‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 11: ‘The Magnificent Eight’
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 "The Magnificent Eight," we're headed to the Ollllll' West! Jonah Hex is here! Woo doggies! Saddle up for adventure! The episode was directed by Thor Freudenthal, from a script by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim.
Dylan: The Old West! Gunfights! Outlaws! Consumption! This episode had it all, and Jonah Hex, too. Overall, how’d you like this episode, Matt?
Matt: I thought it was really fun. After the disappointment of last week’s episode (which you were lucky enough to miss, Dylan), it was really nice to see an episode deliver on its promise. We got a saloon brawl, a gun duel at high noon, a big shootout with the Hunters, rustlin’ up a gang, even a little ridin’ down the trail. It had everything I wanted, which was a big relief after last week’s “let’s kill Future Hitler” plot went exactly nowhere.
Dylan: Yeah, after reading the recap and then watching the episode, I feel like I definitely dodged a bullet with last week’s stinker. But if the Final Destination franchise has taught me anything, it’s that Death will have its due, so maybe there’s an even worse episode down the line that I’ll have to suffer through.
I totally agree, too. It was fun, if a little predictable. I’d have liked the Western genre stuff to be subverted a little more, as it was presented relatively straight. Well, until Stein and Jax Firestormed up and started burning up Hunters in the middle of town.
Matt: That was around the time the Old West outlaws decided they weren’t in the Old West anymore and let Jax (who they had taken back in the big raid scene) go after the duel. They played by the rules, which is not typically what you expect of outlaws. It was kind of an “Old West Town at Universal Studios” kind of thing, and the ride sort of ended. But that didn’t really detract from the fun.
Dylan: Speaking of detracting from the fun, we finally got the long-teased appearance of the CWverse version of Jonah Hex, played by That Thing You Do!'s Johnathon Schaech. How’d you like this iteration of everybody’s favorite disfigured gunslinger?
Matt: Like Amanda Waller on Arrow, I thought the portrayal was...a little sleepy. Schaech decided to go very low-energy with it. Maybe he had to get up really early for makeup and needed a nap. That aside, I thought it was pretty good. They certainly got the look down. It looked about as good as the movie version of Jonah Hex, which on a TV budget is an accomplishment.
Dylan: Yeah, I was hoping he’d have a little more fun with it, though him pegging them as time travelers was a neat switch-up. I’ll chalk some of his under-enthusiasm up to the fact that it can’t be easy to emote or project with that skin flap on the side of your mouth. And he was at least better than Josh Brolin Jonah Hex, which is not hard at all.
I also liked that the initial kerfuffle with the Stillwater Gang members is almost exactly like happened to Bill & Ted when they went to Billy the Kid times. Get caught cheating/sharking at cards, get in bar fight. I was really hoping that Ray would warn Captain Cold about watching out for horse crap when they were walking down main street, but oh well.
Matt: There was a lot of cribbing from other movies that did this before, but that’s kind of Legends of Tomorrow, right? Every episode is a kind of homage episode. Some just work better than others.
Dylan: Yeah, this one was definitely “The Western Episode,” and it works fairly well. The A-plot involved our Legends hiding out from the Hunters in the Old West, which apparently is a Fave Five for Ol’ Rip Hunter: Time Disaster. Naturally, our gang gets into all sorts of trouble, the most visible of it being Professor Stein and Captain Cold killing a member of the Stillwater Gang in a saloon, setting off a fairly typical Western plot where Ray Palmer becomes sheriff and vows to clean up this town, I reckon.
Matt: Like I was saying about the movie homages, it was very Back to the Future Part III, down to Ray using a Western movie icon’s name (John Wayne) instead of his own, though there’s really no reason he couldn’t say his name was Ray Palmer. That may sound like I’m running it down, but I’m not. It was super fun.
It even explained some of Rip’s many quirks, like his duster and light-up six shooter. Maybe it even explains his often-taciturn personality. The notion that he loved the Old West so much that he didn’t want to leave is the first thing about him that makes me actually like him instead of wanting to see him booted off the show forever.
Dylan: Yeah, I was really confused at his reluctance to help the other Legends out as they tried to right this wrong in the timestream, as his penchant for that sort of thing is literally why this show exists, but him being literally addicted to the Old West was a fun turn. Rip Hunter: Old West Otaku.
Matt: The explanation for why he loves it so much is that the West presents lots of opportunities for heroism, which sounds like something that’s out of character for old jerky Rip, but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Being a hero in the Old West basically means having the slightest modicum of human decency. It is the lowest bar. That’s perfect for Rip Hunter.
Dylan: Haha, too true. The B-plot involves Sara Lance and Kendra Saunders tracking down a kooky older woman that twigged Kendra’s Hawk-sense. Turns out, that kooky older woman is one of Kendra’s past lives and she gives her the worst news Kendra or anybody watching this show could receive: her only way to true happiness in life is by being with that lame-o, Carter Hall. This bummed me out, Matt. Did it bum you out?
Matt: The news bummed me out, because what’s more of a bummer than the inevitability of Hawkman? But the rest of the plot did not bum me out. I liked the scene where Sara and Kendra were riding down the trail to the lady’s house. I like their friendship. I liked that one of Hawkman’s old names was “Hannibal Hawke,” which is the least hateable thing he’s ever done. I liked the idea of Hawkwoman finding and talking to a previous version of herself. I even liked the way it resolved, with Sara basically saying, “Well, you’re not her. You can love Ray if you want to.”
Dylan: Also, she can do a lot better than Ray, too, but that’s neither here nor there. Dude is so square he’s a dodecahedron.
Matt, we’ve discussed Caity Lotz’s prettiness before, but her as Sharon Stone in The Quick & the Dead stirred something inside of me.
Matt: I agree. I’ll leave it at that before I embarrass myself.
Dylan: Fair enough! Moving on, our C-plot involves Professor Stein helping out some poor kid whose life’s ambition is to ride in a stagecoach. Poor dude has The Consumption, which is a line I 100% called mere seconds before Sick Kid’s Mom said it out loud. I wondered if they would go full Back To the Future III on us and have Stein develop feeling for this Old West woman, but nope. He just gave him some future medicine. The end.
As much as I appreciate them trying to give (pretty much) everybody something to do, this one felt just weird. Am I being too nitpicky here, Matt?
Matt: Did you miss that the kid turned out to be H.G. Wells? I’m not saying it was an improvement. If anything, it made the whole plot make less sense. (Would H.G. Wells have died if Stein hadn’t shown up? Are we living in the timeline that takes place after these Legends did all their work? Do the Time Masters exist in a universe where The Time Machine wasn’t written?) But it also made it weird in a way I can’t really hate. It was weird, for sure, and absolutely was just a way to give Victor Garber something to do, but that last twist made it almost transcendently dumb.
Dylan: Oh man, I guess I did totally miss that! Well, good for Stein, then. You saved science fiction!
Matt: When they first said the kid’s last name was Wells, I thought for sure he was going to be an ancestor of Harrison, but no. Stein doesn’t even seem to go there, either. It’s the author.
Dylan: Plot Twist! What if Harrison Wells’ middle name is Gary and he’s also H.G. Wells? Did I just blow your mind? (BRB going to write some fan fiction.)
Matt: All I can say is it’s a good thing I’m sitting down.
Dylan: Finally, with the Hunters dispatched pretty quickly (and kinda grisly? I mean, the Atom straight bulleted through a dude!), we can focus ourselves on another Time Bounty Hunter, the enigmatically-named Pilgrim. Any thoughts on this development?
Matt: I actually wrote down this note: “This episode was real murdery.” I totally get Captain Cold and Heat Wave killing Hunters and gang members, but I do have to admit that I was pretty shocked to see the Atom just fly right through a dude. And Rip kills the gang leader in the duel. I guess it all fits with the Old West setting, but it was a little surprising considering how last week’s big debate was entirely about whether to kill or not.
Dylan: Well, consider that debate quashed because they sure were killing people and not even blinking this week. I kept trying to justify it in my mind by saying, “Well, Rip said something about how time hadn’t ‘hardened’ here yet, so none of this is real real, so this isn’t super-weird, right?”
(It was still super-weird.)
Matt: There’s that one really strange moment where Hawkwoman runs into her past self at the saloon and time kind of... jumps, I guess? And Heat Wave tells her that things are weird here at this nebulous point in time, but it’s really the only place that comes up. I thought they’d do a lot more with it.
Dylan: I was disappointed in this. It really could have shaken up the more stock Western stuff in the episode to play around with these (admittedly nebulous) timestream rules.
Matt: Feels like a setup for something that either got cut or they just didn’t get around to doing. Look, TV writing rooms are a grind. I get it. Maybe they’ll work it in later.
Dylan: Here’s to hoping.
Matt: One more note about the big gunfight: There was a sign for “Kubert’s Barber Shop” in the background. I see you, Legends of Tomorrow.
Dylan: Yeah, I chuckled at that.
Matt: As for Pilgrim, I am relatively certain that she is Pilgrim from Wildstorm’s Wetworks, and that’s basically amazing. I wonder if she has a symbiote! What an odd but great character to bring into this show. Her job is to go back in time and kill all the Legends before they joined the team, so that should be interesting. Apparently we get to see Captain Lance with hair next week, so I’m hoping for a pre-assassin Sara appearance, too.
Dylan: Oh man, you’re totally right. I didn’t even think of the WIldstorm stuff making its way into the CWverse. Will this Pilgrim also be a member of the Were Nation, a secret nation of werewolves? Aw man, now I really want werewolves on this show. Can we get Joe Dante back for this?
Matt: It could feed into my old (really my friend Ben’s old) Battlestar Galactica fan theory: Everyone is a werewolf. That’s the big twist. I’d be fine with that applying to this show, too.
Dylan: The math checks out.