Spoilers ahead for “Fail-Safe,” the latest episode of The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow!
The CW’s big superhero mashup continued its Cold War adventure this week as the gang staged a big prison break (featuring a few former Prison Break stars! har-har!) and tried to avert another screwed-up future of the gang’s very own making.
This show has proven it can switch genres at the drop of a hat, and that makes it all the more fun. Prison breaks! Back to the Future homages! Screwed-up futures!
The short version: Dr. Stein, Ray and Rory are captured by Vandal Savage’s Soviet Forces, and the rest of the team stages a rescue mission — just as the U.S.S.R. scientist figures out Stein is the missing piece of the Firestorm matrix. Rip tasks Sara with a side mission to kill Stein if they can’t save him, and Snart convinces her to reconsider that order. But things finally work out when Hawkgirl and Jax decide to join in the mission and save the day.
Which, one note: Rip didn’t want them falling into Vandal Savage’s hands, but at that point there was (according to Gideon) a 99 percent chance they would fail and Savage would take over the world with an army of Firestorms. So why even hesitate to send them in? As Jax notes, you’re basically playing chess with half your pieces. It made some sense in the beginning, but there’s a reason he recruited these specific heroes — so why not just use them?
Stein vs Savage
After sitting out most of last week’s installment, Vandal Savage returned in a big way. Yes, we eventually got the mano-a-mano faceoff between Rip and Savage that ended with Savage blowing up (plus Hawkgirl gets a chance to tell him to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine), but Stein really stole the show early on. Savage is doing his best to terrify Stein, but he holds his own and keeps the team alive long enough for the rescue plan to eventually come into play. It was great to see Stein have a chance to stand up to Savage, with the power of his intellect and wit.
Snart’s code of honor
The evolution of Leonard Snart into a believable antihero took another step forward this week, as he pushes Sara to retain her humanity and not kill Stein, and also stands by his code of honor to rescue Rory (though admittedly he wanted to leave Ray, after dropping off his super-suit in his pocket).
Snart’s growth has been an excellent arc to follow, and harkens back to his interactions with Barry Allen back on The Flash. At his heart, Snart is a criminal for the thrill of the hunt, and he’s rarely wanted anyone to actually get hurt or killed. The inclusion of Snart and Rory seemed like a strange move on the cast list initially, but they’ve arguably grown into the heart of the team.
Ray sucks at prison, but earns respect because of it
Speaking of the criminals in the mix — “Fail-Safe” gave Rory and Ray Palmer a chance to spend some time together, and again, the interesting mixes of character combos remains a major strength of this series. Rory falls right back into “prison mode,” keeping his head down and letting Ray take a brutal beating after he tries to help an old man. But, Ray later explains there are some things worth taking a beating for — and that’s your beliefs, and you friends.
Ray puts his money (or, more accurately, his beaten back) where his mouth is a bit later, taking a beating originally meant for Rory while they’re hanging on the torture rack. Ray would die for this team, and what it stands for, and that sentiment finally starts to rub off on Rory. You could also see the begrudging respect Ray earned in that moment, and it’s a testament to the character that he can still come out on top by literally just taking a beating.
Crazy, Soviet Firestorm
The entire USSR story focused on Savage’s efforts to create his very own version of Firestorm, after being alerted to the technology’s existence by the Legends’ failed attacks on him earlier in the timeline (oops). The trend of the Legends basically cleaning up their own messes is quickly starting to get old. Here’s hoping they move past that trope in the next few episodes.
The Russian scientist we met last week tries to turn herself into a version of Firestorm, and forces Stein to merge with her to complete the process. But, as we learned back on The Flash, it takes a very specific energy signature to create a stable connection, so it eventually goes off the rails once Stein fights for control and uses Jax’s presence to pull themselves apart. That disconnect also provided a nice way to eliminate Savage’s Firestorm research — as she went into meltdown and (literally) nuked the base.
Sara finds her humanity
Sara’s bloodlust took a backseat this week for a story that forced her to reconnect with her tenure in the League of Assassins, as Rip tasked her to kill Stein if they can’t save him. It’s a brutal, but calculated, call from Rip — until he decides that assassinating a member of his own team really is a bridge too far. It was an interesting story, to be sure, but didn't exactly jibe with the wacky adventure vibe of the series. Having a character die in battle with the enemy is one thing — but killing one with a headshot from the gun of one of your heroes? That’s heavy, dude.
So, not surprisingly, they backed off that twist just in the nick of time. It was ambitious to try and tackle a story with that kind of weight, but it still felt a bit off with the tone they’ve established. Not bad, just off.
Line of the night: “This isn't my first prison break.” -Snart. Was it on the nose? Sure, but still funny.
Up Next: The gang crash-lands 30 years in the future, where they’ll meet Old Man Oliver Queen and a new Green Arrow, and try to save Star City!