‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Recap: Season 2, Episode 2: ‘Justice Society of America’
The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows a time-traveling team of misfits that includes historian Nate Heywood, Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm and Flash rogue Heat Wave. Recappers Matt Wilson and Dylan Todd are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.
In this week's “Justice Society of America,” the Legends team up with a classic grouping of superheroes. If only there was some way to remember their name. Michael Grossman directed the episode, which was written by Chris Fedak and Sarah Nicole Jones.
Dylan: Hey hey, it’s the JSA! Matt, how did you like this week’s episode featuring everybody’s grandparents’ favorite super-team?
Matt: Pretty fun! Goofy as it could be, but I feel like that was a feature, not a bug. I’m fine with my TV show about a team with a man made of fire fighting a Nazi Hulk not being a dour affair.
Dylan: Since this is a team-up episode, the first thing our heroes do is get in a classic misunderstanding fight, with the JSA believing the Legends are working for Hitler. The ensuing fight, set to the raddest Sega Genesis game soundtrack ever, introduces us to the Society and it’s members: Commander Steel, who can flip and hit people in the face with his gun; Vixen, who can summon the power of any animal; Obsidian, who can make it dark; Doctor Mid-Nite, who can see in wispy bullet-vision; and Stargirl, who has a magic hook thing. Oh, and Hourman, but he was in the bathroom or something. It’s also worth noting that Commander Steel is Nate Whatshisface’s granddad and also Hourman is pretty sexist.
How’d you like the JSA and their secret headquarters in somebody’s basement?
Matt: It’s interesting that Hourman assumed Sara couldn’t possibly be the leader of the Legends, because the only member of the JSA that really matters at all here is Vixen. It’s pretty much “Vixen and Her Mostly Boring Friends” here. Obsidian literally does all of one thing one time.
Dylan: Did he even say anything? I’m trying to remember him speaking, but I’m coming up blank.
Matt: Not that I can recall. Dr. Mid-Nite had maybe... two lines? Same for Stargirl.
Dylan: That was probably for the best, because Dr. Mid-Nite had the weirdest voice I’ve heard on TV.
Matt: Sort of like if a frog turned into a man.
Dylan: Yes! Maybe that’s his updated origin in the CWverse. This is my new headcanon.
Matt: And the reasoning behind the JSA’s mistrust of the Legends is mega forced. “These people said they’re time travelers and they bicker all the time! They must be crazy!” For better or worse, it’s a very comic-book misunderstanding between heroes. More or less an excuse to make them fight in a scene that does end with a pretty cool tableau. (Though I did like Heat Wave coming out and saying, “Yeah, I’m a criminal.”)
As for their basement headquarters, it... certainly is a set!
Dylan: Somebody sure likes wood paneling. I was half-expecting the cast of That '70s Show to come down those stairs.
A large part of the episode is taken up with the Legends trying to stop the JSA from getting killed by Nazi supermen courtesy of a formula provided by Eobard Thawne/The Reverse Flash. That their plan involves Professor Stein pretending to be Hitler’s favorite singer is just sort of the icing on the cake. Like, 1940s costumes, plus Victor Garber singing “Eidelweiss” to a bar full of fascists that they also get to beat up? It’s pretty great, right?
Matt: This whole scene in the Paris nightclub is a delight. If only the whole show could be this fun. Not only did we get Stein singing (like an angel) and telling the band to “keep up with the changes” like so much McFly, we also got Jax nearly knocking out a Nazi for a racist comment, and Ray just plain not being able to do a Nazi salute. His body full-on cannot do it, to the point that he blows everyone’s cover. It’s the most endearing thing Ray Palmer has ever done.
Dylan: I really liked Haircut’s inability to even pretend. Like, overall, I really liked Atom this episode. It was a good little character spotlight for him, and it managed to outline why he’s not just a hero because of his suit. He’s a guy who wants to do what’s right, regardless of the consequences. Also, he apparently has a thing where he falls for women that are destined to be emotionally unavailable, with him and Vixen sort of flirting the entire time they’re captured together.
Matt: Guy’s got a type.
Dylan: They also have to steal back an amulet, but that all goes wrong when Stein, who’s recently been promoted to team leader, chokes big time, and the team lose Atom and Vixen when the head Nazi dopes up and CGIs out via the super-serum.
Matt: Oh my God, can we talk about Krieger (known in the comics by the all-too-accurate name Captain Nazi) and how the super-serum turns him into a monster from a PlayStation One game cutscene? Like he was about to challenge PaRappa the Rapper to a battle.
Dylan: It was glorious. Maybe if they hadn’t blown the budget on the wood paneling for the JSA HQ, they could have made him look a little less like a Doom end boss.
Matt: His giant torso! His little baby legs!
Dylan: How’d you like the Stein stuff? I mean, we know he’s going to fail, because he’s Martin Stein and not a real leader like, say, Sara, but did it work for you?
Matt: I liked how expedient he was. Like, the minute Sara said he could be the captain, instant power trip. Then, after one (1) crisis, he’s all like, “This ain’t for me, man.”
I’m also glad that we’re not doing what I thought might happen, some kind of season-long game of musical chairs where the winner gets to be leader. Sara just assumes leadership and everyone’s cool with it. About time.
Dylan: It’s about dang time.
Another big part of the episode was Nate’s dramatic stuff with his grandpa. I feel like this might have had a little more weight if we knew more about Nate than the fact that he’s a history dork and, apparently, a hemophiliac. The episode did end with Nate getting superpowers, making him more of a help to the team, but it’s real hard for me to care a whole lot about him just yet. Am I alone here?
Matt: You are not. I appreciated how quickly the Stein-as-leader story got dealt with, but this felt a little rushed. Here you had Commander Steel, this World War II tough guy, opening up his heart to this dude he was saying should be committed all of 20 minutes ago. It doesn’t quite scan.
I think this was all meant to help the audience build an emotional connection with Nate --- He’s vulnerable! He got hit by a CGI bomb with the power to kill Resident Evil: Nemesis! --- but if anything I think it helped Ray as a character more, like you mentioned. Ray makes a sacrifice to help a guy he barely knows and earns the trust of the JSA. That’s pretty good.
Dylan: Yeah, and the hemophilia thing is really rammed in there to give them an excuse to dose him with the super serum, too. I mean, I’m glad he’s finally going to be able to be useful in their time adventures (timeventures?), but also, he’s just some boring white dude.
Matt: If next week’s preview is any indication, he will soon be a boring silver dude, so I guess that’s a step in the right direction.
Dylan: So the episode ends in a pretty dramatic fashion, with the Reverse Flash busting into the Justice Society’s basement fortress, talking obliquely about his “plan,” killing Hourman, and making off with the amulet that the JSA took from the Nazis. It was pretty nuts, but maybe I’m just a fan of the Reverse Flash vibrating his atoms through people’s hearts. Did the teaser get you interested in what’s coming?
Matt: It’s weird that they made Hourman seem important at the end of last season, isn’t it? Because he was absent last week, and then he dies pretty much like a punk this week.
Dylan: I would put money on them totally reworking this season from wherever they saw it going last year. The Hourman stuff seems so shoehorned in now, like they had to retrofit it into their new plans for season two. I also wonder if we’ll be seeing the JSA again, as Hourman’s final words, “time… travel-errrrrr-urk!” could sort of cause Vixen to believe the Legends to be the ones who killed him.
Matt: What a weirdly non-specific clue, considering Reverse Flash was just shy of giving him an 8x10 of himself as he killed him.
Dylan: But it’s also pretty obvious from the episode that Hourman is a schmuck. So that fits. And I won’t even get into the logistics of Reverse Flash killing him before he can tell the Legends not to go back to 1942, thereby negating the Legends motivation for going to 1942.
Matt: Paradoxes are fun, aren't they?
Dylan: I also liked that Hourman tells them, “Whatever you do, do not time travel to 1942! It will be catastrophic!” and like, the very next thing they do is go to 1942. That tracks for these people.
Matt: They are nothing if not predictable.
As for Reverse Flash and his plan (presumably concocted with Darhk), it’s all pretty nebulous. They’re collecting artifacts for... some reason! But I’m actually cool with that. One of the things I liked about this episode was how it only indirectly tied to the meta-plot. The big problem with last season was how the team had one, immediate goal and the writers had to do gymnastics to stretch it out and keep them from it. So I’m good with a looser approach, for now.
And it seems like that looser approach continues next week, because we’re heading to shogun times!
Dylan: *flexes muscles* “Do you have your tickets to… the sho-gun?” Wait, that doesn’t really work, does it? In any case, I agree. Having the villain’s plan be in the background really helps them to just craft goofy time travel adventures with our team of perpetual screw-ups and not focus so much on the mega-plot.
Matt: If that means getting a katana-wielding White Canary, I’m there.