Friday, February 19, 2016

DC's Legends of Tomorrow 1x05 Review: "Fail-Safe" (Plans C, F and M Through Q) [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]


"Fail-Safe"
Original Airdate: February 18, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow has figured out a way to get me to full pay attention — by offering up the one and only Cisco as bait in the opening scene. Only he’s not Cisco, he’s a product of Martin Stein’s mind as Dr. Vostok tries to manipulate him into helping her. I have lots of questions about the drugging, like why Stein’s mind went to the exact formula they needed, why he thought of Cisco first (though I’m not complaining), and why Stein was only conscious in the middle of getting to the room. Magic? Let’s go with magic. This scene sets up the rest of the episode’s problem: Stein has knowledge that Savage wants. He and Dr. Vostok are eager to recreate the Firestorm project and take over the world, because being evil is less fun if the world can’t be ruled with a savage fist. (Sorry.)

While Stein is resisting the threats, the fear, and Dr. Vostok’s strange accent, considering they swallowed translator pills that should make accents redundant, the others are working to free him, as well as Heat Wave, and Ray. This sets off a prison break from the gulag that is only possible through a fight in a towel with a very large Russian man. (Seriously how was that not like a greased pig wrestling match between the pair? Have you ever tried to tackle a sweaty naked man? Yeah, me either.)

The good news is that we get a Bratva nugget that Arrow fans have been dying for. The bad news is that we have to spend way too long looking at a man called Uri the Bear half-naked. From there, the episode was all about breaking out of prison and characters breaking into each other’s hearts.

Let’s break down the episode highlights and the not-so-great aspects of "Fail-Safe."


THE GOOD


This episode was all about heroism in unexpected places. Rip was less of a hero than normal, suggesting death for the greater good, and the others stepped up in unexpected ways.

The ongoing theme of Sara’s redemption is one plot that has really stuck out for me. They’ve not given her a magical cure or made it easy on her. The fact that she can control the bloodlust better than Thea is a little strange, considering she was super dead and Thea was only a little dead, but it’s nice to see the writers pay attention to where she’s at and make it so that she has to rely on herself. Rip gives Sara a side mission — to kill Stein if they can’t save him. The world is depending on it. She sees it as a chance to save countless lives. Captain Cold, the gloriously wonderful Wentworth Miller, sees it another way.

Hardened criminal or not, he’s come to think of the team as, well, a team. He’s loyal to his people and thinks that Sara is more than a pawn in Rip’s game and that she’s definitely more than a killer. Throughout the episode he talks up Sara’s good side. He encourages her to listen to the person she has become rather than the assassin Rip needs her to be. ... And she listens. There is no bloodlust, no eagerness to kill in her actions. His words guide her into not taking the shot. Sara found the person she’s meant to be — the heart that she’s feared she’s lost. With a little encouragement, and a lot of struggling, she realized that her path was not a foregone conclusion. The thief encourages the assassin to be more, and it works. This pairing is gold. My only concern is that Snart has ulterior motives and needed Stein alive for another more nefarious reason. I suppose time will tell.

Snart became the angel on Sara’s shoulder, encouraging her humanity over her past as an assassin. His loyalty to getting his teammate out suggested a goodness that someone who was fully bad would not have. He protects the people he cares about. It doesn’t take much urging from the others to get him to do the right thing. He wants the right thing, even if he hides it. He aches not to be like his father, and I found it fitting that he was the protective older brother throughout much of this episode.

Meanwhile, Ray takes a beating to save Heat Wave from more torture. Heat Wave returns the favor by saving Ray’s life. Ray has struggled to be a hero, often making choices guided by his arrogance and his naivete, but no one can say that he doesn’t have a good heart. Because for as na├»ve as he may be at times, and in ways that endanger the team, this goodness shined in the episode and touched Heat Wave (whether he would ever admit it or not).

Also Ray getting beaten up was kind of fun to watch. Does that make me a bad person?

Elsewhere, Stein showed that he could be brave and strong in the most ruthless of circumstances. He found the power to save himself and the team at episode’s end — that he was his own savior. For a man who has spent a long time looking at himself as the brains rather than the muscle, this was a great moment. Jax revealed that he was willing to endanger everything to save the man he spent so much time being belittled by. He is a believer in the "no man left behind" policy, and his speech to get Rip revealed that no matter what, he will have his team’s backs. This showcases that despite his youth and resistance to follow Stein’s lead, he is brave, willing to lay his life down for others, and determined to do what is necessary to help others.

The episode also had some really fun moments, including the nods to Miller’s and Purcell’s Prison Break, Snart’s absolute indifference to Ray’s fate: “And Ray.” “Whatever!”, Sara beating up six members of the Bratva: “I just took out six guys and you couldn’t handle one?”

The show continued to pair people off this week, to get new relationships and dynamics. It worked fairly well. It was also a really big relief not to have another reaffirming scene at the end, where everyone acknowledged what they were doing is dangerous and deadly and vowed that they were still in despite the tragic death of what’s-his-name. I suppose getting attacked by Kronos put a damper on Rip’s plan of asking them yet again if they wanted to continue the mission.

Thanks, Kronos.

   

THE BAD


Kendra’s only plot point was to check on Jax, cut his arm up a little, and tell Savage — again! — that she wasn’t interested in being his girlfriend. Dude, I know that "no" is a hard word to understand, but she means it. Seriously. This guy is a fine example of what happens when a guy simply can’t believe a woman doesn’t want him. He throws the world’s worst tantrum, and the future pays for it. This under-utilization of Kendra is a little frustrating, but that’s part of the problem of having such a big cast.

A problem with the series that I’ve had since the beginning is that while the main mission is to stop Savage, the rest of the plot is them messing up the timeline and then having to go back and fix it. They end up causing more problems than they solve, because Rip either doesn’t tell them everything they need to know or someone on the team never got Doc Brown’s lecture on time paradoxes. The entire plot of chasing Savage only to mess things up worse feels a little reductive and forward progress doesn’t feel like it’s being made with the plot to save the world at all.

This was as clear as ever in this episode, where fixing the future they had messed up became the biggest challenge. While escaping the gulag helped establish a lot of character things, the overall plot of stopping Savage fell flat for me again this week. He wasn’t nearly as interesting as getting the tidbits from the others and connecting to them as a team.

That, and it feels like they would constantly be writing themselves out of the timeline, like, all the time with their tomfoolery. Time travel is weird like that.


THE WHATEVER


Dr. Vostok exploded and killed a lot of people. I’m fairly certain that a nuclear explosion, as it was described, would have killed more, and the radiation would have changed the landscape and timeline of Russia in the same way Chernobyl did. But let’s not get hung up on facts. The show certainly doesn’t.

Rip has flipped-flopped a lot character-wise. I don’t know who he is or what he wants, aside from revenge on Savage. I’m not certain how I feel about that yet. He’s supposed to be the leader, but either he has some massive growing pains ahead of them or I’m going to want to eternally slap him. I’m not complaining about seeing him shirtless, though.

Wasn’t there a plotline about how Stein couldn’t bind with just anyone because they had to be compatible with him? Wasn’t that a thing? That’s why they did all those searches and everything? And he just merges with Dr. Vostok on the first try? Did Dr. Vostok slip me some of those magic drugs?

Also, that weird around-the-neck move that Sara does is not a thing. Please don’t do that when attempting to kill your enemies.

SUMMARY


Overall, I think the episode showed that Legends of Tomorrow continues to improve. Some sloppy writing has meant some frustrating moments, character and plot-wise, but the cast continues to shine in their interactions with one another. Caring about Savage as a bad guy continues to be hard, but if they keep writing such great moments between the characters, I will continue to forgive them.

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