Thursday, November 17, 2016

Forget What You Care About, Take A Detour To "Outlaw Country" Instead!


The Good: Moments of character, Make-up effects, Adequate performances
The Bad: Dull plot, Wasted potential of the setting, Generic villain, Light on character development, Wonky science
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow wastes a trip back to Jonah Hex's time and setting with "Outlaw Country."


When it comes to Legends Of Tomorrow, it makes some sense that the series would revisit some of its most popular or intriguing locations in time and space. Given how the series went through the bother of integrating Jonah Hex into the narrative in the first season episode "The Magnificent Eight" (reviewed here!), it makes perfect sense that the show would revisit that time and place. The second trip back to the Wild West is "Outlaw Country" and I sat down to the episode prepared to see it as the first big missed opportunity of the series. After all, Legends Of Tomorrow is a time travel adventure and viewers of the series have a strong ability to consider non-linear narratives. "Outlaw Country" returns to a setting that was beloved by Rip Hunter, who has since been lost. As such, one of the most interesting potential narratives that could have been created within "Outlaw Country" would be returning to Jonah Hex's town at a time when a younger version of Rip Hunter was there with him. The obvious storytelling mechanism for a Jonah Hex episode would be that when Rip Hunter abandoned the Waverider in 1942, he teleported himself back to Salvation.

Alas, "Outlaw Country" does nothing so ambitious, smart, or obvious.

"Outlaw Country" follows the events of "Compromised" (reviewed here!), which started to create a relationship between Amaya and Nate, while progressing the new partnership between Mick Rory and Ray Palmer. "Outlaw Country" references events of "The Magnificent Eight," but is not a direct sequel to either that episode of "Compromised." Instead, much like "The Magnificent Eight" within the larger arc of hunting Vandal Savage through time and space, "Outlaw Country" is an incongruent divergence in the supervillain team-up of Eobard Thawne and Damien Darhk (who were last seen headed off to the future!). As well, the character relationships that were being built in "Compromised" are largely forgotten to develop new character pairings in "Outlaw Country."

Opening in Liberty, Colorado in 1874, Quentin Turnbull stops a man who is attempting to get into an abandoned mine for a rare element more valuable than gold. He takes the metal detector from the man he killed. On the Waverider, the crew continues to hunt for clues as to why Damien Darhk and the mysterious speedster are hunting artifacts. Lance turns to Heywood for details about the amulet they recovered before they are interrupted by a time quake in 1874. Arriving in 1874, the crew discovers Jonah Hex is about to be hanged by Turnbull's men.

Heywood discovers that the temporal abomination resulted in the West becoming Turnbull Country. Posing as tax collectors while Mick Rory is tasked with inciting a riot to draw out Turnbull, Palmer, Jackson and Heywood discover that Turnbull is stockpiling an ore. Rory meets Turnbull and the two actually hit it off, while Professor Stein struggles with headaches that Gideon cannot find a cause for. Palmer discovers that Turnbull has found dwarfstar ore and Heywood finds the device the time pirate was killed for; the detector that allowed Turnbull to find the dwarfstar ore. Palmer figures out how Turnbull will manage to take over the Western territories and the team leaps into action to stop him.

Ray Palmer mentoring Nate Heywood is an interesting way to develop both characters. Palmer has been relegated to comic relief since he lost his suit and giving him the chance to guide the newly powered Heywood is decent development for him. While he is still used for comic relief in "Outlaw Country," his best scenes are when he mentors Heywood and analyzes the situation in the past. In fact, given how Palmer informs Heywood about the properties of dwarfstar, it seems shocking Nate steps in front of Turnbull's bullet.

"Outlaw Country" vaguely continues the narrative of Jonah Hex and it makes explicit the details of Calvert, the town Hex received his wounds in. The episode establishes that Turnbull was the man responsible for Jonah Hex's deformed face and that Turnbull was responsible for the disaster that occurred in Calvert. Hex becomes suddenly, strongly, sexist in dealing with Sara Lance and that feels less organic than it does a "sign of the times." Despite that, Johnathon Schaech does fine as Hex, even if his character arc is not overly interesting.

The performances in "Outlaw Country" are adequate, though outside Brandon Routh's portrayal of Ray Palmer, the main cast is not given much to do that is deeper than what one expects of them. Jeff Fahey is good as Turnbull, though his villain is pretty monolithic.

"Outlaw Country" continues to get some details troublingly wrong. At the hanging of Jonah Hex, the noose does not react like an actual hangman's noose - the fall Hex had from his horse ought to have left him choking and it would not have been a simple matter to get him out of the noose. The episode does not make it clear that the man at the beginning was a time pirate (Jackson mentions it in an offhanded way, much like what happens when multiple drafts of a script change specific lines). Heywood's plan to stop the train at the episode's climax is comparatively complicated; a rock on the tracks would do the same trick as a metal man! The way Heywood stops the train is not physically possible; the engine would have still been running, which would have derailed the train, not simply stopped it.

The special effects in "Outlaw Country" are all right; the best of which are the make-up effects on Jonah Hex and Mick Rory.

"Outlaw Country" is a pointless divergence in Legends Of Tomorrow that wasted the potential narrative jackpot that returning to Jonah Hex's story could have been.

For other works featuring Jeff Fahey, please check out my reviews of:
Revolution - Season 1
Lost

2.5/10

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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