Saturday, March 18, 2017

Legends Of Tomorrow Season 2, Episode 14: Moonshot

This week's Legends Of Tomorrow was filled with the usual Silver Age insanity and goofiness (in a good way), and a hell of a lot more fun than this week's dour and depressing The Flash.

The best part about this episode was the fact that it acknowledged Rip Hunter's new persona non grata status on the show, now that White Canary's taken over as Captain of the Waverider. To my great surprise and the writer's credit, it looks like this change is going to stick, and Rip isn't going to shove Canary out of the Captain's chair any time soon. 

That's good, because she's a far better Captain than Rip ever was. The writer's know this as well, and even acknowledge it in a fun little meta scene!

There's also an odd attempt this week to humanize Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash, as he sort of bonds with Atom. I'm honestly not sure where they're going with this subplot maybe they're just trying to give their main villain a bit of depth.

There was lots of fun period detail and NASA history this week, as the Legends attempted to save Apollo 13, which, due to a time aberration, didn't actually need saving!

Missed opportunity: Last week I predicted that since the Legends would be visiting the early days of NASA, they'd run into Katherine Johnson and do a little Hidden Figures tribute. Sadly, that didn't happen. 

For a second I thought it was going to though, when Canary said she needed to know the exact reentry trajectory, and Stein said he couldn't figure it out without a supercomputer. I was half expecting Katherine Johnson to stick her head in and say "I can do that!" But that wouldn't have allowed the Legends to have their dramatic "Can We Trust Thawne?" moment. Plus Katherine was probably busy looking for a place to go to the bathroom. Ah well. Their loss!


The Plot:
In 1965, Rip Hunter brings Commander Steel of the Justice Society to New York City. He gives him the final piece of the Spear Of Destiny, telling him to guard it with his life. Commander Steel, aka Henry Heywood, regrets that his family will think he died in the Battle Of Leipzig in 1956, but accepts the mission. He hands his dog tags to Rip and makes him promise to give them to his young son Hank.

The two men part ways and vanish into the crowds. A second later, Current Rip Hunter, Steel, White Canary and Vixen appear, looking for Past Rip and Henryl. Rip says this is the exact moment in which he gave Henry the Spear fragment, but they can't find him anywhere.

Back on the Waverider, the Legends discuss how to find Henry. Vixen says he was a fighter pilot, and Professor Stein suggests he might have gone to work at NASA. They have Gideon search NASA records, and sure enough, they see Henry's working there on the Apollo 13 mission in 1970. Rip enters the bridge, saying he has an idea how to find Henry. Canary tells him they've already figured it out, and they're on their way to infiltrate NASA. Rip, who of course was the former Captain of the ship, looks annoyed.

Canary, Vixen and Steel join a NASA tour group, hoping to find a way to sneak into Mission Control. Meanwhile, Rip and Atom attend a press conference given by Henry. He sees Rip, punches him in the face and has security haul him away. In the holding room, Atom asks Henry why he punched Rip. He says because Rip ruined his life, and he couldn't help himself when he saw him. Canary, Vixen and Steel enter the holding room. Steel, aka Nate Heywood, has an emotional reunion with Henry, his grandfather. Canary sees Rip in the cell and demands that Henry release him.

Steel explains that the Legion Of Doom is searching for the Spear Of Destiny, and already have three of its four pieces. He says the Legends are there to protect Henry's piece of it. Henry tells them there's no cause for alarm, as he hid his piece in the safest place possible— inside the flag that Neal Armstrong planted on the moon in 1969!

Steel asks how Henry plans to save the current Apollo 13 mission, which was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded. Henry doesn't know what he's talking about, as the mission's going perfectly. The Legends realize there's been a time aberration, and the Legion Of Doom has altered history. They're heading for the moon to retrieve the Spear shard, and the Legends have to stop them.

Cut to the Apollo 13 capsule as it hurtles through space, carrying astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. Suddenly Swigert morphs into Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash.

Back at NASA, Henry arranges for Stein, Jackson and Heat Wave— all in appropriate period attire— to enter Mission Control, claiming they're British observers (?). Stein and his pals will make sure the control crew doesn't witness anything they shouldn't regarding Apollo 13, to prevent history from becoming even more messed up.

Henry joins the rest of the Legends on the Waverider, and they blast off into space. Steel notices that Henry still seems upset about something. Henry says he still resents the fact that Rip's mission kept him away from his wife and son Hank. But now that he's on a time ship, he says he can go back to 1956 and it'll be like he never left! Steel's all for this idea, as he says his father Hank was cold and distant, no doubt because Henry wasn't in the picture. He hopes that if Henry returns, it'll alter Hank's life, as well as his own.

The Waverider locates Apollo 13, and Atom shrinks and flies over to the ship. Somehow he manages to enter the airtight spacecraft, and sees the unconscious astronauts. He then sees Thawne entering the Lunar Lander. Unfortunately Thawne spots him. Atom grows to normal size and the two engage in a zero-G battle. For some reason, Thawne feels the need to announce that his superspeed doesn't work in zero gravity. That doesn't make a bit of sense, but it's a lucky break for Atom!

During the battle, Atom accidentally hits a red (of course!) button, which separates the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) from the Apollo capsule, sending it hurtling toward the moon. Atom knocks out Thawne, and desperately tries to regain control of the LEM.

Canary radios Stein in Mission Control, telling him he needs to distract the ground crew so they don't see Atom land on the moon. Stein panics, and does the only thing he can think of— he starts singing Day-O (The Banana Boat Song). Amazingly, Heat Wave joins in the call and response tune, to the bewilderment of the ground crew. Meanwhile, Atom manages to land the LEM successfully, if a bit roughly, on the moon.

Atom radios the Waverider, saying the LEM's damaged and won't be able to take off again. Canary says they'll come pick him up. In the meantime, Atom ties up Thawne and somehow exits the LEM without killing him. Luckily he just happened to crash very near the Apollo 11 landing site, and recovers the piece of the Spear from the flag there.

Suddenly a meteor shower appears in space, threatening the Apollo 13 capsule. The Waverider zooms over and protects the fragile capsule from the space rocks. Unfortunately the meteors end up damaging the Waverider, disabling Gideon and sending the ship tumbling into space, meaning they can no longer rescue Atom on the moon. Canary tells Atom he's on his own. Thawne wakes up and tells Atom he doesn't want to die on the moon, and they'll have to work together to survive.

Back on the Waverider, Steel tells Vixen that Henry wants to go back to 1956 and salvage his life. He says he's all for it, as this would alter the lives of the entire Heywood clan for the better. Vixen realizes this would irreparably alter the person Steel's become, and tells Henry he can't risk going back. Henry realizes she's right.

Rip apologizes to Henry for making him sacrifice his life for the Spear. Henry praises Rip for molding the Legends into an efficient team, one that's much better than the version he first met in 1942. Rip admits he had nothing to do with this, as Canary's the one who whipped the Legends into shape.

Atom realizes he has to trust Thawne if they're going to survive, and unties him. They work together to power the LEM. Atom says Thawne's a murderous monster, which is true. Thawne assures Atom they're more alike than he thinks. They launch the LEM into space. Somehow Atom manages to expertly dock it back with the Apollo capsule and he and Thawne somehow make it back to the Waverider. They then send Apollo 13 safely back to Earth (???).

Meanwhile in Mission Control, a young boy enters, saying he's Hank Heywood, son of Henry and father of Steel. He's there to observe the Apollo 13 landing after winning a contest. Apparently Henry arranged for him to win, so he could secretly meet the son he never got to know.

On the Waverider, Canary, Vixen and Rip escort Thawne to the brig. Unfortunately the Waverider's still out of control, and is plummeting toward Earth, where it'll burn up unless it reenters the atmosphere at just the right angle. Canary radios Stein for the angle calculations (as Gideon's still out for the count), but he says he'd need a supercomputer to figure it out. Atom consults with Thawne, who tells him the answer is 38º.

The Legends debate whether to trust Thawne or not. Atom points out that Thawne doesn't want to die, so he'd have no reason to lie. Canary agrees, and enters the reentry coordinates. Unfortunately there's not enough power or something to set the ship at the proper angle. Rip says if they open the cargo bay door, it'll somehow angle the ship properly— but it can only be opened manually, meaning whoever does so will be burned to a crisp. 

Rip and Canary both volunteer to open the door, but Henry beats them to it. He seals the cargo bay and prepares to open the door. Steel pounds on the door, demanding he rethink what he's doing. Henry says since he can't go back to his family, this is the only way he can die in peace— by saving the Legends. He opens the door and is sucked into the atmosphere, dying instantly. The ship successfully tilts to 38º and safely reenters the atmosphere. Vixen, who served with Henry in the Justice Society, tearfully embraces Steel.

In all the confusion, Thawne phases out of the brig. He's met by Atom, who points an anti-speedster gun (?) at him. Somehow Atom's worked out that Thawne is a time remnant, and has to keep moving in order to exist. Thawne confirms this, and his watch alarm goes off, signalling that the Black Flash is near. He speeds away to... somewhere.

Meanwhile Mission Control celebrates the successful landing of Apollo 13 (no word on how they react when they find out its missing an astronaut). Steel appears and speaks with young Hank, his future father. He gives Hank some fatherly advice, hoping it'll change their future relationship.

Back on the Waverider, Rip tells Canary she's a better Captain than he ever was, and says he now feels out of place on his own ship, and wonders what his purpose is. She reminds him that the entire team is made of people who don't fit in.

Vixen apologizes to Steel for telling Henry what would happen if he went back to 1956. He says it doesn't matter, as Henry would have sacrificed himself anyway. Steel apologizes for telling Vixen about her future. Later she asks Gideon to show her what happens to her village of Zambezi. Gideon warns against it, but Vixen insists. Gideon shows her images of Zambesi being destroyed, and her granddaughter Mari McCabe who becomes the modern day Vixen...

 Heat Wave does the opening narration this week.

 OK, we know that Rip broke the Spear Of Destiny into four pieces, then recruited three members of the Justice Society to guard them, sending them to various point in time for safety's sake. But have we ever been told how Rip got hold of the Spear in the first place?

I don't remember them ever mentioning it on the show, but I could be wrong. I turned to the Official Arrowverse Wikia for the answer, and it said:
In 1956, the Justice Society of America were sent by President Ike Eisenhower to Leipzig to retrieve the Spear of Destiny after supposedly being contacted by Rip Hunter. Deciding that the Time Masters couldn't be trusted with such a powerful artifact, they split the spear into four fragments, Rip sending the other three into different time periods for safekeeping, while keeping his own aboard the Waverider.
Fine. But that still doesn't tell us how Rip knew the Spear was in Leipzig in the first place. Maybe since he's a time traveler, he saw that the Legion Of Doom would acquire the Spear at some point in the future, and had Gideon search for it in the past so he could hide it?

 Did you notice how in the scenes set in 1965, the camera was practically pointing straight up at the actors?

That's a common trick used in historical scenes, when a series can't afford to shut down several city blocks, replace all the modern street lights and parking meters with vintage ones or hire hundreds of extras dressed in period-appropriate garb. Just point the camera straight up to hide all the modern trappings and voila! It's 1965!

 Rip explains the mission to Henry:

Rip: "I know this mission won't be easy, Commander Heywood."
Henry: "For me or for Bettie? She'll think I died in Leipzig."

Apparently Henry's wife's name is Bettie. I wonder... was that a little shoutout to famous 1950s cheesecake model Betty Page? Henry was a member of the Justice Society during the 1940s and 1950s, the period in which Betty Page rose to fame.

 The Legends all looked pretty spiffy in the 1960s outfits, especially Canary and Vixen. I bet the actors on this show have a lot of fun getting dressed up in various period clothing.

 For you whippersnappers out there who are too young too remember it, here's the deal with the real Apollo 13. It was the third manned mission to the moon, and launched on April 11, 1970. Unfortunately two days later an oxygen tank exploded, crippling the Command Module. This caused the moon landing to be aborted, and Mission Control worked tirelessly to make sure the three Apollo 13 astronauts made it safely back to Earth.

The astronauts had to deal with limited power, loss of cabin heat and a shortage of water. They also had to use whatever components they could salvage from the inside of the Command Module in order to rig up a way to filter the carbon dioxide out of the cabin air.

It was touch and go for a while, but the three astronauts eventually landed back on Earth on April 17, 1970.

Due to changes made in the timeline by Eobard Thawne, the events of the mission were apparently altered. No oxygen tank exploded, the LEM touched down on the moon (although Mission Control doesn't know that), and astronaut Jack Swigert somehow disappeared from the mission!

 When Atom and Thawne have a zero-G battle inside the Apollo 13 capsule. For some reason, Thawne announces that his superspeed doesn't work in a gravity-less environment.

Wha...? Why the hell would that be? OK, I could see how running or leaping around a super speed inside a tiny space capsule could be a bad thing, as he'd  probably shoot right through the side. But that's just a case of restraining his powers, and is completely different from them disappearing altogether. There's no reason I can think of why his powers would stop working in space, and I see no reason why he still couldn't use the old "vibrating hand" trick and punch through Atom's chest.

And according to The Flash, don't all speedsters get their power from the Speed Force? You know, that infinite, interdimentional void that somehow grants speed to a chosen few? Does the Speed Force have a boundary? Does it only work on Earth?

 Why would Stein, Jackson and Heat Wave tell the Mission Control supervisor they were with the British Space Program? There ain't no such thing! OK, so they had a "space programme" that launched various satellites and rockets starting in the 1960s. But they've never had their own manned space program. The very first Brit in space was Helen Sharman, who tagged along on a Russian mission in 1991!

My point about all this is that saying they were from the British Space Program should have made the easily agitated Mission Control supervisor suspicious. I guess he was too busy to check their credentials.

I'm betting the only reason they wrote that line was so Franz Drameh, aka Jackson, could use his native British accent in a couple of scenes.

 Apparently Professor Stein is a big fan of Beetlejuice. When Canary radios him and tells him to distract Mission Control, he bursts into an impromptu rendition of Day-O! Amazingly, Heat Wave must have seen the film as well, as he joins in with the Professor!

 Obviously the producers intended for Stein and Jackson to be a duo on the show, since their two halves of Firestorm. The two of them have a satisfactory rapport, as Jackson's fond of calling Stein "Grey."

What the producers didn't realize until recently though was that the stuffy, reserved Stein and coarse, uneducated Heat Wave make an amazing comedy team. To their credit, they've realized how great these two are together, and have started writing more and more scenes for the two of them.

 Right before Atom lands the LEM on the moon, Jackson cuts the video feed to Mission Control, so the technicians there don't witness a time aberration. I noticed something odd about the error message that's displayed on the giant screen...

That's the Chicago font right there, baby! The font invented by Susan Kare for Macintosh computers in 1984 fourteen years after this episode takes place. Whoops!

 When Atom find out he's marooned on the moon, he makes a The Martian-style video log, saying, "I'm Dr. Raymond Palmer. Time traveler, superhero, and most recently, astronaut. It's April 13th, 1970, at 2200 hours, and I am stranded on the moon. Fuel on the LEM is close to zero. The food and water provisions were designed to last days, not months. So, yeah, I'm gonna have to science the (static) out of this."

Note that the producers cleverly place a bit of radio static over that last line, so he doesn't say "science the sh*t out of this" on network TV.

• As the Waverider's reentering Earth's atmosphere, Canary radios Stein and says, "Martin, are you sure about these calculations? I'm piloting manually here." Stein replies, "Did I or did I not win six Carlins?"

His "Carlin Awards" would be a reference to Mike Carlin, former executive editor of DC Comics, who wrote the various Superman books for many years.

 There're a ton of plot holes (as well as nonsensical "science") that are quickly swept under the rug in this episode, as the writers desperately hope we don't notice. Here are just a few of the ones I noticed:

Atom exits the Waverider, flies through space over to Apollo 13, and somehow enters the capsule. Here's the thing about space capsules they're airtight! There's no sneaking in through some kind of vent, no matter how small Atom shrinks. If there's some kind of hole for him to fly through in the capsule, then everyone inside's dead!

Thawne says his superspeed doesn't work in zero-G. That seems patently ridiculous to me, but let's just go with it. Later he and Atom crash-land on the moon in the LEM. Um... the moon has gravity! It's only 1/6 that of Earth, but there's still gravity there. Wouldn't Thawne have 1/6 of his superspeed? Wouldn't that be enough to knock Atom in the head before he knew what was happening?

Once they're on the moon, Atom somehow exits the LEM and bounds across the lunar surface to retrieve the Spear fragment from the Apollo 11 flag. Yeah, no. There's no airlock on the LEM just a door. The second Atom opened it, all the air would rush out, and Thawne would be dead. Was there an extra space suit inside the LEM? Did Atom put it on Thawne while he was unconscious, so he didn't die when he opened the door?

And then there's the biggest plot hole of them all, that's completely glossed over the fact that Apollo 13 blasted off with three astronauts, but returned with just two. Good luck to Lovell and Haise after they get back to Earth, as they try to explain to NASA where Jack Swigert went!

• When Thawne phases out of the Waverider's brig, Atom's there waiting for him, with a BFG pointed at his head. He tells Thawne, "I knew you'd escape.You're on the run. Because you're a time remnant. You should have died when Eddie Thawne killed himself. And now something's chasing you, trying to correct the Aberration."

How the hell does Atom know all that? That's all backstory that happened last season on The Flash, while Atom and the rest of the Legends were busy trying to kill Vandal Savage. I guess he could have asked Gideon to pull up Thawne's history, but that doesn't seem like things even she'd have records of. Did he look Thawne's wikipedia page? 

• Legends Of Tomorrow goes meta again! At the end of the episode, Rip admits to Canary that she's a much better Captain than he ever was. Which of course if what the fans have been saying all season long! Good to know the writers are listening to fan complaints, and adjusting course accordingly

• This week's best lines:
Rip: "Welcome to Manhattan, 1965."
Henry: "I have been dropped off behind enemy lines and cities all over the world. Never been dropped off in the future."
(It's a funny line, because to Henry, who's from 1956, the year 1965 IS the future!)

Jackson: "We're headed to Houston, 1970."
Heat Wave: "Elvis at the Astrodome."
Steel: "And then we're going to rescue my grandfather."
Heat Wave: "Then Elvis."

Stein: (describing Heat Wave to the head of Mission Control) "Uh, he's a man of few words, but makes up for it with personality."

Atom: "Houston, we have a problem."
(I don't think this is a particularly great line, as I even cringed a bit when he said it. But there's no way in hell they were gonna do an Apollo 13 episode without saying it, so we might as well get it out of the way)

Rip: "Can't you at least to try to destroy the meteoroids rather than using my ship as a human shield?"

Canary: "It worked before back in 1942. You put the Waverider in front of a nuke and it absorbed the blast."
Rip: "At least I had the decency to time-scatter you all first."
Canary: "Decency? Did you ask any of us if we wanted to be time-scattered?"

Rip: "! was trying to save your lives!" 
Canary: "You put me in a time period where they wanted to hang me for being a witch!"

Atom: "Waverider crew, we are now the proud owners of the last fragment of the Spear of Destiny."
Canary: (over radio) "Copy."
Atom: "Copy? That's all I get is a "copy?" Guys, I'm standing on the freakin' moon!"

(I dunno, I'm with Canary. Somehow travelling through time on a regular basis seems much more impressive than standing on the moon. Especially since we did it way back in 1969!)

Thawne: "Menial labor without superspeed is really quite tedious. Then again, I've missed working with a fellow scientist. Cisco and Caitlin and I, as you know, worked together for some time and I miss the camaraderie."

Atom: "Legion of Doom doesn't have Karaoke Fridays?"

Thawne: "I know it's easier for you to think of me as a monster. But I've met some of history's monsters, Raymond, and believe me, I'm not one of them."
Atom: "You killed Barry's mother. Twice. Rex Tyler. Brainwashed Rip into killing Dr. Mid-Nite."

(I have to agree with Atom here. How is Thawne anything BUT a monster? Why are the writers suddenly trying to get us to sympathize with him?)

Thawne: "And you and I have more in common than you think."
Atom: "Pass me the pliers."
Thawne: "We're both scientists. We're both obsessed with achieving the impossible. You dedicated your life to learning how to shrink yourself down to the size of an atom, and I spent mine learning the secrets of the Speed Force."
Atom: "I became the Atom to help people."
Thawne: "You could use the dwarf star in your expo-suit to power an entire city. But instead, you chose to become the Atom because you weren't satisfied with your small, pathetic life. There is no shame in wanting to be great or to reach higher. To walk on the moon."

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