Friday, February 19, 2016

Simple Plot, Complex Characters: "Fail-Safe" Is Fast-Paced Legends Of Tomorrow!

The Good: Character development and performance, Pacing
The Bad: Simplistic plot
The Basics: "Fail-Safe" challenges most of the Legends Of Tomorrow characters in an otherwise simplistic rescue mission.

This is a big week for the DC Television Universe. Both The Flash and Legends Of Tomorrow ended last week's episodes with cliffhangers, making overt two-part episodes and "Fail-Safe" is the resolution to the Legends Of Tomorrow adventure. The time-travel show has been somewhat erratic - it feels good watching it with its snappy dialogue and interesting characters, but it is fundamentally flawed on a conceptual level. "Fail-Safe" is a fun episode that is generally simplistic and makes up for its remarkably straightforward plot by delving deeper into most of the show's main characters.

"Fail-Safe" is the second part of the episode that began with "White Knights" (reviewed here!) and it is absolutely impossible to discuss without some references to how the first part of the adventure ended. Given that "Fail-Safe" is essentially a rescue mission, understanding the set-up is essential to understanding the new episode. In their attempt to stop Vandal Savage from building his own Firestorm in 1986, Dr. Stein, Heat Wave and Dr. Palmer were captured by Savage's forces in the U.S.S.R.

Opening with Dr. Stein having a hallucination of Cisco Ramon studying his equations at S.T.A.R. Labs. Stein quickly realizes that it is not Ramon he is conversing with and he is not at S.T.A.R. Labs. Valentina Vostok appears to him and Vandal Savage returns to menace Dr. Stein. Hunter, Snart and Lance discover from Gideon that the prison that houses Stein, Palmer and Rory has no known weaknesses. Lance suggests that former prisoners might be able to help them and Hunter and his team approaches the Russian mob to get information on how to save those whom Savage captured.

Lance and Snart infiltrate the gulag, where Snart is determined to recover Palmer and Lance has to try to save Stein or make sure he cannot complete Vostok's work. On the inside, Rory and Palmer adjust to prison life, which Palmer finds difficult to adapt to. Tired of being benched, Jackson and Saunders help devise a new plan to rescue the rest of the team with Rip Hunter. While Vostok finally makes the leap to understand just what she has in Stein, Hunter and Savage are drawn into a direct conflict that has the potential to re-align the timeline!

There are very few flawed premises with "Fail-Safe." In fact, the chief issue with the basic plot of "Fail-Safe" is that Gideon would not have plans for the gulag that the team has to break into. A time-traveling ship loaded with information would seem to have the ability to go back and forth in time to get all information it needs. But, the idea that even in Vandal Savage's future, this particular gulag has remained is not entirely far-fetched. The timeline also is slightly off; the episode begins with Jackson not being able to sleep for the past two nights, presumably because it has been two days since Stein was captured, but Rory and Palmer are being brought into the prison. If they were not at the gulag for the prior two days, where were they?!

"Fail-Safe" gets its name from the White Canary subplot of the episode and her character arc so far continues to be focused on Sara Lance attempting to find her humanity once again. The way she was resurrected (apparently) on Arrow has left her mentally scarred and Rip Hunter taps into her animalistic side in order to try to save the future. Lance, as it turns out, is deeply concerned with the fate of Star City and her desire not to see it fall in 2016 to the Soviet Firestorms. White Canary is tasked with taking out Stein if the mission goes south and that is a smart contingency plan. Lance's struggle throughout the episode with potentially having to kill a member of the team is an interesting character arc and Caity Lotz plays the internal struggle in a way that is engaging to watch.

Dominic Purcell is given his first major role in Legends Of Tomorrow in "Fail-Safe." Mick Rory appeared on The Flash in "Revenge Of The Rogues" (reviewed here!) as, essentially, Snart's sidekick. Purcell has seldom been given the chance to shine and while he and Brandon Routh are paired up well in "Fail-Safe." Purcell plays a good heavy, growling his way through his part as Rory in "Fail-Safe" in a way that allows him to play to his strengths . . . especially the moment Rory has to make a key decision.

While Victor Garber does his usual amazing job as Dr. Stein, in many ways this is Franz Drameh's big chance to shine. Drameh plays Jackson and he plays up the loyalty to Stein and the football injury his character has. Drameh is put in the unenviable role of playing a character where other characters - in this case Saunders - figure him out before he does, but he sells the realization that Jackson's connection to Stein goes both ways. The reference to The Flash episode "Fallout" (reviewed here!) is well-executed and Drameh manages to carry his scenes.

"Fail-Safe" develops well and the final act transition to next week's episode is pretty awesome. The simplistic plot is fleshed out competently with moments of character development and good acting that makes the show feel much shorter than it actually is.

For other second parts featuring rescue missions, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Chain Of Command, Part II" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Magical Place" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"The Doctor Dances" - Doctor Who

[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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