Saturday, 13 February 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E04 - 'White Knights'

So far, it feels as though Legends of Tomorrow has been playing it relatively safe with its time travel adventures. For the first three episodes, the cast found themselves temporarily stranded in the 1970s - and, now, for the show's fourth episode, they move barely ten years into the future, to find themselves in the 1980s. It might feel like a bit of a shame that a series with the potential of Legends of Tomorrow would limit itself to such an extent - though, it is also important to remember that this is only the fourth episode. There is, obviously, still plenty of room for further exploration. And, besides, the idea of someone like Vandal Savage being active during the height of the Cold War has a great deal of potential, in itself.

Following a tentative lead provided by a heavily redacted government file, Rip sets a course for America in the 1980s, in order to steal the original, unedited, version of that same file and learn what information it may hold. Of course, the only problem is that the original file is held at the Pentagon - and, the only way to get to it is through a carefully orchestrated heist. A more competent team of super-heroes would have had no real trouble with such a, comparatively (for super-heroes), mundane task - but, the one thing that the opening moments of this episode goes out of its way to make clear is that this particular team still have a fair way to go before they reach that point. While things get off to a fairly smooth start, it's not only until mistakes are made - and, the whole escapade devolves into hilarious chaos.

Despite this, though, the team are still able to get their hands on the file they need - through which they learn that, at this point in history, Vandal Savage has defected to the Soviet Union, where he is working on development of a new type of weapon. And, so, the decision is made to head deep into Soviet territory to uncover what that new project might be and, more importantly, put a stop to it.

Once the team arrives, though, things quickly get out of hand once again. Kronos, the time-travelling bounty hunter sent to apprehend Rip Hunter, is once more on their trail - tracking their ship just as it enters Soviet air-space. Thanks to some quick thinking from Rip, though, Kronos's ship is shot down by Soviet fighters while Rip and the team are able to make their escape.

From there, the team only has a short window of opportunity to track down the scientist working with Savage, Valentina Vostok (Stephenie Corneliussen). But, once again, they encounter unexpected complications when they learn that Savage's current plan is actually inspired by their encounter in the 1970s - and, that Vandal Savage is trying to create a Soviet Firestorm that would be under his control.

As with previous episodes, it is still the interaction between the show's wildly varied cast of characters that provides a great deal of the entertaining. Here, for example, we had Ray Palmer and Leonarn Snart, once more, working together - with Ray's giddy enthusiasm at getting the opportunity to play out his 'spy' fantasies creating an amusing contrast to Snart's smooth professionalism. Seeing Ray utterly fail at impressing Valentina, only for Snart to almost effortlessly swoop in to salvage the mission, was one of the more entertaining moments of the season, so far.

Similarly, Rip's decision to take Mick Rory with when he headed out to investigate Kronos's crashed ship also lead to a few amusing moments - with Heat Wave, it seems, being perfectly happy to follow Rip's orders so long as it gives him an opportunity to use his gun. Mick Rory's role on the show, so far, may lean much more heavily toward comic-relief - but, Dominic Purcell has still done a great job of bringing this character to life. I don't know if we're ever going to get any sort greater focus on Mick Rory, as a character, before the end of the season - but, for the moment, I don't think it really matters. He's just a lot of fun, whenever he's on-screen.

Kendra and Sara were, unfortunately, almost entirely wasted in this episode, though - pushed to the side-lines as Sara is given the task of training Kendra after Kendra momentarily loses control of herself and savagely attacks a guard during the Pentagon heist.

Honestly, I don't understand this latest development for Kendra, at all. The original incarnation of Hawkgirl, Chay-Ara, was an Egyptian priestess - and, as has been previously explained, she has had 4000 years worth of reincarnating and becoming a hero alongside Hawkman, originally Prince Khofu. With that in mind, I'm struggling to understand what Kendra's sudden inability to control herself is supposed to imply. Is it a particular incarnation that is emerging only to go off on a savage rampage? Is it, somehow, caused by the death of Carter Hall? And, why would her attacks, when she loses control, be so feral in nature?

Obviously, there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding exactly how Hawkman and Hawkgirl's abilities work, here - and, I don't know anywhere near enough about the either characters comic-book origins to be able to guess at where it might be headed. We still, for example, have no idea about why their ability to reincarnate also resulted in them gaining the ability to grow wings and fly. Given what we do know about the character and her origins, though, it simply doesn't make a lot of sense, for now.

Then, of course, there's the fact that this latest development for Kendra is treading very familiar ground - placing her in a similar position to Sara, who is still struggling with her own Lazarus Pit induced blood-lust. The idea that this similar experience could serve as a way for the two characters to bond is a worthwhile one - after all, Kendra still barely feels like she is actually a part of the team. But, that scene were they each took turns losing control and savagely attacking the other is really the perfect representation of the problem that the writer's have created for themselves. It's fairly obvious, from the way that so many of the scenes between the two were staged, that the way that they have come to parallel each other is entirely intentional - but, they are simply too similar, now. Also, another variation of the 'uncontrollable fury' character-arc (that we have already had with Roy Harper and Thea Queen, on Arrow, and now Sara Lance, here) just seems a bit tedious.

Another issue that has cropped up with Legends of Tomorrow is the somewhat circular nature of the development of some characters. Here, for example, we once again have the team questioning the true value of their mission, and whether they are truly committed to it (something which, I am fairly certain, has already been resolved on at least two separate occasions). This time, Rip's doubts are brought to the surface when he encounters his old mentor, the Time Master Druce (Martin Donovan) - who offers Rip the chance to return to the Time Masters, his crimes forgiven and his allies returned to their original point in time unharmed. While it was possible to understand why Rip Hunter might be momentarily tempted by his old mentor's offer, the team's ultimate rejection of it felt as inevitable as the revelation that it had actually been a trap all along.

Similarly, the tension and resentment that exists between Professor Stein and Jax was, once more, brought to the surface - despite the fact that they had seemed on good terms as recently as the previous episode, after resolving their last conflict. It allowed for some particularly great moments between Victor Garber and Franz Drameh, sure - and, it did come to a suitably dramatic conclusion when Professor Stein felt compelled to take on the mission to infiltrate Savage's base along, only to find himself in inevitable danger without the other half of Firestorm. At this point, though, it is starting to feel a little familiar.

But, those small issues aside, Legends of Tomorrow remains just as much fun in its fourth episode as it was in its first - and, it also seems to be finding a better sense of focus, now, as it does a better job of juggling different plot-threads. Best of all, though, the episode ends on a genuinely great cliff-hanger that should leave the audience eagerly anticipating next week's resolution.

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