Saturday, 6 February 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E03 - 'Blood Ties'

After the previous two episodes went into such great detail in showing us this disparate team coming together and dedicating themselves to the task of dealing with Vandal Savage, it was actually a bit of a shame to see the 'Legends' break apart so quickly, here, as so many of them went off on their own little adventures. Though, with this being only the third episode of the season, it was also probably inevitable - it is, after all, much too soon for this group of character to become the well-oiled machine that they will, no doubt, need to be to truly defeat someone like Vandal Savage. Unfortunately, while having so many members of the team go off to do their own thing probably felt inevitable, the end result is an episode which, much like the first, simply felt a little messy.

Still stuck in 1975, and left reeling by the death of Carter Hall, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) is left with no clear idea about what to try next. With Kendra Saunders still injured, and showing no signs of improvement, they cannot risk a time-jump. And, with their earlier attack on Vandal Savage ending in failure, they currently have no clue where he might be, now. With no way of getting at Savage directly, Rip seems almost ready to declare the whole endeavour to be a complete failure - until Sara Lance suggests the possibility of hurting him, indirectly. Sara's idea is to find a way to cripple Savage by stripping away the resources he has amassed over the centuries.

So, now, the team have a goal, once more. But, as the one responsible for bringing them all together, Rip feels responsible for Carter's death - so, despite having a hand-picked team ready and willing to lend their support, Rip decides to take on this new mission alone. Or, at least, he does until Sara makes it clear that that isn't an option. Locating the bank where Vandal Savage keeps his money, the pair set out to steal his funds - amusingly enough, while also turning down to the help of the team's two professional thieves, Leonard Snart and Mick Rory. Of course, their plan takes an unexpected turn when they learn Vandal Savage's most prized possession isn't his wealth, after all - but, the body of Carter Hall, which he has recovered and intends to use as a part of some strange ritual.

With Rip and Sara heading off on their own, Ray Palmer and Professor Stein are left to trying to find some way to help Kendra, who seems to be beyond the help of even the futuristic technology on Rip's ship. With fragments of the dagger that wounded her currently working their way through her system, it seems that the only real option is for Ray to go on a Fantastic Voyage-style adventure into Kendra, to track down those tiny pieces of metal and destroy them, before they can do any permanent damage. It, admittedly, doesn't make a whole lot of sense - being, probably, the most straight-forward example of 'comic-book' silliness that we have seen on any of the three show's which make up this increasingly complicated take on the DC universe. It's a fun little side-adventure, though - though, things become a bit more serious when a set-back shakes Ray's confidence in his own abilities.

Leonard Snart and Mick Rory, meanwhile, come up with a new plan to pass the time, after their offer to help Rip and Sara was turned down - one that involves 'borrowing' one of the ship's small transport shuttles, and heading off to Central City, taking Jax along for the ride. With the rest of the team distracted, Snart intends to take the opportunity to steal a certain emerald that he knows is on display in Central City, in 1975. But, of course, his motives aren't quite as straight-forward as they appear. This particular emerald, it turns out, is the same one that Snart's father arrested for attempting to steal, when he was a child. It was Lewis Snart's time in prison that had turned him into the abusive father that Leonard and his sister grew up with - so, Snart hopes that, by preventing his father's arrest, he can change his own past.

There was quite a bit packed into this episode - though that, in itself, doesn't necessarily doom it to failure (the most recent episode of Arrow, for example, did a great job of juggling a handful of separate plot-lines). I think the main issue, for me, is that so much of the character drama in this episode simply felt a bit contrived.

Ray Palmer, for example, has a sudden crises of confidence simply because the writer's decided that he should - and, the fact that he had already confronted, and overcome, similar doubts in the past, on Arrow, was brushed aside. So, it started to feel like we were retreading old ground with the character. Though, admittedly, this plot-line did provide some great moments between Ray and Professor Stein - so, there is that. I've said before that taking opportunities to pair up different members of this team, simply to let them interact with each other, was always going to be one of the high-lights of this show - and, that remains true, here.

Similarly, Rip and Sara had some great moments, as they worked to uncover the source of Vandal Savage's wealth, only to find themselves in over their heads when they found themselves, once more, face-to-face with the man, himself. The episode also did a great job of establishing a longer, and much more personal, rivalry between Rip Hunter and Vandal Savage than anything that has been suggested previously. Of course, we knew that it was Savage's murder of Rip's wife and son that drove him to defy the Time Masters and set out on his desperate mission - but, the revelation that Rip had already tried, and failed, to kill Savage (travelling all the way back to ancient Egypt to do so) gives the whole thing a disturbing element of 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. Savage, of course, had no real way of knowing what he had done to make Rip hate him so much - but, now that he has seen a photo of Rip's family in the locket that Rip wears, he has a fairly good idea.

It was definitely a fascinating development (and, Casper Crump had what might be his best moment as Vandal Savage, so far, with Savage's sheer delight at the idea that he might, one day, murder Rip's family). Although, that being said, Rip's decision to pull away from the team he had put together in the first place, especially after they had only recently agreed to rally behind him against Savage, still felt a bit contrived.

It was actually Leonard Snart's story that was the most successful, here. Finding himself face-to-face with his younger self, Snart managed to display a surprising amount of depth as he took the opportunity to show some words of (somewhat cynical) reason. And, confronted by the younger version of the father he grew to hate, Snart's barely suppressed anger was fairly obvious as he, instead, turned over the stolen emerald in an (obviously misguided) attempt to ensure a better life for himself, and his sister.

It was a fascinating arc for the character, which really deserved more attention than it received. Though, I also get the distinct impression that it is something that will be returned to in a future episode. With all of the talk of the dangers of altering the past (and, with Professor Stein having his own close-call when he managed to, temporarily, disrupt the meeting between his younger self and his future wife, in the previous episode), it seems fairly certain that this is going to become something of a recurring theme for the show - and, that the long-term consequences of Leonard Snart's brief encounter with both his younger self, and his father, are still to be revealed. Or, at least, I hope that proves to be the case. With the next episode moving forward to the 1980s, we might not actually have long to wait to find out.

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