‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 4: ‘White Knights’
After a half-season of set-up in both Arrow and The Flash, it’s finally here: the CW’s latest super-show, Legends of Tomorrow. Featuring Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, as well as Hawkgirl, both halves of Firestorm, and rogues Captain Cold and Heat Wave from The Flash, the show follows Rip Hunter and his team of misfits across time.
Our longest-serving Arrow and Flash recappers, Matt Wilson and Dylan Todd, have joined forces to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends. In this week's "White Knights," the team heads off to "the height of the Cold War." No, not the Cuban Missile Crisis like the history books told you: 1986! They're here to uncover a fiendish plan to create a new weapon. The episode was written by Sarah Nicole Jones and Phil Klemmer, and was directed by Antonio Negret.
Dylan: So after last week’s jaunt to 1975, we took another dip in the Time Stream, landing our legendary band of misfit heroes and villains in 1986 as they continue to hunt down Vandal Savage. What did you think of the episode overall, Matt?
Matt: I thought it felt a little thin. But also overstuffed? Like, there were a lot of different stories, but none of them really satisfactorily paid off. Everything felt like a B plot. Ray Palmer: superspy seemed to have a lot more to mine than it did, the conflict with the Time Masters really needed some room to breathe, and so on. I’m not sure why all these different stories had to be crammed into this episode. It was just plot, plot, plot all the way through.
Dylan: That’s definitely fair. I thought it still managed to pull off a lot of stuff, but definitely felt like it moved way too quickly just to get to a “To be continued…” ending. I definitely felt like they missed an opportunity to have Ray flame out a lot harder than he did with Valentina Vostok, because all of the sudden Cold’s moving in and charming the heck out of her. Why? Because the plot has got to plot.
Matt: Yeah. Ray strikes out with her super-quickly because he approaches her out of nowhere like a creep. Then Captain Cold does the same thing, but it works that time? That’s not really a story.
Dylan: Again, this is a roleplaying session as a TV show. Like, even Cold and Atom’s little discussion before they head out sounds like something you’d hear around a table before your characters decide to storm a tavern or infiltrate a lair. But yeah, Cold manages to succeed because the plot need to move forward and because Wentworth Miller is so damned charismatic that he makes it work even though it shouldn’t.
Speaking of infiltrating lairs, we started the episode off by breaking into, and eventually out of, The Pentagon, with the team splitting up into basically the same teams we’ll see them working with for the episode. But since this break-in was planned by the Legends, it almost immediately goes pear-shaped, with a last-minute, Alias-esque “What are you doing here?” that ends with some poor Army schmuck getting his eyes clawed out by a feral Hawkgirl. How'd you like this Pentagon portion?
Matt: It was my favorite part of the episode, easily. I loved the campiness of it. The Pentagon just looked like any old office building. It had a back door! This is supposed to be the most secure building in the country, and the Legends managed to sneak in with costume-shop disguises (janitors!). It ends with the Legends getting into a fight with Pentagon security, a.k.a. the U.S. military. It reached the point of ludicrousness that you just kind of had to laugh and enjoy it.
Also, Ray calls FBI agents “G-men.”
Dylan: Oh, once they cut to Heat Wave in camo, Over the Top arm wrestling a dude as a distraction --- that somehow managed to pull the two computer dudes away at just the right moment --- I was sold. It’s a total Rube Golberg-ian plan, unnecessarily complicated and hinging on like four different variables lining up just right in order to work, and yet the dumb plan works because it has to work to move the plot along.
Matt: But it all goes awry, too. This group kind of can’t pull any job without a hitch, and I appreciate that.
Dylan: They are so bad at plans. The Legends of We’ll Just Wing It Tomorrow.
Matt: Legends of I’m Super Busy. Maybe Next Week?
Dylan: After a chase with that lame-o Chronos, we wound up in Moscow, with Atom and Captain Cold trying to charm the vodka out of Valentina Vostok, which goes about as well as these thing always go for these heroes, with Cold managing to lift her ID while Atom just creeped around all cold and stuff. We saw these two team up in the pilot, but their rapport this episode was great. I am totally in the tank for Wentworth Miller’s Cold. What was your favorite but here? Besides Cold telling Gideon to “bone him”?
Matt: Like I said, I kinda wished there was more to this whole plot. It felt like there was a lot of potential wasted here. You have Brandon Routh in a tuxedo getting instructions from his spy handler Captain Cold! Devote a whole episode to that, folks!
Easily the best part of this was yet another absolutely ludicrous, Saturday-morning/Doctor Who conceit: The swallowable translator that enables you to not only speak, but also understand and read other languages.
Dylan: Oh man, the translator pill was the most Silver Age thing this side of talking detective chimpanzee. Like, it’s the kind of thing Reed RIchards would pull out in those first issues of Fantastic Four, like the oxygen pills he gave them when they fought Namor. Just a “sure, why not?” idea that feels like a mixture of whimsy and writer shortcut.
Matt: What’s the over/under on when we’ll get Detective Chimp on the show? I hope beyond hope that it’s sooner rather than later.
Dylan: I’m pulling hardcore for it in season two, provided these dummies manage to not blow up the world by the end of season one. Which at this point, seems like a definite possibility, if their plans continue to blow up in their faces every week.
Matt: Another thing worth mentioning: The episode is called “White Knights,” Captain Cold explicitly states he isn’t a white knight, and Vostok is historically a member of Checkmate. If that’s what all that is leading up to, it’ll be the most subtle thing this show has done.
Dylan: The second pairing of the episode was Hawkgirl and White Canary. I initially laughed and laughed when Rip Hunter suggested Sara help Hawkgirl get her rage under control, as that was literally Canary’s plot last episode, but it turns out that was a feature, not a bug, with Rip trying to get Kendra and Sara to balance each other out. What did you think of the whole Bird Lady Fight Club portion of the episode?
Matt: I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, it puts the two women from the team together in several scenes, so you can check off that this episode passed the Bechdel-Wallace test. On the other, it’s a guy tossing two women into a room and telling them, “Hey, y’all crazy. Work your stuff out.” The revelation that, yes, they’re both super unbalanced, but in different ways, didn’t really help either. I don’t know, am I being overly critical?
Dylan: I don’t think you are. So far, Sara’s blood lust is sort of her only defining characteristic, so hopefully we can work through it and get back to her starting bar fights and hitting on people. And we’ve seen that Rip Hunter is not only a master of time, but also of really bad ideas, so this is sort of in character for him.
I was more disappointed that they had to give Kendra berserker rage because they couldn’t figure out what else to do with her sans-Hawkman. I mean, last week they had her laying in an hospital bed the entire episode. Hopefully this subplot will define her a little better now that Carter Hall is buried in a shoebox somewhere.
Matt: I guess my big thing is that this is an ensemble show with only two women in its group of eight lead characters, and both of those women have the attribute of “can’t control their emotions.” That needs some reworking.
Dylan: We also got more of the two halves of Firestorm continuing to have pretty much the same argument they've had since they first teamed up, though I definitely felt like some progress was finally being made with their relationship. How'd the Firestuff work for you, Matt?
Matt: I’ve seen less of these arguments than you have, so it probably felt a little fresher for me. I thought the acting was good. I’ll admit I’m still a little distracted by Franz Drameh’s accent, but his character is getting past just being angry, so that’s good. He’s hurt both physically and emotionally, and he shows that in the big shouting match with Stein.
And Victor Garber is really good. He made the explanation that he’s so hard on Jax because of what happened to Ronnie really hit, when it could come off as cliched.
Dylan: I agree. A lot of the initial arguments felt like reruns of ones they’d had even in Legends, but this week’s finally went beyond the “Why won’t you just listen to me?!” and “Dude you kidnapped me!” and sort of moved to a place where they can start to figure out a solution that works for both them and makes it easier for them to hero it up without constantly bickering.
I do feel like maybe Stein could have picked a better time to air his grievances than when his partner is bleeding out in a time machine after taking a grenade to the gut from the world’s worst Boba Fett cosplayer.
Matt: There was also the exchange of, “You kidnapped me!” “Oh, this again!” which, yeah, professor. That again. Being drugged and kidnapped isn’t just something you get over in a couple days.
Dylan: Haha. Yeah, Stein is the best/worst. “You’re still mad I drugged you and made you go on time travel adventures with me? Adventures that resulted in almost having your guts blown out by a cross-time bounty hunter?” Yeah bro. He’s still mad.
So we found out what Vandal Savage’s plans are in 1986: to create an army of Communist Fire-Mans based on Firestorm, which is some wonderful Silver Age nonsense. I loved it. What did you think?
Matt: As an idea, it’s great. I deeply, truly hope that a Soviet Firestorm, a Pozhar, is in our future. I did get bogged down in the time-travel stuff, though. Shouldn’t this have already happened? Shouldn’t there be a Pozhar in the “real” 2016 timeline? Or is it supposed to be that the Legends’ actions spurred Savage to carry out this plan when he wouldn’t have before, because he saw Firestorm a couple times?
Dylan: I think that’s the idea? I do like the idea that we might see one of these guys, possibly as a boss battle next episode?
Matt: Oh, I am totally here for that.
Dylan: I am getting a little tired of a Vandal Savage battle every episode. As much as I love to hear Casper Crump mangle the English language, I’d love for them to pull a few more B-list villains out of the IP toybox to throw at these doofuses.
Matt: The best thing about this episode, aside from the crazy Pentagon heist, was that Savage wasn’t in it at all. We got Vostok as his stand-in, and that served the purpose just as well.
Dylan: We also saw the introduction of a very jerky Time Master Zaman Druce (played by perennial character actor Martin Donovan, AKA The Guy Michael Douglas Punched In the Face In the Beginning of Ant-Man) who wants to get rid of Rip Hunter’s band of B-listers by enlisting the help of Chronos, who thus far has turned out to be exactly as ineffective as the Boba Fett he's obviously based on. How'd you like this Time Master/Chronos stuff?
Matt: It was very undercooked, and it made Rip Hunter look like boiled trash. He spent all this time and effort rounding up this team to avenge his family, and then the second his boss comes around to say, “Hey, cut it out,” he says, “You know, maybe you’re right.” If Druce hadn’t pulled a double cross and sent Chronos after him, I think he would have just given up then and there. That ain’t leadership, Dylan.
Dylan: Rip Hunter is a turd. But yeah, this whole subplot could have easily been built out into an entire episode, and maybe had made Chronos a little more than a one-note bounty hunter guy in a mask. I also think it sort of brings up, and then immediately banishes, the interesting idea that maybe Rip Hunter is not a good person. Like maybe these Legends are being hoodwinked by a crazy dude who stole his company car and is jacking up history in the name of vengeance.
Matt: I say let’s go full tilt with it. Let’s find out that wasn’t even his family. Let’s have Booster Gold swoop in and boot him out of the show, and have him be the new leader. Nothing against Arthur Darvill, but I feel like the writing for Rip has basically already made him unfixable.
Dylan: I kind of agree? He’s mostly one-note and kind of a jerk. I’m hoping they can rehab him a little, but right now, I’m so not invested in his character beyond him being the frustrated Game Master who’s constantly trying to keep his players from completely ruining the game he spent all this time preparing.
Matt: But then he’s instantly ready to give up! Druce tells him to go talk to the other Legends about everyone going back home, and he doesn’t even bother to do that because Ray and Captain Cold are out being spies. He just goes back to his ship and drinks and wallows. What a hero!
Dylan: Haha. Dude is a turd. Rip Hunter: Turd Master. But yeah, I feel like we’re supposed to read Druce as immediately Not A Good Guy, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case.
Matt: It’s pretty much absolutely the Doctor’s relationship with the Time Lords. He stole a ship and his clubmates view him as a rogue and a criminal. And they’re pretty much right, but they’re also a little domineering and too by-the book.
Dylan: Only with the Doctor, you usually get the sense that he’s in the right as he’s using his stolen TARDIS to like, fight robot madmen and knobby toilet plunger droids and save galaxies, whereas Hunter is pretty much just in it for himself. Which is kind of interesting. Am I flip-flopping on Rip Hunter here, Matt? Do I kind of love this idea now?
Matt: I think I’d change that to he could be interesting. But so far, he isn’t. If the Time Lords try to take back the TARDIS, the Doctor figures out some way to trick them and get away. Hunter’s just like, “Yeah, OK, sorry. Didn’t mean it.”
Dylan: I guess what I’m saying is that maybe there’s a way out of this Hunter Hole. Maybe. Or, alternately, we’ll keep talking every week about how we hope they somehow manage to make him a more interesting character. Which is probably more likely TBH.
Matt: I sincerely hope they figure something out. Like, he’s actually a human-shaped ship with two people inside and they’re constantly at odds about what to do, and they flip coins to make decisions.
Dylan: Which, like, isn’t that all of us, man? Did I just blow your mind?
Matt: My world is upside-down.
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