LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Review: “The Justice Society of America”

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In this week’s episode of LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, “The Justice Society of America” the Legends were forced to team up with their worst nightmare: an old school team of supers who were actually good at their job.

Just playing, that was unnecessary, but the JSA definitely had the Legends shook!

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I actually enjoyed this episode even more than the first episode, which surprised me because ya’ll know I came into this season nervous, considering Legends JUST became a fairly stable and consistent show. I was stoked to find that this episode still had the lightness and humor of last week, but with a fairly engaging story line.

You know what I think it is? The Nazi part of it. Everyone loves a good WW2, fighting the evil Nazis storyline, which is what I think helped attribute to why I was so invested in the story from the jump. I think the writers were smart and strategic to use 1942 as this season’s beginning era. While I didn’t get a fun little history lesson like the last episode, I thought the introduction of the Justice Society of America more than made up for that.

All right, here’s the quick recap:

In “The Justice Society of America” we rejoin the Legends where we left off – them facing off against the Justice Society of America, who are not here for the Legends’ claims to be time travelers and believe them to be in cahoots with the Nazis. So instead of talking about it, during the first few minutes of the episode we get a showdown between the two squads. The fight begins pretty equal until Obsidian, a member of the JSA, shuts down all the foolishness, removing all the “light” and engulfing the two teams in darkness. Its there we see that just because the JSA are wearing those dorky, old school super hero costumes, doesn’t mean they can’t whoop ass. Which they do.

During the fight the audience is supposed to notice how different the two groups are. Where the JSA are methodical, tactical, and great at teamwork, the Legends are a bit rougher around the edges, making them look a bit unprofessional.

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They eventually stop battling, and both teams end up back on the Wave Runner, where Professor Stein tries to convince the JSA that they don’t work for the Nazis. The JSA are unimpressed with their future technology and demand that they leave 1942.

Meanwhile, Nathan Heywood, who for some reason is still with the crew (yeah I said it), realizes he is Commander Steel’s (the leader of the JSA) grandson. The drama!

This week’s big bad threat turns out to be the answer to episode one’s “don’t even time travel to 1942” breadcrumb. After the Legends are kicked out of 1942 by the JSA, they discover that the dogtags Heywood usually wears, passed down from Commander Steel, have suddenly disappeared. They realize that this means in 1942 the JSA are killed during a mission. While the first thing that came to my mind was, “welp that ain’t ya’ll problem”, but if the JSA die during their mission, Heywood would cease to exist, and the Nazis would win the war. So the Legends are tasked with helping out the JSA on their mission and ensuring they don’t die.

Spoiler alert, they win.

This mission leads the Legends back to 1942, where they’re forced to help the JSA defeat Nazi leader Coogler, who has a super serum that turns him into an indestructible Hulk-like fighter.

What I liked about this episode was how being forced to work with another group of supers made the Legends confront their own hero insecurities. After the team realizes that without Rip Hunter they’re without a leader, Professor Stein steps up to lead the team. As leader, Stein struggles to make quick, smart decisions, but stubbornly maintains he’s the best person for the job, even after Jax (Firestorm) politely lets him know he ain’t about that life. During the final battle between the Legends/JSA and the Hulk Coogler, Stein finally concedes that he’s a terrible leader and hands the reigns over to Sara Lance (White Canary). Thank goodness.

Similarly, Ray Palmer (Ant Man) has his own existential crisis, when JSA member Vixen, craps on his entire life and lets him know that just because he wears a suit with extraordinary powers, doesn’t make him a real hero. This tears him apart, and he even steals some of the Nazi super serum to give himself powers (before he uses it to save Heywood later). Palmer eventually gets over his self-pity, once it’s revealed that Vixen also needs an amulet in order to have her super powers. She’s petty.

Finally, Sara asks Heywood the question that I had been wondering the entire episode – what are you doing here? Although he is the grandson of a hero,we later learn that the reason he has decided to become a historian is because he’s a hemophiliac (his blood can’t clot) and it’s extremely dangerous for him to fight. But, instead of sitting this one out Heywood finds it necessary to prove himself as a fighter, in order to obtain his grandfather’s approval. Heywood is slowly joining my “ Characters I Can’t Stand” list, along with Ant-Man.

There were some really great moments in this episode because of this season’s lighter touch. In a continuation of this season’s “going undercover in a time era” plot device, the team goes back into 1942 to scope out Coogler at a Nazi bar. Prof. Stein gets the team into the bar by pretending to be Max Lorenz, Hitler’s favorite singer.  He’s forced to actually sing by a suspicious Nazi general – and he’s actually pretty good. The plan, however, unravels once Dr. Palmer cannot do the Heil Hitler salute, resulting in an all-out bar brawl, complete with bass drummy, jazzy music. I liked it. I’ve gotta say, I love how Legends has embraced the lighter tone and incorporates fun, but story driven scenes like this. I can appreciate how this episode, which was full of existential moments from the Legends, still didn’t take itself too seriously.

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Of course, the Legends crossover with The Flash continues, as Reverse Flash appears at the end of the episode, killing JSA’s Rex Tyler (aka Hourman) and stealing the magic amulet Coogler traded in order to get the super serum.

Since I’m rambling about the positive stuff, here’s another thing. Seems like this in this season, Legends tries to touch on social topics. During this week’s episode, it was sexism. When the Legends meet the JSA, Sara attempts to assert herself as the “leader” but Commander Steel quickly cuts her off, demanding to speak to the leader of the group, who he assumes to be Prof Stein. You know, since he’s a man. It isn’t until the end where Stein admits he’s not a leader and gives White Canary her rightful throne. Now I’m sure a lot of women in the audience can relate to being underestimated because of being a woman, often losing out on leadership roles purely because of bs “old boys club” mentalities, so it was refreshing to see that dynamic play out in the hero world.

Before I go on, I have a side-eye to that too though. I mean, anyone with eyes can appreciate how badass White Canary is. Like, do ya’ll see her fight on screen? Do ya’ll see how strong of a character she is? While it’s cool to see the topic of sexism play out in the hero workplace, I also have to wonder, did we really need Prof. Stein to give her the leadership position? She’s always deserved it and I kind of wish she just took charge without the approval of the old dude, BUT, she was being a team player. I guess.

Also ya’ll, can we talk about the last scene for a second? When the Reverse Flash appeared, killing JSA’s Rex, I was thrilled – what does this mean? Is he going to use the amulet in The Flash? How will this affect that universe?? Then, when Vixen discovers him on the floor, crashing down and immediately beginning to weep, I was done. Wasn’t a fan of the acting in the last scene, and maybe it was too much too fast but it felt a little like a soap-opera. I should understand that she’s sad, and a team member just died, but I wasn’t going.

As you can see, my side-eyes are petty matters of personal opinion. I thought that this was a great episode and I hope that Legends continues on this path. I’m excited to see what the threat of the week is going to be next week, what time period our heroes will be forced into, and who they’ll meet. I’m still watching cautiously, but at least now I have a basis for hope.

TB-TV-Grade-A-

Season 02, Episode 02 (S02E02)
Legends of Tomorrow  airs Thursdays at 8PM EST on The CW

Read all of our reviews of Legends of Tomorrow here. 
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Writer based in LA. Just trying to write good stuff while deep conditioning my hair.
Keep up with all of Vanessa’s reviews here.

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