Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Legends of Tomorrow 'River of Time' Review

This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.

'Who are you to stand against me, Vandal Savage, destroyer of empires?!'
'Leonard Snart, robber of ATM's!'

The previous episode, 'Leviathan', seemed like a season finale episode throughout, with a scenario and level of action that most shows would be proud to showcase as an endpoint, so with three episodes left to go it was hard to know where the show was going to go.  Luckily, 'River of Time' proved to be a fantastic episode in itself and a great follow up to what came the week before.

'River of Time' follows our team as they try to pilot the still damaged Waverider through the time stream to vanishing point so that they can hand Savage over to the Time Masters.  Whilst it might not sound like the most thrilling plot in existence, the writing and acting help to elevate it to a really great level.  Surprisingly too, the episode is a bottle episode, with all but the final two scenes being set aboard the Waverider.  

Whilst some shows would struggle to make a bottle episode interesting and engaging, especially if they've been producing episodes in such varied and interesting settings as Legends of Tomorrow, this episode is one of the best of the whole series and a great example of how to produce a good bottle episode.

The drama in the episode comes in two forms, whether the ship can survive its journey to vanishing point, and the mind games that Savage plays on the team whilst their prisoner.  

Savage gets to give up on being the rather bland villain we've had all season and instead gets to channel a little Hannibal Lecter as he stands inside his glass cage and tries to push their trust issues and insecurities.  It's definitely the best we've ever seen him up to now, and gives him much more menace than simply striding around and commanding others to fight on his behalf.

For the most part his mind games actually work, as he not only gets inside Ray's head to play on the insecurities he has about his relationship with Kendra now that Carter is back but also begins to get the team to doubt Rips intentions and loyalty to them.  Thankfully this isn't a plot thread that will last beyond this episode, as Rip manages to prove his loyalty to the team by taking a bullet meant for Kendra, but it was a good little moment worth exploring over the course of this episode.

The mind games played on Ray will definitely have more lasting effects, as it would appear that the Ray/Kendra relationship may have finally reached breaking point now that Carter is back amongst them.  I'm not particularly sorry to see the end of this love story, as its felt more forced than anything else, and there is relatively little chemistry between the two of them.

This also, sadly, gives Ray what is without a doubt his most stupid moment ever, and I am counting all his time on Arrow here too, not just Legends.  Vandal Savage manages to goad Ray into opening his cell and getting him to enter it in order to fight him.  Not only is this one of the oldest tricks in the book (it's right up there behind 'oh my stomach hurts') but we've got someone who is supposed to be a genius thinking that it's a good idea to pick a fight with a multiple murderer who's thousands of years old and has probably mastered every form of unarmed combat around.  Frankly, Ray deserved to get the shit kicked out of him here.

When Savage finally manages to break out of his cell and run amok across the ship the episode gives us one of the smallest fights the show has done yet, but one that works surprisingly well at building up the tension.  The team are stuck in a small hallway between Savage with a laser gun and the still brainwashed Carter with his mace.  It's here that we get one of the best exchanges we've had in the entire history of the arrowverse as Savage and Captain Cold square off against each other, 'Who are you to stand against me, Vandal Savage, destroyer of empires?!'  'Leonard Snart, robber of ATM's!'

Once again Wentworth Miller proves that even when he's not given a great deal to do in an episode he can still become one of the best things the episode has to offer.  Whatever cast changes the producers choose to make going into season two, I sincerely hope that both he and Dominic Purcell get to stay around, even though they were the two characters I was most sceptical about when the show first began.

During the fight Carter remembers his past lives and manages to come to the aid of the team in time to prevent their defeat, though he does manage to get stabbed by Savage yet again (I'm starting to think he might not be the best at this superhero thing).  Luckily this time Carter isn't mortally wounded and survived his fight with Savage before the villain is once again captured by the team.

Also during this episode the team loses Jax, who after being exposed to the temporal radiation inside the time engine begins to age at a rapid rate.  It provides a nice solid story for both him and Stein as the older of the pair manages to figure out a way of saving his other half, albeit one that will probably lead to his own death from being separated from Jax.  It's nice to see Stein atoning for drugging Jax at the start of the season to force him onto the mission, by this time drugging him in order to send him home.  It's a good reversal of that initial episode, though it is beginning to worry me at how good Stein is at drugging people.

By the end of the episode Rip and the team manages to finally get Savage to the Time Masters, only to find that they are already aware of Savage's tampering in the timeline and are willing to not only let him go free, but then arrest Rip and the crew.

'River of Time' is a small scale episode that manages to take a limited setting and a lot of character moments to make one of the best episodes of the show to date with an ending that sets the stage for an interesting penultimate episode.


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