Sunday, October 23, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 2: The Justice Society Of America

This week's Legends Of Tomorrow finally introduces the granddaddy of all superhero teams the Justice Society Of America to the Arrowverse

Overall it was a pretty good episode, and the JSA was a welcome addition, even if most of them were little more than background extras. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined that it would be possible to watch a network TV series featuring the Justice Society fighting a team of time-traveling superheroes. It's a great time to be alive.

The 1942 setting was fun, and had a definite Indiana Jones vibe to it. And we discovered that Professor Stein may not be an effective leader, but he's got a pretty darned good voice.

The Baron Krieger CGI effects were a bit dodgy, but, eh... it's a TV show, with a TV budget. I can forgive the occasional wobbly effect.


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, the Justice Society Of America consisting of Commander Steel, Vixen, Dr. Midnite, Obsidian and Stargirl  confront the Legends in 1942, mistaking them for Nazi spies. The JSA attack the Legends, using their various powers to make quick work of them and capture the team.

The Legends are then locked in a cell in the JSA Headquarters. Commander Steel tells Hourman that the Legends claim to know him, but he's never seen them before. Hourman says he should probably question them before shipping them off to Bellevue. 

Hourman and Commander Steel question the Legends. Dr. Heywood tries to convince them that he and the others are time travelers, which doesn't go over well. Heywood reveals he's wearing a future version of Steel's dog tags, and is his grandson.

Meanwhile in 1942 Paris, Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash (!), meets with Nazi officer Baron Krieger. Thawne gives Krieger a super soldier serum (where have I heard that term before?) in exchange for the Askaran Amulet, a powerful supernatural artifact.

Steel releases the Legends from the cell. Hourman assumes Professor Stein is the leader, since he's the oldest, and is white. This doesn't sit well with Jackson or White Canary. Stein says that Hourman came to them in 2016 to warn them not to go to 1942. Hourman doesn't remember this, because it apparently hasn't yet happened. Timey-whimey!

Hourman gets a call from President Roosevelt, who says Krieger's in Paris, and wants the JSA to capture him. The Legends want to help, but Hourman says it's best if they go back to their own time.

The Legends board the Waverider and head back to 2016. Stein declares himself leader. Suddenly Heywood realizes that Steel's dog tags are gone. From this he and White Canary deduce that history was changed, and the JSA will die on their Paris mission. They decide to go back and save them.

Using Gideon's historical records, they discover that Krieger frequents a cabaret in Paris. Stein decides he'll impersonate Max Lorenz, Hitler's favorite singer, to infiltrate the cabaret and capture Krieger before he can kill the JSA.

Stein, as Lorenz, enters the cabaret with the Legends as his guests. Atom sees Vixen dancing, and realizes the JSA is already there. He cuts in, and she's not happy to see him, claiming the undisciplined Legends will get them all killed (which is a valid concern). 

A Nazi General doesn't believe Stein is really Lorenz, and forces him to prove his identity by singing. Amazingly, Stein belts out a moving rendition of Edelweiss, completely convincing the officer. Unfortunately Atom doesn't do the "Heil Hitler" salute, which infuriates the Nazi General. Atom punches him, and a big brawl breaks out in the cabaret. Fortunately the rest of the JSA arrive and knock out all the Nazis.

The Legends bring the JSA to the Waverider, and explain that if Commander Steel's killed now, Heywood will be wiped out of existence. The JSA vote to work with the Legends to capture Krieger and restore the timeline. White Canary discovers Heywood is a hemophiliac, and refuses to let him go on the mission. Heywood says his parents sheltered him his entire life due to his condition, and it's time he stopped being coddled.

The teams track down Krieger's convoy, which is transporting the Askaran Amulet. They attack the convoy, and Krieger injects Thawne's serum, causing him to hulk out and transform into a poorly animated CGI creature. Stein watches from the Waverider, and as the battle intensifies, he freezes, unsure what to do. A frustrated White Canary finally takes over, barking out the order to retreat. The super teams recover the Amulet, but Krieger escapes, and Atom and Vixen are captured.

Krieger's serum wears off, and he shrinks back to normal. He threatens to kill Vixen if Atom doesn't make more super soldier serum for him. Atom agrees, since his suit is damaged, and Vixen's amulet (which is different from the Askaran Amulet) has been taken, rendering her powerless as well.

Back on the Waverider, Stein admits he's in over his head and says White Canary should be the new leader.

Krieger conveniently leaves two incompetent guards to watch over Atom and Vixen. Atom clocks one of the guards with a microscope, while Vixen takes out the other. Atom takes the serum with him as they exit their cell.

Firestorm, Heatwave and Canary enter the Nazi stronghold to rescue Atom and Vixen. Canary finds Vixen's amulet and grabs it. The heroes are all reunited, but before they can get back to the Waverider, the Hulk Super Krieger attacks. Another battle ensues, as Hourman calls in an airstrike on the base. 

Everyone high-tails it out of the area except for Commander Steel, who's still in the airstrike zone. Heywood shows up with a motorcycle and rescues him. The airstrike hits, killing Krieger and destroying the base. Unfortunately Heywood's motorcycle is hit, and he and Steel are injured.

The Legends rush Heywood to the Waverider's med bay, but due to his hemophilia, not even Gideon can save him with her fancy futuristic technology (hmm...). Atom remembers the super soldier serum he was secretly modifying, and uses it on Heywood. Miraculously it cures him. Hooray! Heywood's dog tags reappear, meaning history's been restored for once.

Back at JSA Headquarters, Hourman stores the Askaran Amulet in a locker. The Reverse Flash appears and vibrates his hand through Hourman's chest, killing him. This of course means Hourman can't travel to 2016 to deliver his warning to the Legends, leaving the audience
 myself included very confused. 


• Last week Professor Stein read the opening narration, this week it was White Canary. Maybe they're taking turns until Rip Hunter returns?

• Speaking of Hunter is actor Arthur Darvill off the show now? I haven't read any Legends Of Tomorrow spoiler sites, so I honestly don't know. I'm kind of doubting he's gone for good. I'd bet real money he'll make a "shocking" return at the very end of the mid-season finale.

• Comic fans are all familiar with the Justice Society, but the general public's likely never heard of them. Here's a brief rundown for those of you who have no earthly idea who they are.

The JSA was the very first superhero team, appearing in All-Star Comics #3 way back in 1940! Yep, they preceded the Justice League Of America and the Avengers by over twenty years!

Oddly enough, only one of the JSA members seen in this episode were part of the original lineup. The very first JSA roster consisted of Hourman, the Flash (the Jay Garrick version), Green Lantern (the Alan Scott version, not Hal Jordan), Atom (the Al Pratt version, who was just a short guy who liked to fight, not the Atom who can shrink), Sandman (who had a gun that shot a sleep-inducing gas), Hawkman, Dr. Fate (a sorcerer with a magic helmet) and the Spectre (sort of a vengeance ghost). The lineup's changed dramatically over the years, so the fact that we're seeing a completely new JSA here isn't a big deal. Although it would have been awesome to see Jay Garrick and the Golden Age Green Lantern on screen.

Now for this new JSA. The leader appears to be Hourman. There've been several versions in the comics over the years, but the original used a drug called Miraclo that gave him super speed and strength for an hour at a time. It's not yet clear what, if any, powers the TV version has.

In the comics, Commander Steel was a soldier who was injured in battle and fitted with super strong bionic parts. The TV version may or may not share this origin; it's hard to tell. So far he just seems to be an ersatz Captain America.

In the comics, Obsidian had the power to become a living shadow, allowing him to pass through solid objects and even fly. He could also create crude objects out of shadows. So far we've just seen the TV version project some sort of darkness into the sky.

Obsidian was also the son of the Golden Age Green Lantern. The Legends Of Tomorrow producers claim this is true of the TV version as well. Does that mean we could eventually see the original Green Lantern on the show?

Stargirl is a newer JSA comic character. She wields a powerful cosmic staff designed by for former JSA member Starman. The TV version seems pretty much identical to her comic counterpart.

The comic book Dr. Midnite has one of my all-time favorite costumes, but one of the world's lamest powers he can see in the dark. That'll be a lot of help when the team's fighting an army of giant Nazi robots! Oh, and he occasionally tossed "blackout bombs."

The TV version seems to have pretty much the same non-power. They tried to gussy it up a bit by giving him "Daredevil Vision," but so far he's still just a guy who can see with the lights out.

Vixen first appeared in DC Comics in 1981, and could mimic the abilities (not the form) of any animal on Earth. So she can become as strong as a gorilla, or as fast as a cheetah. It looks like this TV version has the same abilities (including the magic amulet that gives her her powers).

The original 80s Vixen was named Mari McCabe, and she appeared on over on Arrow in the Season 4 episode Taken. This version of Vixen in the JSA is supposed to be McCabe's grandmother. 

• The hard-thumping rock score blaring during the Justice Society's battle with the Legends seemed oddly out of place, especially for something that's happening in 1942. I guess it's not absolutely necessary to have period-appropriate music for every era they visit, but... this score seemed particularly jarring.

• Since Legends Of Tomorrow is a show about time travel, it loves to toss in Back To The Future references. They did it in this episode, when Professor Stein is forced to prove he's really Max Lorenz. He steps up stage, turns to the band and says, "Key of A, watch me for the changes and... try to keep up."

Marty McFly gave pretty much the same instructions to the Starlighters band at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance in Back To The Future, saying, "All right, guys, uh, listen. This is a blues riff in 'B', watch me for the changes, and try and keep up, okay?"

Edelweiss, the song Professor Stein sings, is from The Sound Of Music and wasn't written until 1959, so the cabaret crowd would not have been familiar with it. This isn't necessarily a mistake though. The Nazi General who's brought to tears by the song could have just been caught up in Stein's haunting rendition, not because he recognized the tune.

And that really was Victor Garber, aka Professor Stein, singing the song. Garber's had an extensive career in musical theater. Believe it or not, that's him in the photo above, in the musical Godspell. Yikes!

• By the way, Max Lorenz was a real person, and really was Hitler's favorite tenor. As you might expect though, in reality he looked absolutely nothing like Professor Stein.

• This episode's McGuffin was the Askaran Amulet, a piece of jewelry with for now  unknown powers. The Nazis are trying to obtain it for Hitler, who's obsessed with the supernatural (which was also a real thing). This whole "stealing a magic item for the Fuehrer" plot was very reminiscent of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

• In this episode we find out that Heywood is a hemophiliac, who could bleed to death if he's injured on a mission. Near the end of the episode that's just what happens. The Legends stick him in the Waverider's futuristic medbay, but Gideon says there's nothing she can do to save him.

So lemme get this straight last season Gideon was able to use magic future tech to regrow Captain Cold's entire goddamned severed hand, but she can't synthesize a clotting factor for Heywood. Got it.

• The Arrowverse shows consistently feature top notch, near-movie quality special effects week after week, on a TV budget. See King Shark and Gorilla Grodd over on The Flash for some awesome examples of their CGI character work.

Occasionally though their reach exceeds their grasp, and we get an effect like Kreiger Hulk. The character was definitely not the effect's teams finest hour, and looked like something you'd see on the Siffy Channel.

• Last week I was confused about the series' timeline, as I tried to figure out just when Hourman went back to warn the Legends not to go to 1942 New York. Bear with me here for a quick recap.

In last season's finale, the Legends are gathered together in 2016 and see a second Waverider crash-land next to them. Hourman steps out of the ship and says, "You're exactly where you said you'd be. Do not get on that ship. If you do, you're all dead." Heat Wave says, "Says who?" Hourman says, "Says you, Mr. Rory. You sent me... My name is Rex Tyler. I'm a member of the Justice Society Of America."

But then last week's episode opened with Oliver Queen and Dr. Heywood discovering the Waverider at the bottom of the ocean, with only Heat Wave on board. He says the other Legends have been scattered through time, and he and Heywood rescue them. They then travel to 1942 New York to save the city from an atom bomb. At the end of the episode, the Justice Society (minus Hourman) appears.

The Legends don't meet Hourman until this episode, and then he ends up getting killed by the Reverse Flash in the final scene.

So... just when did (does?) Hourman take the Waverider to 2016 to warn the Legends not to go to New York or they'll die, which they did anyway and survived?

Obviously there's some heavy duty time travel involved here, and Hourman will be back in some form or another to warn them, but I don't understand why this tiny little scene has become so complicated. Especially since Hourman's warning is moot at this point.

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