by Thom Yee
1×14: “River of Time”
I just realized that — in Rip Hunter, Carter Hall, and Kendra Saunders — Vandal Savage has three mortal enemies. That’s kind of a lot, even for an immortal dictator. And it fractures the story.
Like it or lump it, if you’ve stuck with this show this long, you should be able to overlook the flaws in Kendra and Ray’s romance, but with the way they just keep throwing it in our faces, it’s impossible not to keep picking it apart. And that’s a bad thing. The Kendra-Ray relationship is underdeveloped, oversimplified, boring, and unconvincing, and in thinking about it for as long as we’ve had to, I think finally I realized what the writing on Legends of Tomorrow reminds me of: Fanfiction written by an average thirteen year old. If you view “River of Time” through that lens, it doesn’t make the episode good, but it does help to make it slightly more acceptable.
Having captured Vandal Savage, the legends are unsure of how to move forward (i.e., should they kill him now… or wait till later?), but when they discover that the Leviathan robot Ray defeated last episode used technologies that indicate that Savage himself has discovered how to travel through time, Rip sets a new course: Back to the Time Masters, to show them that Savage is a threat to the timeline! Of course, they have to survive the trip there with the omnipresent knowledge that as long as Savage is onboard, he’s a danger to everyone.
As the legends make their way to the Time Masters’ base at Vanishing Point, their travels are perpetually complicated by the supposed deeper game that Savage has been playing this entire time, except for there’s no way he could know that Kendra and Ray would fall in love or that Jax’s attempt to fix the time drive would expose him to the time radiation that would put him in peril, two things turned out to be key in setting him loose and letting him win. The only thing Savage could have reasonably assumed was that Rip, his “Gareeb”, would put his own family’s safety ahead of the safety of the team, and even that knowledge didn’t really lead to any fruitful gains since he still ended up having to face down almost the entire team when he got loose. Once the team arrived at Vanishing Point, however, we learn that Savage really has been ahead of the legends this entire time when, instead of placing him in custody, the Time Masters still arrest Rip, having been in cahoots with Savage this entire time.
See, the thing about twists is that they only work when they confirm our suspicions, when they’re built on a solid foundation, when they don’t come out of nowhere, otherwise they’re just off-the-cuff “what if…?” plot developments. Vandal Savage was right to say that he was playing a deeper game as a master of time already in league with the time masters, but as presented it was just the latest thing that happened, not something we should’ve seen coming based on what we’ve seen (although it was predictable, but only because we’re all so cynical about these types of stories already). Even the Chronos/Heatwave reveal from a few episodes back felt more rewarding than this because it caused us to look back at the team’s previous confrontations with Chronos in a new light, but learning that Savage was working with the Time Masters… it doesn’t pay anything off. It’s twist for twist’s sake, and though there still are two episodes left to flesh it out, I really don’t know if Legends of Tomorrow’s established, average-13-year-old-level writing style is up to making this twist any richer or more rewarding.
I also don’t get the flashbacks in this episode as none of them added to the show in any way, doing little more than remind us that that the legends have individual backgrounds and origins. I knew that, I know everyone around me has some sort of backstory, what I don’t know or at least what I didn’t get from these flashbacks is why I would care about these people. On the bright side, it looks like Hawkman’s back, kicking ass, or at least momentarily kicking ass until Savage stabs him in the stomach again.
And then, after the entire team lies defeated, it’s not until Kendra fully enters the fray that the legends are finally able to put Savage down.
I gotta be honest, after my second or third “sigh” while watching this episode (which I think was probably when Ray let Savage loose after the most hackneyed, tired, cliché set up possible), I was pretty checked out for a lot of “River of Time”, but even in that state it wasn’t hard to see what was wrong. We’ve had thirteen episodes to build up motivations, plot threads, and characters, and yet very little in this nigh-penultimate episode felt like any sort of pay off. In fact, it felt stupid. Some of the fights were okay, and I think we can all appreciate the tight shirt Sara was parading around in all episode, but… uh… uh…
Sorry. Trailed off for a second there.
Anyway, not a good episode, almost not at all.
Thom’s Legends of Tomorrow — “River of Time” final score
Items of Note
- Future snacks taste bad because they’re sugar free? Does Stevia not exist in the future?
- Hey Rip, maybe not a good idea to pat a guy on the chest while he’s lying on the floor right after being stabbed in the stomach and still hasn’t received any sort of medical treatment.
- The Waverider’s pilot’s seat seems to have a forward-moving lever as its only control mechanism. Is that one-direction paddle really how they steer through four-dimensional space?