‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 2, Episode 9: ‘Raiders of the Lost Art’
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 James Leask are on hand to deliver our Legends of Tomorrow post-show analysis, Stuff of Legends.
The show returns from a brief hiatus this week with "Raiders of the Lost Art," in which the Legends find an old friend and save Howard the Duck from being erased from movie history. No, really. The episode was directed by Dermott Downs and written by Keto Shimizu and Chris Fedak.
Matt: Welcome aboard, James! Is this your first trip on the Waverider, or have you watched this group not to be called heroes, but legends, before?
James: Thanks for having me! I’m not entirely new to the show; I watched the first few episodes of the first season when they aired, but technical troubles made me fall behind. Over the weekend, I mainlined all of season 2 so far, just in time to pick up with tonight’s episode!
Matt: And what a time to jump on. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of --- what would you call this? A mid-season premiere? --- a little later on, but first, I wonder what you generally thought of the episode. It was a jam-packed hour, with lots of in-jokes about the show, Hollywood, “macguffins,” George Lucas, and so on. Did you think it was a fun time, James?
James: I did! I think the show is usually at its best when it’s going at a good clip without giving the characters time to get bogged down in navel-gazing or just pure exposition. I think the episodes like “Raiders of the Lost Art,” which are weird, fast, high-concept ones, mostly let the characters just settle into what they’re best at.
Matt: I agree. The fast-paced, actiony episodes tend to be the better ones, but they don’t always have the budget for it. This one tried to avoid some high-budget stuff by once again keeping Jax and Stein almost totally separate (because in what scenario would you need a Nuclear Man?) and taking away Ray’s suit and Nate’s superpowers in... a very creative way.
I think we should probably just get this out now, since it’s the American Graffiti in the room: George Lucas --- yes, that George Lucas --- plays a prominent role in this episode. He even ends up in a big trash compactor at one point, and gets told he’s the Legends’ “only hope.” It verges on the extremely cheesy, but kinda works because of that. Do you agree?
James: I do, if for no other reason than the episode is very smart in who it picks to be dependent on George Lucas’ career. Nate and Ray are the big, cheesy dorks of the team, and I think with anyone else it would have read as being a little too far on the side of schmaltzy. But I one hundred percent believe that two affable supernerds like Ray and Nate wouldn’t have become heroes --- sorry, legends --- without Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Matt: The note I typed when Nate said Raiders of the Lost Ark inspired him to be a historian was “Nate is so boring,” which is totally and completely true. But that honestly makes it more believable that movies would genuinely be what inspired him and Ray to take on the jobs they do. I mean, I don’t necessarily think it’d make them dumb idiots, or suddenly want to be yoga instructors instead (weird burns on yoga instructors and insurance salespeople in this ep), but it makes a degree of sense.
And at least Brandon Routh and Nick Zano played the dumb versions of themselves in a funny way. Routh really did great with it.
James: I think Routh is usually the best player in these goofier episodes, and it’s definitely where his experience on Chuck comes out to play. Unsurprisingly, What I Like About You’s Nick Zano starts off a little more slowly. But by the end, I was genuinely cackling at the two of them playing off each other as my girlfriend shook her head and told me to specifically mention this in the recap.
Matt: Hello, James’ girlfriend! I condone you s-ing your d h.
Nate has become one of those characters I love to hate. Is it any surprise at all that he listens to early-2000s MTV rap (specifically MOP’s “Ante Up”) to get pumped up for history? Does he know it’s about stealing chains, or does he think it’s a rap song about poker?
Speaking of characters I love to hate, Rip Hunter is back! Kinda. We see him in a flashback to the end of last season in the episode’s opening moments, and he uses his official Pottermore wand (a piece of the Spear of Destiny) to stab the time drive and make himself a whiny director. James, I’m not going to lie to you: I love whiny director Phil Gasmer. He’s such a different kind of turd than Rip is.
James: Since I missed out on most of the first season, the bulk of my familiarity with the show is sans-Rip, so I’ll admit at times I wasn’t sure what to make of Sara’s hand-wringing about how they needed him back so badly. But I genuinely enjoyed his turn as Phil, if only mostly because Arthur Darvill’s American accent was not only pretty passable, but came out extra nasal. His plot in the episode hewed pretty close to standard amnesiac tropes, but hey, whatcha gonna do.
Matt: I took Sara’s late-episode guilt trip as less about needing Rip than failing to save him. It’s what you might call Oliver Queening --- when a hero beats his or herself up for failing to overcome impossible odds.
But yeah, Phil is great. When he’s getting arrested outside the set of his repressed-memories Legends of Tomorrow movie because the Legends and the team of villains now being called the Legion of Doom have a gunfight right out there in public, his shrieks of horror are so on-point.
James: With that, should we dive more deeply into the episode’s plot, and what brings the Legends back to 1967?
Matt: Yeah. So Gideon detects a relatively minor time aberration --- a biker who invented a motorcycle thing dies prematurely --- which leads the Legends to Rip, Malcolm Merlyn, Damien Darhk, and George Lucas, all of whom are trying to get their hands on a piece of the Spear of Destiny, whether they know it or not.
Turns out the spear is an artifact that can change reality rather than time, which is a permanent, not temporary (or temporal) change. It’s a War of Semantics brewing, James!
James: And thankfully, it’s over pretty quickly. This show isn’t at its best when it’s discussing the actual details about time travel, because at this point, dudes know about that kind of stuff. The team ends up finding Rip/Phil at the same time, and get down to a pretty perfunctory fight scene that sends the heroes regrouping… and renaming.
I’m not sure where you stand on the way CW shows tend to come up with nicknames for their heroes or villains, but what did you think of Nate coming up with the name of the Legion of Doom?
Matt: It’s one of a number of winky references in this episode --- Nate says the name comes from an unnamed “Hanna-Barbera cartoon,” which has to be Super Friends --- but it’s honestly just a name pulled out of a hat. It has no relation to the cartoon Legion of Doom, and it’s just three guys at the moment if you include Reverse Flash. It’d have made more sense if Nate had said they were his favorite tag team. That was just three (or often two) guys. But maybe he calls them the Road Warriors. Maybe he’s NWA ride or die.
JK, he’d definitely have watched WWF only.
James: It’s one of the things in the first half of the episode that mostly just happens, they wink at it, and then it moves on… to Mick’s subplot, which was certainly something.
After visits from a hallucinatory Captain Cold critiquing his membership in the Legends, Mick basically strong-arms Stein into helping him out, first as a shrink, then as a brain surgeon (?!?!), despite Stein’s repeated insistence that he’s not that kind of doctor. To me, it primarily works because Dominic Purcell absolutely commits to the bit, but the end of the whole plot basically left me cold. Are the flashes of Wentworth Miller chewing any and all scenery over this soon, or is there more to come?
Matt: Based on his quick appearances in the mid-season finale, I’d say there’s definitely a good chance that Cold will return, especially since Heat Wave is seeing him more clearly than ever by the end of the episode, even with all of Dr. Stein’s fidgety therapy and defensive brain surgery. Martin Stein is the worst liar ever created.
Here’s a question: When Mick is talking to the hallucinated Snart at the start of the episode and saying stuff he’d never say, like, “You’re my best friend” and “You’re a great partner,” what do you think would have come next if Stein hadn’t walked in? Would he have started singing “You Light Up My Life?” Would they have dueted “Islands in the Stream?”
James: It definitely read as odd to me; I’ve only seen a few episodes of Mick and Snart together, but I never gathered Mick for the feelings sort. It was actually one of the things that made me think it was a more straight up hallucination, as opposed to Stein’s “time ghost” explanation in the middle of the episode, because Stein himself has to explain the concept of feelings and emotion to Mick later in the episode. Any duets would surely be saved for the Flash/Supergirl crossover episode.
Matt: By the end of the episode, George Lucas is convinced once again to make movies after temporarily quitting film school (he dramatically and really says, “What I really want to do... is direct!” in the most show-business inside-joke way you’d imagine) and the Legends recover the spear after the triumphant return of Rip Hunter. Except, it’s not really Rip. It’s Phil trying his best to play the part of Rip, with a very convincing English accent.
I thought that reveal was great, and even though it probably won’t be, it’s how I wish Rip would be from now on. Hair-trigger director who doesn’t know what he’s doing is so vastly preferable to smug, know-it-all who only tells his “friends” what he thinks they need to know, even at the expense of their safety.
James: Phil imagines a version of Rip that is just plain better than the regular one, and I thought that was a nice touch to show how Rip really sees himself. But for real, imagine how much simpler this entire season would be if he’d just, you know, mentioned some of the exposition beforehand.
As for the final fight and recovery of the spear, I thought that by that point the show was cruising in a good way, down to their insistence on saying George Lucas’ full name every single time, Amaya giving a dramatic speech about his importance to nerds everywhere, and his final dramatic decision not to be a salesman. It’s undoubtedly hammy and way too writerly, but the show seems to know it, and I thought it was a hoot. Like we said at the top of the recap, they even re-enact the trash compactor scene, and I surprisingly found myself laughing at the audacity of a weird cable TV show to basically rip off Disney/Marvel and make themselves Star Wars’ ultimate savior in this universe. It was a scream.
Matt: Definitely. From almost his first line of dialogue (“No film is worth losing your life!"), Lucas speaks in a very George Lucasy way. The writers seemed to know what they were doing with that one.
As for that big battle, it’s definitely where some of that aforementioned budget got used, with Atom and Citizen Steel effects finally coming into play, Reverse Flash showing up after being... elsewhere, and Vixen getting to do her Vixen thing after having her amulet ripped off earlier in the episode.
Speaking of Amaya, I’m really hoping she gets something more interesting to do than be everyone’s support system, which is what she’s been all season. Even with the motivation of avenging Hourman, her character’s just been a little directionless, and Maisie Richardson-Sellers is really good. I hope we get a Vixen-focused episode here in the season’s back half.
James: Definitely. The season’s given a lot of attention to basically every other character --- and a lot on Nate and Ray especially --- so it feels more than due at this point. While I am partially loathe to suggest less of my doofy dork sons, I think they can probably take a bit of a back seat for a little bit to give a bit more room for Amaya especially, but also Jax and Sara.
As a final note about the big battle at the end, I just want to single out the moment where Ray and Nate literally shout at George Lucas to believe in himself so they can blow up Neal McDonough --- because if he doesn’t they’ll never become Legends --- as one of the So Dumb It’s Actually Amazing moments that the show sometimes pulls off. They basically Peter Panned it.
Matt: They Tinkerbelled George Lucas.
By the end, the Legends have recovered the artifacts but lost Rip, and it looks like next week they may consider some kind of trade of reality-altering magic items for the poor old about-to-be-tortured fellow’s return. I feel bad for him, but this seems like a terrible plan. Is it a terrible plan?
James: It’s such a terrible plan they did it in the midseason finale, which turned out so badly they actually made note of that at the beginning of this episode! Listen:
a) Rip is absolutely not worth it;
b) Sara, no matter what Jax says, this absolutely was your fault. It’s Oliver Queening of the highest order.
Matt: I sincerely hope that she goes back to Sara Lancing (seducing the women of history between bouts of slamming bad guys with batons).
James: Before I started watching this season, I’d heard a lot about Sara Lance: Time Bisexual, and after being teased with it a bit in the season premiere, where she seduced the Queen of France, the show has gone into a bit of a fallow period as she enters her Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown period. Legends of Tomorrow, I just want the fun Sara back.
Matt: We’ll just have to find out if she does come back, and if her terrible plan works, next week!
James: What if the team just leaves Rip to it and goes off to seduce history? We could call it an early night next week. But just in case, we’ll see you then, readers!