After helping save the Earth in 2016, the Legends are back to business as usual in “The Chicago Way,” jumping to 1920s Chicago to stop a time aberration surrounding Al Capone. Little do they know that they’re playing directly into the hands of their time-traveling enemies, who have hatched an elaborate plot to retrieve the amulet stolen by the Legends in 1987. Eobard Thawne and Damien Darhk’s expanding Legion of Doom (a name that hasn’t been formally used in the series, but is being used in the show’s promotional materials) now includes Malcolm Merlyn, and they successfully pull a fast one on the heroes, raising the stakes for the back half of the season by giving the team a more dangerous threat to fight against. Seeing the team of villains come together is fun, but this show’s central time-travel conceit is getting increasingly repetitive. The general beats of this episode are very familiar, and the resolution of the story reveals that the Legends are only getting worse at doing their job of protecting the timeline.
When Martin and Sara are kidnapped by the Legion of Doom, Martin comes clean about his new time aberration daughter, and Sara is initially dismayed by this news. Martin is the person that made Sara realize she couldn’t change the timeline to save her sister without causing greater damage to history, and she knows that Martin knows better than to keep Lily a secret. Sara’s attitude changes when Thawne impersonates Martin and infiltrates the Waverider, and faced with the prospect of losing one of her new family members, Sara takes some very dubious risks.
After a thrilling showdown with Malcolm Merlyn on board the Waverider, Sara decides to put the entire timeline at risk by handing over the amulet so that she can save Martin’s life. The amulet gives the Legion of Doom the means to track down the Spear of Destiny, the weapon that penetrated Jesus Christ’s side on the cross, and if the Legion gets a hold of it, it will be able to alter the very fabric of reality. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Sara also decides that they’re going to keep Lily Stein alive because she’s part of the family now, too. While I respect her dedication to her new chosen family, this decision makes me seriously question Sara’s leadership. The team just came back from a mission where everyone got huffy at Barry Allen for changing the timeline, and now Sara is just going to sit back and put all of history in jeopardy because of her personal relationships.
Victor Garber’s performance does a lot to sell how important Lily has become to Martin in a very short period of time, and you can sense the combination of love and pain that overtakes him when he thinks about the new memories that are flooding his mind. He can’t deny the affection he feels for his child, but he also understands that these aren’t real experiences he’s lived, but the shadows of a life he could have had. It’s a life that he wants, and now that he has it, he doesn’t want to let it go, especially because he gets the benefit of a new store of happy memories with his daughter. That still doesn’t make Sara’s decision O.K., and I predict that Lily is going to pose some significant problems in the back half of the season.
Mick Rory has the most compelling arc of all the characters on this show, and his journey from villain to hero has become more complex as he deals with the loss of his criminal partner. Mick has actually been through some really intense shit given his time as Chronos, and Dominic Purcell is doing strong work realizing the weight of that experience on Mick’s conscience and confidence. A new wrinkle is added to Mick’s story this week as he begins to have hallucinations of Leonard Snart criticizing his behavior, but I’m not quite sure if those are hallucinations or something more. The cartoonish exaggeration of Wentworth Miller’s performance could be interpreted as a caricature Mick creates in his mind, but it’s not all that different from how Miller has always approached Snart, leaning into the camp-factor of a character who embraces the name Captain Cold.
One of Legends Of Tomorrow’s biggest problems is a lack of specificity in regards to the time travel elements, and past time periods are depicted in broad strokes that make them feel especially superficial. The costumes and the settings change, and sometimes the story will address a major social or political issue of the time, but I’m constantly left wanting more from the time jumps. The team goes to the roaring ’20s this week, and they end up doing what they always do, disguising themselves so they can track down and stop the aberration. As usual, things go wrong and the team is forced to improvise, which usually means a switch into traditional superhero ass-kicking mode.
I’d like to see the show spend more time settling into time periods and integrating the characters into these worlds. Sara Lance in full flapper attire makes me want to watch a scene of her interacting with the liberated jazz crowd, getting a real taste of what life was like back then. Mick gives Amaya a tiny taste of the criminal life, but imagine how much more compelling that story would be if Amaya was in a position where she needed to fully commit to immorality to gain the favor of the gangsters that surround her. I think the Waverider is actually a hindrance to this series, and having the characters constantly return to their timeship home base prevents them from blending deeper into the time period.
Of this season’s episodes, “Ronin” did the best job using the time period to influence the episode’s style, and having Ray and Nate stranded in the past without the Waverider gave them a richer experience of 17th Century Japan. This show should find more ways to get the team away from the ship, because it forces the writers to be more proactive with how the heroes interact with the time periods. I’m a bit nervous about the presence of the Legion of Doom moving forward, and while the superhero aspects of this show will always be there, it would be nice to step back from the more fantastic elements every once in a while to tell smaller scale, more personal stories involving these characters at different points in history. There’s so much more potential in Legends Of Tomorrow’s concept than what we’ve seen thus far, and I’m not sure if the show will ever have the freedom to explore that when it’s tethered to broad superhero vs. supervillain plots.
- Rip Hunter is back, and he’s directing corny sci-fi films in 1967 Los Angeles! Is he undercover? Does he have time-displaced amnesia? We’ll find out after the winter break!
- Any Ray and Nate shippers out there? Their bromance continues to develop this week, and the more time they spend together, the more I realize they’re perfect for each other. Sure they’re straight, but that certainly hasn’t stopped shippers in the past.
- Nate: “You can reverse brain damage? Why haven’t you helped Rory out?” Gideon: “Who says I haven’t?” Gideon’s developing a sense of humor. Good for you, Gid!
- Jax: “Stein’s about to kill Sara in the library.” Ray: “With a rope or the candlestick?” Ray’s line is super predictable here, but it still makes me smile.