Monday, 17 October 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E01 - 'Out of Time'

While the first season of Legends of Tomorrow had its share of issues, it had also, more often than not, managed to prove itself to be a genuinely entertaining series. It was, to put it simply, just a lot of fun – and, for that reason, I found myself inclined to forgive some of its more troubling flaws. Sure, the season's villain may have been somewhat underwhelming, and it may have been weighed down by an entirely unconvincing romantic sub-plot, and some members of the team tended to feel a bit superfluous – but, when it was at its best, none of that really mattered.

Also, there was a notable improvement in the season's overall quality as we approached the end – all leading to a genuinely exciting climax, and some intriguing promises about what was to come, in the future. Now, with the second season finally here, it is time to see whether any of that promise can be realised.

Rather than picking up right where things left off, though, the first episode of the second season takes the somewhat unusual approach of kicking things off in Star City, in the year 2016, with an eccentric historian, Dr Nate Heywood (Nick Zano), paying a visit to Mayor Oliver Queen. Dr Heywood, it seems, is a man who knows all about time travel – and, he is convinced that he has uncovered evidence that the 'Legends' are in trouble. Believing that their fate is somehow tied to covered-up rumours of a nuclear explosion in the Atlantic Ocean, in 1942, Nate's goal, now, is to convince Oliver Queen to help him – making ample use of his impressive array of knowledge which, it seems, includes the fact that he happens to know that Oliver Queen is the Gree Arrow. And so, the two set out on a trip that takes them to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean – where they found they do, indeed, find the remains of the Rip Hunter's time-travelling ship, the Waverider. But, of course, there is no one on-board.

No one, that is, except for Mick Rory – who seems to have spent the past decades held in stasis. Through Mick, Oliver and Nate hear a strange tale which, after a quick trip to 17th Century France, includes Nazis, Albert Einstein, an atomic bomb, and a return appearance by Damien Darhk – the primary villain of the fourth season of Arrow.

To put it simply, this was a very entertaining episode – one that did a great job of reminding me of everything that I enjoyed about Legends of Tomorrow, throughout its first season. The basic set-up of presenting the 'Legends' fate as a mysterious to be solved was a very interesting way to approach the dire warnings that the team had been given, in the previous season's final scene – and, the fact that Oliver Queen would end up being the one placed at the centre of it was a great piece of cross-series continuity.

Although, I do have to admit that I wasn't entirely convinced about Dr Nate Heywood – either the character, himself, or the role that he seems set to play throughout the rest of the season. With the amount of knowledge that he had been able to uncover, and his reference to himself as a 'time detective', I actually found myself entirely convinced that he was also a time traveller. But, that doesn't seem to be the case – and, instead, we have what appears to be a fairly ordinary 'present day' historian who just so happens to have, somehow, developed a knack for noticing the results of reckless time travel. It's not an entirely outlandish idea, of course (since, after all, an intelligent and observant historian living in a world where time travel exists, and who also happens to know that time travel exists, would seem to be the one most likely to notice these sort of things) – but, I still feel like it's an idea that needs further development. Fortunately, with the character set to join the main cast for the rest of the season, it seems as though there will be plenty of time for that development to occur.

Also, thanks to an entertaining performance from Nick Zano, Dr Nate Heywood was able to quickly establish himself as a genuinely entertaining new addition to the cast. So, for now, I'm quite happy to simply wait and see what there is to be revealed about him, in the future.

Beyond that, the episode also did a great job of reintroducing the audience to the original cast of characters, once the focus shifted to Mick Rory's recounting of the events which led to the Waverider lying forgotten at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The near constant stream of bickering banter between this very disparate team of heroes was a high-light throughout the first season – and, it quickly proves to be just as much of a high-light, here. The entire '17th Century France' sequence, for example, was a brilliantly entertaining combination of both comedic character moments, and entertaining action – and, this is despite the fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with the episode's actual plot.

This entire sequence could have, very easily, been the high-light of the episode, for me – and yet, it is quickly topped by the episode's primary '1942' plot-line, with the reveal that Damien Darhk is working with the Nazis on a villainous plot to construct an atomic bomb. It is the same sort of over-the-top, comic book-inspired, absurdity that the first season did so well. Honestly, while Damien Darhk had been a very entertaining villain on Arrow, with his appearance on this episode I have already started to think that his brand of oddly charming villainy might actually be a better fit for Legends of Tomorrow.

Also, in another great piece of cross-series continuity, it is also revealed that Sara Lance already has long-term plans for revenge, following the death of her sister on the fourth season of Arrow. With Damien Darhk seemingly set to fill the role of primary villain for this season (or, at least, of one of them), this very personal aspect to the conflict should add a nice layer of complexity.

Honestly, the only weak point in this incredibly entertaining episode, for me, came at the very end – when the mystery of what had actually happened to the team was finally resolved. The reveal that Rip Hunter had felt forced to scatter much of the team through space and time, in a desperate effort to save them, had made for a wonderfully dramatic scene – and, it had seemed to suggest that gathering the team together again would present a significant challenge. But, then, once Mick and Nate (with Oliver, naturally, heading back to his own series) get to work, the entire matter is resolved in a very underwhelming montage. I suppose it would be fair to say that an entire episode based around getting the team back to together would have felt like fairly standard 'filler' material – but, in this cast, I think it would have been a 'filler' episode that I would have enjoyed.

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