‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Recap: Season 2, Episode 11: ‘Turncoat’
The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows a time-traveling team of misfits that includes historian Nate Heywood, Vixen, Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm, and Flash rogue Heat Wave. Recappers Matt Wilson and James Leask are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.
This week's episode, "Turncoat," finds the team in the American Revolution, pursued and antagonized by a former member who has had it up to here with those sneaky Legends. Alice Troughton directed the episode, which had a script by Grainne Godfree and Matthew Maala.
Matt: Maybe I’m just being a crankypants, but I was altogether disappointed with this episode, which promised to be a wild romp through the American Revolution and instead presented a myriad of contradictions, muddled storytelling and, at best, about 10 minutes’ worth of Revolutionary War content.
What’d you think, James?
James: I wish I could disagree with you, but the show was teased with Evil Rip Hunter shooting George Washington gangland-style, and the actual episode didn’t really deliver on that same level. I mean, obviously George Washington is not going to die, but I was a little underwhelmed by an episode that had too many threads and too few actual adventures in time.
Matt: It didn’t even deliver on what it promised in the span of its own runtime, let alone the lofty goals set by last week’s tease. Rip Hunter shows up with M-16s for the British army, and that basically goes absolutely nowhere. Like, Mick Rory can just yell and run at the redcoats and that’s good enough to stop them, more or less. Nate and Amaya eventually showing up helps, too, I suppose, but it’s almost irrelevant that they had those modern guns, which was played up huge at the beginning.
James: I don’t want to backseat general, but Cornwallis, when you’re given future weapons, you, I don’t know, use them. Instead, he’s mostly there to gloat over a captured Washington and keep the plot moving heartily nowhere.
I think one problem of the episode was rooted in the number of different things it was trying to do. There was the plot of Rip shooting Sara and then chasing Jax through the Waverider, then Stein trying to heal Sara, then Nate and Amaya’s weird seduction --- instead of rescuing their friends and keeping the plot moving --- and then there’s Mick teaching George Washington what it means to be an American. And somewhere in there, Ray is being chased by a rat. After last week’s incredibly well-paced and -plotted episode, this one felt like it was trying to do too much and didn’t really accomplish any of it.
Matt: And there were so many nagging things that just bugged me. First and foremost, it was a Christmas episode that aired in February. I know that’s not the creators’ fault and is the result of scheduling a big break in the middle (because we got the Halloween episode pretty close to Halloween), but it made all that stuff fall super flat.
Then you had Nate complaining about the food fabricator, which, just a couple weeks ago, the team was raving about how amazing it was, making champagne and whatnot. Then you have rats on the ship, and where the hell did they come from? And then you have the Nate/Amaya fling in this episode, which is just plain terrible for any number of reasons.
James: The show has been inching toward this for a while, and knowing it was coming eventually didn’t make that part of it much better. From the cheap swipes at internet/Tinder dating, to the character-has-hypothermia-so-we-need-skin-to-skin-contact, to the fact that they literally have sex and then sleep while their friends are captured, dying or on the run. Just a big mess all around.
Matt: The only reason Vixen is any good is Maisie Richardson-Sellers’ performance, because the way her character is written is just madness. Her whole motivation for joining the team was because she was in love with Hourman and wanted to find his killer, right? But now she’s gettin’ down with Nate? Not that I think that’s morally wrong or anything, but it just doesn’t jive with what we know about the character.
And then she shoots Nate down at the end of the episode because she doesn’t believe that “teammates should fraternize.” She says this even though she was in love with Hourman, with whom she served on the JSA, and joined the Legends to find his killer.
Also, the skin-to-skin contact thing was total BS, because there was a fire right there.
James: At this point, the show is setting up Amaya’s primary character trait as “fraternizes with teammates,” which both undercuts her statement to Nate at the end of the episode, and also just plain doesn’t do right by the character.
Matt: Nate “our friends are in trouble but let’s have sex again anyway” Heywood doesn’t come out of the whole thing great either.
But “Turncoat” was an episode that had a surprising amount of those weird contradictions and character choices, like Stein giving multiple statements about how he’s not a doctor and couldn’t save Sara, but doing so anyway. Or Washington basically giving up his (historically inaccurate) reservations against fighting at all dirty in a heartbeat just because Mick told him that America is actually all about fighting dirty, and giving him no reason to believe him.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely a fan of Mick being a grump who doesn’t really like Washington because “he’s only on the one dollar bill,” but who ends up with a statue in his honor in the present day. That was actually maybe the part of the episode I liked the most. But the sheer volume of things that happened in this episode meant there were a lot of cut corners in the story. Heck, Ray was basically in it just to get stuck in a miniature form and be chased by a rat.
Matt: Don’t forget: He also flips a light switch.
But Sara isn’t immune to it either. She conveniently tells Nate and Amaya to pose as a couple at a fancy Christmas Eve party, despite the fact that it’s 1776 and they might get kicked out of the party (at best) for being an interracial couple. (What actually happens is that a guy acts slightly scandalized.) And then Sara gets shot. The magic healing chair saves her, but she spends most of the episode injured, then nearly gets choked to death. This is not what I want to see from a hyper-capable assassin timeship captain.
James: There was a moment, at the end of the episode, where Sara is giving a Christmas dinner speech about how the Legion of Doom will lose because they’re not family like the Legends, and I actually found myself wishing we’d gotten some scenes of the Legion having a messed up Christmas together.
Last week’s episode did a great job of exploring the dynamics of the Legion in an economical way, and compared to that, this episode was really lacking. It’s another episode --- the third this season? --- where the team gives up a macguffin (in this case Rip’s stashed piece of the Spear of Destiny) to save a team member from being hurt, and the episode closes with them wondering if they did the right thing.
Matt: Yeah, it was a little disappointing to dig into the Legion (and that’s straight-up what Rip’s calling them now; there must have been an offscreen parley where they decided this) last week, and we get basically nothing with them this week.
That said, that does lead to what was unequivocally my favorite thing about the episode: Bad guy Rip Hunter. He’s amazing as a villain. He should be the villain of the rest of the series.
James: I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree. All the things that made Rip an often annoying team leader --- his haughtiness, his sarcasm, the sense that he’s always withholding from them --- make him a genuinely great foil for the team. Arthur Darvill has been having a really fantastic time in the second half of the season so far, first getting to play a hapless boob and now getting to have some fun as a villain.
Seeing Rip as a bad guy makes you wonder why he hasn’t been a bad guy the whole time. And while he’ll inevitably get his memories and personality back, perhaps in time to make a heroic save or even sacrifice, I’m savoring each episode we get of Rip Hunter, Actually Kinda Great.
Matt: Same. The part where he was stalking through the Waverider, narrowing down who from the team could possibly fight him, and eventually settling on Jax, was full-on fantastic bad-guy stuff. And it makes sense! He actually resents the team for failing to help him save his family, and to be quite honest, he never super cared about them or respected them anyway. They were a means to get what he wanted, and he never got it.
I don’t know if any of this was actually baked into the story or the script, but the subtext is all there. It’s perfect.
James: It ends up being a really elegant twist by Thawne to turn Rip into this bitter, unleashed version of himself, because it all reads as just being a slightly different reading of everything that’s been established. It’s believable that Thawne really didn’t have to rebuild Rip’s personality; he just had to change a couple of little things and this monster comes out.
I really liked the way he taunted Jax’s sense of competence, and how he didn’t pull any punches with Sara. It makes sense! And he did more in one episode than the rest of the Legion did in several.
Matt: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sara getting damseled (more or less), but otherwise, yeah. And Darvill just revels in getting to cut loose. Again, I wish he’d become a permanent villain, though I know the face turn is inevitable.
James: That’s a good point about the damseling. I think there was a version of this episode that retained Rip’s ruthlessness but gave Sara something worthwhile to do, and this wasn’t it. I’d have loved to have seen an actual fight between them.
Matt: Maybe we’ll get it soon. Maybe it’ll come in the next episode, which --- speaking of damsels --- takes us to King Arthur times! I know we just talked at length about an episode that failed to live up to the promise of its historical setting, but knights ‘n’ stuff is a way to get me back on board for the next one.
James: Oh, absolutely. Listen, I’m a cheap date. Fundamentally, I’m pretty into the idea of a bunch of goofballs mucking about in anachronous historical periods. And I was big into Arthurian legends and medieval stories as a kid, so seeing a preview like that was more than enough to get me pumped up for the next episode. I know I was also pumped for this week’s episode, and got incredibly burned, but I feel like this is the one, baby!
Matt: What we know we’ll get is some swording. Superhero...uh, Legend swording. What isn’t so clear is if they’ll figure out a way to make Vixen work as a character.
James: We can hope! If nothing else, I’m hoping the show’s hot streak of narrated recaps/intros continues. Mick was friggin’ great this week. But really, I’ll take them fixing Vixen.
Matt: Let’s keep our fingers crossed! We’ll find out in two weeks! (Next week is some kind of Tough Mudder special, which will inevitably delay the Valentine’s Day episode to May.)