider, Hunter tells Hawkgirl and Jackson to stay behind, because they're the two that Savage wants the most. He shows Canary a projection of the future, and says if they don't stop Savage here in 1986, Savage will create an army of Soviet Firestorms that will destroy the free world. He tells her that Stein is the key to Savage's plan, and if they can't rescue him, they have to kill him. Canary is shocked by Hunter's cold and detached manner, but realizes he's right.

Vostock continues badgering Stein for info. He tells her that if Russia succeeds in creating their own Firestorm, America will retaliate and the two countries will destroy each other, as well as the world. Vostock says that sounds just fine, as Russia will emerge even stronger from the ashes. Sounds like someone's been taking her crazy pills!

Jackson senses Stein's will is starting to falter, so he takes advantage of their connection. He has Hawkgirl carve a huge "WE'RE COMING" message into his arm, which then appears on Stein's. Did she have to use a 500 point font, when 16 point would have sufficed? Vostock threatens to poison Stein if he doesn't talk, but when he sees Jackson's message, his resolve returns and he tells her to do her worst.

Savage returns and tries a new tactic. He has Atom and Heat Wave tied up and tortured in front of Stein. One of the torturers starts to beat Heat Wave with a hammer, but Atom begins taunting him. The torturer beats Atom instead. Stein can't handle watching his teammates suffer, and agrees to help Vostock.

Meanwhile Canary and Cold infiltrate the gulag. Gideon reports that due to Stein cracking, the probability of Russia winning the Cold War has risen to ninety nine percent. Canary tries to grab Stein, but fails. Hunter tells her the future's "cementing" and she needs to kill Stein immediately. Cold manages to free Heat Wave, but wants to leave the unconscious Atom behind, as he'll just slow them down. Heat Wave insists on carrying him, since Atom took a beating for him.

Jackson and Hawkgirl resent being sidelined and insist on going to help. Given the dire situation, Hunter agrees. 

In Vostock's lab, Stein gives her the Firestorm formula. She immediately realizes he's intentionally leaving out an important part. She sees the giant scarred message on Stein's arm and realizes it takes two people to form Firestorm. She says she'll act as the other half, and Stein will merge with her. That sounds more provocative than it really is.

Vostock moves Stein outside in order to merge with him. Canary has a clear shot at Stein with her sniper rifle, but can't bring herself to pull the trigger. Suddenly Hawkgirl flies Jackson into the gulag. He shuts off the power, which opens all the cell doors, allowing the prisoners to escape. The resulting riot creates a huge distraction. 

Vostock merges with Stein and becomes Russian Female Firestorm or something. But without the Firestorm splicer (you know, the glowing thing on Regular Firestorm's chest) she's highly unstable. Savage senses Hawkgirl and tries to kill her. Hunter sneaks up behind him, and tells him he wants his pocket watch back (Savage stole it back in Blood Ties, and it contains a photo of Hunter's late wife and child). Hunter then blows up the lab with Savage inside it.

Lady Firestorm begins blasting prisoners left and right, and then turns on Jackson. He pleas to Stein, who's inside Lady Firestorm's head, to take control. Stein manages to stop her long enough for Jackson to touch her hand, which separates them. Vostock is apparently still filled with radiation, and begins overloading. The Legends manage to escape on the Waverider as Vostock explodes in a nuclear fireball that destroys the gulag. Eh, it was just filled with prisoners and enemies of the State, so it's OK.

On the Waverider the Legends celebrate their first actual victory. Suddenly the ship, which is in the time vortex, is attacked by Chronos (again). It's knocked out of the stream, and they crash into a post apocalyptic Star City in 2046. They're met by Green Arrow, who's not Oliver Queen, but Connor Hawke.

Thoughts:
• Obviously the title of this episode is based on the 1964 Cold War thriller Fail Safe. Check it out if you get the chance, it's a pretty good movie.

• Hardcore Nitpicking Alert: Savage taunts Stein, telling him there are an infinite number of ways to break a man, and he has infinite time.

Um... Savage may have all the time in the world, but at Stein's age, he certainly doesn't!

I know it was just a figure of speech, but I had an image of Savage still trying to get info out of Stein's corpse, decades after he died.

• As the Legends plan out how they're going to spring Stein,and the others from the gulag, Captain Cold actually says, "This isn't my first prison break." Haw!

Wentworth Miller, aka Captain Cold, and Dominic Purcell, aka Heat Wave, starred in Prison Break a few years back. And they're back in prison doing it all over again in this episode!

• The past couple of episodes White Canary's been sporting a very flattering hairstyle. But this week it looks like we're back to the Greasy Canary look that she had in the Pilot. Why does she oil up her hair and slick it back whenever she gets into her gray White Canary costume?

• Inside the gulag courtyard, a gigantic prisoner approaches Atom and calls him "sooka." According to google, that's a real Russian word that means "bitch." Charming!

• One of these days Stein and Jackson need to work on developing some sort of psychic rapport so they can communicate telepathically with one another even when they're separated. That way they won't have to carve freakin' texts into their arms to send a message!

• Savage realizes he can't break Stein, so he tries another tactic torturing Atom and Heat Wave and making him watch.

During the torture scene, we see Heat Wave shirtless, and his arms and torso are covered with horrific burn scars. That was a awesome little detail to include, given that he's a pyromaniac. Apparently he's not a very good pyro if he keeps burning himself!

• During the torture scene, a Russian guard starts to work on Heat Wave with a hammer. Atom taunts the guard, so he'll torture him instead:
Guard: Yes, what are you doing, Boy Scout? 
Atom: Nothing compared to what I did to your mother last night! 
Guard: You have quite a mouth on you. 
Atom: So does she!
Wow. Thanks, Legends Of Tomorrow, for introducing oral sex jokes to the Arrowverse.

• During the gulag rescue, Hunter corners Savage and points a gun to his head. Of course he doesn't pull the trigger, laws no. That would be stupid, to shoot and kill the immortal madman he's been hunting across time and space. The same thing happened a couple weeks ago in Blood Ties, when Hunter incapacitated Savage and inexplicably just... left the room.

This might also have been a good time to have Hawkgirl, the only person who can supposedly kill Savage, stab him with her magic McGuffin knife. Apparently Hunter doesn't think of that either.

He does at least blow up the room Savage is in this week, so I guess that's something. Still, why not make sure? Shoot him in the head and then blow up the room. Maybe that's too gruesome for prime time.

I really hope they're not going to keep using this "We've Got Savage On The Ropes, But Let's Not Kill Him" plot from now on.

• Once again the mechanics of just how Savage's powers work are pretty vague. Savage is an immortal who's lived for four thousand years. In this episode Hunter uses explosives to blow him into millions of charbroiled pieces. But in a week or two Savage will no doubt be back with a new world domination scheme.

So just how does that work? How does a man who's been blown apart survive? Do the various chunks of his body crawl across the floor and somehow reassemble themselves?

That's not how immortality works. Immortality just means living forever. It doesn't mean surviving or resisting catastrophic injury. That's invulnerability. A person who's immortal will live forever unless they're killed. Someone who can't be killed is invulnerable. They're two completely different things.

I suppose Savage could be both immortal and invulnerable, but so far they've never mentioned it.

As depicted, Savage's powers seem a lot like those of Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who and Torchwood fame. Captain Jack was doomed to live forever, and was also impossible to kill. At one point he was blown up and dismembered, just like Savage. And like him, he got better a few days later. Just how that happened was left to the audience's imagination.

• After Stein separates himself from Russian Lady Firestorm, she starts to overload. As she does, she's surrounded by bright blue flames.

The blue flames make her look a lot like Firehawk, a female version of Firestorm from the comic of the same name. In the comics Firehawk was a hero, and had powers similar to Firestorm's. Unlike Firestorm, she was a single entity, and wasn't formed by the merging of two others. She was also Firestorm's girlfriend for a while.

I'm not quite sure where they're going with Vostock here. As I mentioned last week, in the comics Valentina Vostock became Negative Woman, a member of the Doom Patrol. But her appearance and origin in this episode point toward Firehawk. It's almost like they're merging (heh) the two characters together. Why they'd do this, I have no idea.

By the way, despite the fact that Vostock is vaporized in a nuclear explosion at the end of this episode, I wouldn't count her out just yet. It's pretty much a given that she'll return eventually.

• At the end of the episode, the gang lands in the Star City of 2046. They're confronted by Connor Hawke, dressed in a Green Arrow costume.

OK, I confess I haven't been following Arrow (as my duties here as CEO of Bob Canada's BlogWorld keep my quite busy, and there are only so many hours in a day), so I'm not up on everything that's happening over on that show.

When Atom sees Arrow, he blurts out, "Hey Oliver!" Is the fact that Oliver Queen is secretly Green Arrow common knowledge in Star City? If not, it is now!

From what I understand, Connor Hawke is the son of Oliver Queen and Sandra Hawke, whoever that is. From that, one would assume the Connor we see in this episode is Oliver's son. But according to the producers, this Connor is a completely different person. So I don't know what the hell's going on. Tune in next week to hopefully clear it all up.

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