Thursday, January 28, 2016

REVIEW: 'Legends of Tomorrow' - Stein Reaches Out to His Younger Self While Carter & Kendra Fight Savage in 'Pilot, Part 2'

The CW's Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 1.02 "Pilot, Part 2"

Tipped off to Vandal Savage's whereabouts, the team infiltrates a munitions deal but things quickly go from bad to worse when Savage realizes they don't belong there. A piece of the Atom's suit falls off and into the wrong hands, which could cause disastrous consequences in the future. Stein, Sara and Jax head off in search of a young Martin Stein for help. Snart, Rory and Ray plan to steal a key element. Carter helps Kendra remember something vital.

"Pilot, Part 2" features the rest major confrontation between the Legends team and Vandal Savage. The first episode was all about this team coming together and finding purpose within this mission. They know that they are insignificant to Rip Hunter's future. But they are still determined to make their own fates one of greatness and heroics. This episode immediately puts them into battle with Savage. They are able to track him down to Norway where he is selling a nuclear device to a room full of terrorists. It's his latest attempt to bring chaos into this world. It's up to the team to stop him before such dangerous technology falls into the wrong hands. And yet, the team realizes just how fickle the timeline really is and how one minor mistake can have major consequences for the future.

The team goes undercover for this munitions deal. It's an environment that Snart, Rory and Sara unsurprisingly fit into. But so does Stein. His knowledge of the era helps get the team into the bidding room even though no one knows who they are. This isn't a room full of people who like surprises. The team even wins the nuclear device. But things quickly go sideways when Stein lets it slip that he and his associates may not be from this era. Savage immediately turns on them. More importantly, there will now be 200 years of the timeline where Savage knows that there is a time traveling team out to stop him. The team is able to handle themselves when this event turns violent. In fact, it's quite thrilling to watch as the team works together in order to defeat all of these foes. Firestorm is even able to collect all the nuclear energy from the device as it detonates without it causing widespread damage throughout the region - it just destroyed a couple of trees.

But this initial battle has a ton of consequences too. Ray is a late addition to the fight. He was hiding out in Stein's pocket ready for battle but it took awhile for him to emerge. He is able to take out a number of the bad guys. But in doing so, a small piece of his suit falls off and Savage's team later recovers it. Savage having his hands on this kind of technology in the 70s means that his mission for complete destruction of the entire world is accelerated. 2016 is no longer how it was when the team of legends left. It is now much similar to the future that Rip comes from. It's all because of this very minor detail. As a time traveling show, there needs to be consequences to the actions that the team takes in the past. This is a good enough first example of how devastating these changes can be. However, it largely just means Rip gets to yell at the team again for not listening to him.

And yet, this story also leads to a completely engaging and wonderful tangent. In order to find the missing piece of the Atom suit, Stein, Sara and Jax decide to meet the younger version of Stein who just so happens to be a leading expert on the physics necessary for its retrieval. It's largely just an excuse for wacky adventures to be had with a very different Stein. This younger version is just as smart but also more arrogant and more open with drugs and personal relationships. Sara and Jax have a blast with the younger Stein. He's much more fun than his older counterpart. It's fantastic watching as Sara flirts with him and Stein does his best not to interrupt the course that he is on with his life at this point in time. This also happens to be the day that Stein met his future wife. But the team risks ruining that just in order to protect the future. Stein is willing to make that sacrifice once his younger self proves to be much more inquisitive than he had anticipated. The younger Stein actually makes his way back to the ship. He doesn't get any concrete explanations for what is happening. In fact, the resolution is a little weird. They are just able to escort him off and tell him to go to a school function to meet a beautiful woman. He just stops looking for the answers that the team can't give him. It shows that Rip really does care for the rest of his team. He's willing to preserve Stein's family because of all that Stein is doing for him. Plus, Sara is able to steal Ray's future technology back with no problem.

More problematic in the present though is Snart, Rory and Ray's quest to retrieve an ancient artifact from Kendra and Carter's first life that may be able to kill Savage for good. This universe is very specific with how Savage can die. That has been fully on display in both these first two episodes as well as the recent Flash-Arrow crossover. These artifacts are special simply because the show tells the audience that they are. It's silly that only Kendra can kill Savage by stabbing him with this knife while also reciting the poem that is engraved on it. That sounds silly written out like I just did. But here, it's played completely straight and leads to the devastating moment where Savage turns the tables on his lifelong adversaries and kills Carter.

Carter's death is played as a completely shocking moment. And yet, it's not as great or meaningful as the show wants it to be. His story with Kendra has been going in a circular motion ever since his first appearance in the franchise. It just wasn't going anywhere. It was boring and tiring listening to him go on and on about him and Kendra being destined to love each other in all of their lifetimes - as well as do battle with Vandal Savage. It was way too serious and didn't work. Part of that was because Falk Hentschel was very wooden in the role. But it's also problematic because the show is suggesting that Kendra was actually falling in love with the guy. That makes absolutely no sense. It plays as her remembering her old feelings and that informing her present day actions. But there was no reason why this connection should be so strong right now. It's devastating to lose a member of the team. But the show didn't earn the moment where Kendra was crying out that she didn't get to tell him that she finally was in love with him again. And yet, this feels like it could be a good thing for the future too. Hawkman and Hawkgirl were way too connected as characters. With Carter gone, more individuality can define Kendra as a character. Now, she can actually interact and form relationships with the rest of the team instead of being so focused on Carter and Savage. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pilot, Part 2" was written by Phil Klemmer, Marc Guggenheim, Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg and directed by Glen Winter.
  • Arrow's Damien Darhk puts in an appearance as a potential buyer of the nuclear device. He largely pops up to show just how serious this group of individuals actually are. It informs us just how long he has been doing his villainous thing. But then, it means absolutely nothing. When the fighting because, he just vanishes - even though he could definitely defeat this team for Savage.
  • Jax is still coming together as a character. His youth has played opposite Stein's age and intelligence in interesting ways so far. But it was a good moment when Jax lifted Stein's confidence after a young Stein made his way onto the ship.
  • It's not that surprising that the ship has the capability of creating fashion for any era that the team travels to. In fact, the show does a great job at fashioning the 70s - although it's just a brief glimpse here.
  • Snart and Ray are polar opposite characters who do have a lot in common. They just went down very different paths. Ray naively makes multiple mistakes when they try to steal the knife. But the two work as a team in order to escape - which is then made pointless by Firestorm showing up and blasting them out of the cage.