‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 5: ‘Fail-Safe’
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 both halves of Firestorm, the Hawkpersons, 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 "Fail-Safe," the team finds itself imprisoned, either by Soviet jailers or their own misery, and someone's looking to have that Firestorm look! Dermott Downs directed the episode, which was written by Beth Schwartz and Grainne Godfree (a Kirby character name if I ever heard one).
Dylan: After last week’s kind of underwhelming cliffhanger, we were back at it this week, with our remaining Legends tasked with rescuing their captured teammates from the “Nightmare Gulag.” How'd you like the episode, Matt?
Matt: I liked this one better than last week’s. Some fun action, especially at the end. I feel like the success or failure of an episode of this show hinges on the big “two-page-spread” setpiece action scenes. That said, I was pretty thrown off by the gulag having a yard. Did gulags have yards? I thought that had something more akin to... pits. People breaking rocks with sledgehammers and so forth.
Dylan: Regular gulags, yes. Nightmare Gulags, apparently not. Nightmare Gulags are where everybody pegs you as an American despite the fact that you have a translator pill that’s making you speak perfect Russian.
Matt: Yeah, that whole translator thing kind of went out the window right away, didn’t it? Some people had accents, some didn’t. I guess Ray Palmer just has that all-American look.
Dylan: I’ll send you your No Prize in the mail for that explanation because it’s as good if not better than anything the show gave us. This week, we focused mainly on the Legends' attempts to break out Stein, Heat Wave, and Atom, with Rip Hunter, White Canary and Captain Cold making some Eastern Promises to a Russian mobster.
Matt: This is not the first time the Bratva has shown up in the DC TV Universe. In fact, Oliver Queen is a member. I was half expecting that to come up in some roundabout way, but instead there was just a big sauna fight in which Rip Hunter’s towel magically stayed on, Captain Cold was as sassy as he’s ever been (and probably miserable in that hot sauna), and White Canary absolutely ruined her leather suit while incapacitating a bunch of dudes.
Yeah, I liked this scene, too. It’s almost made better by the fact that all the Bratva leader really gives them as a secret plan to get into the gulag is “have someone dress like a guard, and have someone else pretend she’s dead.”
Dylan: The beauty of this plan lies in its simplicity, Matt. I just liked that the Bratva guy didn’t like Vandal Savage because he didn’t “respect [his] country’s rich criminal traditions.” Also, I liked that he looked like a tatted up Bellini from Kids In the Hall.
Matt: He also doesn’t trust Rip Hunter because he doesn’t have any tattoos. There are lots of reasons not to trust Rip Hunter; this one is as good as any.
Dylan: We’ve discussed the match-ups this show takes advantage of, and this week, we got Heat Wave and Atom in a Russian prison while Jax and Hawkgirl bonded over how crap Rip Hunter is. What did you think of the team-ups this episode?
Matt: Heat Wave and Atom were a revelation. Dominic Purcell hasn’t really had much of a chance to shine as an actor until now, and he and Brandon Routh really excelled in their scenes here. Ray as the eternally upbeat, good guy who just wants to connect with people, and Mick Rory as the hard-hearted guy who knows how prison works, makes for some good drama. The mutual respect they have for each other by the end feels really earned.
Jax and Hawkgirl, well, at least they got to do some stuff at the end.
Dylan: Oh man, I loved Heat Wave and Atom together, and I agree that their friendship worked by the end. I do wonder if Ray Palmer had just never even heard of the concept of a prison before. Dude was acting like it was summer camp, all trying to make friends and whatnot. I also liked that this show trotted out the visual of the large thug and the small thug to administer the prison yard beatdown.
So what’s the deal with Hawkwoman, anyway? This has been like three episodes where the writers have had her sitting on the sidelines. Do you think it’s a case of the writers not knowing what to do with her, an already overstuffed cast, or both?
Matt: Feels more like the former. Like, they’ve already written her into the corner of being the only one who can kill Savage, so necessarily she’s got to stay on the sidelines or else any showdown has finality to it. And then the show’s over. I think the solution is what it looks like they’re doing next week, which is side-tracking the characters into non-Savage stories.
Dylan: We can talk about the end of episode set-up for next week, but yeah, you’re right.
Professor Stein plays a huge role in this episode as well, as we see Vostok and Vandal Savage try to get him to just give them the friggin’ Firestorm formula, but Martin isn't having any of that. I've sort of goofed on Stein for the last few episodes, but I feel like his portion of the show was actually pretty great, helped along by Victor Garber’s charm. How do you think his scenes fared?
Matt: He was good. Garber got to chew some scenery in some enjoyable monologues, and if hadn’t been given away in the preview, him merging with Vostok to become Russian Firestorm would have been a genuine surprise. I particularly liked his ploy of telling Vostok that the Soviet Union falls in five years, and just explaining some economic dynamics to her.
And we should note that Stephanie Corneliussen is quite good as Vostok, too. It’s kind of a bummer she nukesploded. I was glad she did the heavy lifting here instead of Casper Crump. Vandal Savage, with his incredibly burned-out hair (lay off the straightener, bud), isn’t doing much more than lurking in the background here to allow Vostok to villain it up.
Dylan: I actually liked that Savage was a secondary villain this episode and I’m hoping that Vostok’s explosion leads ot her re-appearing sometime in this (or some other) show as a nuclear-powered villain. Also, Vandal Savage let slip that he was buddies with Stalin, so like, cool, great; you’re BFFs with a brutal dictator. Dude is history’s greatest name-dropper.
Matt: What blew me away (no pun intended) is that the heroes caused a nuclear explosion and the result of that was that time was restored to normal. Before, there was a 99 percent chance that the Cold War was going to be won by the Soviets because they got a Firestorm, but then a gulag blew up in what by all appearances is a nuclear attack, and all was hunky dory.
Dylan: To be fair, it would be easy to explain it as an experiment gone wrong. I mean, the same place is doing smallpox tests on prisoners, so I’m sure the Russian government is expecting something bad to happen to his secret facility. Just counting down the days.
Matt: Here’s my no-prize explanation for this. It’s 1986, right? So the cover-up is Chernobyl.
Dylan: I can 100 percent buy the writers planning on using that. Either that or a Tunguska Jr.-type event.
Matt: I’ll say this, at the very least: The musical nod to Dr. Strangelove after all the nuclear mayhem was much appreciated on my end. Even when you frustrate me, I can’t stay mad at you, show.
Dylan: Speaking of frustrating, Rip Hunter continues to be the worst leader in history, benching Jax and Hawkgirl while also trying to get White Canary to shoot Stein should it look like he might fall into Russkie hands for good. At this point, he's the least likable character on the show, right? I mean, when Captain Cold is the voice of reason and the group’s main moral compass, you maybe done goofed.
Matt: It’s not even so much what he does as how he does it. Like, he’s eagerly waiting by the computer to hear word on whether White Canary has killed Stein yet. You sort of get the feeling that he wants her to kill him. It’s not a last resort. It’s sort of... his only plan.
As for the Hawkwoman/Jax stuff, like, why would he even bother recruiting them if he thought it was too dangerous for them to participate. His reasoning is, “You’re the only person who can kill Vandal Savage! I can’t let you near him!” That’s bananas. That’s TV writer thinking.
Oh my dogg, Dylan. I think Rip Hunter is a CW TV writer. He changes events at will and on the fly. He’s cruel to his characters. He’s wildly inconsistent. He’s withholding. And he just wants to see blood.
Dylan: Metaaaaaa. I’m telling you, he’s the Dungeon Master in this effed up roleplaying game.
Matt: It certainly feels like he’s making all his decisions with dice rolls.
Dylan: We alluded to it earlier, but the episode ends with Chronos knocking the Waverider off-course, landing the Legends in a future Star City that… looks probably about what I imagine that place to look like usually TBH. Seriously, that city is a disaster.
Matt: It’s pretty close to how things look in any given season finale.
Dylan: Are you excited for Future Arrow Adventures next week? Are you excited to see Stephen Amell in old man makeup?
Matt: Ehhh... kinda. I sort of like this show being separate from my weekly Arrow torture session, but at the same time, a wild dystopic future Star City does sound fun. Here’s what I think will bother me through the whole show, though: At the end of this one, a very athletic Green Arrow jumps down and everyone mistakes him for Oliver. (I think it’s Connor Hawke.)
In 2046, Oliver would be at a minimum 60. If we’re being honest, he’d be about 65.
Dylan: Well, Amell has been tweeting out Dark Knight Returns panels of Old Man Green Arrow. And there’s nothing that has shown us that the goon squad that is the Legends cast is good at math like at all.
Matt: That’s true. I just figured Sara, who, of all the characters is portrayed as smart and capable, would figure out, “Oh, that 20-year-old is not Oliver.”
Dylan: No-Prize answer? Besides an insatiable bloodlust, the Lazarus Pit also makes you bad at math. (Also, just as an aside: I have come to love Arrow this season. It’s what would happen if you showed a bunch of soap opera writers a Sweded copy of Batman Begins and told them to go nuts.)
Matt: The rules of that magic hot tub do keep constantly changing. Let’s just throw that on the pile. Either way, I’m in for some Old Arrow action. I hope Stephen Amell just curses up a blue streak.
Dylan: The Ol’ Green Swear-o. (brazingles)
The Legends Card File: Collect Them All!