So I was absolutely here for the light tone and time travel of the week this season, until I wasn’t. Enter LEGENDS OF TOMORROW episode 203, “Shogun” where it’s all been ruined for me.
I’m being a bit dramatic, but to me this week’s episode was a bit of a let down. I can’t tell if it’s because I didn’t connect with the story, or if I really couldn’t stand the Legends being in Feudal Japan, but as a whole this episode felt a bit dull and derivative.
The beginning of the episode started with Vixen (from the Justice Society of America), who has stormed the Wave Runner, believing that one of the Legends have murdered Rex. She knocks out all of our Legend friends, until she reaches her target, Mick, who wasn’t about that life. It’s implied that he detains Vixen to deal with later.
After all of that malarkey is dealt with, we learn that Ray Palmer has injected Nathan Heywood with a modified version of last episodes’ Nazi super serum in order to get him back on his feet. Once Heywood awakens, he finds that he has developed powers — his body can develop a steel armor once provoked. Get it? Because his grandpa is Captain Steel? How cool. So Heywood, feeling himself now that he’s got some powers, gets overly excited and accidentally falls out of the Wave Runner as it’s traveling through time. This forces the Legends to follow Heywood back to earth, where he has landed in Feudal Japan, 1641. Seriously though, why is it so easy for someone to fall out of a time traveling ship?
Heywood lands in a village controlled by the Shogun, a deadly, ruthless ninja clan. Heywood is found by a sweet village woman, who brings him to her home and bathes him (eye roll). He discovers that she’s being forced into marriage to the Shogun leader, which is unfortunate because they have begun to form a romance – of course.
Meanwhile Palmer, has been capture by the Shogun leader, and gets his suit stripped from him.
Back on the ship, cause ya’ll know they didn’t let Jax participate, Jax and Dr. Stein discover that Rip Hunter has been hiding a secret room in the ship. With nothing better to do, they go to investigate.
Since Heywood now knows he has the potential to become Steel, he decides to save his damsel in distress and battle the Shogun. Unable to activate his powers, he gets his ass beat and is stabbed by a warrior’s sword. Ya’ll know he has hemophilia, so he begins to realize that powers or not he may not be up to the challenge of being a hero.
Finally Sara, Vixen, and Mick rescue Palmer, but are unable to recover his super suit. They eventually find Heywood and instead of taking their butts back on the ship, Heywood is determined to fight the Shogun to save his woman and to retrieve Palmer’s super suit.
Back on the ship, Jax and Dr. Stein track down the secret room. Inside, they find a computer with a message from Barry Allen – the Flash – from the future. We don’t hear what it is, which is unfortunate because that was the only engaging moment of the episode.
Palmer trains Heywood on how to defeat his suit, and teaches him how to completely destroy it – the only way Heywood stands a chance to defeat the Shogun leader. There’s tension between them, as Palmer is pissed that he’s losing the thing that makes him a real superhero.
The team goes to battle with the Shogun leaders, and in a pretty underwhelming battle, they all win. Except Palmer’s suit, that gets destroyed.
Heywood says goodbye to his temporary girlfriend and the team heads back to the ship, where Jax and Dr. Stein keep Barry’s message and the secret room from the rest of the group. The team jets off, determined to find Rex’s killer and track down Hunter.
In between all of this excitement, there’s a thread between Sara, Vixen, and Mick. Vixen doesn’t trust Mick because she believes he is the one that killed Rex. She maintains skepticism of him and refuses to believe he is “one of the good guys”. I mean, Miss Thing, you’re the new on the team. Have a seat. There’s also some weird storyline where Vixen is convinced the Shogun aren’t a real threat because “ninjas don’t exist.” I’m like girl, you work for a whole ass super team with magical powers but you have a hard time believing ninjas exist? K.
At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite (see my last reviews), I have to say that I really didn’t like the time travel element this episode. Not only did I feel as though the story relied on some pretty tired tropes, but it felt like a filler episode that didn’t really do much to move anything forward. I appreciated that Heywood finally gets his powers, but I don’t think that we needed an entire episode dedicated solely to him figuring those powers out.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of Westerns, but I didn’t like the whole “Western foreigners come in to save a distant land” thing. While Palmer’s Atom suit being stolen by the Shogun leader provided a strong conflict, the episode’s focus on Heywood rescuing his damsel in distress weakened that conflict for me.
There were absolutely no turns in this episode. The writers used the tried and true “hero” story: hero learns about powers, gets cocky when facing an adversary and loses, trains, wins, and gets the girl. The only story that provided some source of surprise was Jax and Dr. Stein finding the message from Barry – and we didn’t even get to see what that was.
That’s not to say there weren’t any wins this episode. I really love Sara taking charge as the Legends’ “leader” now that Hunter is out. Caity Lotz brings a really strong, powerful energy to Sara, and I positively love any time that she comes on the screen. Sara is an example of a well-developed female action character — something that I fail to see very often. I love how the writers and Caity have shaped her, and I can appreciate Legends of Tomorrow for that.
In addition, I did like where Palmer’s storyline went. I appreciated how the writer’s expanded on Palmer’s insecurities on not being a real hero. I thought that his sacrifice of destroying his suit in order to help the village was even more valorous, knowing that he essentially is out of a hero job without it. I actually thought that the episode may have been more interesting if we focused on Palmer attempting to save his suit against the Shogun leaders. Ya’ll know I don’t even like Palmer like that, but I thought seeing him more vulnerable and less self-righteous really helped me connect with this character.
Alright ya’ll, I may have spoken too soon when I said I loved the lighter tone of this season. I think the problem that this season could face is that it may rely too heavily on the Legends’ being stuck back in time and the fun scenarios that they run into while in said centuries. This episode as a whole almost felt unnecessary, and I hope that the next more integrates the time travel with a stronger story for the Legends – or at least something that keeps my attention.
Season 02, Episode 03 (S02E03)
Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8PM on The CW
Writer based in LA. Just trying to write good stuff while deep conditioning my hair.
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Vanessa Jay | Contributor