by Thom Yee
1×12: “Last Refuge”
It’s gotten to be almost impossible to watch Legends of Tomorrow without finding some pretty big logic problems in the gang’s time-travelling shenanigans, but as big as the problems would have to be in a story where the legends try to prevent their latest villain, the Pilgrim, from murdering their younger selves, they didn’t bug me as much as they normally do.
After first rescuing the young Heatwave, fresh off of accidentally killing his entire immediate family after losing control of a house fire that he set, the legends proceed to rescue the young Sara before losing the Pilgrim when Gideon can no longer track her, and then devise a plan to kidnap themselves as newborns, thus, preventing themselves from building a timeline on which the Pilgrim can strike. There’s a base level on which almost none of this makes sense, particularly when that last bit means erasing themselves from existence, but the more I thought about it, the more I started building my own internal logic about the whole thing. First, it makes enough sense that Gideon would be able to track the Pilgrim’s movements, the Waverider is a timeship and you would hope that a timeship can track movements through time as well as a spaceship could track movements through space, and as much you would think taking yourself out of the timeline would erase the version of yourself that chose to take yourself out in the first place, it’s not that different from when Marty McFly messed up his own timeline but still had time to fix things before going back to the future. As for the Pilgrim only having one chance to attack their former selves due to the Time Masters’ insistence on precision with the Omega Protocol? I can imagine a scenario where the Time Masters would prefer not constantly dipping in and out of time for fear of screwing things up even worse. After all, that’s kind of what the legends have been doing this entire time, and the Time Masters certainly aren’t fans of them.
What “Last Refuge” does afford us in this troubled, mixed-up jumble of a story is the opportunity for growth for some of our heroes, and in that attempt it’s largely successful. Seeing Sara reunite with her father and the pride he takes in who she becomes was a touching moment (even if it was a very short moment), seeing Heatwave telling his younger self to stop blaming himself for his family’s death added a further dimension to the character, and seeing Jax meet his father for the first time was a surprisingly emotional moment for the character, particularly given how much his own story has been pushed aside in this first season. Not knowing who your father was can be something that weighs on your ego and robs you of your self-confidence. Hell, that’s an issue even for those of us who know our fathers but have always had distant relationships with them, and that one tiny moment when you find that your father might have even a modicum of pride in the man you’ve become can be monumental, and it’s a moment pulled off surprisingly well here (even if it was also a moment never before seeded in the character’s established history).
As has become common lately, we also got yet another piece of the puzzle that is Rip’s shadowy past when the legends travel to an unidentified place in time to meet his adoptive mother who is also responsible for raising the young orphans who are chosen to become Time Masters. Comicbook readers like me are aware of Rip Hunter’s true parentage, and when we learn that Rip’s real name is Michael, it’s the type of Easter Egg moment that nerds like me can only hope is eventually followed up on.
Unfortunately what didn’t work in the episode was the group’s overall plan in general. Left largely in pursuit of the Pilgrim during the earlier parts of the episode, the legends seemed so caught up in saving their younger selves that they forgot to try to beat the Pilgrim at all. When Ray sprang forth from his shrunken state and fired an energy blast at the Pilgrim to save the young Heatwave, he could’ve kept firing. When Sara and the older Heatwave save young Sara, everyone should’ve shown up to defeat the Pilgrim. Instead, they just let her get away and remain the predator for the entire episode. True, her localized time-manipulating abilities may have made her a difficult opponent, but they were going to have to stop her eventually, and they only wind up defeating her through very specific and fortunate circumstances, begging the question, what was their ultimate plan for her? Just keep running away? And as for the Pilgrim herself? Cold, merciless, and completely forgettable?
When all is said and done, the legends once again stand victorious while coming nowhere near achieving their original goals — stopping Vandal Savage — and Jax even goes ahead with trying to prevent his father’s untimely death, an action that Rip simply allows, optimistically suggesting that even though time always wants to maintain the established history, perhaps this will be one of those times where it wants to see Jax and his father together. It’s not the most logical moment, but it’s the kind of hopeful, uplifting, the-Doc-read-the-letter-and-wore-a-bulletproof-vest-because-what-the-hell moment that benefits the episode overall. Then we get a weird reveal that time is starting to adjust to our legends’ displacement and that if the gang doesn’t defeat Savage soon, they may not have lives to return to, and to be honest, it feels very sudden and very arbitrary. At this point, though, you can’t keep watching Legends of Tomorrow without just accepting these things, and if something, anything, can finally introduce a sense of urgency in this show, I’m prepared to just accept it at face value. Even if they should have all the time they want. Because they have a time machine.
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “Last Refuge” final score
Items of Note
- So the entire team is disguised as firefighters, complete with suits, and the only ones who actually go into the raging inferno of a house to rescue the people inside are wearing civilian clothes without even a hint of firefighting equipment or protective gear?
- Y’know who they probably should’ve sent in to the fire? Firestorm. Being on fire is part of his powers.
- ‘70s or ‘90s, there is an alarming lack of security at these maternity wards.
- Cold: “Funny how you never mentioned having a mother.” Is that something people normally mention?
- They say “Amnesia pill,” but they mean rufi.
- Oh yeah, Ray and Kendra had more romance stuff. I’m not going to talk about that.