Sunday, December 11, 2016

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 8: The Chicago Way

It's the mid-season finale of Legends Of Tomorrow!

Oddly enough this episode didn't much feel like a finale, as there was nothing particularly "final" about it. For the most part it seemed like a run of the mill, middle of the season episode. There was one small plot resolution, a brief reveal that everyone knew was coming, and that was about it.

Compare that to Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which just aired a satisfying mid-season finale that wrapped up all their ongoing storylines and teased an intriguing new one. Legends needs to take a page from their book.

This episode features the first ever team-up of supervillains Eobard Thawne (aka Reverse Flash), Damien Darhhhk and Malcom Merlyn. All week The CW ran promos breathlessly touting this nefarious trio as the "Legion Of Doom," although they're never actually called that in the episode.

So what is the Legion Of Doom? first appeared in the 1970s in the Challenge Of The Superfriends cartoon show. It was made up mostly of the archenemies of the various Super Friends, and included Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Bizarro, Parasite, Metallo, the Riddler, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Toyman, Black Manta, Black Adam and Giganta. Now that's a lineup!

This episode's version of the Legion is the most lukewarm, least intimidating one possible. It consists of a measly three members, and of them, Thawne's the only one who has any superpowers to speak of. Darhhhk dabbles in, um. dark magic now and then, and Merlyn's a crack shot with a bow. That's a pretty weak roster!

Oddly enough, several of the cartoon Legion villains have already appeared in live action on the various Arrowverse shows. Parasite and Metallo were on Supergirl, and Captain Cold and Gorilla Grodd popped up on The Flash. Several of these villains are dead and others live on a parallel Earth, but that could all be hand-waved away with a couple of lines of dialogue. Why not add them to the roster and beef up the team a bit? Is it the budget again? Could the show just not afford more than three members in their Legion Of Doom?

For the past few weeks, the issue of Professor Stein's instant adult daughter (accidentally created by a time aberration) has been slowly building. The issue came to a head this week, and then was immediately resolved with little or no fuss. Well, that was certainly a letdown. I was expecting a scene in which Stein had to throw himself in front of his new daughter to protect her from his bloodthirsty teammates, who were itching to kill her in cold blood to right the flow of time. Instead the entire matter is dismissed in the least dramatic way possible.

When Rip Hunter disappeared in the season premiere, I predicted he'd return in the mid-season finale. Looks like I was right! Arthur Darvill's vacation is over!


The Plot:
In 1927 Chicago, Damien Darhhhhk (OK, last time I do that joke, I promise. It's just that I think the way his name's spelled is so ridiculous) and Reverse Flash (aka Eobard Thawne) offer their services to Al Capone. He politely declines, and orders his thugs to kill them. Thawne takes out the thugs at superspeed. 

The villains tell Capone a new, powerful group is coming to town, and he's going to need help from them— and their friend Malcolm Merlyn, who makes a dramatic entrance (GASP!). 

On the Waverider, Atom and Steel practice sparring, threatening to destroy the ship. Professor Stein broods over his new daughter, who sprung into being due to a time aberration. Jackson says the team's going to find out about her eventually and try to erase her. Coincidentally, just then the team detects a time aberration (causing Stein to swallow hard) and heads for 1927 Chicago.

Unfortunately once they're there, they're not quite sure what they're looking for. Atom and Steel run into G-Man Elliot Ness, and deduce he's the subject of the time aberration. Atom follows Ness, but stops when he sees two cops escort him away. Steel berates him, saying the 1920s Chicago police force was the most corrupt in history (!), and the cops are probably taking Ness to his death.

On the Waverider, Gideon confirms that Ness was the focal point, and history has changed. With Ness out of the way, Al Capone becomes mayor of Chicago. The Legends tracks Ness and Capone to a secluded dock. Capone fits Ness with "cement shoes" and pushes him into the water. Vixen dives in after him, while the other Legends take care of Capone's thugs. Capone himself gets away, of course. Darhk and Thawne observe this from the shadows, and laugh evilly because the Legends "took the bait."

The Legends take the unconscious Ness to the Waverider, and Gideon says it'll take time to heal him. Steel decides to impersonate him and take down one of Capone's nightclubs. He takes White Canary, Stein and Jackson with him.

Heat Wave decides to stay on the ship and get stinking drunk. He begins hallucinating (or does he?), seeing his old pal Captain Cold, who berates him for working with a bunch of heroes.

At the club, the team runs into Darhk, and Thawne captures Canary and Stein at superspeed. Steel returns to the ship to figure out what to do next. Heat Wave decides to step up and handle the situation "like a criminal."

Cut to Canary and Stein, who are tied up in the basement of Capone's headquarters. Merlyn enters and plays "good cop," to Canary. He tells her that if she gives him the Askaran Amulet she obtained in The Justice Society Of America, he'll alter time and prevent the sinking of The Queen's Gambit (the event that lead to her becoming a superhero ninja). She politely declines, saying time is "sacred" and can't be changed to suit the whims of a single person. Merlyn leaves in a dramatic huff.

Stein then guiltily admits he accidentally created Lily, his time aberration daughter, and doesn't want to erase her. Canary is livid, insisting that Lily isn't real, and the memories he has of her growing up are fake. Darhk enters and takes Stein away to torture him until Canary gives up the Amulet.

Meanwhile, Heat Wave, Vixen, Atom and Steel hijack one of Capone's trucks, and drive it to his headquarters. Atom and Steel look through Capone's office and find his ledger, which will allow the government to arrest the gangster for tax fraud. Vixen finds Canary, and they rescue Stein.

Back on the Waverider, the team celebrates their win. Jackson thinks Stein is acting strangely, and begins watching him on the ship's monitors (!). He sees "Stein" in the library, searching it at superspeed. Canary enters the library and interrupts Stein. She brings up Stein's daughter, which seems to confuse him. Steel enters and tries to rescue Canary. "Stein" then transforms into Thawne and zips away.

Thawne deactivates the Waverider's cloak and opens the hatch, allowing Merlyn and a squad of Capone's thugs to enter. The Legends battle Thawne, Merlyn and the thugs. Thawne catches Vixen and is about to kill her, but an alarm on his watch goes off and he zooms away (?????).

Canary fights Merlyn on the bridge and eventually gets the best of him. She's about to slit his throat, but he offers her the real Stein in exchange for his life.

At the docks, Capone is about to toss Stein into the river. Canary shows up, knocks out Capone and rescues Stein. Elsewhere, Elliot Ness has fully recovered, and Steel gives him Capone's ledger, telling him to use it to take down the gangster. On the Waverider, Vixen, who's become pretty chummy with Heat Wave in this episode, gives him a bottle of whiskey she stole from Capone's warehouse. After she leaves, Imaginary Captain Cold mocks Heat Wave for having feelings for Vixen.

Canary tells Stein that she gave the Askaran Amulet to Merlyn in exchange for his life. She says she was wrong about wanting to erase Stein's daughter, as "some things are more important than history." That ain't what she said last week!

Elsewhere, Thawne, Darhk and Merlyn meet. Thawne assembles the pieces of the amulet, and a map of the galaxy showing where Luke Skywalker is a map leading to the Spear Of Destiny appears. Thawne says if they find the spear, they can use it to reshape reality.

Cut to 1967 LA, where an American who looks just like Rip Hunter is directing a movie. The title of the film is Rip Hunter: Time Master.


 Vixen does the opening narration this week (for the first time, I think).

 I honestly don't understand why Eobard Thawne needs a "Legion Of Doom." Seems to me like he could do pretty much everything by himself, what with his superspeed and all. 

But just for the sake of argument, let's say he does need some help. I get why he'd recruit Damien Darhk, as he has various mystical powers (that I've yet to actually see him use). But why does he recruit Malcolm Merlyn? What does he bring to the table, other than smug scenery-chewing? Merlyn's just a regular guy, with no actual powers. He's good with a bow and arrow (or was, before his accident) and that's pretty much it. How's that going to help Thawne?

 When the Legends travel to 1927, Vixen's positively giddy with joy at the idea of being in Chicago. She tells Heat Wave that when she was a little girl, she always dreamed of someday visiting the Windy City, but never thought she'd actually get the chance.

Um... did the writers forget that Vixen was a member of the Justice Society? As such, she probably traveled the entire world fighting crime. So what the hell's the big deal about going to Chicago?

She also doesn't mention that she was alive in 1927. She met the Legends and joined their team in 1942. She was probably about twenty five years old then, which means she was born in 1917. That means there's a ten year old version of her out there somewhere in 1927.

 Steel, the team's resident historian and expert on Al Capone, is able to track down the gangster because he ALWAYS dumped the bodies of his enemies off the same pier. The spot became known as Cadaver's Cove, because of the large number of corpses dumped there.

A couple things here... first of all, fitting victims with "cement shoes" and dropping them into the drink is most likely an urban legend. There's no evidence any 1920s gangsters ever did such a thing.

This means the Cadaver's Cove thing is likely made up as well. It would have to be— if Capone always dumped his bodies in the same spot, after a while there'd be a mound of corpses sticking out of the water.

Plus if this spot was so well known that it had a nickname, Couldn't the FBI just stake it out and catch Capone in the act?

 This week Vixen uses another new animal power— she channels a dolphin to save Elliot Ness from drowning. I'm still wondering if she can channel a bird and fly.

 The Legends rescue Elliot Ness from the river and bring him onboard the Waverider. Gideon says he's suffered brain damage and it will take several hours to repair it.

Gideon's medical skills seem to fluctuate wildly, depending on the whims of the script. Last season in Left Behind, Captain Cold lost his right hand, and Gideon grew him a new one. This week she's reversing brain damage. Yet earlier this season in The Justice Society Of America, Steel, who at the time was a hemophiliac. was bleeding uncontrollably and Gideon said there was nothing she could do to save him.

So she can regrow limbs and regenerate brains, but she can't stop simple blood loss. Got it!

 Ness' injury causes a new time aberration. According to Gideon, with Ness out of the way, Al Capone becomes something "far worse" than a gangster— he becomes a politician.

I can't help but feel that was a subtle little swipe at President Trumpy. Not that I disagree, mind you, I just thought I'd point it out.

 Every time I see Matt Letscher, who plays Eobard Thawne, I keep thinking I've seen him somewhere before. This week I finally figured out who he reminds me of— Niles Crane!

 The Waverider's galley always seems to be fully stocked. We know that Gideon can replicate clothing, and she even made a new suit for Atom. Can she replicate food as well? Or do the Legends have to take turns doing the weekly grocery shopping for the ship?

 Apparently Atom is a big fan of the 1987 The Untouchables movie, as he constantly references it throughout the episode:

He says the real Elliot Ness looks nothing like Kevin Costner (who played Ness in the film).

When raiding Capone's speak-easy, Steel says Atom's name is Bob De Niro (Robert De Niro played Capone in the film).

During the battle aboard the Waverider, Atom and Steel fight Capone's goons. Atom does a horrible Sean Connery impression and says, "Isn't that just just like a thug? Brings a Tommy gun to an ion blaster fight." Connery starred in The Untouchables as Ness' partner Jimmy Malone, who said, "Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight."

When Ness has doubts that Capone could ever be brought down with simple tax evasion, Atom says "Actually, it's make a good movie someday."

 Thawne captures Canary and Stein and holds them captive in Capone's basement. Hilariously, Malcolm Merlyn and Damien Darhk very obviously play "Good Cop/Bad Cop" with Canary and Stein, trying to get them to talk.

Their ruse is so transparent a six year old could spot what they were trying to do.

 Thawne uses a futuristic gizmo to impersonate Stein and infiltrate the Waverider.

On The Flash, Thawne used this same piece of tech to make himself look like Harrison Wells. This chameleon device had one unfortunately side effect— it killed the person it duplicated. Killed them quite horribly, I might add.

Fortunately for Professor Stein, Thawne seems to have upgraded the device so it no longer kills the original subject. I have no idea why Thawne would take the time to tinker with it, but lucky for Stein he did.

 Doesn't Jackson share a psychic connection with Stein? So why didn't he immediately sense that Fake Stein wasn't the real thing? 

Jackson did give Fake Stein a sideways look when he first came on board, and he started observing him on the monitors, but... you'd think he'd have figured it out right off.

Like most things on this show, their psychic connection tends to work only when the script calls for it. Or the writers remember it.

 Jackson bursts into the cargo hold and tells Atom and Steel, "Stein's about to kill Sara in the library!" Atom replies, "With the rope or the candlestick?"

OK, that was pretty funny, but... was it really an appropriate comment? If someone ran up to you and said one of your friends was trying to kill another, would you really take the time to make a Clue joke about it?

 During the battle on the ship, Canary has a shootout with a couple of Capone's thugs. She hits one in the chest, sending a spray of terrible-looking CGI blood flying. When are people going to learn that CGI blood splatters NEVER look real and should be avoided at all costs?

Since the show began, I've always been impressed by vast interior sets of the Waverider. They look positively HUGE onscreen. Too huge, in fact, based on the exterior of the ship, but that's another story. How can the show afford such cavernous sets?

That's easy. They don't! In reality, the sets are nowhere near as large as they appear onscreen. They're actually fairly small, and they simply film them with a wide angle lens, which optically expands the image and makes the sets look much bigger than they really are.

How do I know this? The fight between Canary and Merlyn in this episode is a dead giveaway. Note here that Merlyn appears to be lying right in front of the camera, while Canary looks like she's fifty feet away. But if you look closely, you'll see she's holding onto his arm, which means she's much, much closer to the camera than she appears.

That also means that the far wall, which looks like it's a hundred feet away, is probably more like twenty. This "depth distortion" is a sure sign of a wide angle lens.

Here's an even better example. Note how Merlyn's foot is right next to the camera, but his head seems to be thirty feet away. Unless his leg is really twelve feet long, they're filming with a wide angle lens. Once again, this makes that far wall recede into the distance, even though it's probably only a couple feet behind Canary.

I'm not knocking them here, mind you. Using this method is a pretty good way to make the sets look much bigger and more expensive than they really are. I bet if you actually visited the sets, you'd be shocked by how tiny they really are.

 The Legends Of Tomorrow writers really need to nail down their stance on altering the time stream. At the beginning of the season, White Canary wanted to kill Damien Darhhhk in the past to prevent him from killing her sister in the future. She was eventually talked out of this potentially disastrous act.

During the Invasion! Crossover epic last week, Canary tore Barry Allen a new butthole for altering the timeline for his own benefit. 

Then in this episode, she discovers Professor Stein accidentally created a time aberration daughter. She's furious with him at first, then at the end of the show she tells him that family is more important than history.

Jesus Christ, guys! Make up your minds! Is altering the timeline for selfish reasons a good thing or a bad one?

 At the end of the episode, Thawne snaps the two amulets together. This forms a compass which shows the location of the legendary Spear Of Destiny. Thawne claims that the Spear "can rewrite reality itself."

The Spear Of Destiny is allegedly a real thing. According the Bible, after the Romans crucified Jesus on the cross, they wanted to check and make sure he was dead. A soldier named Longinus poked him in the side with his spear, to see if he flinched. The blood from the wound supposedly imbued the Spear with magical powers. According to legend, whoever possessed the Spear could rule the world.

The Spear Of Destiny also played a major part in DC's Justice Society comic. The team fought in WWII, and routinely battled Hitler's forces. In an effort to explain why the Justice Society— which included Superman—  didn't just fly to Berlin and end the war in seconds, the writers explained that Hitler possessed the Spear Of Destiny. If any superhero came within shouting distance of Hitler, he'd use the Spear to kill or control them.

 Rip Hunter returns in the tag scene! Well, sort of.

The minute I realized he was going to sit out the first half of the season, I predicted he'd make a dramatic return in the mid-season finale. It wasn't tough to figure out it's Writing 101.

When we see Rip, he's in 1967 Hollywood (sans British accent), directing a scifi film based on his time traveling adventures. It's unclear whether he's posing as an American for some reason, or if something happened to his mind and he really believes he's a movie director.

Missed Opportunity: Instead of 1967, they should have placed him in 1977. Then they could have made Rip a George Lucas clone, directing a Star Wars-like movie!

Legends Of Tomorrow retruns on January 24, 2017, when it moves to Tuesdays, right after The Flash.

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure in the All-Star Squadron, in the early 80s, the Spear of Destiny was actually used to control a couple of heroes -- Superman and Green Lantern come to mind -- who wandered too close to Europe and fell under Hitler's control.


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