Sunday, January 29, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 9: Raiders Of The Lost Art

Sorry this week's review is so late, but it was unavoidable. My local The CW station decided, in their infinite wisdom, to pre-empt The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow this week to air a goddamned basketball game instead. Isn't there already more than enough sports on TV? Is it really necessary to shove network shows aside to make room for more?

Don't the networks have rules about affiliates pre-empting their shows? If not, they should. I'd imagine it plays havoc with their national ratings when local stations can decide not to air their programs on a whim.

Anyway, because of this vitally important basketball game, I had to track down alternative viewing sources for the Arrowverse shows, which delayed this week's reviews. Please contact WTVW in Evansville, Indiana and voice your displeasure with them.

This week Legends Of Tomorrow finally returns from its Xmas vacation. 

I've said many times before that Legends Of Tomorrow is like a Silver Age comic book come to life, with all the fun and insanity that implies. Nowhere is that more true than in this episode, in which the Legends team up with George Lucas. Yep, that George Lucas, before he ever made Star WarsI can't think of any other series that could pull off such an insane concept.

I have the distinct feeling someone on the Legends writing staff just discovered the short film George Lucas In Love. This episode is very, VERY similar to that story.

These days it's hard to remember that George Lucas was once a visionary filmmaker who inspired an entire generation of artists, scientists and directors. Unfortunately he's seemingly descended into madness and become a parody of his former self. I'd much rather remember the young George Lucas seen here.

It's too bad that while the Legends were inspiring George Lucas to make Star Wars, that they didn't WARN him not to make the Prequels!

When I saw that Rip Hunter was returning this week, I was worried that he'd immediately shove White Canary out of the Captain's chair and resume command. Luckily that didn't happen. At least not yet. I'm betting they're saving that plot for the season finale.


The Plot:
We open with a flashback to the beginning of the season, shortly after Rip Hunter activates the Time Scatter to protect the Legends by sending them to random periods in the past. He then sets the Waverider on a collision course with a atom bomb headed for New York City in 1942.

Before the ship crashes into the bomb, he pries open a floor panel and removes an old piece of wood that looks suspiciously like a spear. He then opens the Waverider's Time Drive, which contains a spinning ball of energy, and grabs it. A blast of white fills the screen.

In the present day, Professor Stein is on the Waverider and catches Heat Wave talking to himself. Except he's not really talking to himself, but to Captain Cold, who only he can see. Heat Wave is afraid he's going crazy, and asks Stein to help "fix his brain." Somehow Stein resists the urge to say, "I'm gonna have to put in some overtime on this one!"

Elsewhere on the ship, Steel, Atom and Vixen stare at printouts of the two ancient amulets stolen by Damien Darhk, Malcolm Merlyn and Eobard Thawne, and try to figure out what the villains want with them. Steel, who's an historian, says he can't find any record of anything resembling the two amulets. Vixen makes an intuitive leap and puts the two printouts together, saying they're really halves of ONE amulet. 

Steel immediately recognizes it as the Longinus Medallion. He wakes up the rest of the team and says the Medallion is part of the legendary Spear Of Longinus. According to the Bible, Longinus was a Roman centurion who used a spear to pierce the side of Christ during the Crucifixion. The blood of Christ gave the Spear incredible powers, including the ability to literally rewrite reality. That's some powerful blood!

Steel says that the Legion Of Doom (which is what he calls Darhk, Merlyn and Thawne) need to find the ancient piece of wood to complete the Spear Of Longinus. Once it's complete, they'll be unstoppable.

Darhk and Merlyn use the Medallion to track the Spear to 1967 Los Angeles. They kill several people as they're searching, which creates time aberrations that Gideon detects. She takes the Waverider to 1967 as well.

White Canary, Steel, Atom, Vixen and Jackson search LA for the Spear. They come across a film set, where they see a man who looks amazingly like Rip Hunter, who calls himself Phil Gasmer, and is directing a movie called Legends.

The Legends are amazed to see Rip again, and aren't sure how to proceed. As they watch, Rip takes his friend George Lucas aside and asks him for his advice on the film project. Suddenly Darhk and Merlyn appear, looking for the Spear. The Legends attack in order to save Rip, and chase the villains away. The police arrive and the Legends beat it, before they're detained in the past. George Lucas hides, while Rip's 
arrested by the police.

Back on the Waverider, the Legends wonder why Rip, aka Gasmer, doesn't recognize them. Canary believes Rip has the Spear. She tells Stein that she needs his help to rescue Rip. 

Canary (dressed as a nurse), Stein (dressed as a psychiatrist) and Heat Wave (dressed as the world's scariest orderly) go to the police station and tell the officers that Rip escaped from the mental ward, and they're there to retrieve him. Amazingly the cops buy their ruse. They enter the interrogation room to pick up Rip, but he doesn't recognize any of them and begins screaming. Heat Wave knocks him out and they take him up to the roof.

Darhk and Merlyn show up at the station, looking for Rip and the Spear. They track him to the roof, and find him there with the Legends. Rip wakes up and believes he's hallucinating (I get the feeling he's done some heavy duty drugs during his time in the 1960s). Just then the Waverider appears, causing Rip to pass out. Canary and the others carry him into the ship as it zooms away.

Onboard the ship, Gideon examines Rip and says his brain's been completely reprogrammed, and he's literally now Phil Gasmer. Atom and Stein believe this happened when Rip grabbed the Time Sphere. Gideon says that Rip took the Spear with him before he grabbed the Time Sphere.

Heat Wave uses Gideon's scanner to try and fix his head. She discovers an implant in his brain that was placed there by the Time Masters, back when he became Chronos. Stein theorizes that the implant may be causing Heat Wave to see some kind of "time ghost" of Cold. Sure, sounds reasonable. Heat Wave demands that Stein remove the implant.

Meanwhile, the real plot finally kicks in, halfway through the episode. Vixen notices that ever since the incident at Rip's film set, Atom and Steel are becoming more and more forgetful. Not to mention dumber.

Vixen examines a clapboard they took from Rip's set, and sees the name "G. Lucas" on it. Atom recognizes the name as "George Lucas," but can't remember how he knows it. She has Gideon look him up, and finds he's an insurance salesman in Modesto. She tells Gideon to check for alternate histories (?), and finds that Lucas originally directed a series of influential sci-fi films. 

George Lucas has now become a time aberration without his movies, Atom is never inspired to become a scientist and develop his flight suit, and Steel never becomes a "handsome archaeologist." Vixen and Canary decide they need to find George Lucas and convince him to make movies as he's supposed to.

We then see George Lucas dumping a box of old props down a trash chute (!) as he prepares to leave film school. Apparently his encounter with the Legends and the Legion Of Doom has rattled him so much he's dropping out and heading back home to Modesto. Vixen, Atom and Steel arrive to try and talk him out of leaving. Atom and Steel scare him even further, but Vixen tries sweet-talking him, asking him to think about the millions of people his films will inspire in the future. She tells him he's their only hope (!!).

Back on the Waverider, Jackson reads Rip's movie script, and sees it contains fictionalized versions of the Legends, and the story revolves around them finding pieces of the Spear Of Destiny. He questions Rip about it, who says the script was inspired by an old piece of wood he had. Jackson asks where the wood piece is now, and Rip says he gave it to his prop man, George Lucas.

Meanwhile, Vixen, Atom and Steel escort George Lucas back to film school, to make sure he stays enrolled. Darhk and Merlyn show up again, and have somehow figured out that Lucas has the Spear. They demand he hand it over. He tells them he threw it down the trash chute. They then take George Lucas and the Legends to the city dump, force them into a large trash compactor (?) and tell them to start digging for the Spear. 

Darhk says it's taking to long to find the Spear, so he activates the compactor to "motivate" them. The walls of the trash compactor then begin closing in (!). None of this makes a lick of sense of course, but they wanted a Star Wars reference, so here we are.

George Lucas finds the Spear, and just then the Waverider swoops in, guns blazing. Canary and Jackson jump out and battle Darhk and Merlyn. Rip, alone on the Waverider, tells Gideon that he's just an ordinary guy named Phil Gasmer, and not a hero. Gideon reminds him that Rip Hunter had no superpowers, but was a hero because of his courage.

Vixen, Atom and Steel are still in the trash compactor, helpless to act. They make a last ditch attempt to convince George Lucas to fulfill his destiny and make his movies. They finally get through to him, and suddenly Atom and Steel are restored. Atom's suit reappears, and Steel is able to activate his powers (hmm...).

The Legends escape the trash compactor and help battle the Legion. Suddenly Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash, appears and knocks down all the Legends. He starts monologuing, wondering which of them to kill first. Suddenly, Rip Hunter wearing his duster, armed with his laser revolver and sporting his British accent appears, telling the Legion to stand down. He tries to fire at Thawne, but his gun doesn't work (?). The Legion realizes that Rip still isn't himself. 

Rip then orders Gideon to fire. The Waverider blasts away at the Legion, allowing the Legends and George Lucas to jump aboard and escape. Unfortunately in all the confusion, Rip is captured by Thawne, who speeds away with him.

Canary feels guilty for losing Rip, but Jackson reminds her that they now have the complete Spear (which, since there's still a good seven episodes left in the season, they'll no doubt end up trading for Rip's life). He promises Canary that they'll rescue Rip.

Stein removes the implant from Heat Wave's head, but says it's been broken for some time, and couldn't be the cause of his hallucinations. He says Heat Wave is using Cold to second guess his moral obligation to the team. 

Atom and Steel decide to have a "George Lucas Movie Night" to introduce Vixen to the films, since she's from the 1940s and has never seen them. Atom says maybe they ought to be trying to figure out how to rescue Rip instead of watching movies, which is a very valid point. Gideon butts in, and apparently doesn't give two sh*ts about her master, saying Rip would want them to enjoy themselves tonight (!!!). 

Cut to poor Rip, tied up in a room somewhere. Thawne asks him about the Spear Of Destiny, and Rip says he only pretending to be himself earlier, and doesn't know anything about it. Darhk and Merlyn enter the room and prepare to torture him.


• Professor Stein does the opening narration this week.

• Steel decides to call the team of Darhk, Merlyn and Thawne (heh— sounds like a law firm) "The Legion Of Doom," after an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon he liked as a kid. I guess that means the Super Friends show exists in the Arrowverse? It's a fun little line, but it raises a ton of questions.

What would Super Friends be like in a world that's actually populated by superheroes? It'd have to be very different from the show we know. In our world, Captain Cold and Gorilla Grodd were members of the Legion Of Doom. Were they on the show in the Arrowverse as well? Were they cartoon characters before they appeared in the real world? Doubtful!

Additionally, Atom, Firestorm, the Flash, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were all occasional members of the Super Friends. Did they exist in animated form first as well? Did Cisco, The Flash's resident tech guru who likes to name new metahumans, get his inspiration from watching Super Friends as a kid?

• This week the Legends and the Legion Of Doom alike are scrambling to find the Spear Of Destiny, first mentioned a few weeks ago in The Chicago Way. Several things here.

First of all, the wooden component of the Spear looks to be about two feet long at the most. Doesn't seem like much of a "spear" to me. It's more like the Scepter Of Destiny, or the Riding Crop Of Destiny. I guess most of the wood must have rotted away over the past two thousand years.

Second, the Spear was used by a Roman centurion named Longinus to pierce the side of Christ. Steel pronounces "Longinus" as "LON-gin-us." 

Coincidentally, the day after I saw this episode I just happened to watch Hellboy again. In it, Dr. Broom (played by the late, great John Hurt), mentions the Spear Of Longinus! He pronounces the name as "Long-GUY-nus" though. So which pronunciation is right? If I had to pick one, I'd go with John Hurt's pronunciation, since he seems more scholarly and authoritative than Steel.

Thirdly, the presence of the Spear is amazingly appropriate for an episode about George Lucas. Indiana Jones was always chasing after religious relics with supernatural powers, so it fits in perfectly here.

Lastly, we're told the Spear can alter the fabric of reality itself, which is somehow completely different from changing history, in a way I honestly don't understand. I must be missing some subtle piece of logic here, because they sound like the same thing to me.

The writers apparently realized this doesn't make any sense, and try to smooth it over. Atom says, "Well, how is that different from us traveling through time, making changes to history?" Steel says, "Changes to history cause time quakes and aberrations, which we can undo. Changes to reality, however, those are permanent."

Eh, nice try, writers, but they're still the same thing.

• This has nothing to do with the episode, but I'd just like to point out that this is actress Amy Pemberton, the voice of Gideon! Wowza!

• So Rip Hunter is alive and well and directing movies in 1967. He's no longer Rip Hunter though, as touching the Time Drive somehow altered his brain. He now goes by the name of Phil Gasmer (?).

The Arrowverse shows all love to toss in little nods to DC Comics and their creators, so I assumed "Phil Gasmer" was an example of this. I googled the name and came up with nothing, so... if it's supposed to mean something, it's over my head.

Kudos to actor Arthur Darvill as Rip, who does a very convincing American accent as Gasmer.

Legends Of Tomorrow gets meta this week, when Rip disses the actor playing the villain in his movie.

In the episode, Rip, aka Phil Gasmer, is shooting a film called Legends, which is obviously based on the subconscious memories of his adventures. He complains to his prop man George Lucas about the actor playing a thinly-disguised version of Vandal Savage, the big bad from Season 1. Here's the exact exchange:

Rip: (to George Lucas) "What do I do?"
George: "I mean, it wasn't that bad."
Rip: "What? You saw him. I just can't seem to get Peter to bring any menace to the part! I may need to recast."
George: "No, no, no. You don't have time to recast, okay? Your thesis film is due in less than a month."
Rip: "I know, I know, but a film is only as good as its villain, and I have an antagonist who is as threatening as a wiener dog!"

That was definitely a reference to the fact that fans were unhappy with the whole Vandal Savage storyline, and a big swipe at actor Casper Crump, who played him!

It's actually kind of refreshing that the writers are acknowledging their mistake here and owning up to it!

• Man, Matt Angel, the actor playing George Lucas, sports one of the WORST fake beards I've ever seen on a network TV show. It literally looks like a carpet remnant glued to his face.

What the hell happened to the art of wig and beard making? I never noticed horrible hairpieces like this on TV when I was younger. Is it because TV resolution is so much higher now? Have they always looked like this, but we just never noticed it, because we were watching on televisions with four hundred scan lines? Or did everyone in Hollywood suddenly forget how to make convincing wigs?

• I kind of wish we could somehow see Phil Gasmer's Legends movie! It sounds pretty interesting, as it supposedly contains fictional versions of all the characters on the show!

• When the Legends arrive in 1967, then don period clothing (as usual) and search for Rip. Jackson wears black pants and a brown jacket with red trim. It may just be a coincidence, but his outfit looks a lot like the one Finn wears in The Force Awakens.

• I checked, and George Lucas graduated from the UCLA Film School in 1967, at the age of twenty three. So they got that detail right.

By the way, why do the various Legends constantly call George Lucas by his full name all through the episode? It reminded me of the way the Peanuts characters always call Charlie Brown by his full name.

• When George Lucas decides to drop out of film school, Atom and Steel are IMMEDIATELY affected, and begin forgetting all their scientific knowledge. 

The rules of time travel have never been consistently portrayed on this show, but as near as I can tell this is the first time any of the Legends has ever been affected this way. Even when Professor Stein inadvertently caused a previously nonexistent daughter to be born, it took a few weeks before he started experiencing memories of her.

So why are Atom and Steel almost instantly altered by a time change this week? Answer: Because the script needs it to happen that way.

• All through the episode, everyone treats Raiders Of The Lost Ark as if it's one of George Lucas' films. They all seem to forget the fact that it was actually directed by Steven Spielberg. George Lucas didn't even write or produce it— all he did was come up with the story concept, after deciding he wanted to make a big budget version of a 1930's serial.

Yes, it's true that without him Raiders would never have been made, but his role was much smaller than this episode would have us believe.

• Actress Maisie Richardson-Sellers, who plays Vixen, actually has a Star Wars connection. She has a small role in The Force Awakens, playing Korr Sella, a Resistance leader who was on Hosnian Prime when it was blown up real good by Starkiller Base (which everyone all over the galaxy could somehow see by looking up in their respective skies). 

• In this episode we find out that the Time Masters stuck an implant into Heat Wave's brain when they turned him into their enforcer Chronos. Stein theorizes the implant may be what's causing Heat Wave to see visions of Captain Cold.

Ultimately Stein removes the implant and discovers it's been broken for months, making this little subplot completely pointless. Or is it? There's no reason to bring up the implant unless it's going to become much more important later on.

I'm calling it right now this brain implant is how we'll get the real Rip Hunter back. He was a Time Master, so it's likely he also has an implant in his brain. 
I'm betting his consciousness is backed up on that implant, and Gideon will be able to use it to reinstall his original personality.

Of course then we'll have a Tuvix situation on our hands, as that'll mean wiping out poor old Phil Gasmer.

• My favorite part of the episode is when Canary and Jackson are heading off to battle the Legion, and see Stein standing over an unconscious Heat Wave, scalpel in hand. Canary asks, "What the hell are you doing?" Stein replies, "I'm performing brain surgery. What does it look like?" Nonplussed, Canary and Jackson then just keep moving! Haw!

• Since this episode is all about George Lucas and his legacy, it naturally features many Star Wars references. Here are the ones I noticed: 

When Vixen is trying to convince George Lucas to stay in film school, she says, "Look, George, I don't care about movies, but guys like them? They do. So before you get in that car and drive back to Modesto, just think about them, okay? Them, and all the millions of other people that your stories will someday inspire. The future of the entire world is at stake. And you're our only hope." Of course this is a shoutout to Princess Leia's famous line, "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're our only hope."

Darkh and Merlyn force Vixen, Atom, Steel and George Lucas to search through a trash compactor for the Spear Of Destiny. Darhk starts up the compactor to "motivate" them. This of course references the trash compactor scene in Star Wars. They even use a large metal pole to try and stop the walls from closing in! Obviously this real life experience inspired Lucas to write the scene later.

Vixen asks Gideon to pull up George Lucas' file. Gideon reads off his now-altered history, saying, "George Lucas, born in Modesto, California on May 14th, 1944. Named Modesto Hartman's “Insurance Salesman of the Year” in 1977, 1980, and 1983." Note that those are the same years that Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return Of The Jedi came out. Those clever writers!

Near the end of the episode there's a scene that's very similar to one in The Empire Strikes Back. As the Legends run back to the Waverider, Rip Hunter's captured by the Reverse Flash, who zooms away with his captive. Canary sees this and screams Rip's name, as Jackson pulls her back in. This echoes Leia seeing Boba Fett escape with the carbonite-frozen Han Solo. The Waverider then blasts off as the Legion shoots at it, looking very much like Boba Fett's ship Slave 1 hightailing it off of Bespin.

There may well be more Star Wars references, but those are the ones that jumped out at me.

• There were lots of fun lines this week as well:

Vixen: "I can’t believe we’re all going to die because of a stupid movie.”

Malcolm Merlyn: "About time you showed."
Damien Darhk: "Where were you?"
Eobard Thawne: "Always busy, gentlemen, and yet never late." (Speedster humor!)

Vixen: "Gideon thinks that the Legion's attack on Mr. Hunter's film set caused this George Lucas guy to quit movie making. As a result, he never made some movie about space battles or another one about an improbably handsome archaeologist."

Canary: "And we care about this because...?"
Gideon: "In the unaltered timeline, Dr. Palmer sees Star Wars as a child, and is inspired to become an inventor. Likewise, Dr. Heywood chooses to be a historian after seeing Indiana Jones instead of becoming a yoga instructor. 
Steel: "Oh, man."
Canary: "Wait, so you're telling me that because some film geek drops out of school, my inventor and my historian are now essentially useless?"

George Lucas: “You guys are from the future? That you’ve somehow seen a bunch of movies that I haven’t even made?” 

Vixen: “Well actually I’m from the past but that’s beside the point.”

Vixen: (as the gang tries to decide which George Lucas film to watch first on movie night)
 “Wait, this one sounds cute. It’s called Howard The Duck."
Atom and Steel: "NO!!!"

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