Monday, 7 November 2016

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E04 - 'Abominations'

While the second season of Legends of Tomorrow had managed to get things off to a very impressive start, I still can't help but feel that the third episode represented a disappointing low-point. Not only did the episode break the momentum built up by the season's first two episodes, by giving us an entirely self-contained 'filler' episode so soon after hinting at the stakes for this season – but, the team's trip to 16th Century Japan proved to be somewhat underwhelming, even as 'filler'.

Of course, it makes sense that not every episode would be directly focused on whatever Eobard Thawne and Damian Darhk have planned, or on Amaya's desire to track down Rex Tyler's murderer, but it still felt a little strange for all of that to be so abruptly set aside, so soon. Of course, with the season's fourth episode also set to be entirely self-contained 'filler', this time revolving around a trip to the American Civil War, it seems as though some of my same issues with the previous episode might also apply, here.

Fortunately, while I still can't help but be a little frustrated by the way in which Legends of Tomorrow already seems to be trying to pad out its season-long plot (if only because I am actually genuinely interested in seeing more of this season's villainous partnership), it can at least be said this episode's self-contained diversion proved to be a lot more fun. And, the reason for that, I suppose, would have to be attributed to that most versatile of 'movie monster' – the zombie.

Of course, it would be perfectly possible to make the argument that zombies are a horribly overused creature, whose time in the spotlight should have ended many years ago (and, honestly, I might eve be inclined to agree) – but, it is also difficult to deny there is a reason for the surprisingly long-lasting appeal of these mindless creatures. Here, for example, their inclusion adds a very genuine sense of rather morbid fun to the episode, as the 'Legends' find themselves investigating a new time anomaly, only to find themselves caught up in trying to stop the outbreak of a futuristic bio-weapon – which, naturally, has the effect of turning ordinary people into flesh-eating monsters.

Realising the obvious danger that this outbreak represents, the 'Legends' are forced to split up into three teams, each pursuing their own goals as they work to contain this unexpected new threat. Ray and Professor Stein find themselves left aboard the Waverider, desperately trying to come up with a cure for Mick – who was bitten by one of the creatures during their first encounter. Sara and Nate set off to warn General Ulysses S. Grant of an impending attack by Confederate zombies – and, naturally, that no one is prepared to believe them, until Sara is able to provide some rather bloody proof. Jax and Amaya, meanwhile, are forced to set off to Confederate plantation, taking on the role of a Union spy killed by zombies as they work to steal important plans that can ensure a Union victory at an upcoming battle – and, in doing so, they find themselves confronted by the more 'real world' horrors of slavery.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this episode is how very different a tone is set by these three plot-lines. The situation that Ray and Professor Stein find themselves in, for example, plays out as classic horror scenario – but, one lent a very entertaining element of comedy by Stein's over-the-top reactions. Sara and Nate's plot-line is much more action-focused – and culminates in a very entertaining moment of pure heroism for Nate. Jax and Amaya, meanwhile, find themselves in what feels like a completely different story – one which displays an impressive commitment to not shying away from the true horrors of that time and place.

Despite what the stark contrast of these very different tones might seem to suggest, though, the episode's three separate plot-line manage to come together in a very satisfying manner, by the end. Of the three, it is Sara and Nate's plot-line which probably serves as the weakest element of this entertaining episode – but, that's only by comparison. There is still plenty of room, here, for plenty of entertaining banter between the obviously mismatched pair – and, plenty of opportunity for Nate to continue on his path toward becoming a true member of the team.

Given the scope of what they are confronted by, though, it probably shouldn't come as any surprise that this felt like an especially important episode for Jax and Amaya. In fact, while the various scenes of zombie carnage we have elsewhere were very entertaining, I'd have to say that it is the character development which these two (particularly Jax) are forced to go through which is the true high-light of this episode.

So, in the end, the season's fourth episode was every bit the 'filler' that the previous episode was – but, I still couldn't help but find that the team's Civil War adventures made for a much more entertaining episode than their experiences in 16th Century Japan. Still, though, I can't help but feel a little impatient to learn more about what Eobard Thawne and Damian Darhk might be up to – and, I'm very hopeful that there wont be too much more 'filler' before we get to spent some more time with these already very well established villains.

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