Sunday, February 28, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow, Season 1, Episode 6: Star City 2046

After spending five episodes messing around in the past, this week the Legends finally go to the future, and see what becomes of Oliver Queen and his co-stars.

This is good news if you're a regular viewer of Arrow. If not, you're gonna have a rough time. I saw the first season of Arrow, but stopped watching after that. I'm aware a few of the major players and their relationships to one another, but many of this episode's revelations about Ollie and his supporting cast were lost on me.

There was way too much plot crammed into this episode, and as a result none of the storylines got their due. This really should have been another two parter. Of the three major plots, the lamest and least important one— the ridiculous high school romance storyline— inexplicably got the most attention.

The best of the plots this week was the Cold/Heat Wave confrontation. Captain Cold is the most interesting member of the team, and the writers have done an excellent job so far of taking what could have been a standard, cardboard villain and fleshing him out into an actual three dimensional character. Despite Cold's icy demeanor, it's obvious that his time on the team has affected him for the better, and he's actually starting to like being a hero. Compare this to his old pal Heat Wave, who wants nothing more out of life than to pillage and plunder. A falling out between the two was inevitable.

The whole "Identity Of Connor Hawke" thing was completely unnecessary, and probably left viewers unfamiliar with Arrow scratching their heads. Regular viewers probably didn't fare much better. According to this episode, the Green Arrow of 2046 is really the son of John Diggle, but because he "failed the city," he doesn't feel worthy of that name and calls himself Connor Hawke. What the...? 

There is a Connor Hawke in the comics, and there he actually is the son of Oliver Queen and Sandra Hawke. So why the hell would the writers introduce a completely new character and saddle him an existing name from the source material? Would it have changed anything if he'd called himself John Diggle Jr. throughout the episode? Not that I can see. Obviously they did it as a nod to comic fans, but they did so in the most confusing and lamest way possible.

On the plus side, this was a rare Savage-free episode, which is always a good thing in my book.


The Plot:
After being attacked by Chronos last week, the Waverider crashes in Star City in 2046 (hence the episode's title). The Legends venture out to find the city is a ruined hellscape. Suddenly they're confronted by Green Arrow, except it's not Oliver Queen. He fires a few arrows at them, and the Legends hightail it back to the ship like the knights in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Back on the ship, Rip Hunter tells everyone that the future is in flux until it's set. He says they need to repair the ship and leave as fast as possible to make sure this timeline doesn't become "real."

Hunter says the ship's navigation is fried, and needs a new technobabble widget. Atom says Palmer Tech developed a similar item, and it may be in what is now Smoak Tech. Hunter takes Captain Cold, Heat Wave and White Canary out to steal the tech. Atom and Hawkgirl stay behind and work on the ship's engine. Jackson sees this and is jealous, as the episode pulls a retcon and tries to convince us that he's had eyes for Hawkgirl all season.

Out in the streets, Canary is visibly affected by what Star City has become. She says her father and friends would never allow this to happen, unless they were all dead. Suddenly they're caught in the middle of a gang war. Green Arrow appears and begins shooting at one of the gangs, or maybe both, it's honestly hard to tell. He's hit and falls behind a burned out vehicle. Canary rushes to help him. 

In the confusion, Cold and Heat Wave decide to go rob a bank (would a bank in such a place still have money left in it?). On the way they're surrounded by gang members. The Leader threatens them, and Heat Wave kills him with his flame gun. Inexplicably the rest of the gang then begins following Heat Wave.

Canary finds the injured Green Arrow. He tells her that Oliver died during The Uprising that destroyed Star City fifteen years ago. Canary asks who started The Uprising, and right on cue, Deathstroke appears and takes full credit. Canary sees him and hisses, "Slade." He pulls off his mask and reveals he's actually Grant Wilson, Slade's son. Green Arrow uses a particularly strong life line arrow to pull him, Canary and Hunter to safety.

Meanwhile back on the ship, Atom and Hawkgirl flirt with each other, much to Jackson's chagrin. Professor Stein senses Jackson's anger through their psychic connection. Jackson says he doesn't have a chance with Hawkgirl as long as the billionaire Atom is around. Stein gives him a lecture about having confidence, and encourages him to talk to her. Stein then tries to "subtly" talk Atom out of hooking up with Hawkgirl, because all this high school romance hooey is much more important that fixing the ship when they're stranded in an Escape From New York timeline.

Heat Wave is enjoying 2046, as he presides over his new found empire, literally wearing a fur coat and holding a chalice. Cold is visibly annoyed at all this, and suggests they go find Hunter and Canary.

Green Arrow tells Canary that Oliver tried to stop Deathstroke, but failed, and no one's seen him in fifteen years. Hunter says they need to go to Smoak Tech and find the technobabble. Arrow says the building was cleared out years ago, but some of the tech was moved to the Arrow Cave. They head there and search around. Suddenly an old, one-armed, bearded Oliver Queen appears out of the shadows. 

Oliver calls Green Arrow by his real name of John Diggle Jr. Arrow says he doesn't call himself that anymore, because he tried to save the city single handedly and failed, so he doesn't deserve that name. He now calls himself Connor Hawke, for reasons. Oliver tells them that the cast of Arrow is all dead or gone, and blames the city's downfall partly on the fact that Canary and Atom disappeared in 2016. He tells them the tech they're looking for is in a secure warehouse and gives them the address.

On the ship, Stein tells Jackson that everything's OK, as Atom isn't interested in Hawkgirl. Jackson is elated. Atom then appears and says he never thought about Hawkgirl romantically before, but now that Stein pointed it out, he realizes there is a spark between them. Cue sad trombone.

Deathstroke enters Heat Wave's lair and says he wants Green Arrow, Hunter and Canary dead. Cold says they need to go and rescue them, but Heat Wave wants to stay in the future and live it up. Cold says if he helps save the others, then they'll talk about him staying. 

At the warehouse, Canary asks Hunter if he knew about Star City's destruction. He tells her this is only one possible future, and the sooner they stop Savage, the sooner they can go back to 2016 and prevent this timeline from happening. Hunter finds the technobabble part. Just then several gang members break in and kidnap Connor. Canary wants to rescue Connor, but Hunter says this timeline isn't real. She insists they help. Cold and Heat Wave argue about staying in this hellish future. Cold knocks out Heat Wave and takes him back to the ship.

Back on the ship, Canary gears up and says she's going to rescue Connor. Hunter says she has one hour before the Waverider's repaired, and he's leaving with or without her. Heat Wave wakes up, and says if Cold ever lays an hand on him again, he'll... wait for it... burrrrrn. Canary goes back to the Arrow Cave and convinces Oliver to help save Connor. He says OK. Well, that was easy.

Deathstroke invites the city's thugs and lowlifes to a public execution of Connor. Just as he's about to decapitate him, a gang member brings in the captured Canary. He orders her to be brought up on stage, and she reveals she's just a distraction, as Oliver appears. He's now sporting some kind of high-tech bow, and a spiffy bionic arm. So... he could have been doing this all along then, instead of sulking in his Cave for the past fifteen years.

Oliver picks off the gang members, while Connor and Deathstroke punch one another. Ollie and Connor then team up against Deathstroke and take him down. Suddenly the rest of the Legends, lead by Hunter, appear and wipe out the remaining gang members. Oliver tells them that now that Deathstroke's gone, he and Connor will do their best to rebuild the city.

Meanwhile, back at the really important storyline, Jackson overhears Atom ask Hawkgirl out (where they'd go on a date, I have no idea). She turns him down, saying she's busy being a Legend and a Hawk goddess and a time traveler. Canary thanks Hunter for sending in the team to help save future Star City. He says she taught him that every future is worth saving, which makes no damned sense. He says they're now going to hit Savage where he least expects it, and they blast off.

• When Canary sees the state of Star City in 2046, she immediately wants to do something to help. Hunter warns her "that changing the future is arguably more dangerous than changing the past."

Wha...? Isn't that the entire premise of this series? Isn't that the reason the Legends exist in the first place, so Hunter can change the future and save his family?

• As I mentioned earlier, this episode lavishes the most attention on the lame The CW love triangle sublot between Jefferson, Hawkgirl and Atom. Before now there's never been even an inkling that any of these characters had the slightest attraction for one another, so the fact that Jefferson and Atom are hot for Hawkgirl comes completely out of the left field. Would it have killed the writers to have given us even a molecule of buildup to this?

It also seems odd that Atom, who's from Star City, seems completely unconcerned that his home town looks worse than a million Detroits in 2046, as he's far too busy mooning over Hawkgirl to notice. Is this really the best time to try and start up a relationship with a teammate?
Star Wars Reference Alert! When Canary first sees Deathstroke, she calls him "Slade." He removes his helmet, revealing he's actually Grant Wilson, and says, "Slade? That's a name I haven't heard in a lonnnng time."

• Math is hard! According to Connor, fifteen years ago there was an uprising in Star City that left it in ruins. He says Grant Wilson lead this uprising. 

Hmm. Grant looks like he's twenty five at the most. Did he really lead a revolt in Star City when he was ten? Do people age slower in the future?

Probably not. This episode takes place thirty years from now, and Oliver Queen looks to be in his sixties, so... no slow aging. I guess Grant Wilson was just an incredibly capable and charismatic ten year old.

• Cold and Heat Wave are surrounded by a cartoonish street gang, and their Leader threatens to kill them. Heat Wave nonchalantly kills the Leader with a blast from his heat gun. The gang members immediately accept Heat Wave as their new boss. 

Does that seem right? No outrage or cries of revenge for their fallen Leader? I guess the guy must not have been very popular.

• When Professor Stein finds out that Jefferson is attracted to Hawkgirl, he tells him to be confident and go for it. He then sidles up to Atom and attempts to dissuade him from pursuing Hawkgirl, which of course gives him the idea to immediately do just that.

Martin Stein. Worst. Wingman. Ever.

• Connor tells Canary that no one's seen Oliver Queen for years, and everyone assumes he's dead. The Legends then go to the ruins of the Arrow Cave to look for a piece of technobabble, and they spot Ollie, making a dramatic appearance from the shadows.

So no one ever thought to look for him in the Arrow Cave until now? Wouldn't that be the first place you'd look?

• The Oliver of 2046 is grizzled, sixy-something and only has one arm (it was taken years ago by Grant Slade). His old age makeup isn't bad, but he's sporting one of the worst fake beards in history. Seriously, I've seen mall Santas with more realistic beards. It's even worse than the wig he wears on the island flashbacks over on Arrow.

I don't get it. Why do TV wigs look so terrible these days? I've been watching TV and movies for decades, and I don't remember wigs looking so blatantly fake in the past. What the hell happened to the art of wig making? Did wig makers forget how to make realistic wigs? Did they used to make wigs out of panda fur or some other endangered animal, and PETA put a stop to it?

Maybe it has something to do with hi-def TV. Maybe wigs have always looked this bad, but we never noticed it back when we were all squinting at fifteen inch screens with two hundred lines of resolution. Now that we're all watching gigantic screens in glorious 1080p resolution, we're seeing how awful wigs look for the first time.

• Oliver tells the Legends that Felicity's old tech is stored in a warehouse at Adams and O'Neill. That's another DC Comics reference. Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams were the writer and artist (respectively) of a long running Green Lantern/Green Arrow crossover storyline in the 1970s, in which the two heroes traveled across the country searching for "America" or something. 

Their most famous story from this run occurred in issues 85 and 86, when Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy became addicted to heroin (!).

Extreme Nitpicking Alert! Canary tries to talk Oliver into helping save Star City. He declines as he indicates his missing arm and says, "Look at me, Sara. I'm literally half the man I used to be."

Um... unless there's something going on with him that we can't see, I'd say he's more like a quarter of the man he used to be.

By the way, the one-armed, bearded Ollie we see here is obviously based on the one from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns comic from the 1980s.

• I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. Ever since Oliver lost his arm in The Uprising, he's apparently been brooding in the shadows of the Arrow Cave, watching Star City burn around him.

I could understand this in ordinary circumstances, since a one-armed archer isn't going to be of much help. But when Canary and the others first enter the Arrow Cave, we see a sleek, high-tech bionic arm lying on a pile of boxes. Apparently Oliver's had a fully functioning mechanical arm all this time that he could have been using.

Then after Connor is captured, Canary goes to Ollie to persuade him to help. How does she accomplish this? Does she give him an impassioned, twenty minute speech? Does she tearfully appeal to what's left of his humanity? Does she threaten to kill his dog if he doesn't help?

Nope, none of those. She simply says, "Ollie, I need your help," and he says, "K." Next thing we know he's back in action, kicking ass with his bionic arm.

That all seemed incredibly easy. And it only underscored the fact that Ollie could have been doing this all along, for the past fifteen years, but for some inexplicable reason chose not to. Instead of making him look like an epically tragic figure, he comes off as more of a selfish jerk.

This is another reason why this episode should have been a two parter. Then they'd have had more time to come up with a more rational reason for Ollie refusing to help until now.

• One last thing about Old Man Ollie. Given the time frame, he's got to be in his sixties here. He's incredibly built and awfully spry for a senior citizen! Has he really been down there in the Arrow Cave doing one-armed salmon ladders all these years? And if so, why? Was he waiting for just the right time to make his dramatic reappearance?

• Series about time travel can be confusing. They often lay down ground rules for how time travel works, and then ignore them when it's convenient to the plot. That's definitely true with Legends Of Tomorrow.

Oliver tells Canary that all his friends and associates are dead or gone, which is why the city's currently in the crapper. He heavily implies that this downfall is partly the fault of Canary and Atom, who disappeared in 2016 and never returned.

Obviously this "disappearance" is when they joined Rip Hunter and formed the Legends. It's like this episode is telling us the two of them are completely removed from history as long as they're on Hunter's team. That doesn't sound right. As soon as they kill Vandal Savage, which they eventually will, Hunter will take them back to 2016 and it'll be like they never left.

In essence the episode is saying this— you exist when you get up in the morning, but as soon as you get in your car and drive to work, you disappear. From that point on, your boss will wonder what happened to you, as you never show up for work again. Then once you arrive at your job and get out of your car, you're part of the timeline again.

Sounds like someone on the writing staff doesn't understand how the imaginary rules of time travel work!

• This episode glosses over some more time travel shenanigans, because it's too busy dealing with all the high school romance. 

Canary wants to save Connor after he's capture by Deathstroke II. Hunter tells her that the future is always in flux until it's "set," and that this is only a possible timeline. It may never come to pass. So far so good, as that sounds reasonable to me.
But Canary won't listen and insists on risking her life— and the lives of her teammates—  to save Connor and Star City.

Is it really worth possibly dying to save a timeline that may end up being erased? It's an interesting question. My vote would be no. Wouldn't it be a better idea to go further into the past and pinch off this timeline so it never happens in the first place?

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