Monday, 24 October 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E02 - 'The Justice Society of America'

The previous episode's introduction of the Justice Society of America had been a fun way to end the second season's premiere – but, it had also been, without doubt, the cheesiest 'comic-book' moment in a series that has never been shy about fully embracing its own cheesy 'comic-book' roots. Those moments have always been when the series has been at its best, though (at least, as far as I have ever been concerned) – and, the idea of these two, very different, teams of super-heroes joining forces certainly had a strong appeal.

But, of course, before we can even get to that point, it seems that the two teams will have to work through a fairly significant misunderstanding – as the JSA initially assume that the Legends must be Nazi spies. So, before we can even get to the inevitable team-up, we are treated to a brief, though very entertaining, fight sequence – as the Legends find themselves to be hopelessly outclassed by a much more experienced team of super-heroes.

Of course, their problems don't end there – as, not only do they find tossed into a cell, but they also learn that Rex Tyler (Patrick J. Adams), who initially gave them their warning against travelling to 1942, has no knowledge of ever having done so. On a more personal level, too, Nate Heywood's meeting with his grandfather, JSA member Commander Steel (Matthew MacCaull), proves to be an awkward and disappointing experience for both men.

Despite all of this, though, the two teams are eventually able to come to something of an understand – with the JSA ultimately allowing themselves to be convinced that the Legends are likely to just be incompetent meddlers, rather than Nazi spies, and offering to release them on the condition that they get into their ship and leave. But, of course, just as the Legends are about to do so, they learn of another time anomaly indicating the the JSA are set to die on their next mission. And so, the Legends now find themselves making their way to Paris – where the JSA are currently engaged in a mission to recover a potentially dangerous artifact which is currently in Nazi hands.

Of course, at this point, having Nazis act as the villain of any story feels almost like cheating. They have been a standard feature of various forms of entertainment for decades, after all – and, the reason for that should be fairly clear. With the very real acts of horror that the Nazis were responsible for unleashing on the world, they already feel like villainous caricatures – and, seeing them be defeated, in various way, is simple a lot of fun.

So, when the pyromaniac criminal, Mick Rory, declares that he "loves roasting Nazis", while proceeding to do just that in the previous episode, it is entertaining rather than worrying – because, after all, heroes have been killing Nazis for so long that it has started to feel like the natural response to their presence. Similarly, when Ray Palmer is unable to bring himself to perform the Nazi salute, instead opting to punch a Nazi officer in the face and, in doing so, blow the team's cover, it is a funny moment, rather than one that frustrates the audience.

Nazi characters, more often than not, don't even seem to need all that much in the way of characterisation to be effective – with the simple fact that they are Nazis acting as a form of 'short-hand'. So, when Baron Krieger (André Ericksen) puts in an appearance, feeling very much like a character we have already seen many times before, his immediate familiarity doesn't actually seem to matter.

The appeal of this episode is actually very straight-forward – it is the simple joy of seeing two teams of super-heroes united in the noble goal of fighting Nazis. When the interference of Eobard Thawne (who, as we learnt in the truly fantastic reveal at the end of the previous episode, is working with Damian Darhk on some manner of grand scheme), gives as a empowered Nazi super-soldier for the united teams to contend with, that sense of simple and straight-forward excitement is only enhanced.

Honestly, with the combination of a team of 'old-school' super-heroes brought in as allies and villainous Nazis to battle, it feels as though this would have been a very difficult episode to truly mess up. And, for the most part, the season's second episode was a wildly entertaining one. There were a couple of lingering issues, though. For one, while those among the JSA who were actually given enough screen-time to do so managed to make a strong impression, other members of the team did not seem to fair so well. Star Girl (Sarah Gray), Dr. Midnite (Kwesi Ameyaw), and Obsidian (Dan Payne) each deserved much more attention than they received during this episode – yet, with the episode's limited running-time, I suppose it is understandable that sacrifices had to be made, somewhere.

Also, while it hasn't become an issue just yet, I am a little uncertain about the hints of potential romance between Ray Palmer and the JSA's Vixen (Maisie Richardson-Sellers), the grandmother of the character we have already met – if only because I can still remember how poorly handled, and unconvincing, Ray's brief relationship with Hawkgirl had been, last season. If that is where things are headed (since it has already been confirmed that Vixen is set to join the team for this season), then I that, at least, a little more care is taken to let it feel like something that develops naturally (and, of course, that Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Brandon Routh are actually able to portray convincing chemistry).

Those are minor issues, though. The only truely disappointing element in an otherwise very enjoyable episode came with the appearance of Baron Krieger, after his transformation into the hulking monstrosity who becomes as a result of taking Eobard Thawne's drug. With the great examples of CGI work that we have seen previously (particularly on The Flash), it is more than a little disappointing to see a CGI creation, here, which felt so underdeveloped. With its jerky movements, and features that seemed to lack any degree of texture and detail, it felt like a creation that was still a work in progress when they put it in the episode. Honestly, I do find myself wondering if that might actually have been the case.

As a whole, though, the episode was still so much fun that this wasn't nearly the negative that it could have been. Much like the first, the season's second episode did a great job of reminding the audience exactly how much fun Legends of Tomorrow could be, when it is at its best. Given that the season has still only just begun, it also leaves me feeling very hopeful for what future episodes might have in store.

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