DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow often feels like it’s squandering its full potential as a show about time travel, but “Moonshot” shows how effective the series can be when it finds a way to tie its central conceit to meaningful character development and genuinely tense plotting. This week’s episode sends the team to 1970 to retrieve the final piece of the Spear Of Destiny from Hank Heywood, who is now working for NASA and has hidden the fragment in the American flag Neil Armstrong planted on the moon a year earlier. This sends the Legends into space, and forces them to team up with this season’s big bad, Eobard Thawne, in order to get back home safely. Sacrifices are made, hearts are broken, and Victor Garber sings “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” over the course of this delightful hour, and the episode successfully balances humor, spectacle, and drama to show what the series is capable of at its best.
Breaking from Legends tradition, Grainne Godfree’s script has the team discovering a time aberration when things don’t go wrong on the Apollo 13’s return trip home. Eobard Thawne has stowed away on the spacecraft so that he can get to the moon and retrieve the fragment, and the team ventures off-planet to intercept Apollo 13 before it lands. Ray takes the lead on this mission thanks to the A.T.O.M. suit allowing him to travel through the vacuum of space and sneak onto Apollo 13, but once he’s on board, things quickly take a turn for the worse. He’s quickly discovered by Thawne, and after an anti-gravity brawl, Ray has to land the LEM on the moon himself if he’s going to retrieve the fragment.
Ray manages this with the help of his friends, which includes Martin breaking into song in NASA’s mission control center to distract everyone while Jax disconnects the feed so nobody sees Ray land on the moon. Victor Garber is an accomplished musical theater actor, and I will always be happy to see him given the opportunity to sing on TV, which is why I’m very happy he’ll be featured in next week’s musical episode of The Flash. “Day-O” is a perfect choice of song to completely throw everyone around him off guard, and it’s also easy to sing along to, pulling more attention away from Ray’s landing. Once on the moon, Ray geeks out hardcore, and he’s overjoyed to be in this position. That joy lessens once he needs to figure out how to get back on the Waverider, and he has to work with Thawne in order to get back to the Waverider.
One of the big strengths of this episode is that it gives Thawne some new dimension, revealing that he misses the camaraderie he was surrounded by when he worked with Cisco and Caitlin under the guise of Harrison Wells. Thawne also doesn’t view himself as a villain, and his experience as a time traveller has given him a different perspective on good and evil and how one’s actions define their moral standing. Thawne mentions that he and Ray are more alike than Ray would think, specifically citing Ray’s inferiority complex that motivated him to use the Dwarfstar technology to power a superhero suit rather than power a city. I’m hoping the series will continue to delve into Thawne’s background and what motivates him (beyond his need to run from the Time Wraiths that want to wipe him from existence), because the series greatly benefits from complicating its main villain.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Nate and Amaya romance when it was first introduced, but the series has made it much more compelling by introducing the conflict of how Amaya’s predetermined destiny fits in this relationship. This was a plot point last week, but it becomes a much bigger source of tension this week when Amaya becomes concerned about Nate’s decision to bring his grandfather back to 1956 after their mission so that he can raise his son. Amaya is doing what the Legends are supposed to do and is thinking about the consequences of changing the timeline, but Nate doesn’t care if it means his father is raised by two parents instead of a single mother. The episode establishes that Nate doesn’t have a strong relationship with his dad, and you get the impression that he sees his father’s faults as a parent as a direct result of him not having a father figure when he was growing up.
When Amaya steps in to stop Nate from taking Hank back to the past, Nate brings up her own path and how it prevents them from having a real relationship. He doesn’t give her the specifics, but he gives her enough to start digging deeper, which is what she does at the end of the episode despite Gideon’s warnings. Amaya discovers the fate of her village and how her granddaughter takes on the Vixen name to become her own superhero, and she’s clearly rattled by this information. This news hits even harder because it comes in the wake of Hank’s sacrifice to save the team as the Waverider reentered Earth’s atmosphere, and by opening the cargo bay doors, Hank depressurizes the ship but gives his life in the process.
Nearly everyone from Amaya’s old life is gone; Rex, Hank, and Dr. Mid-Nite are all dead, and Stargirl is now a permanent resident of Arthurian England. She wants to start a new phase of her life with Nate, but she can’t because there’s already a path she should be on, even though it’s one that ends in tragedy. This puts Amaya in a difficult situation, and I’m eager to find out how she proceeds knowing what she knows about where her life will lead if she returns to her original time period.
I’ve mentioned in past reviews that a big reason I’m enjoying Legends more this season is because it offers a lighter, more sensational approach to superhero narratives than the majority of superhero TV shows, and this is especially clear when comparing Legends to its current lead-in, The Flash. That series has been bogged down by dour storytelling for nearly the entire season, to the point where I found it hard to enjoy a Gorilla Grodd two-parter because it was taking itself so damn seriously. Next week’s The Flash looks to change that with a musical crossover with Supergirl (another superhero show that embraces levity), but ever since Legends was moved to the same night, I find myself appreciating how much this show leans into superhero outrageousness while maintaining a chipper tone throughout. There are certainly moments when the show delves into more serious territory, but it rarely lets that overshadow the wonder of being a superhero team that travels through time.
- Rip Hunter is having difficulty acclimating to life back on the Waverider because the team has come together under Sara Lance’s leadership, but he eventually buries his pride and realizes that if Sara can make this group work, then she should be in charge. Everyone on this team is trying to figure out their place, and Rip is now just another member of those ranks, discovering his specific role in the group dynamic.
- The ’90s are back in full force based on Sara’s fashion choice of a white tank top underneath a sheer white long-sleeve shirt. On a similar note: I love Sara and Amaya’s 1965 outfits, especially Sara’s cat-eye sunglass.
- The music right when the action jumps to 1970 sounds a lot like Michael Giacchino’s Alias score, which is a very good thing and something the show should try to do more often.
- “Sorry folks, he doesn’t have the right credentials.” And then everyone flashes their press credentials immediately. This was a very funny moment.
- “That’s all I get, is a ‘copy’? I’m standing on the friggin’ moon!”