Monday, May 9, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 1, Episode 14: River Of Time

This week's Legends Of Tomorrow sets up the season finale, but unfortunately does so by turning all the various Legends into drooling idiots. 

I get that it's necessary for certain things to happen in order to further the plot. That's just how writing works. But getting from Point A to Point B needs to flow naturally. If your characters have to act like simpering morons and make ridiculously stupid decisions just to move the plot along, it means you're a lazy writer. Possibly a terrible one.

The script didn't do Rip Hunter any favors either. The revelation that he'd sell out his team members to save his family didn't exactly help his likability factor. He even all but kills Jackson by exposing him to fatal levels of radiation!

Looks like the series blew its budget with last week's epic kaiju battle, resulting in this cheap and claustrophobic "bottle episode."

I'm still hoping they'll finally kill off Savage at the end of the season, and get a new big bad next year. If Savage is going to be the main antagonist for the entire run of the series, it's going to get boring very, very quickly.


The Plot:
We flash back to Ancient Egypt in 1700 BC, where Vandal Savage is holding Rip Hunter prisoner. He tells Hunter he plans to let him rot in his cell until the comets strike, so I guess this is before he got his immortality? The whole scene is confusing, pointless and serves no purpose.

In the "present," the Legends are still debating what to do with Savage. Captain Cold and Heat Wave vote to kill him before he kills everyone else, which seems like the wisest course of action to me. Professor Stein is against killing Savage, which has been the whole point of the mission from day one. Hawkgirl's only concerned with getting Savage to restore Future Hawkman's memory, because she's an idiot.

Hunter discovers Savage used technology from the future to build the giant Leviathan robot we saw last week. Because of this, Hunter believes the Time Masters will want to punish Savage for... unauthorized use of futuristic robot parts or something, and will execute him for them. To that end, he flies the damaged Waverider at Warp 100 or whatever to get to the Vanishing Point as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile Future Hawkman is being held prisoner in the cargo hold. Because she's an idiot, Hawkgirl tries to jog his memory. Does she not understand that this is not HER Hawkman? This version is from a hundred years in the future. Even if she restores his memory, they can't be together they're from different eras, and aren't a "matched set." She gets too close and Future Hawkman tries to kill her. I know how you feel, pal.

White Canary fears Hunter is pushing the ship too hard. He says he knows the Waverider's limits, and they'll be fine. Right on cue, the sparks start flying as the ship sputters and slows to a stop. Gideon says the time drive has broken down. Hunter sends Jackson in to fix it, because what auto mechanic doesn't know how to fix a futuristic time machine? He manages to fix it, but gets a healthy dose of temporal radiation in the process. Too bad he didn't think to merge with Professor Stein and form Firestorm, who's immune to radiation.

Canary checks on Savage, who does his best Loki/Hannibal Lector impression and very transparently tries to get in her head, telling her that Hunter cares more about the mission than the team, and will be the death of them all (once again, I can't argue with that). Canary confronts Hunter, who says why yes, he would sell out the team to save his family, thanks. Um... isn't he supposed to be one of the good guys?

In the medbay, Gideon says Jackson is showing symptoms of temporal radiation poisoning, causing him to rapidly age (!). Despite the fact that she 3D printed a new hand for Cold a few weeks ago, there's nothing she can do in this instance.

Atom sees the situation with Future Hawkman is making Hawkgirl sad. He then visits Savage, and demands to know how to restore Future Hawkman's mind. Savage says the moment he restores Hawkman, Atom will lose Hawkgirl forever. Savage also says that he had a thing for Hawkgirl, but when she chose Hawkman over him, it set the whole "centuries of being an immortal tyrant" thing in motion. He tells Atom that Hawkman is their mutual enemy. 

By the way, every time someone visits Savage, they flash back to some significant event just before they joined the mission. The flashbacks are all pointless, insipid and don't tell us anything we didn't already know about the characters, and frankly they're not worth the energy it would take to type them out.

Atom goes back to the holding area and sees Hawkgirl caressing Future Hawkman's face. Atom storms off like a high schooler. Hawkgirl follows and tries to explain. Atom says Savage is right loving her is a curse. He tells her it's over between them. Thanks Christ! I can't imagine any way these how these two simpering clods and their relationship could be more dull and uninteresting.

In the medbay, Jackson is now the equivalent of a sixty three year old man. Cold and Heat Wave both say this is the last straw, and confront Hunter. They tell him to forget taking Savage to the Vanishing Point, and to let them kill him now. Hunter says that's not going to happen, and they're welcome to use the Jump Ship to get back to Central City in 2016.

Meanwhile, Professor Stein makes the ludicrously intuitive leap that sending Jackson back to 2016 will somehow reverse his rapid aging. Sure, why not? Amazingly he roofies poor Jackson AGAIN (if you'll recall, he did this in the pilot, to bring Jackson on the mission against his will) and stuffs him in the Jump Ship. Jackson doesn't want to go, as for some reason he believes being separated will kill Stein. The Professor launches the ship, and Jackson is gone. 

Just then Cold and Heat Wave enter, eager to use the Jump Ship to get back home. Needless to say they're pissed when they find it's gone.

Atom goes to see Savage again (maybe Hunter might want to think about locking the entrance to the brig area!). Because Atom is apparently a drooling idiot, he opens the cell door and wants to fight Savage man to immortal tyrant, er, I mean man. Sigh... Atom manages to give Savage a, er savage beatdown. But then Savage rallies and knocks Atom unconscious. He then casually strolls out of the cell. He releases Future Hawkman, and shuts down power to the ship. 

Hunter sends Cold and Heat Wave after Savage. Hunter, Stein and Canary stay on the bridge and attempt to manually pilot the Waverider through the time stream to the Vanishing Point.

Cold and Heat Wave battle Savage and Future Hawkman. Just then Future Hawkman's memories suddenly return, and he turns on Savage. After a brief struggle, Savage stabs Hawkman AGAIN. Hawkgirl attacks and knocks out Savage. They take Future Hawkman to the medbay, where Gideon stabilizes him. 

Eventually they manage to make it to the Vanishing Point. Hunter calls an emergency meeting of the Time Masters. He brings in Savage, showing them proof that he illegally manipulated time for his own purposes. The Time Masters ignore the evidence and drop all charges against Savage, releasing him back to 2166. Time Master Druce then orders the arrest of Hunter. Apparently he's been working with Savage all along. Gasp!

On the Waverider, Cold senses something's not right, and tells Canary they need to find a place to hide. The Time Master soldiers enter the Waverider and capture Heat Wave, Stein, Atom and Hawkgirl. Savage now visits Hunter in his cell. He says he can't wait to get back to 2166 and kill Hunter's wife and child.

• That Vandal Savage is one smart cookie. After seeing Hunter in 1700 BC and then in 1975 AD, he makes the incredibly intuitive leap that he's a time traveller. So Savage then figured out how to make his own TARDIS or something (with 1975 technology?), and started moving back and forth through time. This is why Gideon could never accurately track him.

This would be like be like someone from 1776 seeing a photo of the Space Shuttle and cobbling one together in their barn. As I said, one smart cookie!

• Hunter's plan isn't thought out very well. He discovers that Savage illegally used time travel, so he decides to take him to the Time Masters for prosecution and execution. But Hunter's been doing the exact same thing. He stole the Waverider and has been illegally using it throughout the whole season. He's just as guilty as Savage. It seems like the best he could hope for is to see Savage executed minutes before he is as well.

 Once again Stein objects to killing Savage. Um... does he not understand why they're all there? The entire point of the mission is to kill him, and has been from day one. Why is he just now acting like this is the first time he's heard of this.? It's possible he's had a change of heart, but if so it wasn't made clear.

 Vandal Savage spends the entire episode trying to get under the skin of the various Legends, like a poor man's Hannibal Lector. Amazingly it works, as he manages to manipulate Atom into stupidly freeing him. The problem is, Savage's manipulation was so obvious and heavy handed that it became laughable. It almost makes me wonder if Savage wasn't really trying to escape, and was just messing with them to kill time, and was surprised when it actually worked.

It might also have helped if the entire cast didn't keep visiting Savage in the brig, which of course gave him the chance to manipulate them. Maybe next time there's a dangerous psychotic on board, stay away from him?

• As I mentioned earlier, it appears the producers blew the budget on last week's show, or maybe they're trying to save it for the big season finale, because everything about this episode screams "cheap." Most of the action takes place inside the already existing sets of the Waverider. There are a couple of flashbacks, but it appears they borrow old Arrow and The Flash sets.

These budget constraints also result in Atom and Firestorm apparently forgetting they have superpowers that could have easily saved the day. 

The worst budget casualty was poor Jefferson, who was transformed into a sixty three year old man through the magic of 1960s Star Trek old age makeup. Seriously, it looked dreadful, especially in 1080p high definition. Almost like stage makeup.

• So Jackson is exposed to "temporal radiation (shades of Star Trek: Voyager's endless and excrutiating technobabble)," and starts aging rapidly. A few things here:

First of all, actor Franz Drameh does a passable job as Jackson, but his attempt at depicting a senior citizen was hilariously awful. We're talking Tim Conway levels of acting here.

Secondly, Stein believes sending Jackson back to 2016 in the jump ship will cure him, because of science. Ignoring the fact that that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, did it ever occur to either of them to merge into Firestorm? We've seen several times during the series that Firestorm is immune to radiation, and can safely absorb large amounts of it. 

Even better, why didn't they merge into Firestorm first and let him fix the time drive? Stein did offer a weak excuse a few episodes back that forming Firestorm inside the Waverider would damage it, but they ended up doing it anyway and nothing bad seemed to happen, so...

I'm assuming the Firestorm option wasn't brought up was once again due to the specter of the blown budget. Those CGI flames ain't cheap! Damn you, The CW bean counters!

Lastly, Stein roofies Jackson AGAIN so he can stuff him into the jump ship against his will and send him off. Jesus Christ, Martin! A hero doesn't casually drug his partners against his will. Doing it once was pretty damned creepy, but a second time is completely unacceptable. 

If Jackson survives this ordeal, he needs to file a restraining order against Stein. Are we sure the Professor has never been on To Catch A Predator?

• Once Stein gets Jackson in the Jump Ship, he prepares to send it back to 2016. Jackson howls, "You can't do this! If we're separated, you'll die!"

Um... when did that become a thing? The two of them have been separated before, and never suffered any ill effects. Does Jackson mean being separated in time with one in 2016 and the other in... whatever year they're in will kill Stein? And why will only Stein be affected? We definitely need some clearly defined rules as to how Firestorm actually works.

• I wonder if an actor on a series can ever refuse to do a scene because it makes their character look like an idiot? Apparently not, or Brandon Routh would have never have agreed to film the scene in which he tried to fight Savage and let him escape.

Surely the writers could have come up with a better way for Savage to get loose than by turning Atom into a complete and utter moron, irreparably damaging his character in the process?

• The "Villain Gets Captured On Purpose As Part Of A Master Plan" trope needs to be retired from sci-fi and comic book movies and TV shows for at least ten years. It's become way overused at this point.

• If nothing else, the Legends are fast learners. As I mentioned before, Jackson is an auto mechanic, but in this episode he apparently understands 2166 technology well enough to repair the time drive. Canary was trained as an assassin in a remote monastery, but here she pilots a futuristic spaceship like a pro.

• Once again the episode's MVPs are Captain Cold and Heat Wave, who vote to kill Savage while they have the chance, end the mission and save the Earth. You know, when the villains are the smartest and most rational people on your show, maybe it's time to rethink your characters.

The Legends definitely need to mutiny, dump Hunter out of the airlock and make Captain Cold the, er, captain.

• As usual, Cold gets the best line of the night:

Savage: “Who are you to stand against me? Vandal Savage, destroyer of Empires!” 
Cold: “Leonard Snart, robber of ATMs!”

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