Saturday, October 29, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 3: Shogun


This week's Legends Of Tomorrow feels a bit like a filler episode, but eh, it's a fun filler. It's definitely a much better show now that they've ditched last season's restrictive Vandal Savage storyline and are free to do pretty much anything they want.

Even though Legends features a cast of superheroes, I would hesitate to call it a superhero show. The closest thing I could compare it to is Doctor Who. Like the Doctor, the Legends fly their time machine to a critical point in history, save the day and then move on to the next adventure. Not that there's anything wrong with that mind you, but I thought it was worth noting.

You don't have to be a film scholar to recognize that this week's plot is lifted wholesale from an homage to Akira Kurosawa's classic film Seven Samurai. There's an evil warlord threatening a defenseless village, a rag-tag group of heroes who try and defend it, and even a farmer's daughter who serves as the love interest. It's pretty darned blatant.

I'm sure this homage has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that The Magnificent Seven remake (which of course is a remake of the remake of Seven Samurai) is still in theaters at this point. Nope, totally a coincidence!

If the writers were dead set on paying tribute to Kurosawa films, I'd rather have seen an homage to The Hidden Fortress. Especially since George Lucas admitted he based the basic plot of Star Wars on the film. Basing it on that film would have made all The Empire Strikes Back references more relevant as well.

Overall it was an enjoyable episode, with one exception: once again we get another "Atom Feels Inferior Because His Power Comes From His Suit" storyline. Jesus Christ, the series isn't even two seasons old yet, and they've rehashed that plot ten or twelve times. How many more times are they gonna use it?

Speaking of Atom, his suit is destroyed in this episode. Obviously he's not just going to be a normal, powerless guy for the rest of the series, so I'm betting one of two things will happen soon. He'll either build a better and more powerful suit, or he'll find some way to internalize his shrinking power, like eating a chunk of dwarf star matter or something. Stay tuned.


SPOILERS!

The Plot:
Vixen stows away on the Waverider and manages to knock out just about all the Legends in the cold open. She finally finds her target Heat Wave sitting in the galley. She puts a knife to his throat and accuses him of killing Hourman (who was actually killed by the Reverse Flash last week). She's about to kill him when she's stopped by Nate Heywood, whose body is now covered in a silvery, steel-like substance (much like Colossus of the X-Men).

See, last week when Heywood was dying, Atom took the Nazi super soldier serum, modified it and injected him with it to save his life. The serum conveniently gave Heywood superpowers, and he decides to call himself Citizen Steel, or Steel for short, in honor of his grandfather Commander Steel. White Canary tells Atom to train Steel and teach him how to use his newfound powers.

Canary visits Vixen in the brig, and asks her what the hell. Once again Vixen accuses Heat Wave of killing Hourman. Canary says that's impossible, as he was on the Waverider the whole time, but notes that they've been tracking a rogue time traveler who might be the killer. She promises that the Legends will help find Hourman's killer. This satisfies Vixen, and Canary frees her from the brig. Vixen, who's from the 1940s, says she's gonna stay with the team until the killer's found.

Atom trains Steel in the cargo hold. They find that his steel powers activate when he's threatened and his adrenaline levels rise. Steel gets a little rambunctious and accidentally blows the airlock open. He's sucked out of the ship and into the time stream. Atom flies out to try and rescue him. Steel falls out of the time stream and lands in 1641 in Feudal Japan. He recognizes his surroundings and correctly identifies it as the Edo Period. He then reverts to normal and passes out. Atom falls out of the time stream in Feudal Japan as well. He's immediately surrounded by a group of samurai and knocked out.

Heywood wakes up in a horse-drawn wagon, being led by a woman. She says her name is Masako, and finds it odd that Heywood fell from the sky, and can speak her language. She takes Heywood to her home and asks her father Ichiro to treat his injuries. Ichiro refuses, saying that the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu doesn't take kindly to foreigners and will kill Heywood if he's found. Masako insists, and her father reluctantly treats Heywood's wounds.

Meanwhile the samurai have taken Atom to the Shogun. They remove his ATOM suit and torture him, demanding to know where he got the amazing "armor." The Shogun appears and says the suit belongs to him now.

Back in the village, Masako tells Heywood that she's engaged to marry the Shogun against her will tomorrow. What a coincidence that Heywood just happened to show up in order to prevent that, eh? The Shogun's men arrive, and ask Masako if she's seen any foreigners. She lies and says no, but for some reason Heywood comes out of the house and confronts them. He's confident his new powers will kick in and he'll mop the floor with them. Unfortunately he doesn't "steel up," as the audience groans, recognizing we're going to get another Patented The CW Pep Talk
™ before the episode's over. The samurai beat Heywood, stab him and leave.

On the Waverider, Jackson repairs the cargo hold, and Gideon runs a diagnostic, saying all thirty six compartments are secure. Jackson says there are only supposed to be thirty five compartments on the ship, and Professor Stein says Rip Hunter must have a secret room somewhere. Jackson wants to repair the marooned ship's time drive, but Stein insists he help him look for the missing room.

Back in Japan, Masako and Ichiro try to treat Heywood's stab wound, but they can't stop the bleeding since he's a hemophiliac. He passes out, and when he wakes up a few hours later the wound's healed. This means the super soldier serum is still in his body, causing him to wonder why he can't turn into Steel.

Meanwhile, Canary, Heat Wave and Vixen somehow arrive in Feudal Japan (despite the fact that the Waverider is marooned in the time stream). They track the ATOM suit, and find the Shogun is now wearing it. The Legends begin fighting the Shogun's men. They find Atom and rescue him, just as the Shogun figures out how to use the blasters on the suit. The Legends make a hasty retreat.

Stein and Jackson find the secret room on the Waverider. They break in and see it's an armory, filled with weapons from various periods. They trigger a computer, which plays a message from Barry Allen, aka The Flash, from the year 2056. The message says, "Sorry to contact you like this, Captain Hunter, but I can't risk putting any more lives in danger. Which is why you'll keep what I'm about to tell you a secret. Even from the rest of your team." The two argue over whether they should watch the rest of the message. Stein insists, and they watch, but of course the audience doesn't get to see what it says, as that's a story for another week.

At Masako's house, she and Heywood are about to kiss when the Legends barge in. They're there to take Heywood back to the Waverider (how?), but he doesn't want to go. He wants to prevent Masako from marrying the Shogun, as well as save the village. Canary reluctantly agrees to help, and they make a plan. Atom says the Shogun is unbeatable while wearing his suit, and says the only way to defeat him is to destroy it. Ichiro tells Atom that he once made the strongest armor and sword in the region for his son, who was forced to commit seppuku by the Shogun. He retrieves the armor and sword and gives it to Atom, to give him a fighting chance against the evil warlord.

The Shogun and his men arrive. Heywood tries to stand up to him, but his powers still won't activate. He's knocked out by the Shogun's blaster. Atom then appears, clad in samurai armor and wielding a sword, and challenges the Shogun. Meanwhile, Canary and Vixen fight off the Shogun's men.

Atom is knocked down by the Shogun, and Masako takes her brother's sword and confronts him. The Shogun's about to kill her when Heywood appears, his powers finally activated. He destroys the Atom suit, killing the Shogun. He apologizes to Atom for wrecking his suit.

Heywood's now free to get the girl, but Masako tells him he needs to return to the sky from whence he came (oooh, burn!). They kiss, and he returns her brother's sword to her, saying she's capable enough to be the village's new defender. For some reason Atom asks Ichiro his family name. He says Yamashiro, causing much squealing among the fanboys in the audience, and linking the series to the recent Suicide Squad movie. The Legends somehow return to the Waverider.

Back on the ship, Stein and Jackson decide not to tell the rest of the team about Barry Allen's message.

Thoughts:
• I think that was Heywood doing the opening narration this week, but I couldn't tell for sure.


• So in this episode, Heywood can suddenly cover his body in organic steel, thanks to Atom's modified Nazi super soldier serum. He decides to call himself "Citizen Steel," or just "Steel" for short.

There's a Citizen Steel in the comics, but as you might imagine, his origin is quite different. It's pretty involved, so I'm going to do you a favor and do some condensing. The comic book Nate Heywood is the grandson of Henry Heywood, aka Commander Steel of the Justice Society Of America. Nate was a college football star who retired after shattering his kneecap and having his leg amputated (!). He then became addicted to painkillers. Oh, modern comic books! You're so positively delightful!

Nate attended a family reunion that was attacked by the Fourth Reich, a team of super powered Nazis. They were hired by Vandal Savage (!!!) to wipe out the Heywood bloodline. One of these villains, Reichsmark, had the ability to turn people into metal statues (?). Nate jammed his crutch in Reichsmark's mouth, causing the supervillain's metallic blood to splash on him. His body absorbed the blood, causing him to regrow his missing leg and turn into living steel. Comic book science!

I will admit that "Citizen Steel" sounds a little clunky, but I'm not sure that just "Steel" is any better. It's going to become confusing if the writers over on Supergirl ever decide to introduce Steel, the character who helped defend Metropolis when Superman died in the comics (and was famously played by Shaq in the movie of the same name!).

Heywood is now Citizen Steel, although he just calls himself "Steel." This could become confusing if Supergirl ever decides to introduce Steel, who helped defend Metropolis when Superman died in the comics.


• So far I like Vixen well enough, except for one thing she doesn't talk or act like someone from the 1940s. In fact she's pretty much like all the other characters. She doesn't even seem all that astonished by the fact that she's inside a flying time machine.

She needs to speak a bit more formally, like a person of the 1940s probably would have. Even better, she could go the opposite route and pepper her speech with the occasional, "Say, what's the big idea?" or "Outta the way, youse mugs!"

• When Heywood lands in Feudal Japan, he makes himself understood by speaking in Japanese one of the many languages he knows. I'll overlook the fact that Japanese of the Edo Period would probably be hard to understand, if not incomprehensible, to a modern speaker.

Atom's not so lucky though. When he lands, he can't understand the samurai he encounters, nor do they know what he's saying. Fortunately he has an "ingestible trranslator pill" in his pocket and takes it, so everyone can converse and be understood.

The translator pills were introduced last season in White Knights, and apparently work much like the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy a cheap narrative device created to explain how the characters can understand the various foreign languages they encounter.

Based on this scene, the pills apparently wear off after a while though, forcing them to periodically swallow another one. On the one hand, this makes a certain amount of sense. On the other, it feels like a clumsy and awkward way to explain to newcomers how the Legends can speak and understand Feudal Japaanese.

Apparently the pills wear off after a while though, since Atom can't understand these samurai and has to take another pill. I'm betting this scene was the writer's clumsy and unsatisfying way of explaining to late-comers how the Legends can understand feudal Japanese.

• Tokugawa Iemitsu, the evil Shogun in this episode, was a real person, who lived from 1604 to 1651. That's ten years after this episode takes place, meaning he wasn't really blown up while wearing an ATOM suit. Or maybe he was now? Maybe the Legends' actions altered this particular bit of history.


Tokugawa really did hate foreigners, and spent much of his reign crucifying Christians and expelling all Europeans from Japan. He even closed the borders of the country during his rule a policy that continued for over two hundred years! That all lines up fairly well with what we see in this episode.

Unfortunately for the writers, Tokugawa had very well known homosexual tendencies, which pretty much put an end to his family line. So the idea that he'd be forcing Masako to marry him was about as far-fetched as the Waverider!

• Heywood may be an expert at history, but he really sucks at math. When he meets Masako, she asks where he's from. He says, "The United States, which... you've never heard of because it doesn't exist for another two hundred years.

If Heywood's in 1641, then adding two hundred years would put you in 1842. I'm not an historical scholar like him, but I'm pretty sure the U.S. was a thing long before that.

• All through the episode, Heat Wave hopes to catch a glimpse of some ninjas. Vixen constantly tells him there's no such thing.


Is that supposed to be a joke? Was denying the existence of ninjas a thing in the 1940s?

• So far we've seen Vixen channel the strength of a gorilla and the agility of a lion. Whenever she does this, she ends up just punching someone hard. I'm wondering how extensive her powers are. If she channels an eagle, will she be able to fly? Or would that look too goofy in live action?


• In Professor Stein and Jackson's little subplot, we find out that the Waverider somehow has thirty six rooms stuffed inside it. This despite the fact that it looks to be the size of the average home. Some of the rooms, like the bridge and the cargo hold, are quite large too, making me wonder how there could possibly be enough space inside the ship for that many compartments.

This all reinforces my belief that the Waverider actually like the TARDIS on Doctor Who, and is bigger on the inside than the outside.

• When Professor Stein wants to find the secret thirty sixth room in the Waverider, Jackson says they need to fix the time drive before searching. We then see several shots of the ship hanging motionless, as it's apparently marooned inside the time stream.

If the time drive isn't working, and they're stuck in the vortex, how do Canary, Heat Wave and Vixen travel to Feudal Japan to rescue Atom and Heywood? Does the Waverider still have its little escape ship from last season?

• When Atom fights the Shogun who's stolen his suit, he can't figure out any way to defeat him, as he's now completely invulnerable. Wellllll, not so fast. Maybe he should try. oh, I don't know, stabbing the guy in the mouth. That't the only part of him not covered by the suit.

• At the end of the episode, for some reason Atom asks Ichiro what his family name is. He says "Yamashiro."


Don't worry if you don't understand the significance of that name. It went over my head too. Apparently Masako and Ichiro are distant ancestors of Tatsu Yamashiro, aka Katana, who was in this summer's awful, yet massively successful Suicide Squad.

The sword Masako now wields is called the Soultaker. It absorbs the souls of everyone it kills. In the Suicide Squad movie, we're told that the sword contains the soul of Katana's husband. Katana seemed like a pretty cool character, but because the movie's terrible we never get to actually see her sword in action, because that might have taken precious screen time away from Will Smith.

Apparently DC is now taking a page from Marvel Studios, and trying to link its TV series with its movies. Personally I wish the TV shows would stay as far away from DC's films as humanly possible.

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