Thursday, 6 April 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E17 - 'Aruba'

The first season of Legends of Tomorrow may have had its share of issues, but the series had still managed to pull off a very entertaining final episode. The whole idea of the Legends being required to divide their forces, as they took on different versions of Vandal Savage at different points in time, had made for a very impressive, and very creative, action sequence which had even managed to go some way toward redeeming the first season's often underwhelming central narrative. I still didn't really care about any of the convoluted drama between Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Vandal Savage, of course – but, at least the characters did receive a memorable send-off.

Of course, the second season of Legends of Tomorrow has felt very different. The trio of villains who had been brought together to challenge the Legends have been so entertaining, whenever they are on-screen, that the season has always felt a little bit weaker whenever the focus wasn't placed on them. That's actually the exact opposite of how I often felt while watching the first season – and, it definitely indicates a fairly significant improvement for the series, as a whole.

The last episode had even managed to set up a very interesting dilemma for the Legends – as they found themselves trapped in a reality created by the Legion of Doom. Amaya is dead, having been murdered by Leonard Snart in their moment of victory, and the Legends' have lost any chance of restoring Professor Stein's original memories – and, even worse, the Spear of Destiny, itself, has been destroyed. This leaves the Legends with a hasty, and incredibly desperate, plan to break the most important rule of time travel – by travelling back to 1916, and crossing paths with their own past selves.

Of course, before they can even get to that point, there is still the fact that they still need to find Rip Hunter and the Waverider, before they will have any chance of putting their plan into action. This is something that is made even more complicated by the revelation that Thawne seems to have used Ray's technology to shrink both the ship, and its pilot, down to the size of a toy – something which Rip, himself, discovers in an entertaining manner as he and Gideon are finally able to restore power to the time-travelling ship.

Much like with the team's first trip to 1916, a couple of episodes ago, this opening sequence almost seems intended to serve as a fun little mini-episode, before we get to the real action – and, in that regard, it definitely was very entertaining. The whole idea of a toy-sized Waverider accompanying the Legends as they launched a raid on Star Labs, to recover Ray's suit provided some great moments of humour – especially when it came to a stand-off with Damian Darhk. The raid, itself, also made for a fun, and well-staged, sequence.

From there, though, the action quickly shifts back to 1916, and the first World War, where the Legends from Thawne's altered reality are quickly forced to accept the fact that they are, essentially, entirely expendable as they strive to help their past selves succeed – and, essentially, wipe themselves out of existence, in the process. Their first attempt to subtly aid the younger team of Legends, without directly interacting with them, is almost immediately foiled by the arrival of Eobard Thawne – who quickly, and rather shockingly, murders Ray Palmer.

Their second attempt also ends rather badly – as Rip's worst fears are almost immediately confirmed when the two teams of Legends finally cross paths (with their direct interaction almost immediately having some rather interesting consequences that are clearly set up to be a significant aspect of the show's third season). From here, the episode manages to strike a very interesting, and very effective, blend of humour and genuine drama as we see the two team's directly interacting with each other.

On the comedy side, there's the simple joy of seeing the two version of Mick Rory each trying to stare the other down, or the versions of Sara Lance each trying to assume a leadership role – and, of course, the hilarious moment of frustrated resignation when the two versions of Rip Hunter meet for the first time. For more dramatic moments, there is the more subdued moments of interaction between the two versions of Sara Lance, or the way in which Nate attempts to convince his own younger self to admit his feelings for Amaya (something which is clearly very important to him, after being forced to watch her die in the last episode).

With the two teams of Legends forced to work together, as they attempt to escape with the Spear of Destiny, the episode is also able to draw quite a bit of very genuine drama out of the older team being forced to, essentially, sacrifice themselves for their younger selves. As the older team of Legends begin to fall, one by one, there is a genuine sense of tragic loss – even as the focus subtly shifts onto the younger Legends, as the show's true protagonists. This is especially impressive when you consider that, by the end, we hadn't actually lost a single member of the show's primary cast.

Unfortunately, I do have to admit that the way in which the team's final confrontation with Eobard Thawne was staged as something of a disappointment. The whole idea that an increasingly desperate Eobard Thawne would draw inspiration from the Legends, and recruit multiple past versions of himself to, essentially, create a small army was fun, sure – and, it definitely made for a great visual, as the Legends found themselves surrounded. The problem, though, is that all of those scenes of alternate versions of Thawne rushing about, somehow being held at bay as Sara attempted to use the Spear of Destiny, just looked a little silly, when you consider what we already know a single Eobard Thawne to be capable of.

After so many moments of great drama, and exciting action, it was a definite disappointment to see the episode's (and, the season's) final confrontation between hero and villain be staged in such an awkward, and unconvincing, manner. Although, to be fair, it did provide some great moment for Sara Lance (as she finds herself momentarily drawn into an odd sort of 'dream' reality by the spear), and for Eobard Thawne, as he is forced to confront what could very well prove to be his final fate. The whole confrontation was definitely a weak-point in the episode – but, fortunately, it wasn't so significant a weak-point that it did much damage to the episode, as a whole.

In the end, and despite that one issue, the final episode of the second season of Legends of Tomorrow managed to bring things to a fantastic close – which still managed to establish a very interesting dilemma as the series moves into its third season. There's a very clear sense of closure here, too, as the conflict between the Legends and the Legion of Doom is brought to a very decisive end. Final moments between Mick Rory and Leonard Snart, and Sara and Damian Darhk, manage to bring the season-long character arcs of both Mick and Sara to a satisfying end (with Mick and Leonard's final scene together, in particular, definitely being a high-light).

I will admit that I'm not entirely satisfied with the way that Rip Hunter seems to have been written out (the Waverider is his ship, after all – so, it doesn't really make much sense that he would just give it to Sara, while he heads off on his own). But, since it seems fairly certain that the character will still be making the occasional appearance throughout the next season, I suppose I can let it pass. But, in all, I am still very satisfied with the way that things have been wrapped up, here – and, I am definitely eager to see what Legends of Tomorrow will have in store for its third season.

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