Warning: major spoilers below! You know the drill. Don’t read this recap until you’ve seen the fifth episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. You’ve been warned!
Last week on Legends of Tomorrow, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) screwed up big time and got himself and two of his teammates sent to a Russian gulag under the control of Vandal Savage (Casper Crump). In the previous review, I compared Ray to Maxwell Smart, which isn’t fair…to Smart, because he actually succeeded in spite of himself. Plus, Don Adams’ secret agent had a more competent partner who compensated for his stupidity. Despite his good intentions, Ray is kind of an incurable screwup on this show.
The opening sequence featured a very quick cameo by The Flash’s Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon, which was actually very effective—Martin Stein (Victor Garber) was hallucinating a clean-cut Cisco who had taken up an interest in Stein’s Firestorm formula. While the writers of this show seemed to forget that Stein had a wife in the first half of the pilot, it was nice to see that they remembered his bond with Cisco. Even under the influence, Stein was able to figure out that he wasn’t actually talking to his old friend. Instead, it was his captor, Valentina Vostok (Stephanie Corneliussen), adopting Cisco’s likeness.
There was something off about Valentina in this week’s script. In the previous episode, she was intriguing as someone who willingly followed Savage. But in “Fail Safe,” Valentina was completely one-note, and that note was “mad scientist.” She didn’t even get any solo scenes with Ray or Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller). The only time that Valentina really popped in this episode was when she became the new Russian Firestorm with Stein…and when she exploded. But we’ll get to that.
First, it was a Russian spa day for the crew of the Waverider. And like any good Russian spa day, that included a fight with the Russian mob while wearing only towel. Viggo Mortensen scoffs at your towels, Legends! While Rip Hunter’s (Arthur Darvill) fight with the mobster wasn’t entirely necessary, it was worth it to see Cold do nothing to help Rip. And as a way to get information about the gulag to save their friends, that wasn’t bad.
For the first half of the episode, Legends of Tomorrow finally felt like it was hitting its stride. The writing was unusually good, and the script even gave Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) an interesting dilemma. After showing Sara a projection of the future that included an army of Soviet Firestorms attacking Star City in 2016, Rip told her to kill Stein if she couldn’t rescue him.
Sara didn’t even disagree with that, even though she was clearly troubled by it. In another nice touch, Cold completely saw through Rip’s B.S. and instantly guessed what Rip wanted Sara to do. The thing is, Rip wasn’t necessarily wrong, but it was satisfying to see Cold emerge as the unexpected voice of reason. He even came through late in the episode when Sara was close to pulling the trigger on Stein.
Here’s where the episode went off the rails: Sara nearly saved Stein and he clearly saw her before he was ushered away…and suddenly he was willing to break even though he knew that the rescue attempt was happening?! It would be one thing if Stein had given Valentina incomplete information to stall for time, but apparently he really did show her the formula that she needed to recreate Firestorm. That was pure insanity, and not the good kind. It was also forced writing that desperately tried to create tension.
The rules of time travel on this show don’t make a lot of sense. Did this episode seriously try to make the argument that 2016 was settling into a dark Firestorm future just because Stein was ushered into a lab not even six feet away from Sara? Come on!
One of the other major subplots this week followed Ray and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) as prisoners in the gulag. Heat Wave was clearly unimpressed by both the prison and by Ray’s attempt to be a hero even while he was a prisoner. Heat Wave stood by and allowed Ray to be beaten, perhaps as a little payback for getting them captured. However, the episode suggested a bond between the two men when Heat Wave insisted upon rescuing Ray after he took a beating for him. Likewise, Ray expressed true gratitude to Heat Wave for that.
This wasn’t the first time that Wentworth has had to break Purcell out of a prison, but it was probably the funniest. When Cold couldn’t wake up Ray, he was satisfied to simply leave him behind with the Atom suit. And it really was hilarious to see Cold simply blow off Rip’s plan so he could rescue Heat Wave. It would be easy to argue that Cold only cares about himself and his partner… and yet he went out of his way to keep Sara from murdering Stein even though he doesn’t seem to particularly like either of them.
Back on the Waverider, Hawkgirl (Ciara Renée) and Jax (Franz Drameh) were useless for most of the episode, until Jax finally remembered that he could communicate with Stein by letting Hawkgirl cut his arm. But seriously, they couldn’t have chosen a shorter message than, “We’re coming”? Perhaps a one word message, like “Soon,” that wouldn’t have been noticed by Valentina?
It was refreshing to see Valentia forcibly merge with Stein to become the new evil Russian Firestorm, but it was over far too quickly. Jax’s speech to Stein about overcoming Valentia was also pretty cheesy and unearned. It had to be Jax to get through to Stein, because that shored up their partnership and tied up one of the loose ends from their argument in last week’s episode. But the moment just didn’t deliver on that promise.
Inside the lab, Savage came face-to-face with Hawkgirl and Rip, who retrieved his photo locket from Savage…but only after Savage had over a decade to memorize the faces of the family that he will kill in the future. Rip even told Savage their names (!) in perhaps one of the stupidest decisions ever seen on this show. And then Rip walked out of the room without even shooting Savage. If Savage hadn’t been immediately caught in the explosion set by Hawkgirl, then it would have been the worst dramatic choice yet. At the very least, that explosion should have badly injured Savage and set him up for the killing blow by Hawkgirl… but the episode didn’t follow through on that idea.
Back on the Waverunner, it was all smiles and champagne before the ship was suddenly attacked by Chronos the Uninteresting in the timestream. If Chronos had any sort of personality at all, it wouldn’t be so annoying to see him pop up all of the time. But there’s nothing compelling about Chronos, and he’s the biggest misfire on this show. The crew of the Waverunner needed someone interesting to pursue them through time, and all they got was this Star Wars reject.
Before losing to the Waverunner (again), Chronos was lost in the timestream and Rip’s team found themselves in the future version of Star City and staring down an arrow from the second Green Arrow, Connor Hawke! And if Green Arrow is there, Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen won’t be far behind.
This was one of the best Legends of Tomorrow episodes, right up until the characters started acting like idiots roughly half way through it. Still, the overall trajectory of this series is encouraging. And who’s gonna say no to a guest spot from Amell as an older Green Arrow?
What did you think about the fifth episode of Legends of Tomorrow? Let us know in the comment section below!
Image Credits: DC Entertainment/The CW