Thursday, October 27, 2016

More Fun Than It Is Derivative, "Shogun" Progresses The Legends Of Tomorrow Well!


The Good: Excellent use of humor, Decent character moments, Cool special effects
The Bad: Entirely derivative plot, Adequate performances without any truly great moments, Some critical missing details
The Basics: "Shogun" remakes a first season episode of Legends Of Tomorrow with its new cast mix and a new setting, resulting in another good episode!


With the new television season firmly underway, I can now honestly say that the show I look forward to most each week is Legends Of Tomorrow! I cannot think of a television series of late that has turned around their momentum to make itself into a decent show like Legends Of Tomorrow has. I came too late to the party to get into Arrow, Supergirl continues to be thematically heavyhanded and unfortunately derivative and the third season of The Flash started firmly in Sucksville. By contrast, the first two episodes of the new season of Legends Of Tomorrow have been surprisingly good, especially when compared to the first season's overall arc. Enter "Shogun." "Shogun" puts the Legends Of Tomorrow in feudal Japan and it became the first real test of the second season's magic new chemistry. Would "Shogun" simply be a cheap retread of "The Magnificent Eight" (reviewed here!) from last season, just in a different setting? Or would Legends Of Tomorrow continue to dazzle with something that felt truly original and different?

Sadly, "Shogun" does retread where the previous season's Western episode went. On the plus side, the episode manages to flesh out the two new Legends Of Tomorrow characters well, which makes it feel less derivative than it actually is.

"Shogun" is tough to discuss (and watch) without having seen "The Justice Society Of America" (reviewed here!) as Vixen and the Justice Society Of America were introduced. As well, "The Justice Society Of America" seemed to cement the concept for the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow as featuring the Reverse-Flash as the season's primary antagonist, with the Legends not knowing he is the one manipulating events throughout time against them. Sadly, "The Justice Society Of America" also saw the Reverse-Flash killing one of the members of the JSA in his attempt to prevent his own demise. Dr. Nate Heywood was revealed to be a hemophiliac and he was injected with a Palmer-modified version of Eobard Thawne's super-serum.

Vixen is on the Waverider, knocking out the members of the crew, when she is stopped by Heywood, who now has the ability to turn himself into steel. Sara Lance interrogates Amaya and learns that Rex Tyler was killed by a time traveler and she commits to finding the time traveler. While practicing with Tyler's new abilities, Palmer and Heywood get knocked out of the Waverider (and time) and they crash land, separately, in feudal Japan. Palmer ends up in custody of a violent Shogun, while Nick Heywood finds himself with Masako Yamashiro, a young woman who is being forced to marry the Shogun.

While Heywood and Palmer attempt to survive feudal Japan, Jax and Dr. Stein discover that there is a hidden compartment aboard the Waverider. Heywood stands up to the Shogun's men and gets stabbed for his efforts. When Lance, Vixen, and Mick Rory arrive to rescue Ray Palmer, they discover that the Shogun has figured out how to use Palmer's Atom suit and they barely escape him with their lives. Heywood, subsequently rescued, refuses to leave Japan because he knows the Shogun will kill Masako (he has a history of killing his wives). So, the Legends stick around in to protect the village and stop the Shogun.

"Shogun" has a fun set-up, though it is truly hard to buy that Amaya managed to stowaway on the Waverider. In the prior episode, the Legends boarded the Waverider and left before the Reverse-Flash killed Rex and Amaya found him. It is similarly hard - without a scene on the Waverider to confirm it in advance - to accept that Heywood is no longer a hemophiliac. After falling out of the sky, Heywood falls down and if he is still a hemophiliac, his injuries would have been pretty severe just from that fall. It is late in the episode that Heywood learns that is a side-effect of his transformation, but given that his powers are not working when he attempts to trigger them it seems weird that he would have one power, but not the other.

There is something similarly wonky in the narration about the episode's timeline. Somehow, the Waverider not only gets back on course, but it arrives in feudal Japan . . . before Jax fixes the time engines. Dr. Stein continues to pressure Jax to find the hidden compartment with him, while Jefferson insists he just wants to repair the time engines. While the implication is that Lance, Rory and Jiwe use the drop ship to make the trip back to feudal Japan, it is not made explicit, nor is it at all clear how Lance figured out where in time the two ended up. Similarly, how Dr. Stein and Jax deduced the combination to Rip Hunter's secret compartment is a bit of a mystery.

Sara Lance continues her heroic development as the new commander of the Waverider. In "Shogun," Lance kicks serious ass using her League Of Assassin training, but she also acts like a leader in the way she vouches for Mick. While the end of "Shogun" is a bit predictable and has an anticlimax that features Firestorm lying to the new Captain, Lance is very cool in the episode and she bears the mantle of command well. While Lance smartly explains to Amaya why they cannot simply go back in time and stop the murderous time traveler from killing Rex, she shows a lack of imagination (which either of the two geniuses or even Mick Rory, given that he was Chronos) by not suggesting that they go back in time and plant a surveillance device at the JSA Headquarters and/or put a tracking device on the item they know he will steal. Sadly, Legends Of Tomorrow starts to slip into the "simple problem, simple solution" plot problem that plagued the first season.

The DC Television Universe - at least The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow - have been strongly based in science. Indeed, the big supernatural element of the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow involved Vandal Savage, Kendra and Carter reincarnating and while it took until the end of the season, was finally explained as alien technology that arrived in the meteorites from Thanagar. So, viewers have to take on faith that Vixen's totem necklace will somehow be explained technologically, but in "Shogun," it is played as a supernatural type artifact and that is somewhat unsatisfying.

The performances in "Shogun" are adequate, but none are truly exceptional. Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Nick Zano - Amaya and Nate, respectively - continue to develop their performances to define their characters, but they do not have a chance to illustrate a lot of range yet. As a result, much of the emotional power of the episode comes from Dr. Palmer's struggle as he faces losing his Atom suit and his superpowers. Palmer has to sacrifice all that makes him special to the Waverider crew and it is treated in a surprisingly blase fashion. Brandon Routh is not given a chance to explore or develop Palmer's concerns as he faces losing his abilities. The closest we get is Routh expressing real frustration while training Heywood.

The season-long mystery for Legends Of Tomorrow is very subtly progressed by the contents of the secret room, which is fairly interesting. What is future Barry Allen's message to Rip Hunter? It's not clear, but if it has to do with Eobard Thawne, one would expect Dr. Stein to be much more alarmed upon hearing it. And fans of The Flash are likely to be disappointed by the idea that "Shogun" very subtly undermines the obvious, planned series finale of The Flash (wherein Barry Allen sacrifices himself in 2024 during the Crisis!) by allowing that end to be spoiled by the idea that Barry Allen survives his act of sacrifice and comes back about thirty years later.

All that said, "Shogun" does a decent job of tying together the three plotlines to make another episode of Legends Of Tomorrow that is well worth watching.

For other works with Stephen Oyung, please visit my reviews of:
Sicario
Red Dawn
The Last Airbender
Legion

6/10

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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