Have you been watching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on the CW? It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride up and down one heck of a rickety roller coaster, but it seems maybe the freshman series has finally found its footing after last week’s abysmal showing. There was at least a reason to care about the characters for once, and they are slowly starting to acquire multiple dimensions to said characters. Well, most of them anyway. This week, the team is still hanging around in 1986 Soviet Russia. Valentina Vostok, Vandal Savage’s evil and beautiful mad scientist is still trying to replicate the formula to create an army of Firestorms. Rip and his crew have to race against time to save, well, time. Read on for more, but BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
The episode picks up aboard the timeship Waverider, as those of the Legends who have not been captured by Savage’s Soviet cronies are trying to formulate a plan to save those who were not so lucky. Rip, who gave the order to leave Mick, Ray, and Stein behind, is on the receiving end of some side eye and snarky comments from his team, since they are none too happy with his decision. They decide, after much deliberation, that if one wants to break into a Russian gulag, one needs the aid of a Russian mobster who is intimately familiar with said gulag. Kind of the 1968 Soviet version of “when in Rome”, apparently. Before heading for the mobsters, though, Rip pulls Sarah aside to show her the fate of the earth should their rescue mission fail. If she can’t save Stein, her orders are to kill him before he can divulge the secret to Firestorm.
Rip, Sarah, and Leonard go to a Russian bathhouse to enlist the help of Yuri the Bear (guest star Nick Gracer), Russian mobster extraordinaire. Rip gets his butt royally kicked, while Leonard watches him receive his comeuppance with pleasure. Sarah takes on six mobsters at once before coming to intervene with Rip and Yuri. They convince him to help based on their mutual desire to see Savage leave Russia. Yuri lends them some guard uniforms, a truck, and assumably some insider knowledge. Jax, as usual, is left behind. This time the whiny and wholly uninteresting Kendra keeps him company. Good, the less of her, the better.
Meanwhile, back at the gulag, Vostok is applying every technique she can think of to get Stein to crack. She causes him to hallucinate and see Sisco, but Stein doesn’t fall for it because this Sisco looks more like the Earth-2 version than the real mccoy. She cajoles him, then threatens torture, but Savage walks in and proposes the real torture: force Stein to watch his friends get beaten. They round of Mick and Ray, who has already been in a prison yard brawl thanks to his inexhaustible naivety, dangle them from the ceiling, and proceed to beat them. Ray, with his ridiculous need to be the hero, runs his mouth to save Mick from the worst of it. You’d have thought he would have had some sense literally knocked into him during his last ass-whooping. Stein can’t bare to watch any longer and seems to break. However, Jax has already sent him a message via self-mutilation, so the professor knows his rescue is on the way.
In fact, his rescue is already there. Sarah intercepts Stein and Vostok on their way back to the lab, but she is unable to rescue him and prepares herself for the unhappy task of offing the grandpa of her merry little gang. While back in the lab, Stein has an attack of Patriotism and confesses that she cannot make him give up his information. But during this soapbox stand, Vostok notices Jax’s message on the professor’s arm, and puts two and two together. She realizes that Stein becomes Firestorm by bonding with another person, and decides she will bond with him. She grasps ahold of her backup thermocore and is giddy with power before merging with Stein.
Realizing, finally, that the team would be better served if it were united, Rip sends in Jax and Kendra. And just in time, too, because it turns out Jax is the only one capable of pulling the professor out of the evil Soviet Firestorm that he’s stuck in. Otherwise, Sarah would have killed him. In fact, she probably would have already done the dead were it not for Leonard, who is not a fan of leaving a man behind, and even less a fan of killing someone who’s a part of your team. Look at the crook once again showing his heart of (possibly stolen) gold. Vostok blows up in a fiery explosion, and the team goes home to celebrate with some bourbon or whiskey that Leonard stole from Yuri at some point.
But things are not calm for long, because good ol’ Kronos is back to cause some trouble. The gang hurriedly buckles in to jet set away from the bounty hunter from hell, but they get locked out of the timestream and are forced to crash land where and when they are. Which turns out to be 2046 in a Star City run by a new Arrow.
All may not be lost of Legends of Tomorrow! This episode was finally a bit of a breakthrough for the show, and not a moment too soon. Many would-be fans have probably already written this one off. If you’re still hanging on, perhaps you agree that this episode showed promise. They lost some of the campiness, and not for the worse by any means. While the show is fun when it is lighthearted and goofy, it’s hard to take seriously. Fighting to save the world is not something to be taken lightly. Finally, it seems, the series understands that.
Why was this episode better than any of the ones before it? For starters, there was little to no Hawkgirl or Savage. Sorry, Kendra, you’re boring. Go home. Bye Felicia. Savage, is a terrible villain, and not the good, interesting kind of terrible. Secondly, Ray wasn’t an insecure bump on a log. Sure, he was heroic to the point of stupidity, and dangerously close to obnoxious, but at least he took some punches and didn’t mope afterward. There’s only so much “woe is me” a viewer can take before they just don’t care anymore. Also, some dimensions began popping out of the characters (except for the aforementioned avian lass). Ray has a tough and durable side, and some hidden confidence. Mick is not just a muscled idiot who likes shiny things. Jax is starting to assert himself as the valuable asset to the team that he is. Professor Stein is showing more than his know-it-all educator persona. It’s great.
Leonard, as usual, is fantastic. If everyone could put as much effort and panache into their character as Wentworth Miller, there would be no doubt that this series was a winner. Alas, that is not the case. But with either a major death (cough, Kendra, cough) or some serious reworking of a character or two, this could still be a show that viewers could look forward to each week. It’ll be interesting to see what their foray into the future brings. At least maybe Savage and his terrible hair won’t be there!
Tune in next week for more time traveling adventures with the Legends of Tomorrow, airing every Thursday at 8pm ET on the CW.