Thursday, 9 February 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E11 - 'Turncoat'

After vanishing back in the first episode of the season, Arthur Darvill made his return to the series after the mid-season break, only to spend his screen-time playing the hilariously 'out of his depth' amateur director and recreational drug user, Phil Gasmer. It had definitely been an entertaining direction to go with that character, too – to such an extent, in fact, that I honestly wouldn't have minded, at all, if the writers had decided to delay the inevitable moment when Rip Hunter's original memories were restored.

Of course, as the final moments of the previous episode revealed, the writers actually had another fun little surprise in store for the audience. Rip Hunter's memories were restored, certainly – but, only after Eobard Thawne took the opportunity to make a few changes. So now, rather than the heroic Rip Hunter who led to team throughout the first season, we have an altered version – one who is very much a loyal member of the 'Legion of Doom'.

It is, quite honestly, a fantastic development for the season, as a whole. We already had three great villains, in the form of Eobard Thawne, Damian Darhk, and Malcolm Merlyn – but, adding a villainous Rip Hunter to the mix makes them the Legion significantly more formidable. Here, we have a villain who truly understands the 'Legends', and is perfectly willing to use that knowledge against them. Also, though, his knowledge of the technology that they have come to depend on gives him a very clear upper-hand, even over such a formidable team.

Through it all, Arthur Darvill proves that he is more than capable of effectively portraying this villainous take on Rip Hunter – playing a character who still feels very familiar, despite the overall change in demeanour. There is a definite sense, throughout the episode, that the changes put in place by Eobard Thawne were actually something much more subtle than simple brain-washing – as though there was also some part of Rip Hunter that wanted to abandoned his responsibilities, and Thawne's tinkering had just brought it out. That, arguably, makes him much more effective in his new role.

More important than Rip's effectiveness as a villain, though, is the fact that this new development also feels like the right decision from a purely narrative perspective. Without Rip's guidance and influence, the Legends have been forced to learn to depend on each other – and, over the course of the season, Sara Lance has actually emerged as a genuinely effective leader. Rip coming back to the Waverider, and resuming his role as Captain, would have undermined much of that development – but, having him emerge as an external threat, on the other hand, only seems to cement it.

While the central narrative of Rip Hunter going up against his former crew provided the season's eleventh episode with its most entertaining moments the rest of the episode did, unfortunately, prove to be something of a let down. Rip's plan to draw the Legends into a trap by murdering George Washington, and forcing them to travel back in time to prevent the aberration he created, was an effective one (and, it definitely add heightened stakes to the whole conflict) – but, there was nothing about the time and place in which this episode took place that felt essential.

George Washington (Randall Batinkoff) made for an engaging enough presence in his time on-screen, but the mission to save him, and restore the time-line, definitely felt like an afterthought. That being said, though, there was definitely a lot to enjoy about the odd partnership that formed between George Washington and Mick Rory – with Mick even going as far as giving America's first president a lesson on what it actually means to be American. Mick Rory has been consistently entertaining character from the very beginning of the series – and, this episode offers up plenty of moments that provide further proof of that.

Also, the bizarre sequence of events that led to Nate and Amaya ending up in bed together, when they were supposed to be helping rescue Washington, was truly absurd. Nate might have needed to take some time to recover from a dip in an ice-cold river, but the idea that they would end up sleeping together, and napping for an hour after ward, while on an important mission was completely ridiculous. It's the type of narrative decision, on the past of the writers, that just makes the characters involved look bad – and, I was left feeling like it just didn't have any place in this episode. I'm pretty ambivalent about the idea of Legends of Tomorrow working in another romantic sub-plot, in general (given how poorly handled the first season's attempt proved to be) – and, this episode didn't really do much to reassure me. Much like with Ray and Kendra, in the first season, I'm just not sure I buy into the idea of there being any real chemistry between these two characters.

In the end, the eleventh episode of this season of Legends of Tomorrow managed to continue the very strong streak that the season has been on, in spite of some weaker elements. Individually, Nate and Amaya are both characters who I have enjoyed, over the course of the season, but their time on-screen together, here, would definitely have to be the episode's weakest elements. On the other hand, Mick Rory does a fantastic job of carrying what should have been an underwhelming sub-plot, through sheer force of personality – and, the central conflict between Rip Hunter and his former crew provides what could very well be some of the strongest scenes of the season, so far. Overall, it was just another great episode.

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