Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 3, Episode 1: Aruba-Con

I'm way, way behind on reviews this week, so bear with me as I try to catch up!

It's the Season 3 premiere of Legends Of Tomorrow!

If you're a regular viewer of the show, you'll remember that Season 1 was pretty dire. The sole Big Bad for the entire season was the lame and uninteresting Vandal Savage, played by the horribly miscast Casper Crump. Since Savage was the only villain, that meant the Legends couldn't defeat him until the season finale, else the series would be over. That led to an entire season of wheel spinning and dull stories.

Fortunately the producers seemed to learn from their mistakes, and Season 2 of the show was a VAST improvement. Legends quickly became my favorite show, as it gleefully embraced its goofy Silver Age comic book roots, and all the insanity that implies. Hopefully Season 3 will give us more of the same.

Unfortunately this Season 3 premiere got off to a bit of a rocky start though. Last season ended with a cliffhanger, in which the Legends discovered they'd "broken time," as modern day LA was overrun with dinosaurs and other temporal anomalies. Based on this compelling setup, most fans, including myself, assumed that the Legends having to "fix time" would be the theme of Season 3.

Nope! Apparently the writers changed their minds, because this cliffhanger was resolved in the quickest and most off-handed way humanly possible. It's like they couldn't wait to torpedo this storyline and get on with a different one.

Oddly enough, the exact same thing happened on Legend's sister show The Flash, as the writer's there unceremoniously resolved their cliffhanger in a similarly disinterested way.

The Legends now have to deal with former captain Rip Hunter and his brand new Time Bureau. The Bureau is a thinly disguised Men In Black, right down to their 1960s suits, high tech weaponry and handheld memory erasers. It's actually shocking how deliberately the show's copied the MIB franchise, and I'm not quite sure how they're getting away with it.

The show's never quite known what to do with the Rip character, so who knows, maybe this new role will finally give him a purpose.

Now the bad news. The day after this episode aired, the Hollywood Reporter announced that actor Victor Garber, who plays Professor Stein on Legends, is leaving the show sometime this season. Garber's exiting to star in a Broadway production of Hello Dolly! with Bernadette Peters.

Goddammit! This is a kick in the gut indeed, as Garber is undoubtedly the best actor on the show, and his Professor Stein character is one of the main highlights of the series. Jesus, Legends usually has truncated seasons that are sixteen or seventeen episodes long. Couldn't Garber tread the boards in his off-time from the show?

This means that once again we'll be getting a new half of Firestorm. Robbie Amell was one half of the original due before deciding he'd rather be making quality theatrical films like The Duff and Max. Now they're gonna have to replace Garber as well, which is gonna be damned near impossible. Feh!

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
We pick up right where we left off in the Season 2 cliffhanger. The Legends were headed for Aruba when the Waverider was caught in a "time storm" and crash-landed in present day L.A. As a result of their actions, time is now "broken" and they find themselves in a city where dinosaurs roam the streets and spaceships fill the sky.

As the Legends look around the city in astonishment, a T-Rex runs right toward them. Suddenly Rip Hunter, dressed in a snappy Men In Black suit, appears out of nowhere and opens a time portal. The dinosaur runs safely through it, back to its own era. All around the city, similarly dressed agents use portals to clean up the time aberrations in minutes. Well, that was certainly easy!

Rip explains that since he left the ship in last season's finale (which was about fifteen minutes ago from the Legends' point of view), he's been busy founding the Time Bureau, a highly advanced organization that protects the time stream. He confiscates the Waverider and tells the Legends their services are no longer needed and are free to go.

Six months pass. White Canary's now working at Sinks, Showers And Stuff (I guess the assassin business must be slow?), where she's yelled at by a way too serious boss. Atom works at a Silicon Valley startup company called UpSwipes, which is a slight variation on Tinder. He tells his boss— who's a good fifteen years younger than him— about his shrinking tech, but he's too occupied with making the next big app to listen. Steel is in Central City for some reason, fighting crime with Kid Flash. He's upset because his gal pal Vixen decided to return home to 1942 after all.

Heat Wave of course is relaxing on a beach in Aruba. He's approached by the real Julius Caesar, who apparently slipped past the notice of the Time Bureau. Heat Wave calls Canary and says he's got a time aberration on his hands. She tells him not to let Caesar out of his sight, and quits her dead-end job. She meets with Atom and Steel and they all decide to help Heat Wave in Aruba. But first they're gonna need their old ride back.

In Aruba, Heat Wave's tied up Caesar and is holding him captive in his hut. Caesar breaks loose, dropping a leather pouch full of gold coins (Plot Point!). He escapes and runs onto the beach, right into a Spring Break party full of toga-clad college students.

Canary, Atom and Steel travel to Star City, where they sneak into Time Bureau HQ, where they're immediately surrounded by security. Canary demands to see Rip, and tells him that Heat Wave captured Caesar in Aruba, and they need their ship. Rip takes them to a vast hangar, where they see the Waverider's been decommissioned and is now used a training simulator for new Time Bureau recruits.

The Legends finally convince Rip to at least check out Heat Wave's claim, so he opens a portal to Aruba. They go through, and see Heat Wave fighting with Caesar. Rip summons his agents, who take Heat Wave and Caesar back to the Time Bureau. Once there, they discover it's not Caesar at all, but a drunken frat boy in a toga. An angry Rip kicks the Legends out of the building.

On the way out, Heat Wave tries to buy a coke with a gold coin. Steel recognizes it as currency from Caesar's era, and they realize Heat Wave was telling the truth (told you it was a Plot Point!). They decide to capture him themselves, to prove to Rip they're still a viable team. They sneak into the hangar, throw the students out of the Waverider and fly it out of the building.

Cut to Professor Stein's house, where we see his time aberration daughter Lilly is now pregnant. Jackson shows up for their weekly Firestorm "bonding session," so they don't blow up. He says he's dropped out of school because it's boring after saving the world so many times. Just then the Waverider appears and lands in Stein's front yard. Canary says they're getting the band back together. Jackson's all for it, but Stein's reluctant to leave his family again. Jackson talks him into it and boards the ship.

The Waverider lands in Aruba, where Caesar's trying to recruit a bunch of drunken frat boys to join his army. Canary fights Caesar and eventually knocks him out. Rip then contacts the Legends, congratulating them on capturing Caesar (I guess he was monitoring them through the Waverider?). He orders them to return to the Time Bureau so he can put Caesar back where he belongs. The others want to finish the mission themselves, but tell Canary (their captain) they'll go along with whatever she decides. She thinks for a moment and orders Gideon to Ancient Rome. Woohoo!

Canary and Steel— who's carrying a Roman history book for no apparent reason— walk Caesar to the edge of his camp. They zap his memory with a Men In Black gizmo they stole from the Time Bureau, and send him on his way. They return to the ship, and Canary orders Gideon to take them home. She says she can't, as there's no home to go to. According to her database, North America is now called "Magna Hesperia."

Steel, who's apparently the most unobservant person on Earth, realizes that Caesar must have stolen the large, heavy history book he was carrying without him noticing. Caesar now has knowledge of what's to come and changed the future (even though the Waverider's still sitting there in 49 AD).

Rip and a team of Time Agents create a portal and enter the Waverider. Rip tells the Legends to sit quietly and not screw up any more history, thanks. His Time Agents move out to retrieve the history book, but they're easily captured by Caesar and his Centurions. Canary tells Rip that they can help, and he reluctantly lets them try.

There's a big battle between Caesar's men and the Legends. The Legends eventually rescue the Agents, destroy the book, wipe everyone's memories and restore history. For no reason other than because the script says so, Rip decides to let the Legends keep the Waverider, and tells them to try and stay out of trouble.

After Rip leaves, Heat Wave reveals he stole one of the Time Agent's portal openers. Stein decides to stay with the team a while longer. Atom sees Steel looking wistfully at photos of Vixen.

Cut to 1942, as a group of Belgian soldiers approach Vixen's village in Zambesi. They ominously say they have business here, and she tells them they should leave, as the village is under her protection. When they refuse, she summons several spirit animals who attack and kill the soldiers (!), which is a definite upgrade to her powers.

Thoughts:
• There's no opening narration this week, which is something the show's done since day one. I've always liked the narrations, and the fact that each of the cast members gets their own version, so I hope they start using them again soon.

• After exiting a time storm, the Waverider smashes through several buildings and crash-lands in present day LA. The Legends then see that their time travel shenanigans have broken time, as the past, present and future have seemingly merged. Dinosaurs roam the streets, as ancient buildings stand next to futuristic skyscrapers.

Luckily for the residents of LA, Rip Hunter and the Time Bureau appear. Within seconds, they send all the time aberrations back to their appropriate periods, and restore the city to normal.

Hmm. When the Waverider first appeared, it plowed right through the center of a downtown LA high-rise. I wonder... did the Time Bureau fix THAT too? Did they somehow restore the dozens of floors wiped out by the ship, as well as resurrecting the hundreds, if not thousands of people who were killed in the crash?

• Rip says he's spent the past five years forming the Time Bureau, a massive, top secret FBI-type organization, complete with its own weapons, technology and bureaucracy.

At first I scoffed at the idea that one man could do all that in just five years. But the more I thought about it, I realized it wouldn't be impossible for a time traveler.

The first thing Rip would need is money, and lots of it. That'd be no problem for a time traveler, as he could use his knowledge of the future to play the stock market and easily amass a vast fortune. He'd also be able to use time travel to outfit his agents with advanced technology that hasn't yet been invented. So it's not as far-fetched as it first seems.

• Nice attention to detail: When Heat Wave's sunning himself, we see his arms are covered in burn scars. Makes perfect sense for someone who's a pyromaniac.

We first saw his scars back in the Season 1 episode Fail-Safe, in which he and Atom were tortured by Russian agents. Good to see someone on the crew (probably Dominic Purcell himself!) remembered this little detail about Heat Wave. 

Oddly enough, the scars he has in Fail-Safe seem to be much worse than the ones here! Maybe Gideon partially healed them last season while we weren't watching?

• Was there any reason for Steel to be hanging out and fighting crime in Central City, other than to give Wally West, aka Kid Flash, a cameo?

• When Caesar appears in 2017, he can inexplicably understand everything Heat Wave says, and vice versa. According to Rip, this is a side effect of time travel, called "Temporal Linguistic Dysplasia." It allows anyone from any time period to comprehend any language. Well that's certainly convenient!

This is similar to the translation explanation over on Doctor Who. Supposedly the Doctor's TARDIS features a "translation circuit," which is a telepathic field that enters a passenger's brain and allows them to instantly understand anyone from any time period.

• As Caesar approaches Heat Wave, we see he's wearing a typical Roman helmet. Unfortunately whenever he speaks, the helmet's cheek guards flap back and forth in front of his mouth. It's pretty funny once you notice it! Hopefully real Roman helmets didn't flop around like that, else the Britains would have fallen off their horses laughing.

• Caesar escapes from Heat Wave and runs into Aruba-Con, a Roman-themed beach party filled with drunken frat boys dressed in togas. It's called Aruba-Con because they're in Aruba, and also because in 49 BC, Caesar crossed the Rubicon river. Get it? Rubicon, Aruba-Con? Eh? Get it?

• Rip asks Agent Sharpe if she knows where Heat Wave is located in Aruba. Sharpe says, "Mm, we followed a trail of petty larceny reports. He's been holed up on the beach, running up a room service tab and a serious collection of STDs."

Ew! I could happily live out the rest of my life without ever having to hear about Heat Wave's STDs again!

• The Time Bureau is filled with dozens of transparent monitors depicting the various aberrations caused by the Legends. Those screens look pretty cool. I wonder— are they real, or CGI? If it's a special effect, it's a very well done one. Not only can you see through the screens a bit, but you can see the reflections of the Agents' heads in them. And a soft blue glow from the screens on their faces!

• Inside the Time Bureau, Rip takes a break from screaming at the Legends to zap King Arthur with a high tech memory eraser before sending him home. A couple things here:

First of all, this is the same King Arthur (played by actor Nils Hognestad) we saw last season in Camelot 3000

Secondly, man, they're not even attempting to hide the fact that the Time Bureau is lifted straight from the Men In Black franchise. Not only do the Time Agents look like the Men In Black, they've got the exact same technology as well!

Is that legal? Aren't there copyright laws in place to prevent one show from shamelessly copying another? Apparently not, since over on Fox The Orville's currently lifting practically every element from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I have a feeling Sony (who owns Men In Black) may be sending a cease and desist letter to Warner Bros. (owners of the Arrowverse) in the near future.

• Something to think about: Somehow this vast space...

And this one...

As well as this...

All somehow fit inside a ship of this shape and size. There's also a brig, a medbay, a mess hall, individual crew quarters, an engine room, a cargo hold and a small hangar with at least one shuttle inside.

I would dearly love to see a blueprint of the inside of this ship! I still say the Waverider's like the Doctor's TARDIS, and is bigger on the inside. It's the only explanation that makes sense.

• Of course it makes sense that a conquerer like Julius Caesar would be a "manspreader."

Ye gods, how I hate that word. That and "mansplaining."

• There's some wonky time travel (is there any other kind?) going on near the end of the episode. The Legends take Caesar back to 49 BC, and order Gideon to take them home. She says she can't, as Caesar secretly stole Steel's history book and changed the future. Wha...?

I don't have a problem with the concept of Caesar using knowledge of history to alter the future. Makes perfect sense. But how could the future change the instant they leave him? He's only been back in 49 BC for thirty seconds. He hasn't had time to do any changing yet! 

I could understand it if they returned to 2017 and found it drastically altered by Caesar's actions. But it makes zero sense for the future to change before he has a chance to modify it!

You could also argue that if Caesar's altered the future so radically, then the Legends would likely have never been born. I guess you could say that the Waverider protects them from changes to the time stream or something.

By the way, after Caesar alters the future, the U.S. is now known as "Magna Hesperia." According to the inter webs, that means "The Great West."

• At one point the Legends team up with the Time Bureau to retrieve Steel's history book and prevent Caesar from changing the future. During the battle, there's a reeeeally cool stunt in which Canary literally runs across the shields of several Roman Centurions. 

I suspect Canary, aka Caity Lots, was on some kind of wire rig here. Even so, it was still pretty impressive. I bet they went through a ton of takes to get it right!

• Apparently Vixen's powers have changed drastically since we last saw her. Last season she'd touch the amulet around her neck to summon the power of various animals. For example, a glowing blue image of an elephant would briefly appear around her, and she'd then have the proportionate strength of one. She could only invoke the powers of one animal at a time.

In this episode she activates her amulet and huge waves of energy flow out of her body...


Which then form into four or five different INDEPENDENT glowing animals. These ghostly beasts are apparently solid, as they attack and kill the soldiers who threatened her.

That's a hell of an upgrade! Vixen's supposed to return to the crew full time, so I'm assuming we'll eventually get the whole story and find out what the heck happened to her.

• When we first catch up with the Legends, Jackson's anxious to rejoin the team, while Professor Stein would rather spend time at home with his family. At the end of the episode, Professor Stein agrees to return to the Legends for the sake of his pal Jackson.

This was a nice little moment, since if you'll recall, Stein practically kidnapped Jackson and forced him to join the Legends way back in the first episode. It was good to see Stein acknowledge that mistake and try to make up for it.

On the other hand, it didn't take much arm-twisting to get Stein to join the old gang again. I'm starting to get the feeling he doesn't like spending time with his real family as much as he claims he does!

• I'm still not sure why Rip let the Legends keep the Waverider, especially after he spent the entire episode being a dick and telling them all what screw ups they are. The writers try to smooth this over by having Rip say he senses they have a destiny or role to play in coming events or something. Nice try, guys, but I don't buy it. His sudden turn was clunky and unbelievable.

• As the Legends depart, Heat Wave secretly steals Rip's "Time Courier" (his wrist-mounted time portal opener). A few seconds later Rip realizes it's gone and nonchalantly says, "Hmm... I must have misplaced it." He then asks Agent Sharpe to open a portal back to the Time Bureau. 

Rip can't possibly be stupid enough to not realize what happened. I'm assuming he knows the Legends have it, and it's all part of some plan, otherwise he'd be appearing on the Waverider and demanding they give it back. 

• At the end of the episode, Rip hints at this season's big bad:

Agent Sharpe: "They are irresponsible, undependable, unpredictable, dangerous."
Rip: "And yet effective. At least on occasion."
Sharpe: "Is that the reason they're not warming a cell back at headquarters as we speak?"
Rip: "They're not warming a cell, Agent Sharpe, because they might just be our best hope of defeating what's coming."
Sharpe: "They are the reason Mallus is a threat."
Rip: "Indeed. But there might just come a day when we need the Legends to do what they do best."

So, who the heck is Mallus? I have no idea. I searched the internet, and there doesn't appear to be any character with that name in any DC comic.

Since this is Legends Of Tomorrow, it's a safe bet to assume Mallus will have something to do with time travel. In this episode we just happen to find out that Professor Stein's time aberration daughter Lily is pregnant. I'm calling it right now— Lily's unborn child will somehow turn out to be Mallus! Eh, maybe not. We'll see.

This Week's Best Lines:
Heat Wave: (to Caesar) "Your salad sucks!"

Canary: (as the Legends steal the Waverider) "Gideon, engines to power, turbines to speed!"
(Apparently Canary's a fan of the 1966 Batman TV show. That's what the Dynamic Duo would shout as they powered up the Batmobile)

Steel: "The point is, sometimes we screw things up for the better."
Canary: "That's a good motto. We should use that."

Steel: "We know how to handle ourselves."
Rip: "Not against Julius Caesar, who has an entire legion at his command."
Steel: "We're pretty good at taking down legions."
(this is a reference to last season, when the Legends defeated the Legion Of Doom— all four members of it!)

Stein: (after the Legends fix the Caesar time aberration) "We came, we saw..."
Atom and Steel: "We kicked Caesar's ass!"
(yep, that's a Ghostbusters reference)

Agent Sharpe: "I've got to say, Ms. Lance, now that I've seen your team in action with my own eyes, you are even worse than I imagined."
Canary: "You're welcome. Well, like Nate said, sometimes we screw things up for the better."
Agent Sharpe: "I fail to see how that's true in this case."
Canary: "It's our new motto."

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