Friday, 29 April 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S01E13 - 'Leviathan'






The last episode of Legends of Tomorrow added an unexpected complication that this team of time-travelling super-heroes couldn't possibly have expected, in the form of a strict dead-line by which to complete their mission. By temporarily removing their own various loved ones from the time-line, in order to protect them from the Time Council, Rip and his team of 'legends' managed to create a situation within which these same loved ones may forget them, entirely, once the time-line resets itself.

Like with just about everything else related to time-travel on Legends of Tomorrow (and, also, its parent series, The Flash), how any of this is actually supposed to work isn't made very clear – but, at least, the results most definitely are. The 'legends', quite simply, can no longer afford to travel aimlessly back and forth in time, having entertaining side-adventures while hoping to pick up some clues on the whereabouts of Vandal Savage. Now, they have to be a little more pro-active in their efforts. And, that means a trip to the one point in time and space that Rip Hunter had hoped to avoid – the moment in which Vandal Savage officially conquered the world.

This was an episode filled with some truly fantastic moments, as the 'legends' attempt to finally make their move on Vandal Savage. As it turns out, though, Rip's concerns about attacking Vandal Savage at the height of his power are confirmed almost instantly, as the 'Waverider' enters the skies over London only to come under almost instant attack – forcing the team to make an emergency landing. Then, the team's first attempt to infiltrate Savage's forces, and to target the man himself, almost instantly backfires as the team is forced to make a hasty retreat.

It's not a total loss, though. As it happens, Kendra manage to catch a glimpse of a very familiar bracelet on the wrist of a woman close to Vandal Savage during the attack – a bracelet that she recognises as one she wore on the night of her first death. Since, we have been told, any item present during that night potentially has the power to truly kill Vandal Savage (for vaguely defined mystical reasons – I've decided that it's best not to dwell too deeply on it), this bracelet is obviously extremely important. So, in spite of their earlier stumbling, the team find that they have a clear goal, after all.

While this was a very entertaining episode of Legends of Tomorrow, over all, it was an especially successful one for Vandal Savage, himself. As far as Savage is concerned, this shift in focus to finally show him at the height of his power is exactly what the season needed – and, honestly, it probably should have come much earlier. One of the recurring criticisms I have had, throughout the season, is that Vandal Savage just hasn't ever been allowed to appear as the dangerous threat he is clearly supposed to be. In each of his part appearances, he has often seemed to simple be out-matched by the team of time-travelling heroes set on stopping him – and, more often than not, this has led to some extremely disappointing moment.

Here, though, we finally have a Vandal Savage who genuinely feels like a formidable threat – and, not just because he has an army at his command, either. While I have never had any particular issue with Casper Crump's performance, in the role, I do have to admit that he has often seemed to lack some of the natural charisma of the truly great villains we have seen, elsewhere – but, there were moments in this episode in which he was finally able to prove that, given the right material to work with, he is just as capable of giving a genuinely compelling performance as anyone else.

The revelation that, at this point in time, Vandal Savage had a daughter, who was well trained and entirely loyal to him, added an interesting complication, also. Unfortunately, Cassandra (Jessica Sipos) proved to be a somewhat underwhelming addition to the cast, though – she was clearly trying for much the same brand of cold stoicism as The Pilgrim in the previous episode and, oddly enough, she seemed to fail at portraying it effectively in much the same way. But, the episode also ends things in a manner that suggest that this isn't the last we have seen of her – so, hopefully, Jessica Sipos will have the opportunity to develop Cassandra, further.

In all though, the true high-light of this episode was its action sequences – with the team finding its situation to be increasingly desperate as struggle to survive Savage's retaliation, while also trying to protect a group of refugees who have come under their care. At this point, it is difficult to imagine that anything we see for the rest of the season is going to be able to top the sight of Ray Palmer, having tinkered with his suit in order to grow rather than shrink, going toe-to-toe with Vandal Savage's giant robot – the titular Leviathan. It would certainly have to go down as the most entertaining action sequence we have seen, so far.

As entertaining as the episode is, of course, it is also not without its issues – and, unfortunately, much of that still seems to centre around the team's weakest character. Even as Kendra Saunders seems to be gradually transitioning into a more prominent role on the series her characterisation, and the arc she has gone through over the season, remain somewhat problematic. The idea that she would suddenly be willing and able to take on Vandal Savage alone here, for example, is really just the latest in an increasingly long list of unconvincing details about this character.

I am aware, of course, that she has been training with Sara Lance, off camera – but, we have never really seen her be all that much of an asset to the team. Beyond that, too, Vandal Savage is supposed to be a highly skilled and dangerous opponent with centuries of experience behind him. So, having Kendra suddenly pose a genuine challenge, here, really only serves to undermine Vandal Savage's status as an effective villain, rather than raising up Kendra's as a genuinely competent hero. Quite simply, it was a heroic moment for Kendra that just didn't feel earned – and, it is another symptom of the way in which her character has been mishandled over the course of the season.

On a slightly more positive note, though – while Kendra and Ray's romantic sub-plot is still present, it didn't actually feel as out of place as it has in the past. Or, at least, that was the case until we reached the end of the episode – with the final plot-twist that threatens to drag that particular plot-thread back into the spot-light. I can't say that that's something that I'm looking forward to.

In the end, though, this would have to be the first episode of Legends of Tomorrow to be centred on the team's mission to stop Vandal Savage which didn't ultimately end up feeling disappointing. As frustrating as it has been, the series seems to have finally reached a point where Vandal Savage has been allowed to appear as the overwhelming threat we were always supposed to believe him to be – and, it only took most of the season to get here. With the focus likely to remain on Savage from this point on, as the season moves toward its end, I can only hope that it is able to maintain this new sense of genuine tension.

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