‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 14: ‘River of Time’
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.
On this week's "River of Time," our Legends act really stupid while they try to rush a captive Vandal Savage into the Time Masters' custody. The episode was directed by Alice Troughton and from a script by Cortney Norris and Anderson Mackenzie.
Dylan: Well, that sure was 44 minutes of a television program. As we close in on the finale, we got a glorified bottle episode where everybody visits Vandal Savage in his cell, the writers find a solution for the Firestorm Problem, Hawkman gets stabbed again, and a literal ton of flashbacks are dumped all over the place. For a show whose finale is within spitting distance, this felt like a big time time-killer. I had to check IMDB to see if the episode was titled “Running Down the Clock.” What did you think, Matt? Am I being too harsh?
Matt: In the immortal words of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, it was what it was. I don’t think I hated the episode because there were enough little moments to keep me interested --- namely seeing how White Canary is basically super-buds with Captain Cold and Heat Wave now, and Heat Wave getting mad at future snacks --- but a lot of it did feel... manufactured.
Ray’s big showdown with Vandal Savage relies on Ray Palmer being super dumb. Like, mega-dumb. Rip’s plan to take Savage back to the Time Masters Council relies on him being super-dumb, or at least very naive. Not to mention that Rip knowingly sent a team member to his imminent death. So the more I think about it, the more my answer is no, you’re not being too harsh.
Dylan: So the main plot, such as it is, revolves around Vandal Savage trying to turn the Legends against Rip Hunter, because apparently, they’re just now figuring out that he’s The Worst. With the Waverider stuck in the timestream because of some Star Trek: The Next Generation shenanigans, we get the opportunity to see almost every character take their turn talking to Savage in his futuristic Silence of the Lambs cell. I know we were supposed to feel like he’s a master manipulator, slowly pushing buttons until finally they all snap in the third act, but the combination of Casper Crump’s one-note characterization, and a pretty dumb script, it all comes across very sloppy and plot-driven.
Matt: Vandal’s manipulations aren’t particularly clever. I mean, he gives not one, but two of the Legends the “We’re not so different, you and I” spiel. He’s basically just reading out of the book of supervillain cliches at this point.
Dylan: I feel like we’ve reached the point in fiction where you write a scene and your antagonist says this to your protagonist, you should be sent to Actual Jail.
Matt: The most frustrating part of all of it is that we end up back where we started anyway. Savage gets out of his toiletless prison cell, but the Legends fight him and recapture him. The Legends take him to the Time Council to face his crimes, but it turns out the Time Council was working for Savage all along, so they send him back to Earth. Aside from the Legends being captives now (and Jax being back in 2016 to save himself from Old Sickness), we pretty much just hit a big reset button.
Dylan: Just a pointless exercise, this episode. I feel mad for it wasting my time. It wasn’t even worth it to hear Captain Cold’s “Leonard Snart, robber of ATMs.” line.
Matt: That line did do a lot to bring me back from the edge, I have to say.
Dylan: By the time it was uttered, I’d already jumped off the cliff, unfortunately.
Should we talk about the flashbacks? Because on top of everything, this is the part of this episode that really pissed me off. It felt like the writers took all the wrong lessons from Lost, but whereas the Lost flashbacks invariably opened up some interesting backstory to the characters that also fed in the the Island plot for the episode, these just… showed us pretty much what we already knew, treating us to the last conversations Jax, Ray, Sara and Stein had before they took off to the time stream. They didn’t add to the overarching plot, they didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, they just ate up time.
This would maybe be more forgivable wedged in the middle of a full-season, but when you already only have 16 episodes, and this is episode 14, it felt like a real waste. Agree? Disagree?
Matt: You say they’re taking lessons from Lost, but I think we’re missing the middle step: Arrow, which has been doing interminable flashback sequences for four straight seasons, with exponentially diminishing returns. These flashbacks felt exactly like those. The ones with Sara/Nyssa al Ghul and Ray/Felicity Smoak felt like they could have come straight out of an Arrow episode. Oh, so Sara and Nyssa love each other? Man, thanks for that new and eye-opening information, show!
That said, I did think it was hilarious when Ancient Egypt Savage called meteorites “space rocks.” I guess the Egyptians didn’t have a word for them.
Dylan: In his defense, I also regularly call them that. Like even the Rip Hunter flashback we opened with was something we’d sort of seen in an earlier episode. The pointlessness of this episode is burning me up inside. Maybe if we hadn’t have blown a significant portion of the budget on that five-minute slow-motion fight with The Pilgrim we could have had something a little less low-rent and wheel-spinny.
Matt: The thing is, I don’t hate bottle episodes. I think bottle episodes can be really good if they’re done well.
Dylan: Oh, I don’t hate them either. Breaking Bad’s “Fly” episode is one of the best episodes of the show, but to make a bottle episode work, it takes a lot of inventiveness, and this just didn’t have it. It felt like the minimum amount of effort was poured into it. Even the Heat Wave episode, with basically the same premise, worked better than this one did. I can’t stop shaking my damn head at the episode, Matt, and it’s been longer than four hours; should I call my doctor?
Matt: You should have read the list of side effects on the label of this episode’s bottle.
Dylan: Speaking of things that make me shake my head, this episode also saw the return of fan-favorite character Hawkman, who everybody loves. How stoked were you when the brainwashed Future Carter Hall popped them wings and immediately got gut-stabbed by Vandal Savage, Matt?
Matt: Here’s the note I typed out when those wings popped: “Oh no it’s Hawkman :( .“
Dylan: I mean, at least he had the decency to get stabbed. I really liked that part. Sadly, Rip said the saddest words ever uttered on this show: “He’s still alive.” Which means that we get probably at least one more episode of Ray and Kendra looking at each other all sad because Fate has decreed she has to be with Hawkman. No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.”
I gotta hand to to Brandon Routh and Ciara Renée, they’ve tried really hard these last few episodes to make me care about Ray/Kendra, but I just can’t any more. The fix is in. Also, why did Ray, who is a nerd in a knockoff shrinky Iron Man suit, think he could take Vandal Savage in a bare knuckle brawl? Dude should be smarter than that.
Matt: He has to be the dumbest guy on the show, and this show has Rip Hunter on it! I mean, him acting all hurt and teary-eyed when he shows up and finds Kendra reciting poetry to Hawkman (standing far too close to him after he headscissored her the last time) is some nice emotional acting from Routh, but it’s Ray Palmer being completely fatuous. How’d you think this would go, bro?
Dylan: Lemme ask you this, Matt: do you think Ray Palmer makes it out of this season alive?
Matt: They’re sort of building to a big sacrifice, aren’t they? I think the odds are pretty even. On the one hand, he’s the one to take the big fall. On the other, what else is Brandon Routh doing, really?
Dylan: I can’t believe a guy as handsome and decent enough at acting is planning on slumming it on the CW forever. I mean, he’d make a great Superman, for instance. Dude’s got to have other stuff he could be doing. I kind of feel the same about the sacrifice angle, but we’ll see.
Matt: I imagine he’d do well as a lawyer on some lawyer show.
Dylan: Suits 2: Still Suitin’.
This episode focused a lot on Rip Hunter and his pretty open secret that he’s pulled these B-listers together for entirely selfish reasons. I mean, he’s been pretty upfront that this mission is entirely about saving his family. There are plenty of other reasons to turn on the dude, like, as Captain Cold purrs, Rip’s inability to come up with a decent plan for these people to work from. While I appreciate that they’re all just now figuring out he’s a Time Turd, did it sort of give you gasface when they all decided to gang up on him for this, of all things?
Matt: I suppose almost killing Jax with “temporal radiation” is as good a reason to turn on Rip as any. He’s been a turd all season, but this was probably his most egregious use of the team as cannon fodder.
Dylan: And transparently necessitated by the confines of the plot as opposed to anything that happened organically. Also, doesn’t this mess up the whole reason for Jax and Stein to be together? The whole point of Firestorm is that they have to occasionally Fire-Hug or they will blow up. (It’s a metaphor.) Sending Jax away makes no sense beyond, “We really don’t need him for the last two episodes.”
Matt: He’s got to come back, right? There’s no way there won’t be Firestorming happening in the finale.
Dylan: You’d think, but unless their big showdown is in 2016, I don’t see how they’re gonna pull that off.
Matt: It very well could be. They’ve already hit just about every other major point in time: The ‘50s, the ‘70s, the 22nd Century, the Old West. That’s it for history and the future, right?
Dylan: We didn’t get a Totally Rad '80s episode, but there’s always season two. 2016 makes sense, as Jax will be there with his now-alive dad, probably. Right?
Matt: Possibly! I just hope Jax keeps his slightly gray hair and semi-Obama-like manner of speech, even if he’s cured of his aging disease.
Dylan: Oh, you know how I love ridiculous Old Man makeup, so I am down with this.
But anyway, let’s talk about the last bit of the episode. Turns out, the Time Masters are all a bunch of crooked jerks who are in league with Savage, an epiphany that I thought was pretty much laid bare halfway through the season, but, much like the shocking revelation of Rip’s selfish motivation, apparently this is Big News. Did I metagame this too hard, or was this heel-turn just ridiculously obvious?
Matt: Like I said, this whole thing relies so much on Rip being mega-dumb. Just insanely stupid. I mean, okay, he thinks that now that he has evidence that Savage has been using future technology to carry out his schemes (Leviathan from last week is from 100 years ahead of 2166), the Time Council will fall in line and work with him. But the Time Council has been trying to murder him from the get-go. Not arrest him. Not apprehend him. Kill him and his team dead. They have never seemed the least bit reasonable or anything but nefarious.
Dylan: It’s just really frustrating. I’ve been more liberal in letting logic slide on this show because we’ve had fun diversions to distract us from the fact that this whole thing would crumble if our characters weren’t being willful morons 90% of the time.
Matt: This episode really honed in on how amoral or stupid or thick-headed our heroes are, that’s for sure. The only one who came out shining was --- who would think this would come from me --- Sara, who was the only person talking sense most of the time, and who proved she could fly the ship better than Rip. Sara is great, Dylan.
Dylan: I agree 100%. If next season isn’t her captaining the Waverider on crazy cross-time adventures, somebody at CW done messed up.
Matt: Sorry if I’m spoiling Arrow for you or anyone else (if I am, skip this part, reader), but do you think it’s weird that no one has told her Laurel’s dead? Savage brings her up, but doesn’t mention that she died like a month after Sara went off time adventuring. It’s... a weird thing not to say. How could Rip not have mentioned it, at least?
Dylan: Maybe, like me, Vandal Savage is always two weeks behind on Arrow. It’s hard to keep up on things when you’re being a time-jumping genocidal dictator/pleather vest enthusiast. Oh, Matt! I almost forgot! When Vandal Savage was telling Rip Hunter that he discovered time travel because of Rip, and he mentioned that Rip has essentially shown a caveman fire, did that make you mad that Vandal Savage wasn’t a caveman? Because it made me so mad!
Matt: It felt like the writers throwing up a big middle finger to the audience, no joke. The only thing that made it even kind of forgivable was imagining Casper Crump telling Arthur Darvill, “I learned it from you! I learned it from you, Dad!”
Dylan: The thing that got me raging was that they still could have made Vandal Savage a killer caveman! It’s so easy! Use that same angle, but tie the space rock in with him needing to kill the Hawks/making it the only way he can die. I’m not a purist, but “immortal caveman” is such a better hook than “inexplicably Nordic Egyptian priest.”
Matt: The only thing I can figure is that the producers were dead-set on tying Savage’s origin together with the Hawkpeople, because what would we do without all the drama that relationship has set up, you know? Casper Crump all saying things like “I know Chay-ara” and “Chay-ara my love” with little affect. You can’t just get that kind of drama out of nowhere, Dylan!
Dylan: I bet you could if you tried a little, but after this episode, I’m wondering if that’s an impossibility. I’m so upset by this boring, pointless episode, Matt. I literally can’t even.
Matt: Well, there’s always next week. Apparently Rip saw Ray die at some point (which leads into our earlier predictions) and the team’s going to fight its destiny! Otherwise, people stand around in cells. It’s...uh...it’s not looking great, Dylan.
Dylan: I can’t wait! I love people in cells!