Sunday, March 13, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 8: Night Of The Hawk

This week's Legends Of Tomorrow plays out less like a superhero show and more like a horror film, or an episode of The X-Files

At the end of the previous episode, it appeared that Captain Cold killed his partner Heat Wave in, er, cold blood, to end his threat to the team. Cold's teammates cast lots of accusatory glances toward him in this episode, but there's no mention as to whether he actually killed Heat Wave or not. Which pf course means he didn't. 

It was fun seeing the cast decked out in 1950's period clothing, instead of their usual duds. 

This episode gave us an interesting look at the 1950s, a period that's generally considered idyllic, but in reality had a dark undercurrent of racism, gender bias and homophobia. Unfortunately Night Of The Hawk brings up many questions on these topics, but doesn't bother itself with answering them. It would have been better if this episode had been a two parter (actually, given the cliffhanger ending, maybe it is).

Now that I think about it, just about every episode this season would have benefited from being spread over two parts. Each week the show tries to give every member of the large cast something to do, but all that does is result in rushed and unresoved subplots and storylines.

According the the credits, this episode was directed by Joe Dante! He directed the Gremlins films as well as Innerspace.


The Plot:
We open in the small town of Harmony Falls, Oregon, in 1958. Two local teens, Tommy Fuller and Betty Seaver, are out on a date. Tommy's challenged to a drag race by a couple of other teens, and accepts. As the cars race down a deserted road, Tommy's car blows a tire, and he and Betty run off the road and crash, right next to a glowing blue meteor. 

A shaken Tommy gets out of the car, and he and the other two teens stare at the space rock, wondering what it is and where it came from. Suddenly Vandal Savage appears, saying he was drawn to it, and the teens' presence is destiny. He stops just short of tilting his head back and laughing maniacally.

Meanwhile the Waverider lands in Harmony Falls and begins the search for Savage. According to Gideon, there've been several local disappearances and murders the past few months, and Rip Hunter suspects Savage is behind them. He splits up the team to investigate.

Atom and Hawkgirl pose as a married couple interested in buying the home of one of the victims. As an interracial couple in the 1950s, they face prejudice from the uptight real estate agent. 

Professor Stein somehow gets a job as a doctor at the local mental hospital, filling the vacancy of another victim. White Canary poses as his nurse. She meets Nurse Carlisle, and immediately senses she's secretly a lesbian, another no-no in the 1950s

Jackson hangs out with the local teens, hoping to find clues as to their disappearance, which seems like a bad idea, as he's apparently the only black person in town.

Hunter and Captain Cold pose as FBI agents and visit the local sheriff, asking to see his files on the murders.

Later on Stein, Canary and Jackson meet up at the local diner. Stein waxes nostalgic about the idyllic 1950s setting. The other two point out that it's fine as long as you're white, male and straight. Otherwise you're in for a rough time in the socially backward period. Jackson recognizes Betty from the newspaper article, and befriends her, hoping for information. After deflecting some unwanted attention from some local racist jocks, he asks Betty out on a date. Amazingly, despite the fact that she just lost her boyfriend, she accepts.

At the hospital, Canary befriends Nurse Carlisle and tells her she knows her big secret, and it's OK. Carlisle tells her about "Dr. Knox's" secret Hall H, a restricted ward filled with dangerous patients. Knox of course is really Vandal Savage, since apparently anyone can walk into this hospital and become a doctor.

That night a man is changing his tire, when he's killed by flying werehawks. Yep, that's what I said.

Meanwhile, Atom and Hawkgirl are pretending to move into their new home by unpacking boxes of... something. They meet their next door neighbors, who turn out to be Savage and his "wife" Gail. Savage immediately recognizes Hawkgirl, but she pretends not to know who he is. He doesn't suspect Atom, since Savage hasn't met him yet in 1958 (confusing!). Savage, aka Knox, invites them to a dinner party at his home.

Atom and Hawkgirl attend the dinner party, while Stein and Canary search the hospital for clues. Canary and Nurse Carlisle grow closer, as an alarm goes off in Hall H. Back at the party, Savage is flirting with Hawkgirl, while Atom searches the house. He finds a room protected by a locked and reinforced door. 

The hospital calls Savage, and he immediately excuses himself and rushes to his ward. He finds one of his werehawks, one of whom is Tommy Fuller, have killed an orderly. Savage scolds them.

Atom uses his suit to shrink and enter Savage's locked room. Inside he finds the magic McGuffin dagger, the only object that can kill Savage. He steals the dagger, shrinks and barely escapes the room before Savage enters. At the hospital, Nurse Carlisle kisses Canary, which confuses her, causing her to leave.

Jackson goes on his date with Betty, Suddenly they're confronted by the racist jocks from the diner. Jackson manages to fight them off, but just then the werehawks swoop out of the sky and fly off with the jock. Betty recognizes one of the werehawks as Tommy, and he slashes her neck before Jackson is able to drive away. Jackson is then pulled over by the local sheriff, who knocks him out, leaving Betty battered and bleeding in the car.

Hunter and Cold find the car, but no sign of Jackson. They take Betty back to the Waverider so Gideon can treat her injuries. Betty comes to long enough to tell them her boyfriend is now a werehawk. Hunter deduces that Savage found another Nth metal meteor, similar to the one that gave him and the Hawks their powers. He tells Stein to start working on a way to reverse the werehawk transformations, while the rest of the team works on a plan to kill Savage with the McGuffin dagger (yawn, this again?).

Jackson wakes up strapped to a table in Hall H. Savage, who doesn't recognize him yet (because time travel), injects him with the meteor juice and transforms him into a werehawk. Hawkgirl arrives and attacks Savage with the dagger. He's able to get the upper hand and holds the dagger to her neck. He unleashes his werehawks, including Jackson, into the hospital. 

Stein and Cold arrive at the hospital and are confronted by Hawk-Jackson. Cold has a chance to kill Jackson, but doesn't, instead subduing him by freezing an overhead pipe, which collapses and knocks him out. Canary saves Nurse Carlisle from a werehawk. Atom burst into Savage's lab and sees him threatening Hawkgirl. He blasts Savage out the window (of course).

Stein and Cold take Jackson back to the Waverider. Stein injects his gene therapy treatment (that he whipped up in about ten minutes) into Jackson, and amazingly it works, transforming him back to normal. He then uses the therapy on the other werehawks. Canary visits Nurse Carlisle and apologizes for freaking out, and wishes her luck in her newly awakened life. Jackson says goodbye to Betty, gives her a new car (?) and tells her and Tommy to get out of Harmony Falls.

Back on the Waverider, Chronos appears out of nowhere and enters the ship. Hunter orders Gideon to take off. Atom, Hawkgirl and Canary are walking back to the ship and see it take off without them, stranding them in 1958.

 At the beginning of the episode, the teens drag race while Rock Around The Clock on their car radio. My Anachronism Sense started tingling, so I checked to see when the song was released, and found it came out in 1954. It might have been a little dated by 1958, but it was entirely possible kids would still be listening to it.

• After the Waverider arrives in 1958, the Legends all suffer various vision problems. Hunter says, "Yes, as I mentioned before, the effect of time travel on the human body increases with the length of each jaunt." 

What the hell does that mean? Does he mean a time jump of fifty years will affect a person more than one of five? Or is he saying the effects of time travel are cumulative, and the more jumps they make, the more their bodies will be affected?

Either way, why doesn't the rest of the team seem more worried about this?

• Extreme Nitpicking Alert! When the Waverider lands in Harmony Falls, Gideon provides Hunter with various info on the town, including what appears to be CCTV footage of Main Street, as well as images of newspapers headlines.

How the hell is Gideon doing this? If they were in 2016 it would be no problem, as she could simply tap into our various information grids. But there were no CCTV cameras watching the streets in 1958, and no internet to scan for front page news. Newspapers of that era were likely stored on microfiche, which isn't connected to any sort of network. So how's Gideon remotely getting all this info?

See, I told you it was extreme nitpicking!

• Hunter has the various Legends split into teams to gather intel on Savage. For some reason Hunter has Atom and Hawkgirl pose as a married couple. An interracial married couple, in 1958. Naturally their "marriage" raises quite a few eyebrows, and draws unwanted attention to them.

Wouldn't it have made way more sense to pair Canary with Atom? Of course if they did that, then the writers couldn't have brought up the whole racism angle, Atom and Hawkgirl's romance couldn't have progressed, and Canary wouldn't have hooked up with Nurse Carlisle. 

• As Atom and Hawkgirl unpack in their new home, Vandal Savage and his wife Gail knock on the door and welcome them to the neighborhood. This entire sequence raises several tons of questions, none of which are ever answered.

First off, just what are Atom and Hawkgirl unpacking? Did Gideon replicate dozens of moving boxes full of clothing, lamps and dishes for the couple to unpack?

Did Atom and Hawkgirl know their new home was right across the street from Savage's? If not, then what an astronomical coincidence it was that they just happened to move in next to the immortal psychopath they're trying to find.

Savage, posing as Dr. Curtis Knox, has a wife named Gail. A wife? Jesus, just how long has Savage been in Harmony Falls? Given that he says he was drawn to the meteor at the beginning of the episode, I got the impression he's only been there a few weeks. That seems like an awfully short time for him to meet, woo and marry Gail.

Does Savage have some sort of hypnosis powers? Maybe Gail was a single woman and he hypnotized her into believing they'd been married for years?

Savage gives Atom and Hawkgirl a tuna casserole as a housewarming gift. Later we see Atom hungrily chowing down on the casserole. Is that a good idea? What if Savage poisoned it?

• Savage uses the alias Curtis Knox in this episode. If that name sounds familiar, it's because there was a Curtis Knox a few years ago on Smallville. Dean Cain was all set to play Vandal Savage on the show, but at the last minute DC Comics, for reasons unknown, asked the writers to change his name. They chose Curtis Knox.

• Do Savage's hair and beard look extra, extra black in this episode? Seriously, his hair approaches Billy Mays levels of utter blackness. Apparently he's a big fan of Just For Men.

• Apparently it was much easier for a doctor to get a job in a hospital back in 1958. 

Savage arrives in Harmony Falls and within what appears to be a couple of weeks at the most, becomes a doctor at the local mental hospital, in charge of his own restricted ward full of problem patients.

Then Stein joins the hospital staff after what appears to be a sixty second interview.

• Hunter and Cold dress up as Men In Black, I mean FBI agents to visit the local sheriff. 

Arthur Darvill (aka Rip Hunter) shows off his best American accent in the scene. In fact it took me a minute to realize he wasn't speaking in his usual Time Lord, er, British, accent.

When the two enter the sheriff's office, he's trying to tune his TV, which is playing The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. The film came out in 1953, so it's entirely possible he could be watching it.

• Speaking of accents, Casper Crump, aka Vandal Savage, attempts an American accent in this episode as well, with cringe-worthy results. His accent is all over the place— when he remembers to use it, that is. At times he sounds like he's attempting a Southern accent (in Oregon), and other times it's completely unidentifiable. Then he seems to forget about it all together, going back to his usual Egyptian (or whatever it's supposed to be) mode of speaking.

• Hunter sends Jackson to gather info from the local high school students. I get that he was the only team member young enough for this mission, but due to his race he doesn't exactly blend in.

Sure enough, he's soon threatened by a couple of white, racist jocks. He tells one of them, "Why don't you do yourself a favor Biff, and keep walking?" That was obviously a Back To The Future reference.

• Betty doesn't seem very broken up by the loss of her boyfriend. Jackson flirts with her for literally thirty seconds and she practically throws herself on him, even going so far as to ask him out on a date!

Canary gets to know Nurse Carlisle, who says she's never left Harmony Falls. Canary says, "That's your first mistake. This town sucks." Carlisle seems to understand what that means.

At first I thought, "Wait a minute, people didn't say 'sucks' back in the 1950s." But when I looked it up, I found that the term's been around a lot longer than that.

Most people think "sucks" is a recent term that's connected to oral sex. It's actually much older and more innocent. You can find instances of it all the way back to 1913, when children's books would use the phrase "sucks to you!" as an insult.

No one's quite sure where it came from, but some believe it's a variation of "Go suck an egg!" And that's one to grow on!

• I didn't really understand Savage's master plan here. He finds a meteor that's similar to the one that made him immortal and gave the Hawks their powers. So he starts injecting meteor juice into random townspeople, I guess just to see what happens. Then when they become werehawks, he decides to build an army of them and use 'em to take over the world?

• Professor Stein and Jefferson normally share a psychic link with one another. Once Jackson disappears, the others ask Stein if he can sense where he is. Of course he can't, because the psychic link always fails when it's convenient to the plot.

• Apparently animating CGI wings on the backs of all the werehawks was expensive, so there are a couple of scenes in which the monsters are inexplicably wingless.

• After the plot is resolved, Canary says goodbye to Nurse Carlisle, who says, "I get it. I should have known better than to fall for a ninja." Did people in the 1950s know about ninjas? I don't remember them becoming a thing in popular culture until sometime in the 1970s.

• Jackson shows up at Betty's house to say goodbye. He tells her he feels bad for trashing her dad's car, and bought her a new one that he souped up himself. A few things here.

First of all, calling the car "trashed" is a bit of an exaggeration. From what I could see it suffered a torn convertible top, and a smashed window. Hardly reasons to total the entire car.

Secondly, how did Jackson buy Betty a new car? We know Gideon can manufacture period-specific clothing— can she do the same with money as well? 

Lastly, how's Betty going to explain this to her folks? "Honest, Daddy! A mysterious black boy appeared and gave me a new car!"

• For a while now, there's been something about Jackson and his relationship with Professor Stein that seemed very familiar to me. This week I finally figured it out— Jackson and Stein are Troy and Pierce from Community!

Think about it— on Community, Troy Barnes was a talented high school football player who had his pick of colleges. He blew out his knee doing a keg stand during his graduation party, ending his chance for a college scholarship. He went to community college, where he became friends with a middle aged student named Pierce Hawthorne. He even lived in Pierce's house for a time.

Jefferson Jackson was a talented high school football player who had his pick of colleges. He injured his knee during the Central City particle accelerator explosion, ending his chance for a college scholarship. He was approached by STAR Labs and merged with a middle aged Professor named Martin Stein. When the two touch, they combine and form the superhero Firestorm.

• Sigh, Chronos shows up yet again to force another last minute time jump. Is he ever going to get a line? Or do anything other than show up and start shooting? At this point he's nothing more than a living scene transisiton.

• When Chronos attacks the ship, Jefferson wisely suggests he and Stein form Firestorm. Stein replies with a lame excuse that merging would set the ship on fire or something. I have a feeling the real reason they didn't merge was becasue this week's effects budget was used up on adding wings to the various werehawks.

• There's apparently a HUGE time jump at the end of the episode.

When Jackson is talking to Betty, everything is green and there are leaves on the trees.

Then as Atom, Hawkgirl and Canary are trudging back to the Waverider, they're bundled up in coats and there's snow on the ground (!).

Either several months passed between these two scenes, or the Waverider is parked on top of Mount Hood (elevation 11,000 feet)!

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