The appearance of George Lucas, earlier in the season, had served as the basis for a remarkably strange, and very entertaining, episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Making good use of the central conceit that it was actually the time-travelling adventures of the Legends which had, indirectly, inspired some of his greatest creations, the episode had managed to have a lot of fun with its homage to both the director, himself, and his films. It was an episode that even managed to culminate with a scene featuring George Lucas being tossed into trash compactor, alongside the Legends – in what would have to be one of the most purely fan-pleasing moments of the entire series, so far.
It had been a fun episode, overall – though, with that in mind, I do have to admit that it feels a bit strange to see the series retread that familiar ground again, so soon. Instead of George Lucas, though, the real-life celebrity who finds himself drawn into the Legends' wacky adventures is J. R. R. Tolkien. Much like with Lucas's appearance, the episode isn't too shy about using the author's greatest work for inspiration while, at the same time, strongly implying that it may have actually been the Legends who inspired that great work.
It seems that (much like the One Ring) the Spear of Destiny is simply too dangerous an artifact even to possess. With Rip's plan to break the Spear, and hide its pieces throughout history, proving to be a failure, and with the Legion of Doom still on their trail, it is decided that the only option left is to attempt to destroy it. In order to do that, of course, they require the help of someone with the knowledge to do so – who just so happens to be Tolkien, himself.
So, before Tolkien even makes an appearance, we have a basic plot-line which pretty clearly mirrors that of The Lord of the Rings – and, when Tolkien actually does find himself drawn into this outlandish adventure, that feeling only seems to grow stronger. From there, the Legends are forced to make a trip into the ravaged wasteland of the Western Front, during the first World War – where, they hope, Tolkien may be able to locate a vial of the blood of Christ, which they can use to destroy the spear (it's not quite the same as tossing the Spear of Destiny into a volcano, certainly – but, the parallels are still there).
The Legion of Doom, for their part, are forced to admit that they have found themselves at a significant disadvantage – and, so, they come to the conclusion they made to even the playing field, somehow. Making a quick stop on their way back to the first World War, the Legion pluck Leornard Snart from a point in time before he joined the Legends – inviting him to join the Legion, instead. Naturally enough, this is something which also places a fairly significant amount of strain on Mick Rory's loyalty to the Legends.
With the season moving rapidly toward its final episode, it was fairly noticeably that the sense of fun that is usually so evident on Legends of Tomorrow took a bit of a back seat – but, that was also something that felt entirely appropriate. There was some fun to be had with the episode's not-too-subtle references to Tolkien's work, of course – but, over all, this was an episode much more concerned with setting up the season's final conflict. As such, it isn't long until the episode begins to move into thematically darker territory. This is something which is, naturally, further cemented by the World War 1 setting.
Tolkien, himself (as portrayed by Jack Turner), does make for an entertaining addition to the episode's supporting cast, though. Portrayed in a manner which makes good use of his well-known scholarly interests, Tolkien is actually permitted to be very integral to the episode's primary plot-line. Admittedly, it did still strike me as a bit strange to see the series repeating the same basic 'joke' that they had with George Lucas's appearance, though. But, much like with Lucas's performance, the portrayal managed to not come across as disrespectful, in any way – so, that is something to be thankful for.
Overall, while this episode may have lacked some of the sense of absurd fun that tends to be present in the best moments of Legends of Tomorrow, it still managed to offer up an exciting, and occasionally genuinely tense, set-up for the final episodes of the season. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest signs of exactly how big an improvement this second season has been over the first, that I actually feel genuinely invested in seeing how this central conflict is going to be resolved. I just have to hope that the final couple of episodes can actually manage to bring the second season to a satisfying close.