Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Jonah Hex Episode Of Legends Of Tomorrow: "The Magnificent Eight"

The Good: Guest performances, Dr. Stein's subplot
The Bad: Dull plot, Light ong character development, Some poor performances
The Basics: "The Magnificent Eight" is an unfortunately lackluster and predictable episode of Legends Of Tomorrow.

Ever since the DC Television Universe expanded with Legends Of Tomorrow, viewers have been teased with the idea that the show would be introducing Jonah Hex to the DTU. While the heyday of the character has probably passed, the addition of Jonah Hex has garnered a lot of interest from fans. Despite the general failure of the film Jonah Hex (reviewed here!), Legends Of Tomorrow worked to infuse Jonah Hex into the narrative into the episode "The Magnificent Eight."

"The Magnificent Eight" redirects the crew of the Waverider after "Progeny" (reviewed here!) in, as its name suggests, a Western episode. "Progeny" climaxed with Chronos advising Rip Hunter and the crew to run from the Time Hunters. Much of "The Magnificent Eight" is a typical Western, working to put in all of the familiar tropes.

The Waverider arrives as Salvation 1871, which is a temporal blind spot that Chronos and Hunter believe will allow them to regroup and hide from the potential threat of the Hunters. Ray Palmer's enthusiasm for the Old West leads the crew to disembark and explore Salvation. While at the bar, Dr. Stein is playing cards with a man who draws on him and his life is saved by Snart. Unfortunately, the man Snart killed was a member of the Stillwater Gang and now all of Salvation is in jeopardy from the gang. While at the same bar, Kendra runs into a woman and has a flash of visions. That leads her to try to find the woman again, heading out with Sara Lance.

As the Stillwater Gang prepares for an attack on Salvation, Kendra tracks down the woman from the bar. The woman is a prior incarnation of herself and Kendra becomes interested in a bracelet from their first life that might be used as a tool in the fight against Vandal Savage. The fight with the Stillwaters goes poorly, with Jax getting captured by the gang. Hex sets up a quickdraw to get Jax back and free Salvation from the Gang's influence.

The plot of "The Magnificent Eight" is unfortunately predictable. Outside amusing moments like Palmer naming himself John Wayne and the Kendra subplot, the episode is a remarkably straightforward Western. Captain Hunter's expository story about Calvert is almost enough to overshadow the obvious nature of the reveal for who the older woman is that Kendra is drawn to.

"The Magnificent Eight" is notable for how most of the main cast seem uncharacteristically giddy. Caity Lotz, especially, trades in her recently dark performances for smiling almost the entire episode. While that is addressed in-episode, the explanation is hardly satisfactory. Lotz seems to come through much more than Lance in her performance. The subplot involving Dr. Stein curing a boy of Tuberculosis allows Victor Garber to shine and perform as the ethical compass of the group, as usual. Garber is predictably good in his usual role and, unlike Lotz, does not smirk through his entire performance.

While most of the hype for the episode was on the apprearance of Jonah Hex, it is actress Anna Deavere Smith who steals the episode. Smith is an incredible actress and the role of Kendra is a satisfying departure from her recurring role on The West Wing; she is able to emotively present what could otherwise be fairly dull exposition. She actually nails some of the speech patterns of Ciara Renee to convincingly be another incarnation of Kendra.

Thor Freundenthal directs "The Magnificent Eight" well-enough, but the set pieces and costumes are far too clean to truly sell the viewer on the time and place of Salvation, 1871. Ironically, when the Hunters show up inevitably, the special effects for the characters like Firestorm and The Atom do not pop against the equally-clean building signs in Salvation.

"The Magnificent Eight" is light on character development, with only Kendra getting a real arc . . . which, ironically, merely re-establishes where she was at the middle of "Left Behind." For a limited series like Legends Of Tomorrow, bottle episodes hurt the overall narrative and "The Magnificent Eight" is no exception. The episode seems like a cheap excuse to add Jonah Hex without truly caring about the story of the overall season.

For other works with Johnathon Schaech, be sure to check out my reviews of:

[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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