by Thom Yee
1×04: “White Knights”
With the economy flagging and the value of our dollar plummeting, it’s tough to be Canadian right now, but if there’s one good thing about living here, I would say it’s that we got to see this week’s Legends of Tomorrow early. But that’s about it.
So according to Legends of Tomorrow, breaking into the Pentagon was even easier in the ‘80s than it was in X-Men: Days of Future Past in the ‘70s as our heroes this week infiltrated the United States DoD headquarters on the trail of redacted files that might lead to Vandal Savage’s ‘80s-era goings on. It’s a pretty entertaining scene, particularly because they find a way to involve everyone on the team and particularly because Sara got to do a pretty nifty maneuver with her double spin kick (which looked like it was really done by the actress rather than a stunt double). But come on. Was their whole plan really easier than just sending Atom-sized Ray in? Just because Ray raises that question himself doesn’t excuse them from not even trying to answer it. And was it really that easy for characters like Firestorm, with no previous covert experience, to sneak into the building’s power room? With his whole head on fire? Was it really that easy for Heatwave to sneak his flame gun in, particularly when his role didn’t call for it? He was just arm wrestling a guy as a diversion, he could’ve just slipped out in the commotion instead of shooting flames everywhere. And they could’ve toned down Kendra half ripping that army guy’s face off. They don’t even care about it afterwards, but they may have just ruined an innocent man’s life (it’s hard to tell, they illustrate the ferocity of berserker Hawkgirl in the scene much more than the extent of the guy’s injuries).
In this week’s “White Knights”, Kendra finally gets out of bed and back into the action, and it looks like they’re skipping right over her inexperience being a liability in favour of her inner-beast, Hawk goddess amplifying her ferocity to uncontrollable levels, drawing parallels between Sara and her own bloodlusting White Canary problems and bringing the two bird-themed, female characters closer together. Through beating each other up. It’s an okay angle for Hawkgirl when we get to see how potentially dominant she can be in combat, but it’s a bit counter to the classic Egyptian depictions of the character we’ve seen on the show that have run more to the regal and erudite. Also… Hawkgirl sucks. At least at this show’s early stages, she seems mildly self-righteous at her best, but mostly whiny and unlikable at her worst. Tell us you were a barista again, Kendra, I dare you, I double dare you, mother f*cker, tell us you were a barista one more time! For a character who has yet to earn her place on the team and who has thus far leaned heavily on others to save her, it’s a little annoying for her to display yet another weakness that the team has to suffer for, and right now I don’t feel like the actor playing Kendra has what it takes to pull off the pathos the character needs to work. We’ll see how things go with her, but so far I’m unimpressed with Hawkgirl.
“White Knights” also reinjected a sense of tension into the show’s central premise when a former Time Master colleague and mentor of Rip’s shows up (played by the guy who was that undercover HYDRA a**hole in Ant-Man!), initially offering Rip a way out of the trouble he’s in for throwing the time stream into chaos before betraying him to Chronos instead. It’s nice to be reminded sometimes of what’s really going on in this show, and it was great to see the flame-gun-wielding Heatwave working alongside the laser-pistol-wielding Rip, but when Chronos’ bomb pulls the dual sides of Firestorm apart, it opens a can of worms that just didn’t work in this episode. Stein and Jax have a legitimate beef given their situation and especially Jax with Stein’s kidnapping of him, but they already went there. Remember when Jax called Stein “smart and kind and selfless” and Stein called Jax “a fine young man” and said that meeting him was one of the great moments of his life on the level of meeting his wife? I do, it was two episodes ago. They might not be totally fine yet, but they’re too reconciled at this point to bring this stuff up again so soon after, and even though we got a new wrinkle with Stein’s nagging of Jax coming from the loss he felt over the death of his former partner (Ronnie Raymond back in the Flash season two premiere), and even though that was actually a good reminder and revelatory in its own right, it’s just too weird the way the writers are presenting this relationship. They’re getting it all out of order and it feels sloppy.
The actual plot of “White Knights”, once revealed, is pretty cool and it grows organically from what’s come before with Savage trying to build his own Firestorm after having seen what the character can do a decade earlier, and it’s here where we get to the good stuff, which is basically everything Captain Cold does in the episode. I never really cared for the character that much as a Flash adversary, but given a chance to be his own hero here in Legends has let him (and his partner Heatwave) grow in ways that I wasn’t expecting. First, seeing him successfully seduce Valentina Vostok, a Russian scientist working with Savage to develop a Soviet Firestorm, when Ray’s bumbling attempts failed was great, and then seeing him basically take point and proceed to become the most important character in the episode was even better. He’s such a cool character (a pun I won’t even dignify by acknowledging), completely capable and prepared, his heroic acts never overriding or negating his villainous background, and the way he caught that girl that slipped at the beginning of the episode? Way too smooth to be the first time he’s done that. And stealing those wallets? Hilarious but only because he did it twice!
By the episode’s end, the good guys have stolen the MacGuffin that keeps Savage from developing his own Firestorm but everything else has gone to hell, we realize that this is going to be yet another two-parter when only five episodes have aired so far, and “The bad news is that our compatriots [Dr. Stein, Ray, and Heatwave] are being held in an impenetrable Soviet gulag.” But I don’t know, they broke into the Pentagon pretty easily, how big a deal is this going to be? “White Knights” was a very uneven episode in terms of character work and, really, some basic logic, but it did show us that we don’t need to see Savage in every episode for his shadow to loom large, and it’s an episode whose awesome moments were really, really awesome, so…
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “White Knights” final score
Items of Note
- It should’ve taken Stein longer to get to the bridge after that crash. Everyone else is still barely recovering in their seats and he just walks in like nothing happened.
- Vanishing Point reference!
- That auto mechanic crack was out of line. Not only is there nothing wrong with the job as a profession (other than the ones who rip off their customers), it’s a useful skill that may prove to be more resilient in a challenging economy.
- So Sara and Kendra train with bo staffs that they’ll never carry into battle? That’s some Pacific-Rim-style, practice-with-kendo-swords-when-our-robot-suits-don’t-have-swords bullsh*t right there.
- How long did they wait between stealing Valentina’s keycard and infiltrating the base? Like a day? Seemed like she had ample time to report her card (and wallet) stolen, particularly given how high stakes her research was.
- Remind me again why would Ray go into the field without his Atom suit so often. Is it itchy?