‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 1, Episode 8: ‘Night of the Hawk’
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 "Night of the Hawk," our heroes must deal with a rash of murders in a picturesque (but also racist, sexist and homophobic) 1950s town that Vandal Savage might just have a hand in. Joe Dante directed the episode, which was written by Sarah Nicole Jones and Cortney Norris.
Dylan: First off, I want to point out that this week’s episode is directed by Joe Dante, the man who brought us the cinematic treasures that are Gremlins and, more importantly, Gremlins 2. I just wanted to geek out a little about whoever decided to get him to direct a story of an idyllic town being attacked by horrible monsters.
Matt: I for-real made a yelp sound when I saw his name in the credits. This is the director of The Howling helming Legends of Tomorrow’s take on human/animal hybrid monsters. It’s inspired.
As a result, we get what is easily the most fun episode we’ve gotten since the pilot. The hawk monsters are goofy as hell (they’re wearing leather jackets!), yet just threatening enough to not be a total joke. I think it does the best job of nailing a period (or at least the collective memory of one) of any episode so far.
And more than anything, the characters seem to be having fun. In the past couple episodes, the show had sort of veered into Sad Superhero territory. Here, we’ve got Sara Lance not-so-subtly “accidentally” hurting doctors who make unwanted advances on nurses, then swooping in and wooing one of those nurses herself. It’s glorious. Even Rip Hunter seems to be having fun with his only passable American accent. This one finally lived up to the promise of the pilot.
Dylan: I agree wholeheartedly. It’s preposterously set up, but it’s a really fun episode that sort of moves the Vandal Savage plot forward while also showing us a really good time while doing it.
Matt: Exactly. It’s not that I hate intra-team drama or anything like that, but I think this show suffers a lot when the pace slows down. This episode only had one mention of Captain Cold maybe/maybe not killing Heat Wave, and I think that’s about right. Keep moving. Don’t wallow.
Dylan: And move this thing does. Our heroes have traveled to 1958 because… something about joyriding teens or a meteor or something, and immediately set upon coming up with the craziest plan possible to accomplish whatever their goal is: Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders have to pretend to be married and also buy a home, Professor Martin and Sara Lance have to get hired as psychiatric professionals at a sanitarium, and Rip Hunter and Leonard Snart have to convince the town sheriff that they're G-Men. How'd you like that simple, completely normal plan, Matt?
Matt: I gotta say, Snart looked smart in that G-man suit.
Plot-wise, the whole episode is nonsense, but it’s a sort of do-whatever monster movie nonsense that I can get behind. Like, the drag-racing teens are straight-up drinking and driving at the beginning. Not that I condone that, but it’s just a weird detail. I’d say the reason Ray and Kendra pretend to be married is so that they can live across the street from Suburbs Savage, but they act super surprised when he shows up at their door with a casserole, so who knows why they were doing that. In pretty much every case, the heroes just somehow luck into figuring out a component of Savage’s plot.
Everyone except Jax, that is, who actually does some detective work, befriending the girlfriend of one of the missing teens in hopes of finding out more. As reward, he ends up getting attacked by hawk creatures and destroying the fragile social makeup of Harmony Falls, 1958.
Dylan: Yeah, Jax really gets a chance to shine this week after being mostly devoted to B-team for the last couple episodes.
Matt: He had an opportunity to be charming, and I think Franz Drameh really pulled that off. It was his best showcase by a mile.
Dylan: A lot of the episode is devoted to sort of flipping over the fantasy of 1950s America and exposing all the ugly reality of living in such a repressive culture. How'd you like part of the episode, Matt?
Matt: It was kinda throwing darts at an easy target, but I did like some of the character stuff around it. Like I said, Sara Lance: awakener of sexuality is 100% something I’m into. Jax’s handling of the racist jocks who want to beat him up for talking up Betty (who seems to like Jax just fine) is one of his more assured character moments in the series so far. I’d be happy to see more of cool-headed tension defuser Jax instead of him just constantly being upset with Dr. Stein all the time.
Speaking of Professor Stein, he’s the only one whose reaction to the time didn’t really click for me. Here’s a professor who has been merging bodies with a young black man and traveling around with (at least) two gay or bisexual teammates for a while, with seemingly no objection to that, suddenly pining for the 1950s and ordering nurses to get him coffee? I can buy the ordering people around part, I guess, but him having to be reminded that the 1950s were a repressive time that only really benefitted white guys kind of felt... forced. He might as well have been wearing a Make America Great Again hat. Did you buy that part, Dylan?
Dylan: I agree. Stein as the Old White Guy loving the Good Old Days didn’t ring true for me at all, especially since we saw what a radical, pot-smoking kid he was a decade later. I did like him mockingly parroting stuff back to Jax. Their relationship, when it’s handled right, is really fun.
Matt: As Jax comes into his own more --- and I really hope his growth as a character continues after this episode --- I think it’ll get even better. So far, it’s been played a lot as parent/child or at worst abuser/victim, and I think it could be a lot more. I do have to say that it’s weird that the show’s team splits keep finding ways to keep Jax and Stein apart. The other teammates know that they become a dude made of fire when they’re together, right? They’ve seen that happen.
Dylan: Yeah, it’s weird because that’s like the whole reason they brought both these guys together. It’s very much a plot thing, and maybe a budgetary thing? Those fire effects can start to get expensive if you use them every week. But yeah, the continual reasons to split them up are starting to look really thin at this point.
Matt: Separate, they are capable guys with winning attributes, don’t get me wrong. But together, they are a nuclear man with fire shooting abilities.
Dylan: I’m trying to think of the last time they fused. Like, it’s a plot point that they have to fuse regularly or they blow up, so unless they just wake up and fire-hug, things are gonna get explodey like real soon.
Matt: “Regularly” in this case means “when there is a special effects budget for it.”
Dylan: The real villain of this show.
The other main plot of the episode involves Doctor Vandal Savage and his team of evil teen hawkmonsters that are terrorizing the city of Harmony Falls. We’ve sort of steered away from Vandal Savage the last couple of episodes, but boy do we get a big ol’ helping of Casper Crumb as a fake doctor putting space rock bits into drag racing teens. How'd you like the focus shifting back to Savage?
Matt: Honestly, I was happy to have him back. I think bringing him back every three episodes or so is the right call, especially if we continue this trend of reforming him into a time-appropriate villain. He’s a mad scientist in the ‘50s, he was an arms dealer in the ‘70s. Let’s make him, like, a bootlegger in the 1920s. A confederate officer in the 1860s! The guy who shot Theodore Roosevelt that one time in 1912!
I mean, once again, his dialogue was basically incomprehensible, but that’s that Crump charm.
Dylan: Was it just me or was he trying to rock an Old West cowboy accent in the opening scene? Cowboy Casper Crump is my jam.
Matt: He was doing some kind of cowboy thing and Arthur Darvill was doing an Untouchables-style accent. They’re like kids mimicking stuff they saw on TV. It’s exactly the tone I want for this show.
Dylan: Oh, I agree. GIve me more ridiculous accents, and barely-comprehensible plans. What did you think of Savage’s plan, to create evil hawkmans to fight his Hawk-nemeses? That was his plan, right?
Matt: It was never really stated, but I took it as his plan originally being some kind of way to create new Hawkwomen and Hawkmen using this goop he found in a meteor. But the meteor he used did something different and created monsters instead of immortal, attractive people. And instead of just trashing the idea, he took the monsters he got and ran with them.
Dylan: It’s because he was using Canadian Grafitti greasers instead of Egyptian royalty/priestesses, I think. And oh hey, anybody who’s been to San Diego Comic-Con probably chuckled when they referred to Hall H, where Savage is keeping his precious Hawkmonsters, as the place where they keep “violent psychotics.” Too real, Legends of Tomorrow.
Matt: I mean, the real reason was that they wanted to hire Joe Dante to make a ‘50s-style monster movie with DC characters in it, and really any basis to make that happen is a-OK with me. I even dug the little foreshadowing where Jax said he knew being in Harmony Falls was just the setup for a monster attack.
Dylan: Yeah, which makes me wish we got a little more of the big dumb monster stuff, although doing Pleasantville and Back To the Future and Carol all at once was probably enough for one episode.
Let’s discuss that ending! So, Rip, Stein, Jax and Snart are all in the Waverider, getting ready to take off, and dumb old Cronuts attacks, stranding Ray, Kendra and Sara in the 50s, still in the mess they created this episode. I was… not expecting that, and I’m kind of excited to see where this goes.
Matt: Setting aside the wonky time travel stuff --- namely, why couldn’t the Waverider return to that very moment and pick up the people who got left after getting rid of Cronuts --- it sets up some interesting story possibilities. According to the next episode promo, Ray, Kendra and Sara stay for like three years, so what if Ray ends up being the dad of that weird professor guy, and that’s why Hawkman was so weird to him? (The timeline doesn’t really fit, but that’s just an example.)
Dylan: I would be cool with all of that. I thought them taking the pretty much done-in-one nature of the show thus far and knocking it on its butt was a nice touch because it starts us thinking about these sort of ideas. Just when I thought I had the show figured out, we’re sitting here going, “Huh. What’s next?”
Matt: Yeah, I like that feeling. And to be frank, they’ve got to keep doing this kind of stuff to divert the team away from Savage. I mean, I was even thinking in this one why the team was even bothering to get to the bottom of Savage’s hawk-monster plan. That’s... kind of irrelevant to their goals. They’re just there to kill him. The Atom found the magic dagger Hawkwoman has to use to kill him. The characters have no reason to carry on with ceremony. Just stab the dude.
So anything that is a fun, believable diversion is a good thing. Dylan, do you think they can continue the Savage stuff for another season, now that we know there's going to be one, or will they have to figure out a reason to stick together for a second season? I’m not sure how long they can prolong it.
Dylan: My hope for this show is that they take more of an anthology approach to it, with a different threat every season and a revolving cast of these all side-characters that get introduced in the CW shows. I’d very much be into that.
Matt: You heard it here, producers: Booster Gold on this team in season two or bust.
Dylan: So say we all.