Friday, 20 May 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E16 - 'Legendary'

The previous episode of Legends of Tomorrow had proved to be the best episode, so far, of a rather inconsistent first season. With the team fighting a desperate battle against the Time Masters, on a space station at the end of the universe, it was an episode that provided exactly the sort of wildly over-the-top story that I was hoping for when the series was first announced – and, it was also an episode that managed to pack in an impressive amount genuinely exciting spectacle, with its action sequences. Beyond that, too, it was an episode that had even managed to pull off some moments of genuine emotion, toward the end, with Leonard Snart's sacrifice, and the reactions of various characters.

Now, with the Time Masters effectively crippled, it is time to shift focus back on to Vandal Savage – and, as the episode opened, I have to admit to some uncertainty about whether this final confrontation could be anywhere near as exciting. It has, after all, been an unfortunate trend throughout much of this first season that the unfocused treatment of both Savage, and the team's efforts to stop his rise to power, has often been the weakest element of the series.

Of course, with the Time Master's means of studying and manipulating the time-stream destroyed, Rip Hunter has also find himself effectively blinded – unable to track down Savage, or observe the time-stream for any anomalies that might indicate his presence.

So, before we are even able to turn to the matter of Vandal Savage, himself, the episode takes a somewhat unexpected turn, with Rip basically dumping his team back in 2016 (amusingly enough, setting down down in May rather than January, when the originally left) in order to allow them to try to return to their old lives, while he continues alone.

This is a state of affairs which doesn't last for very long, of course – since, we soon have Ray Palmer and Professor Stein pooling their knowledge as they work to make contact with Rip in order to convince him to come back for the team. While this might suggest that this whole sequence of events was little more than a way to fill up some screen-time, that actually doesn't prove to be the case – as it does give us the opportunity to observe some quieter moments among the cast, as they found themselves momentarily left to their own devices.

Here, we had further development of the very odd friendship that has been developing between Ray Palmer and Mick Rory – with the two of them providing some very amusing moments together, earl on. From a continuity perspective, though, the true main appeal of this sequence is that it gave Sara Lance the opportunity to, briefly, meet up with her father, and learn of her sister's death. While, of course, it was perfectly in character for Sara to be left grief-stricken by the news of Laurel's death, the fact that this episode was willing to devote so much screen-time to picking up a plot-thread from Arrow was impressive. It also provided a couple of great scenes between Sara and Rip – with her anger, and grief, at the idea that she wasn't there to help her sister played very well by Caity Lotz (Rip's revelation that the original time-line would have involved both Sara and Laurel being killed by Damian Darhk was also a simple and effective way to answer any of the audience's questions regarding that particular issue).

With the time reunited, after their admittedly very brief time apart, there was still the matter of how to find Vandal Savage – though, fortunately, a new development, on this front, soon gave the team the information they needed. I do have to admit, though, that the sequence within which Kendra managed to send a message through time, to the rest of the team, didn't make a lot of sense, to me. It began with a horribly contrived coincidence (that the soldier Kendra encountered during the second World War should be wearing the same helmet that Rip picked up, at some point), and ended with some very vaguely defined time-travel (that Kendra placing a message in this helmet would lead to it, somehow, changing position in the present in a way that managed to draw Rip's attention to it). For such a pivotal part of the episode, it was disappointing to see this was the best that the writer's could come up with.

Vandal Savage's ultimate plan proved to be similarly problematic, for me. The idea that detonating three Thanagarian meteors, at three different points in time, would somehow revert the time-stream back to ancient Egypt, where Vandal Savage would be free to rule, just struck me as particularly absurd, even by the standards of a comic-book inspired story. In this case, though, it was at least a brand of absurdity that I was willing, and able, to accept. It was also interesting to see Thanagar suddenly become so important to the origins of both Hawkman and Hawkgirl, along with Vandal Savage - with the meteor that gave each of them their powers, 4000 years ago, turning out to also be of Thanagarian origin.

With Vandal Savage now working with his past selves on a plan to reset the time-stream, and set himself up as a ruler in the distant past, the 'Legends' found themselves required to divide their efforts – with three separate battles with three different Vandal Savage's, each intertwined with each other in a very entertaining way. With the knowledge that the radiation from the meteors will, conveniently, strip Savage of his immortality at the crucial moment, it seems that the final struggle, also, want be entirely dependent on Hawkman and Hawkgirl, after all.

Admittedly, it was a bit strange to place so much emphasis on that particular plot-point, only to suddenly strip it away in the final episode – it just felt as though the writer's had suddenly decided to push Kendra and Carter to the side. But, at the same time, it is also difficult to deny that no longer placing emphasis on Kendra and Carter being the only ones capable of killing Vandal Savage meant that just about every member of the cast got to have a stand-out moment in this time-spanning final conflict.

The first season of Legends of Tomorrow might have been of somewhat inconsistent quality but, over the past few episode, it had managed to do an impressive job of correcting some of its most lingering issues. While the season's final episode wasn't quite as focused on action, and spectacle, as the previous one, it still proved to be an episode which managed to find a very enjoyable balance between those moments of action that it did present to the audience, and the quiet character moments it provided. It may have felt like an oddly restrained final episode, overall, but it still managed to bring the season-long arc to a satisfying close.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the first season of Legends of Tomorrow came to a close with some intriguing hints about where things might be headed in the second. While I have, occasionally, found myself somewhat disappointed with this first season, it has always been a series capable of pulling off some fantastic comic-book inspired story-telling – and, with the boost in quality we have seen over the later half of the season, I am definitely feeling optimistic about what the second season might have to offer and Legends of Tomorrow returns.

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