Sunday, March 6, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 7: Marooned

This week on Legends Of Tomorrow we get the series' first ever space-based episode (LEGENDS. IN. SPACE!), as well as Rip Hunter's derivative origin story. Oh, and Captain Cold and Heat Wave's feud reaches a deadly conclusion!

Once again Cold and Heat Wave, who started out as the most standard, paper-thin villains imaginable, have become the series' most well drawn and compelling characters. I'm not quite sure where the relationship between the two is headed, especially after this episode, but I'm anxious to find out.

The Legends Of Tomorrow writers just can't seem to resists tossing in the occasional sci-fi movie reference into each episode. They outdid themselves this week though, as this episode must set a record for most sci-fi shout outs. It was distracting after a while. 

The villains in this episode, the Time Pirates, turned out to be far more lame than threatening. They were incredibly easy to defeat, as well. 

Seeing Professor Stein turn into Space John McClane and save the ship was fun, but his scenes were all too brief. We needed much more of him in the episode. That seems to be a running theme on this show— there are so many characters and the writers try to accommodate them all, which just results in episodes full of rushed and abbreviated character bits. I get that it's an ensemble show, but they need to focus on one or two Legends in each episode, and let the others watch from the sidelines.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The Waverider hangs somewhere in deep space. Rip Hunter sits in his office, watching low-res holograms of his late wife and son. Professor Stein enters and tells him the crew's getting antsy, as they've been sitting around doing nothing for an entire week. Hunter says he has no idea where to look for Vandal Savage next, because Gideon needs to get an update from the Vanishing Point, aka the headquarters of the Time Masters. Trouble is, if he lets Gideon do so, it'll set off an alarm and the Time Masters will know where they are and come runnin.'

Gideon receives a distress call from the Acheron, the flagship of the Time Fleet. Hunter says it's commanded by Captain Eve Barker, an old acquaintance, and if they save her, they can use her ship to update Gideon and find Savage. The other Legends worry the distress signal seems mighty convenient, and could be a trap. Hunter poo-poos their concerns. He leaves Atom and Hawkgirl in charge of the Waverider, while he, Heatwave, Stein and Jackson take the jumpship over to the Acheron. Captain Cold tells White Canary that Heat Wave is becoming increasingly violent and unstable, and has to be stopped soon.

Hunter flashes back to his days at Time Master school. He and a fellow student named Miranda Coburn are in a simulator, undergoing the Kobayashi Maru in order to graduate. Their instructor congratulates Miranda for passing, and says Hunter needs to think more like her. Outside the simulator, Hunter and Miranda kiss, and we realize she's the woman who will become his wife. They're interrupted by their hurumphing instructor, who tells them to report immediately to the Time Council. 

Back in the present (whenever that is in this episode), Hunter and the others board the Acheron. Sure enough, it really is a trap, and they're captured by a group of Time Pirates. The leader is Captain John Valor, who's heard of Hunter and his reputation. He says Captain Barker was transporting them to prison, but they escaped and took over the ship. She destroyed her time drive per protocol, so they sent out a distress signal, knowing another time ship would come to her rescue. He calls the Waverider, where Atom is pretending to be Captain Kirk. Valor tells Atom that he's holding the boarding party hostage, and to hand over the ship. 

Naturally Atom has no idea what to do. Hunter tries to bluff Valor by saying the Waverider crew are "iron-willed and battle-hardened," and won't hesitate to fire on the Archeron. Valor isn't buying it. Hunter says, "You don't know Palmer, he survived the Imperiex Onslaught." Gideon, who's been listening in, hears those last two code words and begins executing evasive maneuvers. 

The two ships begin chasing one another through deep space. The ships exchange fire and the Waverider is hit, which causes a breach in the cargo bay. Professor Stein sneaks out of the jump ship and into the Acheron. He finds the engine room and miraculously figures out how to disable the weapons systems.

Meanwhile Cold uses his freeze gun to seal the hole in the Waverider's hull. He manages to seal it partially before his gun's charge runs out. The bulkheads close, sealing him and Canary in the cargo bay. Despite the fact that Gideon's a sentient artificial intelligence that controls every aspect of the ship, she can't open a simple door and let them out. They're trapped inside, as the air is slowly leaking out into space.

Back on the Acheron, Valor throws Hunter and the rest in the brig with Captain Baxter. She tells Hunter he's a disgrace to the Time Masters and if they manage to get out of this, she'll arrest him and take him in. 

Hunter has another flashback. He and Miranda stand before the Time Council. They're accused of having a relationship, which for reasons, is strictly forbidden in the Time Master profession. The Masters give them one hour to get their stories straight before they pass judgement and kick them both out.

In the present, Atom dons his power armor and flies into space to seal the hole in the Waverider. Over on the AcheronProfessor Stein becomes a one man army. He knocks out a pirate and steals his weapon and clothing, and begins sneaking though the ship.In the brig, Heat Wave grows increasingly hostile. Hunter tells him he was never crucial to the Savage mission, and the only reason he was recruited is because he needed Cold, and the two were a team. Heat Wave looks hurt, and then calls for Captain Valor. Heat Wave makes a deal with him, and agrees to turn the Waverider over to him in exchange for a ride back to 2016.

Hunter tells Captain Baxter that he doesn't regret betraying the Time Masters, but he'll never forgive himself for failing to save his family. He flashes back again to the Time Council. He stands before them alone, ready to take his punishment. They tell him the trial has been cancelled. Apparently Miranda took full responsibility for their affair, and resigned. Hunter's now in the clear. 

Atom is almost finished sealing the hull, but his oxygen is running out. He manages to seal it just as he passes out. He drifts off into space, but comes to just long enough to activate his suit's jets and head back toward the airlock. Gideon brings him in, and says he's suffering from cardiac arrest (does that happen when you can't breathe?). Hawkgirl revives him with CPR. Gideon opens the bulkhead and frees Cold and Canary.

Just then Heat Wave arrives back on the Waverider, with the Time Pirates in tow. He sees Cold and tells him it's time to pick a side. Cold does, and blasts one of the pirates. A battle breaks out between the two sides. Heat Wave goes to the engine room to grab the time drive. Canary tries to stop him, but he's too strong for her. Cold blasts him with his freeze ray. The Legends capture the rest of the pirate boarding party.

On the Acheron, Professor Stein frees Hunter and the others from the brig. They battle the pirates, including Valor.  Eventually they're overpowered, and captured by the pirates. This would be a perfect time for Stein and Jackson to become Firestorm, but apparently they forget they can do that. Captain Baxter grabs on to a pipe and orders Gilbert (the Acheron's version of Gideon) to open the airlock. Stein and Jackson grab onto something just in time, as the pirates are blown into space.

With the pirates defeated, Baxter tells Hunter she's decided not to turn him in. She tells him Savage is in 1958. Time for one final flashback! Hunter runs into Miranda and asks her why she resigned and saved him. She says it's because being a Time Master has always been his dream, and he's so much better at it than her (HAW!). She says the Time Masters are wrong to forbid love, because it's no threat. Aw...

In the present, Hawkgirl kisses Atom. I guess she forgot all that stuff she said a few episodes ago about finding Hawkman and reuniting with him no matter what. The Legends meet to discuss what to do about Heat Wave. They can't keep him in the brig indefinitely, and if they take him back to 2016 they're afraid he'll target their families. Cold says he'll handle it. 

Cut to an unknown planet. Cold drags Heat Wave out into a muddy bog. Heat Wave wakes up and Cold tells him he's dangerous and has become a liability to the team. Heat Wave says only one of them is walking out of this alive. Cold says, "You're right," and seemingly blasts him with his freeze ray.

Thoughts:
 Let's talk about that ending first. It sure looks like Cold solves the problem of What To Do About Heat Wave by killing him, and I'm sure that's exactly what the writers want us to think, I would be very, very surprised if he's dead though.

For one thing, we never actually see him get killed, and there's no way they're going to kill a major character offscreen. Secondly we never saw a body, and the first rule of comic book movies and TV shows is: If You Don't See A Body, They're Not Dead.

I admit I'm not quite sure where they're going with this if he's not dead. Maybe Cold is just marooning Heat Wave on some unnamed, deserted planet somewhere in the galaxy.

 At the beginning of the episode, Hunter watches a hologram of his late wife and child. Why is it that whenever you see a futuristic hologram in a sci-fi movie or TV show, it's always looks like a blurry, monochromatic, lo-res flickering image from a 1950s TV set?

Oddly enough, later in the episode, Gideon projects a hologram of the Waverider that's so perfect it fools the Time Pirates into following it. Why's one type of hologram indistinguishable from the real thing, while others look like crap?

• Rip Hunter's origin story would have us believe he was destined to be a Time Master, and is one of the best there is at what he does. Too bad this episode doesn't support that theory. He really is a horrible captain.

When they receive a distress signal from the Acheron, the entire team smells a trap. Hunter ignores their suspicions, stumbles blindly onto the ship and is promptly captured. Even worse, he leaves Atom, one of the most powerful members of the team, back on the ship, and splits up Stein and Jackson, ensuring they won't be able to form Firestorm, arguably the Legends' biggest gun. Brilliant!

• As always, there are many DC comic references in this episode. 

— Captain Baxter, commander of the Acheron, is actually an obscure character from the comics. She was a teacher who joined the comic book Rip Hunter's team.

— Captain Valor, leader of the Time Pirates, was also in the comics, but in a vastly different form. In the comics he was an actual seafaring pirate, not a space or time one.

— Professor Stein says as a boy he used to read Rick Starr: Space Ranger comics. As you might expect, that was an actual silver age DC comic.— Hunter uses the code phrase "Imperiex Onslaught" to activate Gideon's evasive maneuvers. Imperiex is sort of the DC comics version of Marvel's Galactus.

— Hunter also uses the phrase "Kanjar Ro." In the comics, Ro was an evil space dictator, and one of the Justice League's earliest foes.

• In addition to all the DC references, the episode was chock full of nods to Star Trek, Star Wars, Back To The Future and even Pirates Of The Caribbean! An occasional nod or Easter egg is fine, but they really went overboard here. The constant references are exhausting after a while, plus they pull you out of the story and make you realize you could be watching something better.

— In a flashback, Hunter and Miranda participate in a Time Master test that's very much like the Kobayashi Maru from Star Trek The Wrath of KhanSeriously, this test is identical in every measurable sense. The two students are in a live simulator, complete with realistic explosions, smoke and erupting sparks. There are opponents played by live people as well. And at the end of the test, their instructor even walks into the simulator and congratulates Miranda for her unorthodox thinking under pressure! They might as well have just showed a clip of the Kobayashi Maru from Wrath Of Khan and got it over with.

Every series is influenced by what came before; that's just a given. But this seems less like an homage and more like a blatant, nearly word for word swipe.

— When Atom's in charge of the Waverider, he pretends to make a captain's log. Hawkgirl says, "I hate to break it to you, but you're no Kirk. You're Picard." Atom says, "But Picard was cautious, pontificating and sort of sexless." Hawkgirl says, "Tell that to Vash," an obscure reference only a major Trekkie would know.

Cold says he's going to fix the hole in the hull, and says to Hawkgirl, "Make sure Picard doesn't get us all killed (referring to Atom)." Atom says, "Actually I'm more like Sulu now. Or Han Solo!"

— On the Acheron, Jackson says, "To quote every Star Wars ever made, 'I've got a bad feeling about this."

— When Valor meets Rip Hunter, he says, "I thought you'd be taller." I'm betting that's an oblique reference to Princess Leia's "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" line from A New Hope.

 When Atom's air runs out and he floats off into space, Gideon says his chances of survival are 3,720 to one. That's C-3PO's line from The Empire Strikes Back. Is it bad that I knew that without having to look it up?

— The Time Master's rule forbidding members from having families or relationships sounds suspiciously like the Jedi Order's similar law from the Star Wars prequels.

— Professor Stein says "Great Scott!" which of course is Doc Brown's catchphrase from Back To The Future.

— Heat Wave says, "Me and the pirates are gonna have a little parlay." That had to be a Pirates Of The Caribbean reference.

• When Heat Wave tells Valor he'll hand over the ship in exchange for passage home, I really thought it was part of a scheme, and he was playing him for a sucker. Too bad that wasn't the case.

• When the Waverider's damaged, the emergency bulkheads close, trapping Cold and Canary in the slowly decompressing cargo hold. Gideon says she can't override the bulkheads as long as there's a hull breach.

Well that was mighty convenient for the plot! Gideon is an advanced artificial intelligence who can fly the ship, but she can't open a goddamned door.

• Atom flies out into space to seal the hole in the Waverider. Unfortunately his oxygen runs out and he passes out, drifting off into space.

I guess it never occurred to him to pop back inside the ship for a minute or two to refill his oxygen tanks. Surely Cold and Canary could have survived another five minutes or so.

• On the Acheron, Professor Stein, Jackson and Captain Baxter are surrounded by pirates. I assume there must have been a very compelling reason why Stein and Jackson didn't form Firestorm? The two just stand there like statues, seemingly powerless to do anything.

This has been a problem with the series from the beginning—  the team is almost too powerful, so it's tough to come up with threats they can't easily handle. But having the two most powerful members just stand there was a little too much. I was practically screaming at the screen, yelling, "Form Firestorm now, idiots!"

• Baxter finally saves the day by decompressing the corridor, which blows the pirates out into space. As the pirates fly out of the ship, you can hear the infamous Wilhelm Scream on the soundtrack. 

That sound effect was a fun little Easter egg the first twelve thousand times I heard it, but it's getting a little old now. It's past time it was retired for good.
 This week Hunter mentions the brig, which is yet another room inside the vast interior space of the TARDIS, er, I mean Waverider. I'm still not sure how all the spacious rooms and corridors we've seen so far are packed in there.

 In the final flashback of the episode, Hunter and Miranda have a secret, illegal rendezvous in the Time Master's citadel. If your organization forbids you to carry on a relationship with someone, by all means plant a big kiss on them in a highly visible glass corridor.

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