by Thom Yee
Time travel’s always an intriguing concept for any story, but it’s also a tricky-wicky thing to stick the landing on, and the more it plays a central role in the story, the more the whole thing tends to fall apart under the stress of underlying logic. Even putting aside some of the basic, cause-and-effect and what-happens-to-that-cause-after-changing-the-effect questions, a lot of time-travel stories just don’t make that much sense when you think about them too much.
This week on Legends of Tomorrow, it is the year 2147 and countries have become little more than playthings for the corporations to rule over, including the Kaznian Conglomerate where the populace is policed by ruthless automatons patterned after the Atom’s armour, and the immortal Vandal Savage has found a place as the tutor of the teenaged Per Degaton (first name Per, last name Degaton?), a man destined to destroy the world and lay the foundation for Savage’s eventual rule. And our heroes screw everything up even worse than if they’d done nothing at all.
“Progeny” poses that ever so-classic time travel question — would you kill Hitler as a child to prevent World War — and our heroes come to the same conclusion that all heroes come to, no, but their half-assing of the whole thing actually accelerates the oncoming disaster when their interventions lead to Per Degaton launching his (and Savage’s) plans for population control five years earlier. As presented it’s merely a consequence of the Legends team’s tendency to never get anything right, but it should also have had real implications on the state of our story. That’s five years of history drastically altered, wouldn’t that affect things like Rip’s training and when (and if) his family is killed. Isn’t that kind of link to a specific point in time likely to affect the history of the Time Masters themselves? And that’s not even mentioning The Flash’s Eobard Thawne, born in 2151. In fact, are the Time Masters really even trying to guard the timeline, because they don’t even seem to be trying most of the time (of which they are masters).
Putting all of that aside, the most interesting thing about seeing our heroes travel forward to such a far-flung future should have been seeing them at a disadvantage, but it turns out even 2147 isn’t far forward enough for our heroes to be outmatched. The Atom automatons are a little faster than Ray in his armour, but other than that, Snart’s cold gun is still a more formidable weapon than anything else their opponents are carrying, Sara still beats plenty of people up with her stick, and there’s still nothing that matches up against Firestorm. Instead, our heroes find personal problems to face, Rip wrestling with his own conscience and coming to the same answer heroes always comes to when choosing not to kill Hitler and Ray’s belief that he left a heretofore unknown child behind that led to this Atom-automaton-ruled future and a possible great-times-three grandchild, something that affects his relationship with Kendra whose memories of past love with Carter/Hawkman are becoming more vivid. All of which are stories that kind of go nowhere and do nothing other than remind me that I actually miss Hawkman. He didn’t get much to do before his demise, but he represents a time when this show was actually really good, and as long as adaptations of DC Comics properties remain viable, he’s a character who will probably be underserved in favour of Hawkgirl, the female version, if for no other reason than producers balancing team rosters for gender representation purposes (see: the Justice League cartoon).
The one truly good thing that came from the episode is that we kind of/sort of got the good, old Heatwave back in the most direct way possible when he and Cold agree to fisticuffs, and it’s pretty great specifically because it’s the kind of straightforward, unpretentious, and easy-to-believe resolution that fits these two rogues, and it leads to our learning of another oncoming threat in the form of the Hunters, mercenaries that are now after all of them. It’s this development that was crucial to my enjoyment of the episode and it finally made me realize why it’s so hard to really care about this show: the threats that our heroes face have been way too external. Savage has been unconvincing this entire time, the ultimate threat he represents is from a time far ahead of our own, our heroes have never seemed that serious about getting him, and they, instead, always seem to be off on some barely related hijinks. But here, with these Hunters, we may finally have an enemy built from the actions of our heroes, a much more personal and hopefully immediate threat, and they have the potential to finally introduce some real danger to the show.
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “Progeny” final score
Items of Note
- Those future clothes don’t leave much room for, like, cold guns and stuff.
- Rip: “We’re going to need an accomplished thief. [Maybe one whose skills are 130 years old.]”
- Jewel Staite! I know that’s important for some reason, but I never finished Firefly.
- There are doors on both sides of Heatwave’s cell? Convenient for walking around himdramatically.
- So Rip cuts the cord that’s keeping Per Degaton unconscious instead of taking it off? That’s like cutting an IV cord instead of taking the needle out.
- Cold’s feelings about Sara? Was that just weirdly written dialogue or a hint of things to come?
- Does Rip’s laser pistol really need to be cocked or is that just an affectation?
- Hawkgirl: “We’ll take out their [virtually unguarded] command center!”
- Good job watching Ray’s back, Kendra. Y’let Jewel Staite sneak right up on ya.
- That is so Sidney!