Saturday, 27 February 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E06 - 'Star City 2046'

With the previous episode ending with the Wave-rider forced to crash-land in Star City in the year 2046, the stage had seemed to be set for another very entertaining episode. Not only that but, by finally moving into the future, Legends of Tomorrow had finally shown some indication that it was ready to start making the most of its basic premise. The setting, itself, has also seemed to have a great deal of potential - with the team being confronted by a Green Arrow, who clearly wasn't Oliver Queen, on streets that looked to be overrun with crime.

After a tense (and, honestly, somewhat implausible) confrontation, in which this lone archer was able to drive the whole team of 'Legends' back to their ship, Rip discovers that they are, effectively, stranded until they are able to make some repairs to his damaged ship. Realising that (conveniently enough) a part that they need might be available within the city, Rip sets out with Leonard Snart and Mick Rory, determined to recover it by any means necessary - though, Sara Lance is also quick to invite herself along.

As they search for what they need, though, Rip and Sara find themselves drawn into the centre of an extended conflict between this new Green Arrow, and another mysterious figure who seems to have taken on the identity of 'Deathstroke' - and, eventually, discover that (despite all evidence to the contrary) Oliver Queen might not be dead, after all.

Mick Rory and Leonard Snart, meanwhile, find themselves drawn into their own little adventure, when a violent encounter with a local gang results in Mick taking over as their new leader. While the rest of the crew stayed behind to work on repairing the ship.

In the end, what this episode really boiled down to was another case of simply trying to juggle too many plot-lines.

The team's encounter with a weary and beaten future version of Oliver Queen was great - and, Stephen Amell did an impressive job of portraying yet another variation of his well-established character (even if the make-up, and beard, used to 'age' him weren't entirely convincing). Connor Hawke (Joseph David-Jones), meanwhile, was quickly able to establish himself as a worthwhile successor - and, the reveal that he was actually 'John Diggle, Jr' added an entertaining layer of complexity to their relationship. It's really just a shame that we aren't going to be seeing any more of him - since, another spin-off (especially one set in a future which, it is made clear, it only 'temporary') doesn't seem very likely.

On top of that, the argument that cropped up between Rip Hunter and Sara Lance, about whether or not it was worth getting invested in trying to help Oliver and Connor, was a genuinely interesting one that plays on another fascinating aspect of the show's time-travel premise. Obviously, a decision did eventually need to be made regarding who would, ultimately, be portrayed as 'right' - and, it was Sara who eventually won out. But, it was interesting while it lasted.

As the new Deathstroke, though, Jamie Andrew Cutler just wasn't really up to the task. The ideal situation here, of course, would have been to bring Manu Bennett back to play an older version of the original Deathstroke - but, sadly, that probably wasn't an option. Instead, what we had was the sudden revelation that Slade Wilson had a son, and that it was this son who was the cause of all of Star City's current problems - and, unfortunately, the portrayal of this new character simply lacked the natural charisma, and the imposing presence, that I would have hoped for (and, which Manu Bennett seemed to bring effortlessly, during his time on Arrow).

Captain Cold and Heatwave found themselves drawn off into a side-plot of their own - though, it was one that felt appropriate, and which played on the ways in which both men have developed over the season, so far. The idea that Mick Rory would be drawn to what anyone else would see as a chaotic hell-hole (and, that he would actually want to stay), was also a good reminder that he is very different from his partner. While Leonard Snart operates by his own complicated code of honour, and seems to have become committed to the idea of stopping Vandal Savage (even if his motives aren't quite as selfless as others on the team), Rory is a criminal and a violent thug. That characterisation of Mick Rory has, for the most part, been used as a source of comedy - but, it was very interesting to get a chance to see something a little more dangerous and threatening at work.

Each of these plot-threads contributed to the episode in a very meaningful way - but, unfortunately, it was the third major plot-line that dragged the episode down, for me. With half the team off having their own adventures in this dystopian future version of Star City, the rest of the team are left behind to make basic repairs to the ship - and, it's at this point that things start to take a bizarre turn into 'romantic comedy' territory. With Jax and Ray both seeming to decide that being stranded in a grim future, aboard a time-machine that was in serious need of repair, was the perfect opportunity for each man to suddenly develop a romantic interest in Kendra Saunders.

It was a development that felt awkward for a variety of reasons.

First, there is the simple fact that it took up screen-time that could have been much better spent, elsewhere. The time that was wasted on this awkward, and very sudden, love triangle could have, for example, been better spent establishing the episode's villain, or devoting more time to Oliver Queen and Connor Hawke - or, giving more time to Captain Cold and Heatwave, and the tension that seems to be developing between them. Honestly, there were all sorts of way that this screen-time could have been used.

Second, there's the more practical matter of exactly how much time as passed, for them, since Carter Hall was killed. Even considering the unclear nature of their relationship (with Kendra unable to remember their past lives together, and not seeming too eager to enter into an actual relationship before his death), the fact that Ray and Jax would still feel it was appropriate to try to 'make a move' so soon came across as inappropriate.

Sure, it wasn't all bad. Professor Stein's bumbling efforts to help Jax with his romantic troubles were amusing (with the psychic link that connects these two, very different, halves of Firestorm resulting in some genuinely funny moments) - and, Kendra, herself, was able to show some of her own growth as a character when she (firmly, but considerately) put an end to any notion of romance aboard the ship (at least, where she was concerned).

This insistence on trying to juggle too many plot-lines seems to have become a recurring problem with Legends of Tomorrow. It's starting to seem as though the creators simply feel as though they can't leave any of the show's varied cast on the side-lines - and, as a result, feel the need to go to occasionally absurd lengths in order to give each of them something to do. Honestly, a love triangle that suddenly cropped up for a single episode and which will, most likely, never be mentioned again would have to be the worst example of that trend so far, though. If it's a choice between this sort of thing, and having some of the cast fade into the background for an episode, I know which I would prefer - but, I suppose I just have to hope that the creator's come up with better ways to manage the show's disparate cast, in the future.

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