Friday, January 29, 2016

Professor Stein Dominates Legends Of Tomorrow "Pilot Part Two!"

The Good: Decent production values, Moments of character, Some wonderful performance moments
The Bad: Erratic acting, Plot is somewhat simplistic.
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow finishes its pilot with a focus on Dr. Martin Stein and the first major character death.

If you're going to pay for Victor Garber, you have to give him a decent role. Fans of Victor Garber's work were undoubtedly surprised when he appeared in The Flash as the (secondary) character Dr. Martin Stein. Obviously, executive producer Greg Berlanti had some ideas of things to come and that Stein would be an important player in the DC Television Universe (in the comic books, Dr. Martin Stein frequently appears as a supporting character in Firestorm, both physically and as a disembodied voice. So, when casting for Legends Of Tomorrow was first announced, it is unsurprising that Victor Garber was given top billing and that Dr. Martin Stein would be an integral component of the show (at the time, it was problematically spoiler-iffic as his Firestorm co-star Robbie Amell was not part of those cast lists!). In "Pilot, Part 2" of Legends Of Tomorrow, viewers are shown exactly why a genre series like this would shell out for an actor of Garber's caliber.

"Pilot Part II" completes the first major adventure of Rip Hunter's time traveling team that was begun in "Pilot Part I" (reviewed here!). While my original gripe with Legends Of Tomorrow was that the pilot was presented as two episodes, as opposed to one full movie. But "Pilot Part II" is more focused on Dr. Stein than Rip Hunter and it is completely devoid of the Chronos bounty hunter subplot. Instead, "Pilot, Part II" begins to explore some of the practical ramifications that might result from Rip Hunter's influence and intervention.

Recovering from the death of Dr. Boardman, Rip Hunter's crew follows his journal's lead to a black market arm's dealing in Norway, still in 1975. There, Snart, Rory, Stein and Lance infiltrate the arm's sale where they discover Vandal Savage is the seller of a nuclear weapon. In the process of escaping the sale after Savage recognizes the infiltrators as interlopers, the Atom loses a piece of his suit. Hunter consults Gideon and learns that Savage getting the tech results in 2016 Central City being utterly destroyed. While Stein, Jackson, and Lance head to United States to get the device that can track Palmer's tech in 1975, Snart, Rory and Palmer head to the mansion of a Russian who has bought the dagger that can be used to kill Vandal Savage. Encountering the 25 year-old Stein throws the older Stein and Jackson.

Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders attempt to discover the origin of the dagger and Saunders starts to recall some of her life as Chay-Ara and her time as the priestess in the Temple Of Horus four thousand years prior. Savage gives his minions twenty-four hours to figure out Palmer's technology, which is quickly complicated when "the Russian" turns out to be Vandal Savage and his security system quickly thwarts Snart's team. While Lance is able to recover Palmer's technology, the whole team is soon drawn into a rescue mission that requires them to directly confront Vandal Savage!

"Pilot Part II" is saddled immediately with a narrative issue that neglects its own concept. Vandal Savage begins the chain of events by escaping Hawkman and Hawkgirl by setting a two minute timer on the nuclear bomb. This idea is one that would work in a single-super hero show, but truly flops in Legends Of Tomorrow. As the episode shows, only Firestorm and Atom are needed to defuse the nuclear weapon. That leaves five heroes to attempt to capture Vandal Savage. Yet somehow, ridiculously, he gets away (the concept is predicated on the idea that the arm's buyers would stick around to fight the other five inside the potential blast radius of a nuclear devices, as opposed to having a self-preservation instinct!). But following that, "Pilot Part II" is built on the assumption that the Waverider can navigate through time and space but does not have sensors that can trace Alpha Particles. The episode's FOUR writers hope viewers won't catch either of these details!

Dr. Stein, past and future, is the main focus of "Pilot Part II" on the character front. Stein is a character who encounters his own hubris at both the arm's market and in encountering his younger self. It is his slip of the tongue that clues Savage in to the fact that the group is out of time. Victor Garber completely nails the role, especially with tongue-in-cheek observations about how his comrades fail to guard the door. Stein is also amazingly played by Graeme McComb. McComb gets some of the cadences for Garber as Stein down perfect with his deliveries! Both McComb and Garber get through the technobabble like champs and Garber's big scene for Stein's introspection is well-delivered. It offsets Ciara Renee's less-developed performance as Saunders has her own revelations and memories of Kendra's past lives.

The rest of the ensemble cast is given an opportunity each to play their roles and have a moment each. Wentworth Miller continues to shine as Leonard Snart and Brandon Routh plays off him in an interesting way. Having not watched much of Arrow at all, Routh's portrayal of Dr. Palmer - both the writing and the performance - seems incongruent from the character in the books; he is much edgier and more impulsive in the DC Television Universe. The belaboring of the relationship between Carter and Kendra takes up more time than anything Rip Hunter is given in "Pilot Part II" and it becomes a necessary evil for where the episode goes.

Legends Of Tomorrow borrows from Back To The Future (reviewed here!) with the conceit of Dr. Stein's wedding ring. The future being in flux has physical tells and unlike in the classic science fiction comedy, in "Pilot, Part II" the conceit seems somewhat ridiculous.

The production values in "Pilot, Part II" continue high, though the show continues to have obvious questions that remain unanswered. For a time-travel adventure none of the team members have yet noted that there are photographs that include Vandal Savage in them, so they know several exact times and places he will be and is vulnerable. No one has belabored how Vandal Savage resurrected after the Arrow episode "Legends Of Yesterday" and proposed stopping Merlyn Malcolm from getting his remnants (which would have the least amount of temporal impact, one assumes). That said, young Professor Stein's initial question of "have we met" to his older self holds the potential for a future, earlier, adventure in which he appears.

"Pilot Part II" is not a time-travel adventure, it is an episode that explores cause and effect and consequences. It is also, very much, the beginning of a story that promises to be longer and more complicated. The introduction of Back To The Future conceits leads to the potential that the show might do a Back To The Future, Part II or "Trials And Tribble-ations" (reviewed here!) episode that puts the team in "Legends Of Yesterday" to solve the convoluted potential mess the show could become. It is an obvious solution to all of the problems raised by both parts of the pilot of Legends Of Tomorrow and where this episode ends gives all of the characters the motivation they need to make it entertaining. Whether or not it goes there is yet to be seen, but for a start, "Pilot Part II" solidifies the beginning of the show well.

For other works with Neal McDonough, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Legends Of Today" - The Flash
"The Iron Ceiling" - Agent Carter
Captain America: The First Avenger
Tin Man
Minority Report
Star Trek: First Contact
"Facing The Fire" - V.R.-5

[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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