Tuesday, February 7, 2017

When Rip Hunter Becomes A "Turncoat," Legends Of Tomorrow Underwhelms!

The Good: Good character moments, Very strong last third
The Bad: Very basic plot, Forced humor, No truly great performances until the end
The Basics: "Turncoat" makes Rip Hunter into a brainwashed villain as Legends Of Tomorrow plods along with a very basic time aberration plot.

Legends Of Tomorrow has done a fairly good job of picking up the slack left by Arrow and The Flash going into wonky territory and losing some of their original appeal. Despite that, the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow has taken some warming up as the season has introduced new characters and taken a while to get around to actually explaining the season's adversaries. With "Turncoat," Legends Of Tomorrow has the job of refocusing on the heroes of the show, as opposed to the villains.

"The Legion Of Doom" (reviewed here!) climaxed with the Reverse-Flash altering Rip Hunter's mind to have him, apparently, assassinate George Washington, which leads directly into "Turncoat." "Turncoat" continues the quest to find more pieces of the Spear Of Destiny, while having the Legends actually attempt to save Washington's life.

Opening in New Jersey, 1776, with Rip Hunter taking over the British army in the colonies after assassinating General George Washington and then giving the Redcoats automatic weapons. In the Temporal Zone, the shockwave from Hunter's actions reach the Waverider and Gideon quickly diagnoses the problem. Captain Lance quickly recognizes that the assassination of Washington is the bait in the trap, but sees the necessity of going back in time to stop the assassination anyway.

On Christmas Eve, 1776, the mind-altered Rip Hunter sets off an EMP, which disables the Waverider's cloaking field and traps The Atom in his smaller form. Hunter shoots Lance and while she is incapacitated, she puts Jackson in charge. Jackson steps up, tasking Palmer and himself with getting the ship activated again, Amaya and Dr. Heywood with saving Washington and rescuing Mick Rory and Dr. Stein with saving Lance's life. But while the various Legends are attempting to carry out their missions, Rip Hunter attacks the grounded Waverider. While Hunter searches for Jackson and the Spear fragment, Mick Rory gives a rousing speech to inspire Washington and Heywood and Jiwe get sidetracked!

Legends Of Tomorrow tends to work best when its characters find a good balance between humor and action. In "Turncoat," that balance is off. This episode marks the first big confrontation between Rip Hunter and his former crewmates, which is a pretty serious thing. But "Turncoat" opens with Mick Rory delivering his version of the opening monologue (and it is funny), but most of the rest of the humor in the episode is surprisingly forced.

Arguably the most interesting character moments in "Turncoat" are in the Amaya Jiwe/Dr. Heywood subplot. Jiwe and Heywood have good chemistry in "Turncoat" and Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Nick Zano have decent on-screen chemisty when they play off one another. Heywood trying to explain the sexual revolution is one of the few funny moments in the episode and when their relationship turns serious, Jiwe and Heywood play it out in a very satisfying way.

At the other end of the spectrum, Ray Palmer confronting a rat in the Waverider's ventilation system is placed in the episode in an unfortunate position. "Turncoat" features Palmer being chased by a rat during what could have been one of the episode's big emotional moments. While the basic plot does not allow for the important casualty that appears to be a possibility, the emotion of the scene is cheated by the ridiculous rat scene.

Rip Hunter's return reworks the former leader into a sadly generic villain. Ironically, Mick Rory has a more compelling arc in "Turncoat" than Rip Hunter as he finally seems to make peace with being a good guy.

"Turncoat" continues to have some seriously wonky science. Eobard Thawne knows that the Spear Of Destiny he seeks was the one used to pierce the side of Jesus while he was on the cross. Just as in the first season (reviewed here!) where the heroes had a remarkably easy way to defeat the villain - go back to the point after they last killed Vandal Savage and recover his ashes - the second season now has a villain who does not need all of the convoluted methods he takes to achieve his goal. "Turncoat" fails to explore why Eobard Thawne simply does not tun back to the death of Jesus and get the Spear right after it comes out of Jesus's side?!

Similarly, while Jackson is extorted to give up the location of the spear fragment that is on the Waverider, it seems strange that Lance did not account for such a possibility. Jackson tells Hunter the fragment is where he left it; it makes little sense that Lance would not have replaced the fragment there and booby trapped it in order to incapacitate Hunter or any other villain who might have gotten to it.

"Turncoat" has a good last third (rat moments aside), but the rest of the episode - the time spent getting there - is a much tougher sell. The acting moments are cheated by editing that puts incongruent scenes together and having to focus on all of the disparate teammates cheats any one character from shining.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore 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!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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