by Thom Yee
One thing I’ve really loved about Legends of Tomorrow that’s been in place since the beginning is the show’s opening sequence, with each of our heroes’ logos flying past before revealing the ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ title. Even though it’s a very quick, fleeting moment, for me, it really helps to give our heroes their own presence on a show that contributes to the iconic, legendary status each of them has from the comics. It’s a type of importance that they all need, especially with the way the show wound up playing with the ‘Legends’ moniker, which is good, especially because in an episode like “Marooned”…
IT’S A TRAP!
After receiving a distress call from the Acheron, the flagship of the Time Masters’ fleet, and in need of the Acheron’s updated historical data for their own computers after so many of the team’s time excursions have led to changes in the timeline, the crew of the Waverider engage on a mission through time and space (mostly space) to rescue their sister ship and find crucial clues to Vandal Savage’s “current” whereabouts. So fine, fair enough, it even makes a degree of sense that our heroes would be cut off from new historical data since they’re rogue operatives from the Time Masters (even though we’ve seen several times before that they can see the ramifications of their own actions on the timeline). It’s a premise that, as always, gives the team a chance to split up into interesting little pairings where we learn interesting little things about our cast, like Kendra prefers Picard to Kirk on a physical (as well as intellectual?) level, Sarah and Cold are actually really good together, and Professor Stein is an unusually capable fighter when he takes out and disguises himself as one of the bad guys (in a deliciously scintillating [if illogical] offscreen moment) after our heroes learn that the Acheron had actually been taken over by pirates. Time pirates! That all works, but when you start to break down the threat this fairly typical sci-fi trope represents and you apply superpowers to the equation, things start to break down.
First of all, you’re going into a perilous situation fraught with unknown danger, and you go in with the overaged scientist, his (sort of) teenage sidekick with virtually no combat training, and a criminal with a flamethrower? Why not the atom-sized hero with power armour who can stealthily scout ahead and assess the situation while almost invisible to the naked eye? Ever since they cleverly used the Atom as a secret weapon in the second part of the pilot episode, it’s a maneuver they’ve never repeated, and that’s left them in a bad spot on more than one occasion. Then when they do find a use for Ray to use his power armour to repair the Waverider’s outer hull after the ship is damaged, they try give us the artificial limit of running out of oxygen, which should be a predictable and preventable problem for our science-trained heroes (i.e., bring an extra oxygen tank). It’s also juxtaposed against the backdrop of trying to bring Ray and Kendra closer together, which no one wants and is something that we were all relieved when it didn’t happen last episode. And of course on the Acheron, Professor Stein and Jax, despite departing together, wind up split apart anyway, and even when they’re later reunited they don’t ‘flame on’ (or ‘Firestorm on’ as it were). I can even imagine a plausible reason for wanting to avoid the whole Firestorm thing for the hero’s highly destructive potential in the sealed environment of a spaceship, but that’s something entirely forgotten when it comes to everyone else, good and bad, firing their guns all over the insides of both ships. These may be the types of problems a comicbook nerd rather than television viewer might have, but it’s all highly questionable stuff, and it shows how problematic it can be to come up with plausible threats and to apply typical story beats to characters who are extra ordinary.
The main thrust of the episode surrounds Captain Rip Hunter himself and the backstory that brought him to where he is today when the Acheron’s captain, Eve Baxter, expresses recognition of the legendary Rip Hunter and distaste for how far he’s now fallen, and though we badly need to learn more about the erstwhile Time Master and the organization itself, it’s been too long since the series’ inception for us to care all that much about what we end up learning. I literally had to go back to verify that lieutenant Miranda, Rip’s initial rival during his flashbacks, was in fact the same women that was Rip’s wife when we saw her killed at Vandal Savage’s hands back in the first scene of the pilot episode. You see, back in Rip’s past at the… Time Academy?… Time Institute?… he had a relationship with his fellow lieutenant, but apparently the one thing Time Masters don’t have time for is sexy time, so Miranda chooses to resign, but not before teaching Rip a valuable lesson about using explosive decompression against your enemies because callback. It’s all well and good, but it’s also incredibly rote and cliché, and the entire tortured-past/space-pirate-defeat story does almost nothing to add to the legend of Captain Hunter beyond establishing that there is a legend, and it’s a missed opportunity to get us to even remotely take a greater shine to Arthur Darvill’s Rip Hunter, who, thus far, has worked best as a largely comedic character like back when everyone was hitting him for being a presumptuous d*ck.
The one story that really managed to fly this episode was Heatwave’s, whose betrayal led to the character being kicked off the team and abandoned in some unknown way (and to some unknown time). It was a bit disappointing to see that Heatwave’s plan was a straightforward betrayal rather than some clever double cross, especially given the light we’ve seen in the character when he refused to leave Ray behind during their prison break a couple of episodes back, but it’s a hard turn for the character, one much harder than I was expecting and one that will no doubt lead to trouble later. Like the continued efforts to force Kendra and Ray together, it’s a story wrinkle that comes too soon after the seeds had been planted, but it works well, although I feel it’s also a big enough, important enough, and affecting enough arc that it could’ve been played as a seasonal arc or as a season one closer/cliffhanger.
I still think that one of Legends of Tomorrow’s greatest gifts is how well it manages to make time for every one of the cast, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s a gift that’s a strength or a weakness for the overall show. I would gladly have traded in some of the individual moments of “Marooned” for more time to develop Rip, to learn even more about the Time Masters, and to really get to know the character and what makes him so legendary, but as is, even with a show focused on him, I still don’t care. And even though it initially seems like a natural fit, I’m also not sure how well these characters work in a Star-Trek-type setting like this. The bad guys were severely underdeveloped and entirely forgettable, the good guys could have done a much better job if only because they have superpowers, almost nothing other than updating the Waverider’s computers really mattered, and even the best part of the episode, Heatwave’s betrayal, could’ve been done better.
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “Marooned” final score
Items of Note
- Once again, we’re left to wonder why holograms continue to be used as futuristic imaging devices even though they look worse and show less of what’s going on (backgrounds are usually missing) than today’s conventional monitors.
- Heatwave: “I was recruited for my unique ability to light things on fire.” Y’know… except for Firestorm.
- You’d think Jax would be a little more into the “extra-vehicular docking maneuver”. Isn’t he, like, into vehicles and stuff?
- Is this the first time we’ve gotten a really good look at the Waverider’s control panel? Some of those controls looked really Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Space Ranger reference! I almost missed that one
- Kanjar Ro reference!