Monday, November 21, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 6: Outlaw Country

This week the Legends return to the Old West and visit with their old pal Jonah Hex again.

I don't have a lot to say about this episode. As always it was fun to see the Legends tromping around playing cowboy. I enjoyed Jonah Hex's appearance in last season's The Magnificent Eight, but he didn't seem quite as fun this time around. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that he spent the entire episode grousing about having to take orders from an dumb old girl. That got old real quick. And Jeff Fahey's welcome to pop up as a guest star any time he wants.

This episode should have been titled Gravely Voice Challenge 2016! Heat Wave, Jonah Hex and Quentin Turnbull all seemed determined to out-growl with their increasingly raspy voices. Jesus, guys, take a sip of water before you hurt your throats!

I'm sure the fact that the Legends returned to the Old West this week couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that the country's currently obsessing over HBO's Westworld series. Nope, totally a coincidence. No network would be that blatant or manipulative. 

Sadly, Legends Of Tomorrow's ratings are reportedly tanking this season. That's too bad, because now they they finally jettisoned the restrictive Vandal Savage storyline and get rid of the Hawks, the show's improved greatly. I'm enjoying this season quite a bit.

In an effort to shore up the sagging ratings, The CW is moving Legends to Tuesday night, right after The Flash. Let's hope the move works and the show gains some of The Flash's viewers, or there may not be a Season 3. Jesus, Tuesday nights are gonna be murder on my butt. I'll be parked on the couch the whole night watching The Flash, Legends and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
In Liberty, Colorado in 1874, a time pirate is using a tricorder to search for a nearby mine. The pirate runs into the villainous Quentin Turnbull, and tells him he's searching for a substance more valuable than gold, and he'll share it with him if he lets him go. Naturally Turnbull kills the pirate, takes the tricorder and claims the mine for himself.

On the Waverider, the time-quake alarm goes off, indicating there's trouble in the Old West. White Canary orders Gideon to take them to 1874. While dressing in period clothing, Atom notices Steel's been sketching out costume ideas for himself. Professor Stein begins having severe headaches, along with flashes of a woman he doesn't recognize. He shakily begs to sit out the mission.

The ship lands in 1874, and the Legends just happen to stumble across their old friend Jonah Hex, who's being hanged by Turnball's men. The Legends save him and chase off the outlaws. Hex is grateful to be saved, but less than enthusiastic about encountering time travelers again. He's especially dismayed to see that Rip Hunter's gone, and a lowly female like Canary is now the Captain of the Waverider.

Back on the ship, Steel discovers that history has changed (even though they all still remember the original version) and Turnbull will somehow soon control the entire country west of the Rockies (!). The Legends aim to find out how this is possible and stop him. Canary sends Heat Wave and Vixen to Turnbull's saloon to distract him, while Atom, Steel and Jackson pose as tax collectors and visit his business office, to find out how he plans to conquer the country.

The boys bluster their way into Turnbull's office, but are quickly surrounded by his men. The Legends quickly dispatch the men and take their clothes (?). Now disguised as outlaws, they wander into Turnbull's mine. Inside they find a large deposit of dwarf star alloy, the substance that powered Atom's suit.

In the bar, Heat Wave confronts Turnbull, and the two end up bonding over drinks. Back on the ship, Hex can't stand it any longer and ignores the plan. He leaves the ship and marches into the bar to confront his nemesis Turnbull. Naturally an Old West bar fight breaks out. Turnbull ends the fight when he fires a special dwarf star bullet from his gun. The bullet blows an impressive hole in the wall, and looks mighty spectacular doing it (too bad it doesn't make a lick of sense though). Canary, Vixen and Heat Wave run out of the saloon, where they're met by Atom, Jackson and Steel. They all high tail it back to the Waverider

Well, except for Heat Wave. For some reason he stays behind to fire on Turnbull. He runs out of ammo, and Turnbull fires a dwarf matter bullet at him. Just then Steel jumps in front of Heat Wave and takes the bullet for him. Unfortunately the special bullet doesn't bounce off him, instead piercing his steel hide. Heat Wave carries him back to the ship.

Inside the Waverider, Steel's placed in the advanced medley, but Gideon only gives him a 51% chance of survival. Meanwhile, Jackson asks Stein if he's OK. He says he keeps having visions of a woman he doesn't know, but feels he's in love with her. He worries that all the time travel they've been doing has somehow altered his past, and new memories are overwriting his old ones. Hmm. Maybe the Flash's time travel shenanigans are affecting the Legends too.

Canary scolds Hex for not sticking to the plan. He says he couldn't help himself, as he wants revenge against Quentin Turnbull, and infodumps his backstory. It seems Turnbull was harassing a little town in Oklahoma called Calvert (which we've heard of before). Hex tried to defend the town, which made Turnbull angry. He rounded up Hex and the townspeople in the local church, boarded it up and set it on fire. Hex was the only one who escaped, and bears the facial scars to prove it. From that moment on he swore to kill Turnbull. Canary thinks back to Damien Darhhhk, and says she understands his thirst for revenge.

Meanwhile, Atom figures out how Turnbull's going to rule half the country. He plans to fill a train with dwarf star alloy and detonate it in Summit Pass, which will completely cut off the West from the rest of the country, leaving him free to rule it. That sounds like a sketchy plan to me, as there're surely other ways to access the West, but let's just roll with it.

Canary worries they won't be able to stop him. Stein's out of commission, meaning no Firestorm, Atom no longer has a suit, and Steel is on the injured list. Just then Steel appears and says that despite Gideon's grave prognosis, he's fine. Maybe he got a look at Gideon's bill and leaped out of his hospital bed!

Heat Wave and Vixen sneak into Turnbull's mine with dynamite, planning to seal off his access to the dwarf star alloy inside. Canary, who must be a fan of Return Of The Jedi, pretends she's captured Hex, bringing him to Turnbull for a reward. Turnbull's fooled at first, until he gets a close look at Canary and has a Return Of The King Eowyn moment, saying, "You ain't no man!" In the confusion, Hex battles Turnbull and is about to kill him, but at the last second decides to knock him out instead and let him face justice (and of course give him a chance to return in a future episode). 

Atom, Jackson and Steel try to stop the Turnbull's train, but have no idea how they're going to go about it. Steel, um... steels himself, and rides off toward the train. He gets in front of it, jumps off his horse and stands in the middle of the tracks. The train plows into his armored form and he pushes back, eventually stopping it after a mile or so.

Back on the Waverider, Atom presents Steel with a costume just like the one he sketched. Suddenly Canary rushes in and says, "Our friends in 2016 need our help!" Start the big four part crossover event!

Thoughts:
• Professor Stein does the opening narration again this week.

• This issue pops up over and over in the series, but it's worth repeating— once again we see the Waverider zoom through the sky, come in for a landing, and THEN activate its invisibility cloak. Wouldn't it make much more sense to cloak BEFORE landing? Especially if they're in an era when the sight of a massive time ship flying through the sky would cause a commotion.

I suppose you could argue that the cloak requires a lot of power, so they can only activate it once the engines are disengaged. I suppose you could say that, but I don't know why you would.

• Quentin Turnbull really is Jonah Hex's nemesis in the comic. He was a plantation owner who swore vengeance after Hex caused the death of Turnbull's son during the Civil War.

In the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad 2010 Jonah Hex theatrical movie, Turnbull was played by actor John Malkovich of all people, who really ought to know better.

• Great confusion seems to surround the matter of how Jonah Hex got his horrific facial scar.

In the comics Hex was raised by Apaches. It's a long, LONG story, but much later, one of his former Apache friends challenged him to a tomahawk duel. Hex was accused of cheating, and the Apache Chief branded his face with the "mark of the demon" as punishment.

I wonder… was his comic origin just too complicated for TV, so they simplified it? Or more likely, did our current Politically Correct Hellscape Of A Society not want to depict a Native American as a ruthless villain, so they changed Hex's backstory?

In the 2010 movie, Quentin Turnbull forces Hex to watch as he kills his wife and son. He then brands Hex by carving his initials in the side of his face. Later Hex removes Turnbull's initials by searing his face with a heated tomahawk (!). 

In this episode, Hex says that Turnbull trapped him and the townspeople of Calvert inside a church and set it on fire. Hex survived the blaze, but his face was horribly scarred in the process.

I said it last season, but it bears repeating here— doesn't it seem like Hex's facial scars would look about a hundred percent less horrific if he just snipped that hunk of skin in half and trimmed it back a bit?

• Obviously this is a comic book world, so the laws of physics have no place here. That said, the concept of Turnbull's dwarf star bullets is a bit silly.

OK, white dwarf stars are actually a real thing. They're formed when a small star exhausts its fuel and collapses in on itself, forming an incredibly dense ball of matter. According to scientists, a single teaspoon of dwarf star matter weighs about fifteen tons!

So a bullet is roughly the size of a teaspoon, maybe a little less. This means that Quentin Turnbull was not only able to carry a gun containing six dwarf star bullets, but was strong enough to raise it up to chest level and fire it. Now that's a powerful arm!

Of course even if you could raise such a gun, no amount of gunpowder would be able to budge it through the barrel. And even if it could, a fifteen ton bullet would plop to the ground the second it was fired, forming an impressive crater in the ground below.

Maybe Turnbull actually used normal bullets, and just coated them with a light film of dwarf star matter. Even then, the extra weight would significantly affect their trajectory.

• The scenes of Steel stopping the train reminded me a lot of Spider-Man 2. I guess there are probably only so many ways to film a man stopping a train with his bare hands.

• Professor Stein fears his past has been changed, and the memories of his old life— including those of his wife Clarissa— are being overwritten by new ones.

This episode reminded me of something I bet the writers hope we all forgot about— all season long Clarissa has been sitting at home by herself while Stein's gallivanting through time. 

See, at the end of last season Stein decided to leave the team so he could spend time with his wife, Clarissa. She told him he'd never be happy unless he completed his "mission," and gave him her blessing to return to the team. This was apparently done as a lame attempt to make us forget all about Clarissa. In reality all it does is make Stein look like the worst husband ever.

Maybe this is the writers' way of eliminating this nagging little plot thread.

• After Turnbull's defeated, Atom thanks Steel for saving the dwarf star alloy from the train. He says he now has enough to power twenty Atom suits.

Good! Now maybe he'll finally quit whining about the loss of his suit and build a new one already.

• Early on in the episode, Atom finds a little sketch of a costume idea Steel drew for himself.

At the end of the episode, Atom presents Steel with a brand new costume, based on his sketch. Awww, they're bonding.

By the way, this scene was very reminiscent of the Wasp suit reveal at the end of Ant-Man. Same suit in an alcove, same camera angle, same everything.

So about Steel's new suit— just when the hell did Atom have time to build the goddaamned thing? The episode seemed to take place over the course of a day at most, and Atom seemed pretty busy playing cowboy the whole time. Plus I don't recall him ever spending any time alone on the ship. 

Did he actually construct the suit himself, or did he have Gideon make it? She obviously has the ability— earlier in the episode we saw her 3D print a cowboy hat for Steel. Maybe Atom just held the sketch up to her camera and she whipped it up real quick?

So if Gideon can make a suit for Steel, why can't she make an new one for Atom?

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