The Good: Performances, Most of the special effects
The Bad: Plot, Glossed-over character moments, Mysticism and missing elements
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow tries to service its various characters and fails to give most of them deep moments while poorly advancing its plot in "Blood Ties."
After only two episodes - or, more accurately, the double-long pilot episode, which was broken into two parts - Legends Of Tomorrow is in serious trouble. The show, which follows Rip Hunter and his assembled team of eight would-be heroes in their quest to thwart Vandal by using time travel and two people who resurrect in conjunction with Savage, has some serious conceptual issues to it. By the end of the second part of the pilot, Vandal Savage's weakness has been exposed and Hawkgirl has been defined as the only known person who can kill him. Attentive viewers - which those who follow time-travel adventure stories are noted to be - have already figured out that the time travel storyline in Legends Of Tomorrow is now bordering on the preposterous; the characters come from 2016 and in 2015 most of them encountered and defeated Vandal Savage. From that point, he regenerated and the resurrection aspect of Savage makes the solution to his eventual rise to power remarkably simple; the least amount of temporal impact to both the characters involved and the eventual timeline is to hunt down Savage after his last defeat - where the heroes know his remains are! - and stop him from fully regenerating. The characters can then resume their temporally normal lives with minimal disruption and minimal risk of screwing things up by going back and forth in time. Having attentive viewers that understand that by the beginning of the second or third episode makes them very wary of where the show might then go. Thus, I was understandably wary at the beginning of "Blood Ties."
And after "Blood Ties," I am, sadly, underwhelmed and disappointed. "Blood Ties" picks up in the day after the events of "Pilot Part II" (reviewed here!) and continues the adventures of Rip Hunter and his team in 1975 Europe. It, unfortunately, continues to neglect several key elements and the issues now are building to a point where one has to wonder about the writers and executive producers. DC Comics and DC Entertainment has been playing catch up with Marvel for years and "Blood Ties" has the feel that Legends Of Tomorrow was created more out of profit motive than a truly great story. Because of how the events of "Pilot Part II" reverberate in "Blood Ties," it is impossible to discuss the episode without revealing some of how the prior episode ended.
"Blood Ties" begins to make attentive viewers consider all that is missing from the narrative instead of what is actually there. For example, "Blood Ties" belabors the death of Carter Hall at the climax of the past episode, which is good and right. What has not at all been mentioned or explored is the 1975 incarnation of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. To be clear; Professor Boardman's parents were killed decades prior and Kendra Saunders is in her young twenties. That leaves two iterations of the resurrecting pair between Boardman's parents and Carter and Kendra. In simpler terms, in 1975, there is a different version of the now-dead Carter Hall who will be killed and whose death will enhance Vandal Savage's powers. That no one has even mentioned this, even if the idea of approaching him is dismissed, is troubling.
"Blood Ties" continues the narrative trend in Legends Of Tomorrow that calls into question whether or not the past and future can actually be changed. The episode works to enhance the characters of Sara Lance and Leonard Snart, with radically divergent results. While the a and b plots are related, the c-plot involves Dr. Stein motivating Ray Palmer in a plotline that is much more "look at this, it's character development!" than an organic-feeling plot that develops character implicitly.
Opening in 1700 B.C. in Egypt, Rip Hunter makes an attempt on Vandal Savage's life. In 1975 Germany, the crew of the Waverider is stuck dealing with the effects of Carter Hall's murder. Jefferson Jackson is tasked with repairing the damaged ship, while Sara Lance pitches the idea of eroding Savage's fortune in 1975. Drs. Stein and Palmer work to save Kendra Saunders's life, as fragments from Savage's dagger remain in her body and are moving toward killing her. Lance and Hunter head to the Brumberg Bank, but there Lance recognizes that Savage's people are all throughout the bank and they attack the pair.
Snart and Rory steal an emerald in Central City as Snart clumsily attempts to prevent his father from going to prison as part of his botched attempt to steal that emerald two days later. Using one of Savage's disciples, Lance and Hunter learn that Carter Hall's body is being kept by Savage for a ritual and Hunter becomes determined to reclaim the body. But just as Snart's mission goes south, so does Hunter's and the team must come together to prevent any further casualties.
The idea that Rip Hunter made an attempt on Vandal Savage's life in the distant past makes a great deal of sense. However, it seems like a temporally problematic attempt given that it would create a huge temporal paradox - wiping out Savage, Hawkman and Hawkgirl and all their influences for more than forty-two hundred years. But once one has committed to the potential consequences of erasing so much history from ever happening, it seems ridiculous that the time traveler would not make more attempts. Killing Savage before he becomes immortal is a terrible plan from a temporal influence standpoint, but once one has committed to it, there is no negative consequence to using the team to continue to make such attempts. In other words, if Rip Hunter was willing to try killing Vandal Savage alone in 1700 B.C. , there is no sensible reason why he wouldn't take his entire team back to, say, ten minutes after he failed with that attempt to try again.
While director Dermott Downs seems to want to use Caity Lotz (Sara Lance) simply for strutting in slow motion and looking great in period garb, Lotz manages to make Lance interesting in "Blood Ties." The "buddy cop" mission with Lance and Hunter begins to finally explore White Canary's character. While The Flash has been devoid of mysticism, Legends Of Tomorrow accepts that Lance was resurrected and it is now giving consequences to that action that, apparently, occurred on Arrow. Lance has a blood lust now and fears who she actually is and in the moments "Blood Ties" allows her to articulate that, Lotz lands the deliveries.
While Brandon Routh's Raymond Palmer is supposed to be the big character focused on in the c-plot, Victor Garber's deliveries outshine even the special effects of The Atom. Dominic Purcell continues to be used almost exclusively for comic relief, while Wentworth Miller continues to do some serious dramatic lifting as Snart. Franz Drameh continues to be relegated to a distant supporting role, though Jackson has one good monologue that allows him to be the voice of reason. But Drameh is almost as much of a non-entity in the episode as Ciara Renee, whose Saunders remains unconscious almost the entire episode.
The real winner on the acting front in "Blood Ties" is Arthur Darvill. While Casper Crump makes the viewer wonder if the actor has been thrilled to no longer being forced to play Saddam Hussein (seriously, I was shocked to discover he has never once been cast to play him in the past!), Arthur Darvill continues to make genre viewers forget he was ever a second-tier Companion on Doctor Who. Darvill has presence and he matches the heavy Crump plays with force and emotionalism that works to make a compelling protagonist. Darvill is delightfully smug in the episode's ultimate fight and there are moments when it almost seems like Downs is making an audition reel for Darvill to be James Bond.
Sensitive viewers will note that "Blood Ties" is the episode when they are done with Legends Of Tomorrow. With multiple throat cuttings and blood-drinking, "Blood Ties" and Legends Of Tomorrow is clearly intended for an adult audience that is not squeamish. Unfortunately, such adult fans who can handle Vandal Savage holding his own slit throat closed are also likely to wonder why the hell Rip Hunter wouldn't take Savage's dagger (the only known remaining artifact that Saunders can use to kill the immortal!) with him after the assassination attempt!
Despite moments of being aesthetically pleasing and interesting, "Blood Ties" pushes Legends Of Tomorrow in a disappointing direction.
For other works with Brandon Routh, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"All Star Team Up" - The Flash
Zach And Miri Make A Porno
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season of the time traveling hero team here!
For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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