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by Thom Yee

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Legends of Tomorrow images courtesy of Warner Bros. Television Distribution

1×13: “Leviathan”

And now… the real game begins. Or at least that’s what I thought was happening.

In travelling forward to the one time the legends know they can find Vandal Savage — just before the precise moment they’ve been trying to prevent this whole time — we find a future ravaged by war with only a few refugees of Savage’s population-decimating virus remaining in rundown camps. With danger approaching the refugees, Professor Stein finds himself unable to ignore their plight, taking the entire camp aboard the Waverider while they form their plans for taking Savage down one last time.

As a creature, as a force of conflict and horror, the concept of the leviathan is terrifying — a towering monster that strikes at you when you’re at your most helpless, trapped in its domain — but in Legends of Tomorrow, the eponymous leviathan of the episode is just a big, dumb robot. After trying to heighten the remaining tension of the series’ mission through the somewhat laboured (and, at least as presented, fairly nonsensical) threat of our heroes becoming displaced from their own timelines, “Leviathan” was supposed to be the first step in our heroes finally taking things seriously, but though they go through the motions and even capture the big bad of the entire season, there was still something missing.

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It’s a funny feeling knowing that the universe itself doesn’t want you to save your family. Y’know, old whatshername and… I did have a son, right?

There were a lot of good things in “Leviathan”, arguably almost all of the things we’d hoped for when we started this series, with big, widescreen action, time-spanning crises of conscience, and a mace for Hawkgirl, but even with all of that, one of the best parts of the episode was learning about Rip’s many failed attempts to prevent Savage from murdering his wife and son, well before he assembled the team. We already know that Rip had confronted Savage in the distant past and become one of his eternal enemies, but it’s a heartbreaking moment hearing of just how many times he’s failed and just how much the universe seems set against Rip ever saving his family, and like every time we learn more about Rip, it’s a strong addition to our understanding of the show. Unfortunately, like almost very time we’ve learned more about Rip, he only tells us about it, we don’t get to see it, and it’s right then I realized that we could really use an episode-length exploration of the character à la Heroes“Company Man”. Yeah, yeah, they kind of did that with “Marooned” a couple months back, but that episode did nothing original and everything boring in shedding light on Rip’s past, and it’s now that I’m realizing that, to this day, we’ve still never had a superhero show even close to as good as that first season of Heroes.

I’m sure there’s a contingent of viewers out there who may have felt that “f*ck yeah” moment we’ve all been waiting for when Ray dons his supercharged, giant-sized Atom suit to fight the Leviathan, but for me the whole thing was just too slow and plodding, especially with the resolution being Ray finally finding the courage and resolve to punch it hard enough in the head, and I couldn’t help wondering why he didn’t just shrink down to fly into the robot and mess up its internals. That’s actually the secret weapon, the power move of all of the shrinking heroes, when they just go inside and eff sh*t up, and especially with the Leviathan being a robot, it’s not like Ray had to worry about killing a living being or anything.

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To fight monsters, we created monsters of our own. Even though that makes no sense and we probably could’ve come up with a better, less destructive plan.

The crux of the episode involved Kendra’s discovery of an unnamed woman in Savage’s company wearing a very special bracelet, the one that she wore on the night she and Carter were first killed by Savage and a potential weapon to be used against him. In the process of the “Killer [Sara], Klepto (Cold), and Pyro (Heatwave)” kidnapping the woman and taking the bracelet, they discover she’s Savage’s daughter, Cassandra, which was a bit of a disappointment, as I had hoped they were going to go a bit weird with the show and it would turn out Cassandra was actually this era’s incarnation of Kendra, but we’ll come back to that later. Cold manages to convince Cassandra that her father isn’t the hero she’s been raised to believe in but actually the monster of this virus-ravaged world, and it’s one of the show’s more convincing, more well-earned moments as it draws off of Cold’s well-established father issues.  When Cold tells Cassandra “When it comes to crap fathers, there is no deep down,” it’s just a great line on its own.

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I can’t help but feel that this is the perfect moment to remind you that I used to be a barista.

So Kendra melts the bracelet down and coats her mace, formerly wielded by Carter, in the liquid metal, and it’s supposed to be a great moment of self-actualization, and for a while it arguably is when Kendra gets the drop on Vandal Savage in their first real fight (every previous encounter having been either alongside Carter or before Kendra was ready), but when she discovers that Savage has brainwashed this era’s incarnation of Carter (so they do kind of go weird with their resurrections) and that the villain is the only one who can bring Carter back, her wussing out is much more a reminder of why we don’t like Kendra than a wrenching scene of emotional torment. Yes, it makes sense that Kendra couldn’t just kill Savage given the circumstances, but it’s her relationship with Carter that’s defined her more than anything else in this series, and it’s these moments that prevent her from gaining even an inch of the agency she needs to be a real, whole character let alone one we could grow to like. So instead they take Savage hostage.

Things may finally be getting serious for the legends, the show may finally be getting serious as we approach its end game for the season, but as bad as things have gotten, it’s still hard to take things all that seriously with the show. I still say a lot of that’s down to Casper Crump’s portrayal of Vandal Savage himself, and in an episode where the legends take the immortal supervillain prisoner without too much effort, I can’t help but feel that he was never a real threat. The stakes can be raised, the action can get heavy, the threats can become personal, but when the villain is boring, uncharismatic, and easily beaten, none of it adds up to any real danger, so who really cares?

Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “Leviathan” final score

3


Items of Note

  • I’m not an expert in metallurgy (or really anything; I mean, is that even what it’s called?), but it seems to me that tiny bracelet melted down to quite a lot of liquid.

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