‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Recap: Season 2, Episode 8: ‘The Chicago Way’
The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow follows a time-traveling team of misfits that includes historian Nate Heywood, Arrow’s Atom and White Canary, both halves of Firestorm and Flash rogue Heat Wave. Recappers Matt Wilson and Dylan Todd are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.
This week's midseason finale, "The Chicago Way," sends our team to the Roaring Twenties to track down a time aberration that makes Al Capone the mayor of The Windy City. And then all the big bads show up and cause a real ruckus. Ralph Hemecker directed the episode, which had a script by Sarah Nicole Jones and Ray Utarnachitt.
Dylan: Well, here we are, the halfway point (pretty much) for the season, and it’s a dinner theater version of The Untouchables, as the Legends travel back to gangster times to stop the burgeoning Legion of Doom from turning Al Capone into a politician. Overall, how’d you like this episode, Matt?
Matt: I thought this version of Al Capone looked like if Mr. Show-era Paul F. Tompkins and Shia LaBeouf had a baby (like, a literal baby; he looked like a baby). And all the Eliot Ness/corrupt cops/cement shoes/speakeasy stuff was, quite frankly, mega-clunky. But that being said, the excuse to have the set dressing of 1920s Chicago gave everything a cool look, and things really picked up by the end of the episode.
Dylan: So the main plot involves the team trying to undo the damage Damien Darhk, the Reverse Flash and Malcolm Merlyn did when they tipped Al Capone off about Eliot Ness and the FBI trying to take Capone down. Which means a lot of suits, fedoras and tommy guns, which are always fun. Whenever we get to see our heroes dressed up in goofy costumes, I’m a happy man.
Matt: Like I said, all that was very fun until you thought about the whole thing for even one second. Like, would “Hey, the FBI is looking into you” be news to Al Capone, really? Big enough news to make him basically subservient to Reverse Flash, to the point he’s calling him “Mr. Thawne” by the end of the episode?
The villains’ plan is so convoluted and weird. “So, we’re going to stage a kidnapping, but let them get away, but Stein will be a Reverse Flash in a Stein suit, and then we’ll storm the ship and make Sara bargain to give up the Season MacGuffin.”
Dylan: It makes about as much sense as any of these bad guys’ plans have made, to be fair. Like, Thawne’s whole deal in season one of the Flash was to use his body-switching device on a prominent scientist Harrison Wells, get rich as a tech billionaire, build a giant machine that blows up and creates the Flash, who he then befriends and trains so that he can… try and beat him and steal his Speed Force essence to travel back… to the future?!
(Also, he got stranded in the past because he tried to kill Barry Allen as a kid but failed, killing Barry’s mom instead, thereby creating his future nemesis and then… just didn’t try again until he was a superhe--- er, I mean metahuman?) Why not use all that wealth and just create a time travel device?
Matt: In a way I admire how convoluted all this stuff is. It takes a lot of work to put together something this unnecessarily complicated.
Dylan: We also got more focus on Stein and his new daughter, Lily, the product of our heroes messing with the timeline earlier this season. This means that we spent a chunk of the Flash and Legends episodes focused on this and finally (?) having it resolve after spending a third of this episode wringing our hands at the prospect of this having happened.
Matt: I’m glad the resolution was basically just, “OK, let him have a daughter.” Because, honestly, this team has done way worse things to the timeline than allowing a smart, kind young woman who is loved by her parents to exist. I did also enjoy that Martin genuinely seems to love his daughter now. It’s sweet.
Dylan: I have three kids who I love dearly. I have never been so swept up in tender memories of them that I have become completely oblivious to my surroundings. So either Stein is a total weirdo or I’m a bad dad.
Matt: To be fair, you also aren’t having your first ever memories of them as babies retroactively.
Dylan: This show is so weird, Matt.
So as usual, the team gets split over the course of the episode. I’ll briefly mention Ray and Nate’s dingus-measuring contest here, but honestly, it didn’t do a lot for me. These two are already basically the same person, and having them play off each other didn’t really change my opinion of either of them. Nate’s still a mayonnaise sandwich who exists to wear an unbelievably goofy costume and serve as The Guy Who Drops Facts About Whatever Time Period They’re In. These two just need to kiss already and get it over with, right?
Matt: They could just fuse into one guy in a blue-and-red plastic suit and I’d be cool with it.
Their arguments about who would be a better replacement Eliot Ness were silly (especially since they both posed as FBI agents anyway), and Ray came out of this whole thing looking really dumb. I mean, I know he’s no historian like Nate, but Al Capone and the South Side Organization are in pop culture enough that you think he’d know something about them besides the IMDb summary of The Untouchables.
Dylan: Yeah, they really did not do Ray any favors this episode. I get that they needed to have some sort of relational friction between the two guys, but, “Who is smarter about history, an actual historian or a rich science dude with an off-brand Iron Man suit,” is a question that we already know the answer to. Though I did like Sara basically telling them not to be morons in the beginning.
Matt: They’re basically looking for any excuse to make this handsome billionaire with an Iron Man suit look like a doofus everyone hates.
Dylan: Brandon Routh, if you’re reading this --- and I know you are --- you deserve better than this. You were Superman, for crying out loud!
Then there’s Sara and Stein, who both get captured by the Bad Guys. Sara takes a pretty strong stance on not allowing time to change at all, declaring it “sacred,” when Malcolm Merlyn tempts her with undoing all her life’s woes. This is (very) obviously supposed to underscore Stein’s secret new time-travel daughter, and while them hammering it into dust is hilarious, it’s also tiring, and I’m glad we have pretty much seen the last of that particular subplot.
Matt: Yeah. This episode seemed to have Sara suddenly have a bunch of new opinions for the sake of narrative convenience. I was definitely under the impression that she’d still take the opportunity to kill Darhk if the opportunity arose (she definitely didn’t have any problem killing some potentially time-important gangsters). But in her scene with Stein, she was beyond adamant that the timeline couldn’t change. It felt very out of character.
Dylan: Time is “sacred”?! She was more than ready to bone down with the Queen-to-be of France in the season premiere!
Matt: I’ve heard of moral relativism, but this is ridiculous.
Dylan: Matt, where the heck did Sara’s respect for Stein come from? The whole thing about Reverse Flash torturing her by torturing Stein seems real forced, like this respect just materializes because the plot demands it. They mention Stein stopping Sara from getting her revenge on Darhk, but is that it? All of the sudden, he’s her inspiration and hero and I just didn’t buy it at all. Am I being a doody-head here?
Matt: No, that’s definitely another example. The whole exchange between Stein and Sara after she refuses Malcolm Merlyn’s deal to change her life so she wasn’t lost at sea when the Queen’s Gambit sank felt like it came out of nowhere. I would have expected Sara to say she learned self-sacrifice and leadership skills from just about anybody but Martin Stein.
Dylan: Right? Just bizarre. That whole scene sounded important and dramatic, but, as we’ve said here before, it falls apart when you think about it for two seconds. It reminded me of my good pal Perd. "I don't know what you mean, but it had the cadence of a joke."
Matt: This show needs Perd. I know that actor plays news reporters in lots of places.
Dylan: Well, Jay Jackson is a confirmed Extended Arrowverse character, having shown up as a newscaster in the first season of Supergirl. Crossing my fingers he shows up in the next CW crossover.
Matt: Put him on the Legends team! “Newscaster” is as good a skill as “historian.”
Dylan: We also saw the return of a dearly-departed and much-missed Legend, in the form of a hallucination that Mick has of his old compadre, Wentworth Miller’s Captain Cold. The reunion isn’t ecstatic, though, as the fake Cold is there to warn Mick about turning from a criminal to a crusader. Which is funny, because that was basically the arc Cold had last season, the slow arc from heartless thief to heroic martyr. Obviously, Mick isn’t really buying it, as he takes every opportunity to do the right thing, but what did you think of Mick’s stuff this episode, Matt?
Matt: It was a little bit of a bummer that Captain Cold was just a hallucination given how this episode was promoted, but I understand why it had to be that way. Having Wentworth Miller back to talk in his kitty cat purr, however briefly, was more than welcome.
Dylan: I’m still holding out hope that he’s still alive thanks to Barry Flashpointing it up over on The Flash.
Matt: Oh, I deeply hope that’s true.
Dylan: Please, Santa Claus, make our dreams come true.
They’ve been setting up this face turn for a bit now, but did you buy it? And how do you feel about the Micxen shipping they have going on here?
Matt: Unlike the Sara/Stein stuff, I do think they earned this. On both counts. They’ve been seeding the Vixen/Mick relationship for a while now, and Mick got off his butt and helped the team, but in his own way. The whole “do it like a criminal” thing actually paid off, with Vixen blasting Tommy guns into the air to distract the coppers. Altogether, it was probably the best subplot of the episode.
Dylan: Although it was shot and paced very terribly, his whole, “Those idiots will just get in the way,” / ”Uh, you guys know we’re standing right here?” bit was probably the best part of the episode.
Matt: The timing was a little off.
Hey, can we talk about Vixen for a second? I think the show has done a good job developing her character despite her not really seeming like someone from the ‘40s, but why can’t they seem to come up with one creative use for her powers? She’s always channeling a bear or a gorilla, and never, I dunno, a fast thing that could possibly keep up with a speedster. It just seems like missed opportunities all around there.
Dylan: Yeah, Maisie Richardson-Sellers has done a great job breathing life into Vixen, but seriously, you have a Speedster running around the Waverider and you don’t Ben 10 up some cheetah speed or something? I was S-ing My Dang H at that bit.
Matt: Better yet, a hawk or something. Get at those bad guys from the air!
Dylan: This is the guy who killed your dumb old-timey boyfriend! Try a little harder!
Matt: That’s right! He killed “Rex Tuaylor,” as Reverse Flash put it.
Dylan: Thank goodness. That dude was such a drip.
So while the bulk of this episode was wobbly as heck, I gotta say, that last act was pretty great. We have Reverse Flash being very menacing and tough to kill, taking over the Waverider and siccing some mafia goons on the Legends while he looks for the amulet piece that contains a map to Luke Skywalker, er, I mean, a map to the Spear of Destiny.
Matt: I had the exact same thought.
Dylan: We’re going full Indiana Jones here, apparently.
Meanwhile, Merlyn and Sara have a pretty great fight in the captain’s quarters that has some great choreography, even if John Barrowman’s stunt man looks nothing like him. Mick deciding to walk the hero's path despite the fact that it killed his best buddy. Damien Darhk doing… uh, what was he doing during this fight? I can’t remember, but I’ll be damned if Neal McDonough didn’t look like he was having a good time in this episode. What did you think, Matt?
Matt: Neal McDonough genuinely seems to be having a great time no matter what he’s doing. His glee is the only thing that made Arrow season 4 even slightly tolerable to watch. (I know I’ve made this point before, but it’s the truth.)
Those fights you mentioned were nicely done --- way better choreographed than what you typically see on these shows --- and all the other action on the Waverider at the end was good. Reverse Flash’s speed was actually put to good use, and yeah, for a minute there he seemed to be unstoppable.
I don’t totally get why these three bad guys from other seasons of different shows have banded together, or why they necessarily want the reality-altering Spear of Destiny, and I have a lot of questions about their timelines, but as it is, all this was pretty enjoyable.
Dylan: Yeah, for a team calling itself the Legion of Doom, these guys seem decidedly second-string, but given the smallness of the Arrowverse, they’re the heaviest hitters in the dugout right now.
Matt: I want an explanation of how they meet in time. We know how Reverse Flash travels, but I figured he was just meeting Darhk at different points in time during Darhk’s very long life. But if I recall correctly, this is the earliest point in time Darhk has shown up. So how would he be so familiar with everyone and everything that’s happening?
And how the heck did Malcolm Merlyn, who is definitely not immortal and has intimate knowledge of the present, get there?
Dylan: I have no idea. I’m guessing they have some sort of time travel device? Maybe a hijacked chrono-vessel from the Time Masters’ estate sale? Supervillain Craigslist?
Matt: Victorslist. Lexslist. Erikslist.
Matt: Well. That’s Craigslist.
Dylan: Too true.
Finally, we get a taste of a dystopian, Blade Runner future which is… not a future, but a movie set in the past whose director looks more than a little like your friend and mine, Rip Hunter, only he’s wearing a hilariously bad wig and doing a generic American accent. You ready for the return of Rip, Matt?
Matt: I don’t know. I guess. I think having Nate around has made me appreciate having this jerk on the show, just as a contrast to the other characters.
I do think it’s absolutely perfect that he’s a total whiny baby who says things like, “I don’t want to be here all night!” in his new life as a director. He may look a little different and have a different accent, but the true essence of Rip is there.
Dylan: I’m down with Rip returning, if only to totally screw over our heroes, as is his wont. But we won’t know just how much he can mess things up until next year! See you all… in the future!