Monday, April 11, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 10: Progeny

After their previous excellent outing, this week's Legends Of Tomorrow falters a bit, as the team struggles with the age old question of whether or not they should kill a young proto-Hitler before he rises to power.

It's an interesting moral dilemma, and could have made for a compelling episode. Should the Legends kill a kid who's destined to murder millions of innocents? Would that make them heroes or villains? 

Unfortunately because this is The CW, that subplot was shoved aside so we could get a heaping helping of unwanted Atom/Hawkgirl relationship angst, which the writers apparently think is much more interesting and compelling than it really is.

Once again, Rip Hunter's efforts to change history actually makes things worse. He's the worst time traveller ever.

As always, Captain Cold steals the episode. He really does need his own show.


The Plot:
Rip Hunter briefs the Legends on their mission to the Kasnia Conglomerate, a country/corporation in the year 2147. He says Kasnia is Vandal Savage's first foray into world domination, and a good place to try and take him out before he reaches his full power.

The Waverider lands and Hunter, White Canary, Professor Stein, Jefferson Jackson Captain Cold and Atom disguise themselves as locals and scout out the Conglomerate. Stein is suitably impressed by the future. Hunter says 2147 is considered humanity's zenith, but five years from now in 2152 a dictator named Per Degaton, a name we've heard before, will release the Armageddon Virus on Kasnia, killing millions.

Just then a squad of flying robots swoop down and stop a burglary. Atom notes that the robots all resemble his powered suit. Hunter says it's how Tor Degaton, the current leader of Kasnia and Per's father, maintains order. Intrigued, Atom wants to find out who made his suit autonomous. Hunter, Cold and Canary go to infiltrate Tor Degaton's board of directors meeting, hoping to gather intel on Savage.

Hunter uses high-tech contact lenses to fool the scanners and enter the meeting. Inside he's surprised to see Savage is in attendance. Savage argues that Kasnia's current population is unsustainable, and says it needs to be culled. Thankfully Tor Degaton vetoes his idea and ends the meeting.

Hunter follows Savage and sees him meet with young Per Degaton. Apparently Savage is his teacher and mentor, and is molding the boy in his image.

Back on the Waverider, Hunter explains that after Per Degaton releases the Armageddon virus, the world won't be able able to fight Savage and his forces. Savage will then betray and kill Degaton, setting himself up to rule the world. Cold suggest killing young Degaton now, which will prevent millions of deaths and possibly delay Savage's rise to power. Sounds like a good plan to me! 

Naturally the rest of the team is horrified at the notion of killing a kid, even one who will grow up to become an evil dictator, because it's not "heroic." Hunter's the only one who seems to be considering the idea, no doubt because of the whole "Trying To Prevent His Wife And Child From Being Murdered By Savage" thing. He finally suggests removing Degaton from the timeline instead of killing him.

Meanwhile in the completely superfluous soap opera subplot, Hawkgirl begins having flashbacks to her life in the 1920s, in which she was married to Hawkman and they had a young son named Aldus (who we met in the pilot). Flashback Hawkgirl begins sensing Savage is nearby. She and Hawkman decide they have to move and assume new identities to protect themselves and Aldus. Back in the present, Hawkgirl admits to Atom that she's been having flashbacks about her past life, and feels like she's cheating on Hawkman with him. It's touch and go for a few minutes, but you'll be relieved to know these two bland lovers eventually patch things up, as Hawkgirl says Hawkman was her past, but Atom is her future. Whew!

The Legends wait till Per Degaton is being escorted— by a squad of guards— to his gymnastics class. Cold attacks the guards with his freeze ray, causing a distraction. Hunter moves in and captures Degaton and takes him to the Waverider.

Atom, Stein and Jackson visit Kasnia's robot facility. They discover it's an offshoot of Palmer Tech, Atom's company. It's led by Dr. Rachel Turner, who's apparently a descendant of Atom. He realizes the only way this is possible is if he conceived a child before he left on the mission.

On the Waverider, Gideon puts Per Degaton into a state of induced sleep. She then scans the timeline, and reports that simply removing him didn't change the future at all. Hunter's convinced that killing Degaton once and for all is the only option.

Canary then visits Chronos/Heat Wave in the brig, and tells him that Cold is his friend, and he shouldn't be so quick to abandon him. She then talks to Cold and says he needs to face Heat Wave. She's quite the little matchmaker. Hunter then stashes Degaton in the jump ship and takes off with him. In Kasnia, Savage tells Tor Degaton he knows who kidnapped his son, and he can get him back.

Hunter takes Per Degaton to a remote lake and points his gun at him. Degaton says he won't kill him, because Savage taught him to recognize weakness in a person's eyes. Right on cue, Hunter puts his gun away. He tries reasoning with Degaton, because kids always respond well to that. He says Savage will end up betraying him, and to be a good man like his father instead of the pawn of a madman. He takes Degaton back with him.

Congratulations, Rip! You just signed the death warrants of several million people.

Savage then attacks the Waverider with Degaton's forces. The Legends fight back. Atom is shot out of the sky by the police robots. He realizes his "primitive" technology is no match for them, so he and Hawkgirl head for Palmer Tech. There they manage to shut down the robot army. Ah yes, the old "Robots That Are Controlled From A Central Location Instead Of Being Autonomous" trope. Where would sci-fi be without it?

While at Palmer Tech, Atom discovers that Dr. Turner is actually his brother's descendent, not his. He's not a father after all. Whew! You dodged that bullet, Atom!

Back at the Waverider, Savage captures Canary and threatens to kill her unless Hunter hands over Per Degaton. Canary tells Hunter not to do it, and Per tells Savage to kill her. Just then the sensible but doomed Tor Degaton appears, and peacefully makes the exchange.

Later that night Savage hands Per Degaton a knife and says he knows what he has to do. Per sneaks into Tor Degaton's bedroom and stabs his father. So the Legends' entire jaunt to this time period was completely moot, and Gideon says their actions have actually accelerated Savage's rise to power. Well done, gang!

Back on the Waverider, Cold finally confronts Heat Wave. He says the only way to settle things is with a fight to the death. He enters Heat Wave's cell and they start punching. Heat Wave gets the upper hand, but can't bring himself to kill Cold.

Later we see Heat Wave's out of his cell, apparently all better. He tells the Legends he no longer wants to kill them because they're already dead. It seems the Time Masters have sent the imaginatively named Hunters— time traveling assassins— to kill them all, and their only option is to run.

• The big moral dilemma in this episode is "Should the Legends kill a young Hitler to save millions, and if they do will that make them villains as well?" 

I know my answer— I'm with Captain Cold, who said, "We kill the little bastard ourselves!" Hunter knows that in five years' time, Per Degaton will release a virus that kills millions of innocents. The deaths are an established historical fact. 

Killing Degaton, even if he is a child, will prevent those deaths. Taking one life in order to save millions sounds like a reasonable trade off to me. Killing him doesn't make the Legends villains, it makes them heroes!

Isn't that the entire point of the mission? Isn't the mission to kill Savage and prevent him from taking over the world and murdering millions? If Hunter's going to get all soft every time he's confronted with an unpleasant act like killing for the greater good, then there's no way this mission can possibly succeed.

• We've heard the name Per Degaton before. Hunter mentioned him in the pilot, saying he was one of history's greatest dictators. Degaton's a long-time DC Comics villain who first appeared in the Golden Age, regularly clashed with the Justice Society and Infinity, Inc.

He was even a Nazi in the comics, which ties into this episode's "Would You Kill Baby Hitler?" moral dilemma.

• Kasnia, as in the Kasnian Conglomerate, is a fictional country that pops up a lot in DC Comics, and has even been mentioned over on Arrow.

• Every now and then the series inadverdentlay reminds us it's shot in Canada. This week I heard at least two characters say "aboot" instead of "about."

• The Armageddon Virus is most likely a reference to the 1990s crossover comic called Armageddon 2001, in which a being called Waverider (!) recruits a group of superheroes to stop the rise of a villain called Monarch. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?

• When visiting the future Palmer Tech, Atom meets Dr. Turner. When she introduces herself, Atom gets stuck for an alias, and quickly blurts out that his name is Dr. Hannibal Lector. I guess The Silence Of The Lambs doesn't survive into the 22nd Century, otherwise she'd have given him the stink-eye.

• The Legends discuss the pros and cons of killing a child. Professor Stein tries to offer up an alternative, saying, "What about addressing the larger societal problems that would allow such a despot's rise to power?"

Yes, Professor, because trying that has worked out so very, very well in our own time.

• Hunter decides that instead of killing Per Degaton, he'll abduct him and remove him from the timeline. After he does so, Gideon scans the timeline and reports that nothing's changed. Wha…?

If killing him would change history, removing him from the timeline should do the same. The universe shouldn't care how Degaton was removed from the timeline, only that he was.

So I guess this means killing him wouldn't have made any difference either. There was apparently no way to win this one.

• This series' view of time travel can be really strange at times. For some reason the show acts as if the various Legends disappeared when they joined Hunter's mission in 2016 and were never seen again. It happened in Star City 2046, and then again in this episode, as Ray discovered his brother took over in his absence.

It's as if as they've been erased from the timeline while they're on the mission. That shouldn't be though, since once the mission's over, Hunter can return them all to the exact moment they left. Even if the mission takes five seasons, to the rest of the world it would look like they never left at all.

I get why they're doing this though— if Captain Cold sees a descendant of a child he hasn't yet conceived, that means he has to survive the mission and return to his own time. From then on, no matter how much danger he's in, we know he'll survive and knock up someone. 

So the producers choose to act like the Legends have all simply vanished as long as they're on the Waverider. It makes sense from a storytelling perspective, but no sense from the time travel angle. 

• Why does Hawkgirl say she feels like she's cheating on Hawkman with Atom? The producers have confirmed that Hawkman can't be reincarnated again as long as this particular incarnation of Hawkgirl is alive. She might as well hook up with Atom, because she's never going to meet a new Hawkman.

Of course she could meet a future version of him… that's something they've not yet dealt with.

• Coast City gets another shoutout in this episode. In the comics it's the home of Green Lantern.

• After capturing Per Degaton, Hunter hooks him up to a machine that induces sleep. When he wants to wake him up, Hunter simply snips the machine's cord in two! Welp, I guess they don't ever need to use that machine again. Surely that's not really how you shut off the sleep machine?

• A couple weeks ago in Night Of The Hawk, the Legends visited Harmony Falls, Oregon in 1958. The incredibly white Atom and the Egyptian Hawkgirl pretended to be a married couple, which caused many raised eyebrows among their uptight, racist neighbors.

In this episode, Hawkgirl flashes back to her marriage to Hawkman sometime in the 1920s. Even though they're both supposed to be Egyptian, Hawkman looks pretty darned Caucasian to me (he's played by German-born actor Falk Hentschel). If interracial couples were taboo in 1958, they'd have been positively scandalous in the 1920s! The Hawks (and their son) would no doubt have been run out of town on a rail or worse yet, lynched.

• Atom apparently has a brother named Sidney Palmer. I haven't been watching Arrow so I'm not familiar with Atom's backstory. I don't know if this is new information, or if we've heard of Sidney before.

• Last week Chronos/Heat Wave said the Time Masters rescued him and took him to the Vanishing Point, a place where time has no meaning. There the Time Masters spent "several lifetimes" rehabilitating and reprograming him, turning him into Chronos. 

The Legends then capture him and decide he's worth trying to save. They vow to undo what the Time Masters did to him, however long it takes.

Welp, that was easy! Hunter and Canary both have a chat with Chronos, and Cold challenges him to a fight, and suddenly he's all better! They even let him out of his cell and he doesn't try to murder them all. That's it? That's all it took to undo the Time Masters' reprogramming? Convenient!

• Chronos/Heat Wave says the Time Masters are sending the imaginatively named Hunters after them. So in other words, the Hunters are now hunting Hunter.

• The best lines of the night go to Captain Cold, as usual:

Hunter: "OK, so we don't have what we need to take out Savage, but maybe now we can figure out how to stop his rise to power— by depriving him of his springboard, Per Degaton."
Canary: "OK, how do we do that?"
Hunter: "It's quite simple, really."
Cold: "We kill the little bastard ourselves."

Cold: "Are you telling me future Hitler is enrolled in a gymnastics class?"

Cold: "I got eyes on Little Lord Fauntleroy. "

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