Perhaps it was a coincidental sign of confidence. This week, The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow concluded the Fall season by storming into Chicago of the Roaring 20s. DC’s time travelers would take on not only the criminal empire of Al Capone, but the also the beginnings of the highly anticipated “Legion of Doom”. In the process, we saw several different hero pairings that moved each of the team members forward and even teased the return of one figure lost since the season opener. Below are my reactions. (Warning: Spoilers below!)
What Went Right
The fun of the period
Despite already visiting the early 20th Century twice (both the 40s and mid-30s), the settings, costumes and props kept this episode feeling like new material. Kicking it off, we even got to see the first incarnation of the Legion of Doom – with Damien Darkh and Eobard Thawne joined by Malcolm Merlyn in full 20s Gangster attire. The Model A’s, music and machine guns all made for a convincing adventure.
The Legends, themselves, even took time to delight in their surroundings. Maisie Richardson-Sellers played Vixen’s fascination with Prohibition-era Chicago. Ray Palmer (The Atom) and Nate Heywood (Citizen Steel) also got into the act by trading references to The Untouchables back and forth. Movie allusions are a staple of the CW superhero shows, but these quips felt far more natural because of how they were grounded in the environment.
The character interactions and evolutions
Each pairing within the Legends team showed solid chemistry this week. Palmer and Heywood’s team-up proved to be better for each of them, as neither man stooped to bumbling incompetence or out-of-era diction in order to provide comic relief. Instead, the engineer and the historian developed something closer to a sibling rivalry that could be humorously endearing without undercutting each character’s value. Their bickering and competitiveness even proved a funny nuisance, as shown by Mick when he told Amaya that Ray and Nate were idiots getting in the way. He did so knowing that both men were standing within earshot just outside the car. Despite their early setbacks, Ray and Nate succeeded not only in helping rescue Eliot Ness but also in swiping the financial ledger that would ultimately prove Al Capone’s tax evasion.
Mick (Heatwave) and Amaya (aka Vixen) also moved each of their characters forward in new directions as well. In the show’s inaugural season, Mick was often paired with Ray Palmer. As the two continued working together, Ray’s idealism began to rub off on his partner. Mick even went so far as attempting to sacrifice himself in the series finale, saving the rest of the Legends and defeating the Time Masters. (His crime-partner, Leonard Snart, usurped that sacrifice as he detonated along with the Time Master’s home base.)
This year, though, it may be that we see the reverse effect happen. Amaya, a former member of the Justice Society of America, began with much of the same commitment and purpose that defined Ray. However, after losing her JSA teammate and lover Rex Tyler, she joined the Legends. The goal was to track down the speedster that killed Tyler. Recently, she’s teamed up with Mick, with the latter’s demeanor and outlook starting to influence her. In “The Chicago Way”, the duo ambushed Capone’s delivery men and extracted the location of his hideout by gunpoint. Amaya’s final line of dialogue, though, may foreshadow that she’ll eventually have an effect on Mick.
After acknowledging that Mick was right about the fun of being bad, she rejected the notion that Heatwave was, in fact, bad. This voice of conscience would be a better angel to the other persona Mick kept hearing. At multiple intervals, Mick hallucinated the presence of his old partner, Captain Cold. This seeming apparition kept goading Mick into abandoning the team and looking out for himself. Snart repeatedly warned that looking out for the team would only put Mick in the same place Snart was. Whether Amaya or Leonard prove the stronger calling remains to be seen.
The last of this week’s effective match-ups was between the captain of the Waverider, Sara Lance (White Canary), and the academic half of Firestorm, Martin Stein. In the team’s first raid on Al Capone’s Chelsea Club, Reverse-Flash kidnapped both of them, delivering them to Damien Darkh and Malcolm Merlyn. At first, Malcolm offered to release them if the team relinquished the amulet they recovered in 1980s Washington DC. To sweeten the proposition, Malcolm even stated he would go back in time and prevent The Queen’s Gambit from exploding in the South China Sea. This deal offered Sara the chance to rewrite her life. She would never have been stranded on the island of Lian Yu. She would never have known the League of Assassins. Most importantly, her sister would never have followed her into the life of a vigilante, and would still be alive. The White Canary refused.
In doing so, the character of Sara Lance made another significant leap forward this season. In season 1, she aligned more with the Rogues of Leonard Snart and Mick Rory. Yet, at the beginning of this season, her knack for thinking tactically earned her the captaincy of the Waverider. It was a somewhat reluctant promotion. Her primary objective was still killing Damien Darkh and, thereby, saving her sister. But now, Sara held fast to the principles that bound her team together. She no longer sought to change history for her own family’s benefit. The moment left Martin Stein in awe. Doubly so, because after being the primary proponent of preserving history, he now was responsible for an aberration of it. He confessed to Sara that he had a daughter. At first, Sara was incredulous. By the airing’s conclusion, however, Sara bartered the amulet to save Martin’s life. She further promised to not only defend him as a team member, but also his daughter. After starting the season devoted only to family, then sworn only to principle, Sara was becoming a more well-rounded leader by finding the balance between the two. It was a vow made all the more important by the Legion finding out Martin’s secret as well.
In the final act of the story, Reverse Flash disguised himself as Martin Stein and boarded the Waverider, hoping to steal the amulet. Upon being discovered, he sealed himself on the bridge and opened the cargo bay doors. Malcolm Merlyn and a crew of Capone’s thugs stormed the ship. Though Sara would eventually strike her deal to swap the amulet for the real Stein, it would not be before she disclosed Lily Stein’s existence to the disguised Eobard Thawne. The deviousness of this new Legion was entertaining and matched only by their swagger. Their evil alliance is becoming far better opposition for the Legends than the sole villain of Vandal Savage from last season.
What Went Wrong
The two issues for this installment were relatively minor. The first, a narrative detail, concerns how the team knew where to perform their stick-up of Capone’s delivery men. It’s never made particularly clear how they knew the route to ambush. Regardless, Mick’s leadership of the assault team and his wild delight in firing a Tommy Gun help paper over the plot hole.
The second focuses on the climax. The visibility of John Barrowman’s body double in Merlyn’s final fight with Lance jarred me out of the story. As well lit as the ship’s bridge is, it became far too easy to see the face of the stuntman. The illusion of the confrontation broke fairly easily.
What I Took Away
Second only to “Abominations” (episode 4), this mid-season finale was a very strong chapter for Legends of Tomorrow. It clearly demonstrated the show’s year-to-year rise. The title was aptly chosen as the team, partly led by their remaining rogue (Heatwave), would have to not only navigate the seedy underbelly of the 1920s Windy City, but also play somewhat by its tactics. In the teasing moments for the series’ return in 2017, we also learned of two major developments. The two amulet pieces in possession of the Legion of Doom actually form a compass to locate the Spear of Destiny. But in order to interpret the compass correctly, the Legion will need the help of Rip Hunter. Having mysteriously disappeared just before the Waverider stopped a nuclear attack on New York during WWII, Rip appears to be hiding out as a Hollywood director in the 1960s. Hopefully, this thread will pick back up immediately as the program returns for its Spring run.