Thursday, February 11, 2016

DC's Legends of Tomorrow 1x04 "White Knights" (Rip Hunter and His Traveling Band of Legends) [Contributor: Lizzie]

"White Knights"
Original Airdate: February 11, 2016

Sometimes, I ask a show to do something and they deliver. Sometimes I ask a show to do something and they do the complete opposite. And sometimes, I ask a show to do something and — like Legends of Tomorrow — they manage to do both. The third option is the hardest.

Legends of Tomorrow premiered to a lot of hype, and a lot of promise. Much of it had to do with the fact that we knew and liked most of these characters. But there was also the matter of time-travel. That’s a fun subject, a complicated subject, and one rife with possibilities. So characters we know traveling through time to defeat an evil tyrant who will one day conquer the world? What’s not to like about that premise?

Nothing. But there’s a big gap from premise to execution. Three episodes in, and yes, this was (is) a fun show. We still like the characters. (Some we like even more). The time-traveling is entertaining. So are the outfits. But, if there was a thing missing from the first three episodes, it was a real sense of what’s at stake.

Sure, Vandal Savage is evil. And yes, he’s going to, like, conquer the world. So what? Why should our characters care? Because they’re good people? And, moreover, why should WE care? 2166 is a long time away. We won’t be alive to see it. The characters we know and love won’t be around either. So why should we care about the evils that might befall the world then? What’s even at stake here if the people we are actually interested in are never in any real danger?

And then, “White Knights” happened, and though this episode does not present an answer to the larger question, it does put half of the team in a position we hadn’t seen before – actual danger. And, weirdly enough, that’s a relief.


You know what else is a relief? Jax fighting back against the suddenly tone-deaf and know-it-all Martin Stein. Of all the characters in this show, the storyline so far has failed Stein the most. Not only is he a hypocrite who really, really loves his wife — yet, for all we know, left for a time-traveling adventure without even telling her. Stein also took the decision right out of Jax’s hands just because he really wanted to time-travel and he thought Jax would come to his senses later on. Notice how I say he thought. It was all him. He knew better; he made a decision for two. He. He. He.

This episode finally allows us a glimpse of the inner turmoil of Martin Stein, and the show is better for it. Guilt over what happened with Ronnie is not an excuse, but it is an explanation. The truth is, we never got to see the relationship between Ronnie and Stein develop. We get that chance now with him and Jax. And it’s not going to be easy. Some bumps along the way are to be expected. These two people couldn’t be more different if they tried, after all. But that’s okay — at least the show seems ready to make this about two equals and not so much about a young guy having to listen to the old man without getting an opinion.

(Especially considering that, this time, it’s Stein being unbelievably reckless and stupid. Apparently every character in this show gets to be stupid, no exceptions allowed!)


The Kendra/Sara pairing that Rip instigated this episode was so on point that I can’t believe even Sara didn’t see why it was needed. Right now, these two women are polar opposites in many respects. Kendra’s whole sense of self, as Hawkgirl, was tethered to Carter. Without him, she doesn’t’ know how to be a warrior. Sara, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to be a normal human being. Kendra is all about the feelings. So it makes sense that, between the two, they might help each other find a common ground. I don’t quite understand how the actual physical training will help either, but as an excuse to get these two women together in a storyline, it’s as good as any.

But it’s not in the deep character issues that these two most differ — it’s in the perception. We like Sara, even if she basically stole her sister’s boyfriend, killed a ton of people, and came back to get in the way of Olicity a few years ago. We don’t like Kendra, even if she’s done nothing wrong. What the show wants is for us to like Kendra the way we do Sara, without having to write her any differently. So far, it hasn’t worked. But maybe sticking her with Sara is a good idea. It certainly can’t hurt. It’s not like I could care less about Kendra.


Rip Hunter is the one character we didn’t know, and the one who’s gotten the most growth in the first four episodes. He not only went from mysterious time-traveler to someone with a stake in the Vandal Savage problem, but he also traded aloof for somewhat of a competent leader (issues with actual rules and explanations and yes, communication, aside). Pairing Ray with Snart was a good thing for both of them, as was pairing Ray with Stein, and the Kendra and Sara thing has a lot of potential. He was also very good at handling Sara’s issues last episode, not by saying what she needed to hear, but by acting like he believed what he was saying.

This episode, however, Rip gets an even bigger lesson into what being a leader is — listening to your team. And, most importantly, letting them make their own choices. He doesn’t exactly consult with everyone, but given the circumstances, he does more than I expected. The one thing he does really well is deferring to others when they might know more than him about a particular problem.

Case in point: Mick Rory. Rory might not know very much about a host of things Rip is familiar with, but when it comes to a life on the run, Mick Rory is an expert. And that Rip knows enough to trust his gut feeling about the Time Masters shows that, perhaps he really can become the leader these people need.

With some time. And like, rules.


Everything that could go wrong went wrong for just about every character this episode. Ill-advised planning aside, the bad guys took advantage of Ray’s humanity and Stein’s imprudence to capture three of our “legends.” In any other show, this would be a bad thing. Here, it’s a bad thing and they’re all really, really dumb. But it’s not disastrous. As I said in the introduction, it’s precisely what this show needed: a week of fretting. For us to worry that our favorites might get killed off. I know the show tried to send a message about consequences when it killed Carter, but let’s be honest — no one cared about Carter, so message effectively not received. We care about Stein and Ray and Snart. So now we’re talking.

It also presents the team with a golden opportunity to be exactly that: a team. One that bands together to save the others, or whatever. Legends of Tomorrow, please make me feel like you care. Or, better yet, make ME care. If not about the future, at least about the stakes of this particular mission. It's really the least you can do.

Other things:
  • “It’s like an email. On paper.” Never change, Ray. Never change.
  • Either the show will stop giving me so many shots of Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz together, or I will continue to sort of ship them in an abstract way. 
  • This episode was all about the Jax/Stein dynamic, and yet the short conversation Ray and Stein have after Stein rips Jax a new one is a wonderful moment of continuity from the last episode. It is also proof that, for all that each episode will focus on a different combination of characters, the lessons and connections previously established are not going to be forgotten.
  • The same goes for the banter between Ray and Snart. Even if, at last count, Snart was winning the witty repartee competition about 2250583 to 1.
  • Rip Hunter is the actual worst at controlling these people. He’s either a) not paying attention, or b) exasperated because they didn’t read his mind and do exactly what he wanted. 
  • I can admit it now: Mick Rory is hilarious, no matter who he’s paired with. 
  • Good to see Jax remembers his mom. 
  • Sara’s bloodlust doesn’t seem to be a “kill some people, get some time off” thing, like Thea’s. I wonder if it has to do with Constantine’s magic. I wonder if we’ll get an explanation. Oh wait, who am I kidding? Of course we won’t. 
  • Victor Garber is the best actor in this bunch, by far. FIGHT ME ON THIS.
  • But Wentworth Miller is, so far, the heart of this show. FIGHT ME ON THIS.
  • I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Ray Palmer fits on Legends of Tomorrow in a way he never did (or could) on Arrow

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.


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