‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis, Season 2, Episode 14: ‘Moonshot’
The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows a time-traveling team of misfits that includes historian Nate Heywood, Vixen, Rip Hunter, 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, “Moonshot,” finds the team involved in an all new Apollo 13 disaster that involves far fewer air tank ruptures and far more Reverse Flashes. Kevin Mock directed the episode, which was written by Grainne Godfree.
Matt: Well, James, we got a little space action, a little musical theater and a little family drama this week. I’m not sure it all added up to very much, though. What’d you think?
James: I actually disagree with you a lot here! The vague unimportance of the Apollo 13-ness of it all aside, I actually thought this was one of the strongest episodes of the season! Who replaced the Legends with these capable, emotionally responsible versions of themselves?
Matt: See, that’s kinda why I felt... I hesitate to say bored, but underwhelmed by everything. Part of the appeal of Legends has been that this is a team of absolute misfits who, as Heat Wave pointed out in the best-part-of-the-episode voiceover at the beginning, screw up as much as they succeed. Aside from Martin Stein breaking out into a stirring rendition of “The Banana Boat Song” in the middle of NASA mission control to create a distraction, we didn’t get a lot of that this time out.
James: I think there was definitely a suddenness to the group’s competency, but I did like that after being told for two years that these are screw-ups who occasionally do good, the team actually did do good this time.
For the most part, I thought some of these changes were good follow-ups to the rest of the season. Ray --- the show’s perfect angel --- is often ragged on for being a goody goody without powers, and this episode he actually got forced by Thawne to interrogate his own sense of himself as an altruistic person a bit. And, after way too many times where the Legends save the day but lose the macguffin due to underestimating the villains, he actually shows signs that he’s paid attention to the Legion and outsmarts Thawne.
Combined with Sara’s gradual growth into a better captain than Rip (admittedly not very hard), and the episode’s actual discussion of that, I really liked that the show actually showed the Legends as people who are a little worthy of that name.
Matt: I did think the Ray stuff was good. I wondered when he got the piece of the spear why he’d just waltz back to where Thawne was and basically make it easy pickings for him, but the show did an okay-to-decent job of making Ray seem smart about the whole thing.
I really didn’t understand why Thawne’s speed powers didn’t even work within the simulated gravity of the Waverider or lessened gravity of the moon, though. Also, that zero-gravity fight was adorably budgety.
James: I’ll definitely cop to the fake science this episode being pretty hand-waved. I think the general explanation is that Thawne’s powers did work on the Waverider but he was waiting for an opportunity to slink away (or something). In general though, I think I found Thawne’s banter with Ray to be cute enough that I was also willing to hand-wave that, too.
But full disclosure: my exact notes for the big reveal of the episode are “The Spear of Destiny is on the moon, this is the greatest show on television.” So I was maybe primed to ignore some of the less solid parts for what I liked.
Matt: I don’t really think you’re wrong about some characters getting some shine. Sara proved her leadership in a crisis. Ray has been way back on the upswing after a rocky start to the season. Jax got to show off his engineering skills (and real accent). Rip even learned a lesson in humility. And Stein got to prove how much he loves Beetlejuice.
But I think it boils down to this for me: I don’t care about Nate Heywood. I don’t care about his grandfather, his dad or his childhood. I don’t care about him potentially changing his history. That being the core drama of the episode made it have all the flavor of an unsalted cracker.
James: That definitely makes sense, and in general, I agree with you about Nate. He has a tendency to be childish, and not in the pure id way of Mick, or the charming boy scout way of Ray. He’s easily the least likable Legend of this season, give or take a few of Stein’s moments. So I think what I liked in part about “Moonshot” is that his childishness and petulance finally got a bit of a reason to exist. It didn’t entirely work for me, but I did appreciate that Nate being bullheaded about changing the past was believably something he’d do, and for me it was maybe the first time all season Nate seemed to have a reason to exist, other than giving my sweet son Nick Zano a pay cheque.
In the episode, Nate got to be stubborn and petulant, apologize for it, and for once actually give Amaya something to do. Part of why I liked that plot of the episode might be that finally, 14 episodes into the season, Amaya has a plot that isn’t based around a dude. It’s way too late in so many ways, but it’s something.
Matt: But it’s still something super frustrating, because in the same breath that she’s telling Nate and Commander Steel that they can’t mess with their own timelines and change history, she’s going and asking Gideon for information she definitely shouldn’t be knowing --- Gideon even warned her --- and clearly thinking pretty hard about changing hers.
I don’t know if it’s character inconsistency (which we’ve seen a lot of) or some kind of baked-in character trait about not practicing what she preaches, but Vixen seems to be a character whose actions are driven by plot necessity than the question of what Amaya, the character, would do. Does that make sense? It’s what’s been frustrating me with how she’s been written for several episodes.
James: No, that absolutely makes sense, and I think I agree with you about all the previous episodes, but what made her decision here feel like actual character work and not just inconsistency is that there was a cause-effect chain to it. She was giving a speech to Nate about the moral duty to not change the past, Nate threw the bombshell on her about her family and her village, and that was enough to make her question things and maybe make a decision she shouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s all very sudden, largely unprecedented-for-how-this-series-treats-Amaya character work, and the previous episodes’ lack of it definitely makes the question of “is this inconsistency or just her character?” legit. But for me, I come down on the side of it being decent character work. It just draws attention to how little of that the rest of the season did before this episode. The series didn’t do itself a lot of favours in terms of giving Amaya characteristics to build this off.
Matt: Yeah. I will give this episode this much: The sets and costumes were on point. NASA mission control looked good, the inside of the lunar lander was pretty good, and Sara Lance’s Betty Draper cosplay in the opening scene was an absolute delight. We give this show a lot of well-deserved flak for being produced on a budget, but they really nailed the look on this one. Even the stuff on the moon looked pretty doggone good.
James: It made the previous episode’s rather conspicuous low set and effects ambitions make a lot of sense; if they were saving the budget for an episode like this, I think it was a good decision. The episode looked good.
One question I have, though, Matt: what actually happened in the end, in the timeline, with the Apollo 13 mission? Is Legends-verse Tom Hanks gonna have a movie to make?
Matt: This may or may not shock you: I had the same question. Like, clearly there was some kind of problem. NASA lost contact with the mission for what seems like a matter of hours. Some weird English guys showed up in Mission Control. But the lander actually landed and the boys got home safely without having to swing around the moon, so certainly Ron Howard had a very different movie to make come the mid-'90s.
Also, here’s another question: How did the death of Commander Steel, who was overseeing missions at NASA in 1970, not change the timeline massively? Wouldn’t him dying create just as much of a problem as him returning to the 1950s?
James: Now there’s the Legends of Tomorrow I know and love. A time travel show with absolutely zero regard for the actual implications of time travel.
Matt: It is truly a comfort to know that, even when they’re doing their best, they can still biff it all up real bad.
James: The Legends have saved part of the Spear of Destiny, but potentially hecked up NASA, and next week, they’ll probably accidentally kill General Eisenhower. That’s right, baby: it’s a World War II episode! But before that, are there any last thoughts for the episode you have? What are you hoping to get from the series now that it’s definitely in the homestretch for Season 2?
Matt: Well, there’s at least a Captain Cold cameo next episode, so that’s a start. I’ve missed that guy.
It’d also be neat to get a little more detail about what Thawne actually wants to do with the spear. I guess he’s trying to prevent his suicide so that the Black Flash isn’t chasing him anymore, but surely there’s more to it than that? Maybe not. Either way, some momentum in that regard would be nice.
James: It’s definitely time to see a bit more of the Legion of Doom’s response to finally being outplayed. I’m interested to see how they pivot, and how the Legends goof it all up all over. Maybe Rory will accidentally eat part of the Spear, or Stein will doubt Jax and accidentally hand over a part. For reasons. Who knows! But honestly, after tonight’s episode, I’m feeling pretty good about the series doing some basic cause and effect. Until next week, when I’m maybe proven wrong!
Matt: Whatever the case, we get a little Captain Cold. Sweet, dear Captain Cold.
James: No scenery will go unchewed.