‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 10: ‘Progeny’
The CW’s latest super-show, Legends of Tomorrow, follows Rip Hunter on his adventures through time, with a team of misfits that includes Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm, Hawkwoman, and Flash rogues Captain Cold and Heat Wave. Arrow and Flash 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 "Progeny," the team struggles with whether to erase a child who is destined to become a terrible dictator from future-history. More importantly, Heat Wave and Captain Cold finally settle their differences... with their fists! David Geddes directed the episode, which was written by Phil Klemmer and Marc Guggenheim.
Ziah: While Dylan Todd is at Emerald City Comic Con trying to buy a life-size BB-8 and shelling out $100 for a replica of Joe West’s Business Beanie, I’m here to cover for him in this episode of Legends of Tomorrow with veteran TV reviewer Matt Wilson.
So Matt, the team travels to 2147 as Godwin’s law is invoked, parenthood is discussed, and Ray once again deals with his legacy-related inferiority complex. How’d you like the episode overall?
Matt: Sadly, I thought it did a lot to squander a pretty can’t-miss premise. The idea of going to 2147 to kill a highly modified version of the Injustice Society’s Per Degaton, in this incarnation a Future Hitler (and make no mistake about it, Rip even says “this is Future Hitler,” more or less) should be a cool adventure. Instead, this episode gets way bogged down in moral quandaries and half-measures.
In one sense, that’s a necessity of story. There’s a whole bunch of season left, so the team can’t successfully kill or neutralize Vandal Savage yet. But in practice, it leads to an often boring and ultimately frustrating episode. Like, how does Savage even manage to get Sara Lance, the best fighter on the damn team, in a damsel position? It only happens so the team can lose the kid. And then the team fails miserably. Savage convinced the kid to kill his benevolent-dictator dad and thus half the world dies (from the Armageddon virus, what I assume is another reference to DC Universe Nazis) way ahead of schedule. I guess you could say that’s raising the stakes; I find it to be a super-frustrating examples of these heroes (Rip especially) being incompetent. And that’s how it ends! They don’t fix it, there’s no virus cliffhanger, they just move on to the next story. It’s mega-weird!
Ziah: Can we take a moment to appreciate how Savage tells Per Degaton the story of Oedipus Rex? Because Savage skips over a lot of the rest of the story, it was great. “This kid killed his old man because he was too much of a warrior, and the king just couldn’t handle it, the end, nothing else happens in that story.” I kind of want him to badly summarize a famous myth every episode now.
Matt: Seems like a different story could have gotten that point across better, but maybe Savage only knows that one story. I’ll admit: I was kind of zoning out by that part. Maybe it was the muted colors or Casper Crump’s half-whisper delivery, but I was dozin’ during his Bad Myth Corner.
Ziah: Jumping to the end real quick, It’s pretty weird that Rip and Gideon say that they failed and had no change to the timeline when Savage is pretty clearly Jafar-ing the world because of what they did. This world-shattering virus gets released five years earlier and it doesn’t affect anything?
Pretty strange too that their plan A was just marooning the kid in the time stream (which somehow wouldn’t change anything?) and their plan B was killing him, which would’ve been different somehow?
Matt: It’s also odd that the marooning plan is where they go, since they have an example of that thinking going wildly awry right there on the ship in a cell waiting to kill them. Until he gets better, of course.
Ziah: Right! They’ve got actual proof that the Time Masters can jump in and fix things, so why wouldn’t they just pop out and put him back?
Matt: I’m all for a ragtag team of ruffians sort of stumbling their way through plans, and that’s what these Legends did for a few episodes, but it’s hitting the point where they’re just plain incapable of formulating strategies in light of striking evidence. The scales are tipping. Again, I blame all this on Rip.
Ziah: We can blame everything on Rip because he’s the worst.
So, once again the team splits into smaller teams; team Kill And/Or Steal A Kid With Guns and team Everyone Remember Iron Man 2? What’d you think of the two divisions?
Matt: We’ve been over the child kidnapping part, more or less, but the B-plot all about how Ray thinks he has a child back in 2016 because someone who looks like him developed these autonomous, police-state versions of the ATOM armor is similarly... undercooked.
It relies on so many flimsy premises: It turns out that the progenitor of the line that creates the robots isn’t Ray, but his brother, who we’ve never seen or heard of before and somehow looks just like him. They must be twins. Beyond that, the story relies on Ray’s bro going to work for Felicity Smoak to build these things, and then the two of them working together to make the drones of tomorrow. From what I know about Felicity Smoak, that seems...a little out of character.
Ziah: It did give us that amazing scene where Ray and Jax have to explain to Stein what “ghosting” is, so it’s not all bad.
Matt: Oh man, yeah. Jax and Stein didn’t have a ton to do this episode, but at least Stein got to be an old guy that got some slang explained to him. I wish they had explained “ghost riding the whip” too.
I thought the whole thing was fairly interesting when it might have been Ray who had some responsibility for the ATOM-bots (even though the timeline didn’t really work out at all), but the reveal that he didn’t just sucked all the air right out of it. It doesn’t end up serving much beyond the half-burnt candle that is the romance between Ray and Kendra, which is a pretty weird, half-formed storyline in itself.
Ziah: I don’t really mind their romance, because at least it’s better than her and Hawkman, but it definitely doesn’t do the show any favors the way it is now. For two people that spent two years alone together, they still feel incredibly awkward with one another, and there’s not a ton of chemistry, either.
Matt: Some of that is the actors and some of it is this built-in awkwardness that’s been written in to complicate the story. That both their storylines are basically wiped away (Ray: “I didn’t have a kid after all!” Kendra: “That’s my past! You’re my future!”) makes it all just seem inconsequential. Wheel spinning as it were.
Ziah: Considering how much of a real evil brat Per Degaton turned out to be by episode’s end, I sure did find that whole, “He’s dreaming of making cookies with his mother” thing that Gideon went on about pretty dubious, but whatever. So Gideon can read the team’s dreams, and has probably thrown that information Rip’s way. More fuel for yours and Dylan’s Rip The Drip theory, or just future tech being creepy?
Matt: Hard to say. It could just be a throwaway bit of information to falsely make Rip and the audience feel sympathy for Per Degaton leading into a throwaway gag about Sara’s nurse fantasies. Or maybe it could feed into some bigger thing about how Rip’s been manipulating the team. Thing is, we don’t really need any more proof that Rip is terrible, so some big dream-reading reveal would just result in an “oh, of course he did that” reaction rather than a “traitor!” sort of scenario.
Ziah: Man, whatever they’re paying Wentworth Miller, it’s not enough. He’s by far the best part of every episode, and the scene where Sara had to basically remind Snart that he and Mick love… er, have feelings for each other was really sweet.
Matt: It may have just been me, but it felt like Caity Lotz was almost doing a Wentworth Miller impression in that scene. She suddenly had that... halting... delivery of Captain Cold, almost like she was trying to remind Heat Wave how much he cares about him or she’s just been hanging out with Cold and lot and he’s rubbing off on her. I don’t know if it was intentional at all, but it was terrific either way. Aside from the two big fight scenes --- the one at a straight-up 2015/2016 water treatment plant and the fistfight between Cold and Heat Wave --- it was my favorite scene in the episode.
Ziah: Speaking of those fight scenes, it really is nice that almost every episode they have those panning shots of every member of the team doing something to show that they’re part of the same world. Stuff like that and the aforementioned heightened dialogue deliveries really make me like the show even when the plot and subplots can be a little sloppy.
Matt: It makes it frustrating because there are these wonderful moments, like when Jax says, “Oh yeah, we don’t need weapons! We have superpowers!” and the team busts out of the ship and starts fighting future Nazis. That moment was dope as hell. And it just makes me think, “Man, why can’t this show be like this all the time?”
Ziah: I’m glad they dropped the Heat Wave is Chronos basically as soon as the twist is over, but his redemption felt a little quick. Better than dragging it out I suppose.
Matt: Dylan and I were talking about this last week. The show moves a little fast. Generally I think that’s better than dragging stuff out forever, but this week I think the pacing got the better of it this week. That’s partially because a couple elements of this episode --- Rip’s decision whether to kill Per Degaton, Kendra’s ‘50s flashbacks --- get what’s probably an undue amount of screen time.
Ziah: Oh speaking of '50s flashbacks, how’d you feel about these? Because man, I was not pleased to see Falk Hentschel’s Carter Hall again. Just a boring mess of a character. His line about never getting to kiss an Edith when Kendra (or whatever her name was) changed their names might’ve been intended as romantic, but was just creepy.
Matt: I saw his name in the opening credits and said “Oh no” aloud. It’s good he was just relegated to flashbacks, but any Hawkman is too much, to be quite honest. Especially since there didn’t seem to be that much of a point to any of it, other than to show that Hawkwoman has memories.
Ziah: We did get to see more of Aldous, their kid that died in the 70s episodes, I guess in an attempt to connect her storyline to Ray’s fatherhood issues. I appreciate that the episode had some themes it was trying to hit about lineage and legacy, but it definitely wasn’t as sharply put together as it needed to be.
Matt: Maybe they’ll recover and make this stuff important to the bigger story, but it mostly felt like a way to give Hawkwoman anything at all to do while she sat on the ship staring at the weird calming beach screens by every bed.
Ziah: Oh yeah, they’ve got to keep her and Savage apart on these episodes because otherwise everyone starts wondering why she doesn’t just kill him. The megaplot of that definitely feels like the worst part of the show, because once you start pulling on that thread, the whole thing unravels. When they’re just stopping hawkmonsters or dipping around in the Cold War, it’s easier to forget that the point is to kill this immortal dude with a reincarnated hawk goddess that keeps putting it off.
Matt: “I’ll do it this afternoon!”
Ziah: See, now you’ve gone and made Kendra sound like a sullen teen, and that’s great. Dirtbag Hawkwoman, what a fun time that would be.
Matt: All that not-killing-a-kid and remembering-a-kid stuff eats up a lot of episode time, so when it’s time to wrap up, Heat Wave, who has been literally reprogrammed by the Time Masters over centuries, is just like, “Oh, hey, I’m back! And by the way, the Time Masters are sending some mega-killers to off us, so no time to stop this murder-virus we indirectly let loose!”
Ziah: Yeah, they’re called Hunters. I’m not super up on my DC cosmic/chrono stuff, so if there was an explicit reference there, I missed it. On the other hand, we do have a character on the show that’s already got Hunter in his name. Maybe Rip’s been such a borderline supervillain this whole time because he used to be one of these guys.
Matt: This episode was full of almost-references to DC stuff. Per Degaton pretty much just has the name and clothes of his Golden Age counterpart. The Hunters may be a weird Rip thing or a reference to the Legion villains. Kasnia is a country in DC continuity, but it’s not a corporation-state. Armageddon is a reference to... well, it could be several things that are not a virus. Some name-dropping that doesn’t quite connect in here.
Ziah: More importantly, though, Heat Wave is back, and hopefully there’s still time for a return to Time Crimes in between everything else.
Matt: Ziah, I’m hungry for tiiiiime criiiimes. And next week, despite there being multiple unresolved threads, we’re going to a place that’s perfect for it: the Old West! And Jonah Hex is there! The potential for time crimery has never been higher.