Spoilers ahead for “River of Time,” the latest episode of The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow!
The short version: In the matter of just a few minutes and a handful of conversations, Vandal Savage manages to turn Rip’s crew against one another. Ray Palmer literally lets Savage out of his cell to wreak havoc. Oh, and it turns out the Time Masters have been working with Savage all along (twist!).
The really short version: Pretty much everyone is dumb.
This episode truly hinged on some very dumb stuff
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Legends of Tomorrow has never been high art, but man, does it have to be this breathlessly dumb at times? After spending the entire season trying to take out Savage, the team manages to capture him. But, instead of killing him, they decide to take him to the Vanishing Point so he can pay for his crimes. The team figures out that Savage has been using super-future tech to take over the world, meaning he’s actually been meddling with time travel himself (which is what Rip’s been doing all year, but whatevs). That should’ve been a red flag right there, no?
So Rip decides to turn Savage over to the proper authorities. But this episode needs some action, so Savage gets a chance to do the classic “Bad Guy in a Cell, But Actually Still in Control” bit, except it’s not so much Savage is “in control,” it’s just that everyone else can’t seem to make a logical decision to save their lives. Several team members trickle in to chat with Savage, and the evil mastermind tosses a few clunky seeds of doubt at each one. Add about 4.5 seconds to fester, and the team has started to turn on Rip and one another. This just happens way too quickly, and feels contrived solely to manufacture conflict. We know Rip is kind of an as*hole; this isn’t new information.
But the dumbest plot point of the night revolves around Ray Palmer. The oft-lamented relationship between Hawkgirl and Palmer (I’m guessing the ‘ship name for this one is Kill It With Fire? Maybe?) comes to a head, as Savage tells Palmer that he also loved Kendra in a past life, and she ditched him for Carter, too. Again, why is Ray surprised by this? Hawkman and Hawkgirl are destined to be together. Look up “Doomed Relationship” in the dictionary (or Wikipedia, darn millennials), and there’s probably a picture of Palmer and Kendra.
So, after a bit more ribbing by Savage, Palmer (without his supersuit) decides to open the cell and take a few swings at Savage. The same Vandal Savage who has kicked the crap out of the entire team on more than one occasion. The same Vandal Savage they spent all season trying to stop. Who is stopped in this moment, locked in this high-tech jail cell. Ray opens the door, and after getting in a few good shots is promptly knocked out, allowing Savage to escape and almost kill everyone.
This show has had some dumb twists, but this one takes the prize. Just. Wow.
Rip and Savage’s millennia-long connection
This has made for one of the most interesting aspects of the series, and they added a few more layers to the mythos. We get a flashback to when Rip tried to kill Savage in ancient Egypt, and see him taken prisoner after failing to take him out. For Savage, Rip is a specter that has haunted him for thousands of years. That’s an interesting bit of story, hidden in all the silliness. We also learn that all of Rip’s efforts to take out Savage actually introduced the immortal psycho to the concept of time travel, so that’s only helped him attain world domination.
So, Jax is off the board now?
When Rip pushes the Waverider too hard (another stupid move, since Gideon literally tells him “Hey, stop. The ship is going to blow up if you do this”), he sends Jax down to fix it. This seemed like a clunky bit of delegation (since Rip is having to follow along on camera and give him directions), but when Jax is blasted with a seemingly fatale dose of temporal radiation, Rip admits he might have subconsciously send Jax because he didn’t want to risk dying before he saves his family. Maybe? But, then a few minutes later, he jumps in front of a laser blast to save Kendra. So, he’s really not that bad a guy, right? Ugh. Just inconsistent.
But, as for Jax, Dr. Stein devises some silly McGuffin to fix him — but they have to send him back to 2016 to do it. So, Jax blasts off in the jump ship to (seemingly) fix his rapid aging problem. Looking back, it’s amazing how many problems the writers have managed to contrive to keep Firestorm off the board. It’s almost like the effects work is so expensive they can only afford to do it a few times per season, hmm?
Vandal Savage is playing the looooooong game
This twist was pretty well telegraphed by the discovery that he’s using super-future tech (not to mention his ominous comments about playing the long game), but now we know why the Time Masters were so dead set against Rip taking on Savage: They’re working with him. The exact details of that arrangement aren’t fleshed out, but it sounds like they’ve thrown in with Savage to (maybe) avert some even worse fate for humanity? Maybe? Yeah, this one still needs a good monologue or two to fill in the gaps.
Other good stuff: Savage asking about Laurel is a nice touch. We know he’s researched the whole team, so he would certainly know that Laurel had recently been killed. When all hell is breaking loose, Rip is playing records in the middle of the crisis. Why? Sure, jamming a good record can calm me down, too, but there’s a time and place. This was so weird. Wheelchair Felicity flashback! Stein drugged Jax again. Which shouldn’t be funny, but really is. Did anyone else think Hawkman was going to be immediately killed, again, after regaining his memory? So close, but Carter lives!
Up next: There are just two episodes left this season, and with most of the team captured by the Time Masters, we’re almost certainly in for some action and jail breaks.