Thursday, October 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'Legends of Tomorrow' - The Team Travels to 1942 New York to Battle Nazis in 'Out of Time'

The CW's Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 2.01 "Out of Time"

After making a shocking discovery, historian Nate Heywood seeks out Oliver Queen for help in finding the scattered Legends. The team continues their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations. In 1942, the team protects Albert Einstein from being kidnapped before the Nazis destroy New York City with a nuclear bomb. Ray notices that Sara has a mission of her own, which leads them both to face her nemesis, Damien Darhk.

Legends of Tomorrow did not have a good first season. Vandal Savage was a horrible villain while the character beats kept repeating themselves throughout the whole season. Kendra would complain about her destiny. Rip would worry about his family. The time masters would be a vague threat to the mission. The rules of time travel would change in order to meet the demands of the plot. All of it became very circular and repetitive very quickly. Of course, the finale put an end to all of the problems the season was experiencing. Savage and the Time Masters were taken out while Kendra and Carter left the team to pursue their own lives free from being hunted. The rest of the team was committed to their new mission of protecting the timeline as the new Time Masters. It gave this season a much stronger through-line while still promising danger ahead with Rex Tyler showing up to give a grim warning from the Justice Society of America.

"Out of Time" is a very plot focused opening hour. It re-establishes what type of show it's going to be this season. It has seemingly learned from past mistakes and now has a willingness to be more fun and silly. That's how one can perfectly describe that trip to 17th century France to ensure King Louis XII can have sex with his new wife and conceive a child before being killed. It's a simple adventure of the week setup. The team of legends know that this threat is imminent. They are keeping their eyes open for anything that doesn't fit the period. Future guns would certainly fit that description. What happens next is just a fun display of action. Rip gets to whip out a sword and have fun in that kind of combat while the rest of the team enjoys using their powers to take out these rogue time travelers. It's light-hearted action that doesn't require the audience to think too much. That's the type of story and energy this show should be striving for on a weekly basis. Once one starts thinking about plot specifics, the entire experience is ruined. This sequence is very effective. But its purpose is to set up the new mission and how effective this team has gotten even though the rest of the premiere wants to change all of that.

The premiere actually opens on new character Dr. Nate Heywood running to Oliver Queen in Star City in the hopes of rescuing the legends from danger. He's a historian who has somehow figured out that time has been experiencing small changes over the past few months. How he's able to recall and notice things out of place is a mystery though. Right now, it's just important that he and Oliver travel to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to salvage the Waverider which crash landed there in 1942 following a supposed nuclear blast. It's miraculous that the ship is still down there after all of this time. Nate notes that the government won't confirm what actually happened that day. It's strange that they didn't try to move the ship - especially since it's so easy for Nate and Oliver to find. Once aboard, they discover Mick in stasis. He's able to detail everything that happened to the team after Rex warned them not to go to New York City in 1942. So, it's clear from the very beginning that this mission is going to end horribly for the team. So that effectively drains some of the energy out of the proceedings.

That warning was really all that Rex told the team after his big debut at the end of last season. That's inferred based on what everyone says about that encounter. And yet, the team ultimately decides not to listen because a massive time aberration occurs. The Nazis blow up New York City with a nuclear bomb. It's a massive change to history that they need to correct. They don't really care about whatever the consequences will be even though they know they'll be bad enough for Rex to show up with a warning. It's a story ultimately about the team needing to kidnap Albert Einstein before the Nazis do. It's an amusing story because Einstein is portrayed as a sleazy womanizer with more in common with Mick Rory than Martin Stein. But it's such a broad characterization that brings nothing meaningful to the overall story. It's just about the plot. Nothing happens that helps define the characters. This premiere is juggling a lot of story. It never really stops to make it clear what the characters are actually feeling at this moment in time. It would rather just move on to the next fun or exciting plot beat.

The sole exception in all of this is Sara. She's on a personal mission in 1942 to kill Damien Darhk. She has been tracking him throughout time in order to kill him before he can kill her sister in 2016. The connection between Sara and Laurel is special. So, there is a solid and genuine motivation around this mission. Plus, Damien connects to the main story as well because he's the one providing the Nazis with the radioactive material for the bomb. And yet, the big confrontation on the dock is a bit of a mess. It's chaotic and hastily put together. Sometimes when the show opts to go for the big, expanse shots of the legends all using their powers, the sheer spectacle of it all keeps the audience from engaging with what's really going on. It's a sequence the show has used countless times already. It happens here largely to show off the special effects budget again. However, it takes precious time away from the story with actual stakes. The Damien-Sara fight is important. It's a strong matchup of skills. But the chaos itself keeps Sara from being effective in her mission. Instead, it's all about the Waverider needing to be hit with the blast from a nuclear weapon.

It's a big deal that Rip decides to save his team from potential destruction. He may yell at them but he loves the team of legends he has assembled. He saves them while he goes down with the ship. Of course, the audience knows that's not the case at all. Sara, Ray, Stein and Jax are sent to random points in time while Mick is put in stasis aboard the ship. Mick remains just so Nate and Oliver have someone to talk to in order to know what happened. It's a huge exposition dump for the majority of the premiere. And then, the show just rushes through bringing the team back together. It's hardly a rewarding moment when the team assembles once more at the end of this premiere with renewed vigor. Being lost throughout time has no bearing on any of them because they were only there for a few brief seconds. It provides the show with some comical moments. Ray was facing off with a dinosaur. Stein and Jax were about to get their heads cut off. Sara was about to be hanged as a witch. These glimpses of the lives they lived don't carry any weight. It's more important that Nate and Mick reassemble the team and they come up with a new solution for the disaster in 1942. They fix it and are then confronted by more members of the Justice Society of America. That's a promising tease for next week's episode. But just like last season, it seems like the show is favoring plot over actually defining its characters and making this journey mean something to all of them.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Out of Time" was written by Marc Guggenheim, Phil Klemmer, Greg Berlanti & Chris Fedak and directed by Dermot Downs.
  • It appears that the time traveler causing all of the problems in the timeline for the legends is the Reverse Flash. He shows up to kill the Nazis for Damien. That's an ominous partnership. But it's only an intimidating tease of what's to come because fans of Arrow and The Flash know how powerful they both are as villains.
  • Nate is basically just a bland straight guy reacting to the crazy things that happen around him. Yes, he's nerdy and witty. That's an important character for all of the DC shows on The CW. But it doesn't really seem necessary either. He helps bring the team together because he's a historian. But what will his purpose be for the future?
  • Seriously, all of the stuff with Albert Einstein is so big and broad. It's important that the team gets him to announce his ex-wife as his vital collaborator. That's the resolution to the story that stops New York from being destroyed. But that's about it.
  • Sara's sexuality has always been a prominent part of the character. It has been wonderfully utilized in the past. Here though, it's played for laughs when she seduces a queen and then several women in Salem.
  • Last season's finale promised the Justice Society of America this season. That's not really a part of this premiere at all. They pop up in the end. It's cool to watch that new team assemble. But again, the show may be expanding its cast too much right now.
  • Why does Ray try to disarm the bomb with his suit? Why not Firestorm? They've absorbed nuclear energy in the past. It would have saved the show a lot of trouble here.