Thursday, May 5, 2016

"River Of Time" Revitalizes Legends Of Tomorrow!

The Good: Good character moments, Awesome special effects, Decent performances
The Bad: Painfully predictable plot points
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow gives everyone a chance to progress in "River Of Time," which puts the crew in direct conflict with Vandal Savage as the Waverider is adrift on its trip to the vanishing point.

There is a real problem with serialized television series's that are erratic, which hinge on the climax of the season. If a story is only made great by its resolution, it is tough to call it great. Legends Of Tomorrow is, alas, in that boat. As the first season moves towards its zenith, it is placing a lot of pressure on its last few episodes to redeem the erratic nature of the rest of the season. With "River Of Time," the series is hoping to get viewers hooked on the concept to see where Legends Of Tomorrow will go. And it does quite a bit to sell the conflict to raise the stakes for the final two episodes of the first season.

"River Of Time" picks up immediately after the events of "Leviathan" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without references to the climax of the prior one. After all, "Leviathan" saw the return of Carter Hall and put Vandal Savage in the custody of the Waverider's crew. Kendra Saunders spared Vandal's life in order to have the potential to restore Carter Hall from Savage's brainwashing and "River Of Time" takes that last-minute reversal and uses it to build a solid b-plot.

Opening in ancient Egypt (1766 B.C.), Rip Hunter is a captive of Vandal Savage in the days before the meteorites hit, making Savage immortal. Flashing back to 2166, Jax and Palmer reveal that Vandal Savage's giant robot is actually far more advanced than any technology in 2166. Realizing that Savage has been moving through time, Hunter takes the Waverider back to the vanishing point, while Saunders and Palmer interrogate the brainwashed Carter Hall. Unfortunately, pushing the Waverider so hard leaves the ship damaged and adrift in the time stream.

When Jax is wounded while repairing the time drive, Lance turns on Hunter. Palmer learns from Savage that Carter Hall getting his memories back will be the death of Saunders's relationship with him. As Jax ages a result of temporal radiation poisoning, Snart and Rory prepare to abandon ship, fearing that Rip Hunter might turn on them at any moment. Stein turns to Savage for advice on saving Jax's life and in sending Jax off in the drop ship, he potentially sacrifices his own life. When Palmer inadvertently releases Savage, the crew has to work together to stop him.

"River Of Time" fleshes out the villain Vandal Savage surprisingly well. Savage tries to manipulate Lance by telling her the truth, just as he confronts Rip Hunter and is surprisingly forthcoming with information. Casper Crump makes Vandal Savage menacing and smart and "River Of Time" gives him the chance to play the character with more depth than the monolithic comic book villain. As Savage reveals truths to Palmer, Lance, and Hunter, Crump takes what could be simple exposition and delivers the lines as acts of cruelty. It's a pretty remarkable performance skill.

Rip Hunter's moral ambiguity is the focus of much of "River Of Time." His willingness to sacrifice everyone and everything for his family is contentious in the episode and as the crew turns on him, he begins to question all that he has built. Hunter becomes commanding as the episode progresses, but he only seems to come into his own as captain after the moral ambiguities of his character are set aside. Rip Hunter has a very Captain Kirk arc in "River Of Time" and Arthur Darvill makes it work for him.

"River Of Time" features flashback scenes that are used to flesh out the various characters in Legends Of Tomorrow. Lance, Palmer, Stein, and Jackson are all given flashbacks to what they were doing when they were recruited by Hunter. The explicit scenes fill in the gaps well for those who want more depth to the core characters of Legends Of Tomorrow.

Despite the ridiculously predictable aspect of Palmer's confrontation with Savage and the irksome way Saunders and Palmer go off-again with the return of Carter Hall, "River Of Time" moves everything forward in enjoyable and compelling ways.

[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 reprintwithout permission.
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