Saturday, 19 November 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E05 - 'Compromised'

For those of us of a certain age, there is quite a bit of (possibly entirely unwarranted) nostalgia for the 1980s – and, while this episode didn't go out of its way to play on that, the time period still added an additional element of fun to an already very entertaining episode. The fashion and music of the 1980s were very much on display throughout this episode, of course (with Damian Darhk's appearance, dressed in a Miami Vice style white suit in the opening scene, being the clear stand-out) – and, the writer's were also clearly able to have a bit of fun with some vaguely cringe-inducing trends (such as, for example, shoulder-pads for women).

But, of course, music and fashion aren't enough to drive an entire episode – so, instead, it is actually the tense political situation of the 1980s that serves as the true backdrop, here. Learning of another aberration that threatens to change history, the 'Legends' soon find themselves fully immersed in Cold War paranoia, as they learn of Damian Darhk's plans to use his new position as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan to make a secret deal with Soviet spies. Of course, just as in his first appearance, Damian Darhk isn't working alone – as, Eobard Thawne is also working away in the background, on some mysterious plan that is still to be revealed.

Once again, though, Sara's overpowering desire for revenge on the man who killed her sister (or, more accurately, who will kill her sister, in the future) proves to be a significant detriment to the 'Legends' mission – as their first attempt to infiltrate the White House, and stop Darhk, end in a confrontation with the Secret Service. Of course, this isn't the only complication that the team encounters – as Professor Stein soon discovers that his younger self has also put in an appearance (despite Stein having no memory of visiting the White House during this period), drawn by the hope of a meeting with the President's new advisor, Damian Darhk.

Nate and Amaya, meanwhile, reach out to the JSA for help and support – though, they are shocked to learn that the secretive organisation seems to have entirely fallen apart in the time since Amaya's departure – leaving only an elderly Obsidian (now played by Lance Henriksen) who, understandable, is angered and hurt by the abandonment of his former team-mate.

While I'm fairly certain that it's still much too early in the season to expect any major progress to be made on this season's overarching plot-line, I do have to admit that, after two episode spent on entirely stand-alone adventures, I am glad to be able to get back to that, here. Of course, I'm also fairly certain that my interest in this season's central plot-line is entirely due to the fact that both Damian Darhk and Eobard Thawne have already been established as genuinely entertaining characters (I know I was never this interested in anything related to Vandal Savage, at least) – so, bringing them together, here, feels like a such a deceptively simple idea.

It is an idea that has definitely worked in the second season's favour, though. Neal McDonough and Matt Letscher have both already proven that they are more than capable of playing compelling villains, in their previous appearances – and, based on what we have seen, so far, that seems set to continue throughout the rest of the season. In this episode, in particular, any scene centred around Damian Darhk offers up the same entertaining mix of charm and menace that made him such an effective villain in his time on Arrow.

Of course, it wouldn't be fair to claim that Damian Darhk was the only strong point of this very entertaining episode. Along with everything that Darhk had to offer, we also had plenty of screen-time devoted to exploring the continually evolving dynamic between 'Legends' – with Mick and Ray's new 'partnership' standing out as especially entertaining. The idea that Mick, as an act of gratitude, would give Leonard Snart's cold gun to Ray Palmer had been a surprisingly touching end to the previous episode – and, here, we get to see that surprising 'friendship' continue, as it now seems that Mick is determined to shape Ray into something of a replacement for his only real friend.

It doesn't work, of course – since, there is simply no way that someone as enthusiastically cheerful as Ray Palmer could truly emulate Snart's detached 'coolness'. Also, Ray's efforts to do so only seem to bring up lingering feelings of grief that Mick isn't willing, or able, to deal with. But, while it lasts, their time on screen together adds a great element of comedy to the episode.

Elsewhere, it is also very interesting to see Sara Lance's commitment to both the team's mission to protect the time-line, and to her role as leader, tested as she finds herself fact-to-face with Damian Darhk, once again. Nate and Amaya, meanwhile, have some entertaining moments together, as they investigate the current status of the JSA – although, I'm not sure I care much for the very heavy-handed way in which a possible romantic relationship is hinted at. At the same time, Professor Stein's latest run-in with his past self once more forces him to engage in some very interesting reflection.

Unfortunately, the only real weak-point in the episode concerns what really should have been its most interesting element – that being, the appearance of a much older Obsidian. This is not because of any issues with Lance Henricksen's performance, of course – but, simply due to the fact that he isn't actually given very much to do. It feels like a waste to bring in a veteran actor like Lance Henricksen for what really amounted to little more than a glorified cameo – so, I can only hope that this is not the last we see of him, in the role.

Overall, though, the season's fifth episode managed to give me exactly what I have been wanting over the past few weeks – that being, a return to the season's very interesting central plot-line. We still don't really learn anything about what Damian Darhk and Eobard Thawne have planned, of course. By the end of the episode, though, it is very clear that the pair have set their sights on some major goal – and, I am very interested in learning more about what that might be.

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