Spoilers ahead for “Last Refuge,” the latest episode of The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow!
The short version: The Time Masters are fed up with Rip’s little mission, so they send an assassin to kill younger versions of the team from earlier in their timelines. Throw in a heaping of contrived time-travel rules, and the stage is set. Oh, and Jax actually gets a really good story!
Pfft, so you thought this show couldn’t get any crazier with the time travel?
Usual insanity and plot holes aside, this episode was actually a whole lot of fun. The Time Masters decide to send back The Pilgrim, an (apparently bulletproof?) assassin tasked with hopping all over the personal timelines of the gang and wiping them out before they join up with Rip. In typical Legends fashion, half of it is played for laughs, while some stories are truly heart-wrenching. Tonal consistency has never been Legends' strong suit, and that’s fine when it’s actually this fun.
Young Sara and Young Rory are hilarious together, and this episode was worth the price of admission alone to see Young Capt. Lance with a glorious head of hair. The next spinoff series needs to be a Det. Lance cop series prequel. That hair, man. The time shenanigans cause some general confusion among the younger versions, but they don’t really dwell on it that long, which is fine. We’re told that if you die in the past you disintegrate in the future, and the Pilgrim can only go after your previous version one time (for reasons, apparently).
The “heists” to steal their former selves were fun little mini-missions, and Sarah and Hawkgirl geeking out over baby Snart was funny stuff. The Pilgrim’s attacks on the Starling City PD was also a nice action scene. But, if Rip knew this was an option, was he not worried this might happen down the line? Did he not think he might want to warn the gang a bit earlier?
Which brings me to this show’s biggest bone of contention: The time travel is just too wonky. They seem to make up new rules every other week, and they just aren’t all that consistent. The Time Masters can only take one shot at you to kill you, but it’s still okay to erase people from the timeline? They seem to hand-wave it all away by just saying “time is fluid” over and over, but it starts to get silly at a certain point.
Jax gets to meet his dad, in the best personal story this show has done yet
Seriously, this B-story was so good it makes the rest of the show’s unevenness all the more frustrating. Jax is a character who hasn’t really gotten to do much, other than crush on Hawkgirl and throw fireballs around. But, this week we learn more of his backstory, and how his father was killed while serving in the military while he was just a baby. So, while they’re running around stealing baby versions of themselves, Jax finally gets a chance to meet the father he never knew.
It’s a great scene, as his father brags about the great young man he thinks Jax will grow up to become — and Franz Drameh does an excellent job of playing the conflicted emotions running through Jax in that moment. The episode even manages to stick with that story for a while, showing us the fallout of the meeting and how his father’s death defines the man Jax is today. He even gets to see his dad again and tell him his true identity and about being from the future, after he’s taken hostage by the Time Master’s bounty hunter. Even when Jax decides to throw caution to the wind and warn his father about his own death (because this show really doesn’t care that much about time travel rules) it plays with real emotion. Which, heck, if given the opportunity in the same situation, wouldn’t you do the same thing?
Ray and Hawkgirl: Kill it with fire
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. For all the greatness of Jax’s story, the continuing awfulness of Ray Palmer’s fledgeling relationship with Hawkgirl continues to be a lowlight for this series. We get it’s a doomed romance, but they’re wanting to try anyway (sometimes, at least). The proposal was groan-worthy, as was the fallout. Also, Ray’s dead fiancee, the one who drove him to create the Atom suit, is onboard the ship (after being plucked from time for a rescue)… and all she gets is a brief mention off-camera? HIs late fiancee was the love of his life, and that story could’ve actually been interesting… if they’d bothered to actually tell it.
The final face off was pure, awesome cheese
Rip cuts a deal to give up his younger self to save the team, but of course, the gang uses this as a trap to hopefully take down the Pilgrim. This sets up a fight that is incredibly heavy on the freeze frame/spinning camera, which is gimmicky (sure), but still looks great for TV-level effects. The fight also includes a brutal twist, where 10-year-old Rip delivers the death blow to the Pilgrim. So… yeah. Rip had a rough childhood, in case that wasn’t clear.
Random notes: The fact that Rip Hunter keeps a stash of vintage cereal hidden in the Waverider makes me very happy. Snart butting heads with Rip was fun. Which, Snart is always fun, so that could be why. Rory dealing with his younger self was also really interesting, but it’s still so hard to get a read on what they’re doing with Rory. It’s worth saying again: Kid Rip is a total badass.
Up next: The gang heads to the future for the final (?) face-off with Vandal Savage. Because all the other encounters have gone so well, I’m sure these guys will do great facing off with the big bad at the height of his power.