This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.
After two weeks in the future Legends of Tomorrow heads back into the past with a trip to 1950's small town America in a slick and stylish episode that captures the feel of both Back to the Future and cheesy 50's monster movies.
With updated info on where they can find Vandal Savage the Legends head to Pleasant Falls in 1958, where they discover that not only are there a series of bizarre murders and disappearances, but Savage is living as a citizen of the community and working as a doctor at the local psychiatric institute.
The team split up to investigate the murders, with Jax trying to find out information from the local teens, Stein and Sarah getting jobs at the psychiatric institute as a doctor and nurse respectively, Ray and Kendra pose as a married couple moving into one of the murder victims homes and Rip and Snart pose as FBI agents.
These splits of the team are good for not only giving each of our characters the chance to do something that adds into the whole of the story, but lets us take a look at the culture of 1950's America from multiple sides.
There's a line that sums things up brilliantly, Stein is talking to Jax and Sarah about how wonderful the 1950's are 'Even someone as jaded as yourself can't deny how idyllic this time was', at which point Jax responds 'Yeah, if you're white', with Sarah adding 'And a man. And straight. And...'.
It's a point that a lot more people are beginning to talk about now that we can look back with a modern sensibility, and the characters in the show not only know this, but butt heads against these walls of racism, sexism and homophobia.
Jax is met with anger and open hostility by the local teens, who feel that a black man has no right to be openly talking with a young white woman. Kendra is met with the assumptions that she's Rays maid rather than his wife, and once corrected the two of them are encouraged to leave town because people in Pleasant Falls aren't accepting of interracial couples. Sarah comes up against both sexism, and homophobia as she finds friendship in a nurse who is fighting her own homosexual feelings.
The episode sets up the idea that beneath the white picket fences and friendly faces there are horrors hiding in the suburbs, both in the inequalities of the time period and in the literal sense as monsters stalk their victims.
Having found another Nth Metal meteorite in the outskirts of Pleasant Falls and using it to experiment on local teens. Rather then granting them with extended life like Savage it turns them into hawk monsters, creatures that take aspects from several creatures featured in the DC comics.
Savage captures Jax and experiments on him, turning him into one of his hawk creatures. It's not clear exactly why Savage is conducting these experiments, whether he's just looking into the nature of the substance that made him immortal, or if an army of hawk monsters is part of one of his plans for world conquest, but seeing him playing mad scientist is great. Casper Crump has been criticised for a lack of charisma in past episodes, and in some ways I have to agree, he doesn't come across as a huge tyrant or the lead figure in a cult, but he's very believable in the mad scientist role.
Luckily for Jax the team arrive at the institute in a dual rescue mission and an attempt to kill Savage. Kendra manages to get in close to Savage, playing on him thinking she doesn't know who Savage is, but Savage gets the upper hand and a fight breaks out between the two of them. Kendra manages to put up a good fight, but despite all of her training it's still very evident that she's not a match for Savage yet, and only avoids being killed by the timely intervention of Ray.
In the facilities basement Cold and Stein come across the hawk creatures and have to fight for their lives. However, when the monster Jax arrives Cold refuses to turn his gun on his teammate, even trying to appeal to his humanity instead of attacking. Cold manages to incapacitate Jax without hurting him, allowing Stein the opportunity to cure him of his mutation.
This is an important moment, as during the whole episode Jax had been openly critical of Colds actions in the previous episode, and for 'killing' Heatwave. He makes the point that none of them can trust Cold, but then Cold puts his life on the line to save him. Not only does Jax end up reversing his thoughts on him, saying that he understands that Cold turned on Heatwave because he was a threat to the safety of the team, but Stein also calls Colds actions heroic.
Captain Cold has always been one of the most interesting characters in the show, and his transformation from villian to hero one of the most compelling arcs, and this week's episode goes a long way towards having the other characters acknowledge that. It'll be fun to see just what kind of person will be returning to Central City after the series has ended, Captain Cold the criminal, or Captain Cold the superhero?
The episode ends on a cliffhanger scene as Kronos once again arrives out of the blue in order to move the plot forward (please go use him as something else than a plot device for once!) and attacks the Waverider, forcing Rip, Jax, Stein and Cold to escape on the shuttle, just as the rest of the team arrives in time to watch the Waverider enter the timestream, leaving Kendra, Ray and Sarah stranded in 1958.