Tuesday, April 4, 2017

REVIEW: 'Legends of Tomorrow' - The Legends Risk Destroying the Timeline to Save Reality in 'Aruba'

The CW's Legends of Tomorrow - Episode 2.17 "Aruba"

As the Legends are about to take off for their next destination, a massive timequake rocks the ship. In order to try and fix what has happened, they are forced to break the one cardinal rule of time travel. But if they are able to destroy the spear, they will face the ultimate consequence. 

One of the best things Legends of Tomorrow did in its second season was make Sara the lead character. Caity Lotz has the charisma and screen presence to carry a show. Plus, Sara Lance is a fantastic role for her to play. Plus, this show simply didn't work as an ensemble that was a mix and mash of various elements from The Flash and Arrow. It needed to have more focus. In addition to all of that, this season was also lighter. It was more comedically driven while still focusing on the hunt for a mystical object that could alter all of reality. It's a tone that really works - especially opposite The Flash and Arrow which have only gotten darker as time goes along. Of course, it's also thrilling to watch as the Legends battle with the Legion of Doom. It's a season-long story that took some memorable villains from the others shows who all wanted to change their fates and put them here. Each of them were vastly more compelling to watch than Vandal Savage of the first season. All of this made this a very successful season for the show.

With all that being said, "Aruba" is a very chaotic finale. It's trying to juggle a little bit too much story. It centers on the Legends breaking the number one rule of time travel. They are never suppose to go back to events they've already participated in. And yet, they feel they have to in order to stop the Legion from getting the Spear of Destiny. However, it just highlights how non-sensical the show has always taken its time-travel premise. It sets up these rules only to break them. It was a very frustrating element of the first season. This year the show didn't spend a whole lot of time on that element. It focused on other things. But here, it's the entire premise of the finale. The Legends need to return to France 1916 in order to save reality. In the beginning, they need to carefully plan this mission because none of them can run into the other versions of themselves. But of course, they all do and it barely has any affect on the timeline at all. It creates a small timequake and keeps the Waverider grounded. But that's about it for the majority of this story.

Of course, having two sets of Legends in the same location allows the show to be more focused on death. The Legends who returned to this period from Doomworld know that it's a mission that will wipe out their existence. If they succeed in keeping the Spear of Destiny out of the Legion's hands, then they would be erased from the timeline. That is stated early on in this story. So, it's not surprising that the show ultimately delivers on these deaths. It's just a little manipulative though because the finale treats them as these big and emotional moments the characters and audience get swept up in - even though they happen to characters that are going to die anyway. So, Eobard rips Ray's heart out and it plays as this swelling of emotional that gets to Sara. And yet, her reaction shouldn't be that big of a deal. Because the show wants to play it as such is just too forced. And then, the final battle includes the two teams going up against Malcolm, Snart and Damian. It's a little confusing as a sequence because it's never clear which versions of these characters can die and which can't. So, Jax takes an arrow to the chest. And then, his alternate reality self takes an even deadlier one. But there really aren't any consequences to any of this. It's just the show purposefully killing characters just to show that it can. It's still amusing and compelling to watch. It's just noteworthy in its manipulations as well.

And yet, the final showdown between Sara and Eobard is fantastic. The show perhaps has relied on the death of Laurel to define too much of Sara's story this season. But it's also fitting that she's the focus once Sara uses the Spear. Of course, there's no reasonable explanation for how she knows what to say to activate it. Does the Spear just gift her with that knowledge? If so, why did Malcolm need to find that special book in the previous episode? That's an awkward plot hole. But it's also thrilling to see Sara summon the strength to use the Spear for good. She could use it to revive her sister or stop her life from becoming what it has following the sinking of the Queen's Gambit. Instead, she uses the Spear of Destiny to strip away the power of the Spear of Destiny. Plus, she allows the time monster to catch up to Eobard on this battle field. It's a terrifying sight when Eobard shows up with a hundred versions of himself. It's a cool visual that makes him a powerful final enemy for the season. But it's also rewarding to see Sara find a way to defeat him simply by being a good person. She found the strength and now Eobard is seemingly defeated for good. Of course, it should be interesting to see if his death actually sticks this time. He's died before on The Flash but kept appearing somehow too.

And finally, the season ends with the team crash landing in Los Angeles 2017 to see that their time paradox has changed a few things in the timeline. It's the show giving the characters consequences to their actions after the fact. They don't interfere with the final battle with the Legion of Doom. Nor are they felt in the immediate aftermath when the team gets to celebrate this victory and decide what they want in their futures. It happens eventually but it feels like just a tease for the future instead of something that impacted this story in a powerful and significant way. And yet, the consequences at least happened. If the show did nothing, it really would have rung false. So, this is a satisfying ending for the season. Of course, it also sets up a weird thing for the rest of the extended universe of shows. If the Legends messed up the timeline with their paradox, will any of those effects be felt on Arrow or The Flash? When The Flash created Flashpoint, that had consequences in the other shows. And yet, that happened at the beginning of the season where those effects could be felt. Legends of Tomorrow is ending its run for the year a little more than a month before the other shows. Those series are already committed to their stories for the season. So, it will be weird and awkward if they have to stop what they're doing to address this issue created by the Legends.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Aruba" was written by Phil Klemmer & Marc Guggenheim and directed by Rob Seidenglanz.
  • Nate and Amaya are just an okay couple. They get a grand moment of professing their love for each other and wanting to stay with each other despite the effects it might have on the timeline. And yet, that's such a small part of this overall story.
  • Eobard is the only member of the Legion of Doom who is actually killed. The rest are returned to their normal timelines with their memories wiped clean of all the adventures they've had in different periods. So, it's the Legends actually doing what's necessary as time masters.
  • Death was an important part of this finale. However, there wasn't a significant death that actually stuck. There's nothing like Snart's grand sacrifice from last season. As predicted, Amaya's death was undone. Plus, the rest of the legends from Doomworld simply vanished after saving the day. So, the team stays intact this season after defeating their enemy.
  • Of course, Rip decides to leave the team. He does so because he knows Sara is a much better captain of this crew than he ever was. That realization has been a long time coming. He's a little bit unnecessary as a character. And yet, I wouldn't be surprised if he pops up again somehow next season. Though this season proved the show doesn't actually need him.
  • Mick has betrayed the team a number of times. They never know if they can really trust him. And yet, they allow him to pick the final destination to celebrate after this mission is over. He was asking to go to Aruba for awhile now. But that still doesn't happen for the team.
  • The show has already been renewed for a third season. So, it will get to explore the extent of the alternations the legends made to the timeline through their paradox. That would be an interesting focus for the season instead of battling a big bad. It would allow the show to be more episodic. Those can be hit or miss but this season showed that that's a sturdy enough structure for this show.