Sunday, 5 February 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E10 - 'The Legion of Doom'

This episode of Legends of Tomorrow features an primary plot-line which, at a glance, feels very conventional. Here, we have a fractured group of reluctant allies overcoming their differences as they learn to trust each other, and work together. It is, of course, a basic narrative arc that is covered quite often in these sorts of shows. It even served as the basis for the first few episodes of Legends of Tomorrow. The main difference here, of course, is that the focus isn't on our team of wildly varied heroes (since, despite some occasional issues, they have more or less cemented themselves as an effective team). Instead, the true focus of this episode is on the season's antagonists – the villainous trio known as the Legion of Doom.

With the Legion of Doom still set on getting discovering the location of the Spear of Destiny, but having lost the mystical compass that could direct them to its various pieces, the villainous trio are left with little option but to try to get the information out of their hostage, Rip Hunter. The only problem, of course, is that Rip's memories are gone – and, he still seems entirely convinced that he is actually amateur director, and recreational drug user, Phil Gasmer.

With Phil unable to give them the information they need, the Legion are left with no other option but to try a series of alternate methods – ranging from threats and intimidation to old-fashioned torture, and even an attempt at hypnosis. Soon enough, though, Damian Darhk is able to uncover a piece of information that gives them an important new lead to follow. But, of course, even with this new lead, it's not exactly smooth sailing for the Legion of Doom.

Malcolm Merlyn and Damian Darhk continue to be a very entertaining pair. Whether they are willingly working together, as they were in the previous episode, or at each others throats, as they are for much of this one, the two have an incredibly entertaining rapport – with John Barrowman and Neal McDonough playing off of each other very well. There was definitely plenty of evidence of that throughout this episode, too – with the two trading insults, and even engaging in a brief, though fun, duel before finally agreeing to unite against their true foe. On the topic of the two of them coming to work together, too, there was definitely something genuinely hilarious in the idea that it was actually Phil who would come to act as their voice of reason.

Eobard Thawne continues to be something of an unknown quantity, though. The sheer contempt that he seems to have both for the Legends, and even his own accomplices, has been an entertaining element of much of his time on-screen – and, the way that he seems intent on setting Malcolm and Damian against each other, here, adds a fun element to this barely functional villainous team-up.

In his time on-screen, Matt Letscher has proved to be well-suited to the role, of course (perhaps, even to the point of matching Tom Cavanagh's performances, from back in the first season of The Flash). But, his screen-time on Legends of Tomorrow has been kept to a minimum, so far – so, it has often felt difficult to get a proper handle on what his role on the series is actually intended to be.

There is some sense to it, of course. After all, Eobard Thawne is a speedster – and, as any fan of The Flash would already know, speedsters border on being over-powered (there is a reason why the primary villain of each season of The Flash has been an evil speedster, after all). So, purely from a story-telling point of view, it makes sense to find ways to minimise his involvement.

Of course, there have also been hints at an in-universe reason behind Eobard Thawne's conspicuous absences – and, it's in this episode that we finally learn what that reason actually is. Of course, considering that the eventual appearance of the Black Flash (another character drawn from the pages of the comics) had already been revealed, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that this inhuman creature (who is, of course, what remains of Hunter Zolomon, after he was taken by time wraiths at the end of the second season of The Flash) would be on the hunt for Eobard Thawne. Of course, while his appearance isn't quite the surprise that it could have been, that doesn't mean that the the Black Flash's first time on-screen isn't effective. Admittedly, I am a little disappointed that they chose to bring the Black Flash to life with CGI, rather than prosthetics (especially since the CGI work that went into the Black Flash's first appearance come across as a bit rough) – but, I suppose I can live with it. The sheer terror that we saw from Eobard Thawne, at the thought of having to come face-to-face with the thing that was hunting him, was move than enough to sell the idea of the Black Flash being a genuine threat.

With so much focus being placed on the Legion of Doom, it actual heroes of the series aren't really given very much to do in this episode. Much of their time on-screen, throughout the episode, is based around putting together the clues to finally realise that the villainous speedster they have been dealing with is the same one that Professor Stein has already encountered – and, also, in trying to uncover the secrets of the artifact that they managed to steal during their last encounter with the Legion of Doom.

The high-light of this sub-plot would have to be the time that Professor Stein is able to spend with his time aberration daughter, Lily (Christina Brucato), when she is bought him to help. Their time on-screen together, in which Martin is forced to admit to the odd nature of Lily's existence, adds an element of genuine emotion to the episode – with Victor Garber and Christina Brucato proving entirely convincing as father and daughter. One thing I am definitely thankful for, as far as Lily Stein is concerned, is how quickly the the characters seemed to move past the idea of trying to 'correct' the time-line by undoing the change that lead to Lily's birth. Lily Stein has already managed to become a genuinely likable, and entertaining, character – and, I would much rather see her continue to play a role on the series, then have her abruptly written out.

Of course, while it might have felt strange the have the heroes of the series relegated to a sub-plot for this episode, that is hardly any sort of weakness. Instead, the creator's willingness to let the season's villains shoulder the weight of an entire episode, while they headed off on an adventure of their own, proved to be the episode's greatest strength. Honestly, I could not even imagine Vandal Savage carrying an entire episode like this, back in the first season. Here, though, we have three villains who are each so charismatic that the audience could very well end up rooting for them, in spite of the danger that their success presents for the true heroes of the series. That is something that I find to be genuinely remarkable – and, it is definitely a large part of the reason why the second season of Legends of Tomorrow feels like such a significant improvement over the first.

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