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by Thom Yee

legends-of-tomorrow-one

Legends of Tomorrow images courtesy of Warner Brothers Television Distribution

1×15: “Destiny”

If you look at everything that’s happened on Legends of Tomorrow as the story of Leonard Snart, from cold-hearted thief to reluctant teammate to eventual hero, and you look at it only from that perspective while willfully ignoring most everything else that’s happened (especially anything having to do with Kendra), things look kind of okay from there.

Kind of.

Otherwise, what a f*cking mess.

So it turns out this entire time the Time Masters themselves (or at least the one guy we’ve met who seems to have any authority over the group) have been in charge of everything that’s happened on this show so far. And by everything, we mean:

Everything, everything since the legends captured Vandal Savage to preventing his nuclear arms deal in the ‘70s to getting Carter killed and giving Savage’s minions enhanced lifespans to Savage’s original killing of Rip Hunter’s family and the very formation of the team was designed bythe Time Masters to ensure that… uh… I’m… not sure exactly. They say they wanted Savage in control by 2166 because his rule would be the only one strong enough to resist the oncoming threat of alien Thanagarian invaders (and all of us comicbook fans should already know who the Thanagarians are), but I’m just not sure how what’s happened has led to Savage’s rule or solidified it any more than it already had been solidified. Through a new device, the Oculus, introduced to us this episode, we find out that possibly the legends’ entire lives had been designed, manufactured, and deliberately planned to lead to this [vanishing] point, and the more the show explores the idea, the more themes like destiny and fate —themes that have been explored (poorly) throughout the series — come into focus. But nothing felt connected last night, not really when it comes to the cited examples (see above), and certainly not when you think about things like going to the old west or team members being turned into bird people. Are we really supposed to believe that the Time Masters have been in control of everybody? I mean:

“Destiny” employs its usual made-up time rules to explain away things like Captain Rip’s limited view of the timeline (i.e., he couldn’t see far enough past 2166 to foresee the oncoming invasion), and, as usual, it’s frustrating to think about just how much of this story has to be explained away by things like that to work or hang together in any way, shape, or form. Things just aren’t making a lot of sense here, and y’know what’s really weird? For a group charged with safeguarding all of time, the Time Masters sure seem transfixed on only a few specific points. And frankly, considering how easily the legends take them down and destroy the Oculus, they also seem far from capable of safeguarding much of anything. They should have ready access to tech from all over history, but the guards are easily taken down by a combination of (relatively) ancient technologies like shrinking armour (that’s never even used to shrink) and cold and heat guns, a laser pistol, and a few well-placed punches and kicks, and even one of the robed Time Masters (robes = boss Time Master) is taken down by nothing more than a skull-crushing foot stomp.

On top of all of this, where “Destiny” fails on the conceptual levels on which its written, it also fails in its basic levels of execution. The attempt by the Time Masters to revert Heatwave back to Chronos was shallow, Kendra’s “No, Savage!” when he ran off to kill Rip’s family was genuinely awful, Jax’s return was less triumphant than it was just another thing that happened, and I was never convinced of Professor Stein being that much of an ass, an idea they went back to again this episode. Some of these problems are down to never having had a strong foundation to build on, but some of them are brand new. Imagine if Jax came back to the team different, changed by his experiences having spent years trying to get back to help his team, tortured by the idea that his absence may have, at the least, killed Stein. In the show’s present, Stein needed him back ASAP, but ASAP was more than possible, it’s time travel, so why not take advantage and do something different? They even missed the opportunity of closing the causal loop of Stein’s original drugging of the younger, earlier Jax when they could’ve committed to the idea that it was the older, future Jax’s idea the whole time.

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You’re back from the future?  Great Scott!

But if you go back to what I originally said, and you view this story as primarily the story of Captain Cold’s redemptive arc, things start to look okay, because focusing down to single characters (at least the good ones) is about the only place you can find any wins on this show. There’s an essential complexity in Wentworth Miller’s performance of Cold that really works, and whether you focus on his turn to the light side, his always present need to protect those he cares about, or his ultimate sacrifice on “Destiny”, Cold’s story is much better than almost anything else in this series, and I think the writers know that. Taken as a commentative rather than literal device, the Oculus is the writers, and Cold’s admission that he was merely following a script is the tacit admission by the writers that nothing on this show has been as good as we had all hoped.  The more we embrace that as an audience, the more we can be okay with the fact that, with Legends of Tomorrow, the writers:

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

2.5


Items of Note

  • There are no strings on me? Where have I heard that before?
  • What exactly was it that the legends were doing would have prevented Rip’s family’s death? I still don’t see how their actions this episode related to preventing their death.

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