[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 1×12: “Last Refuge”

written by Kate Spencer

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.” -Doctor Who

“After I roll this joint I’m going to explain the complexities of time travel.” – Legends Of Tomorrow

Last week the Legends defeated three bounty hunters sent by the Time Masters to kill them. All three were such pushovers that I’m convinced Professor Stein could have defeated them on his own without becoming Firestorm, but that’s neither here nor there. The hunters were just the appetizers, and the main course is the Pilgrim – an assassin who specializes in killing the past selves of wanted time criminals. This is demonstrated in the opening when a criminal sentenced by the Time Master Council doubles over in pain and dissolves into blue particles. Why was he there in the first place if he doesn’t exist? Why does he feel pain as he’s wiped from existence? Why does this all seem like the body part removal scene from Looper? Strap in, folks – this hasn’t even begun to hurt yet.

Central City, 1990: The Legends join a fire crew that’s trying to extinguish a house fire while they search for young Mick Rory. Gideon has predicted the Pilgrim is going after Mick in this time. Sara and Jax have searched the house but they’ve only found Mick’s dead parents. Nearby, a teenage Mick stares mesmerized by the burning house and is about to be killed by the Pilgrim when Ray intervenes.

“Come with me if you want to live. Heh, I always wanted to say that.” – All rright, I’ll give that one to him. Dorky as hell, but I would have done the same thing.

Teen Mick is taken aboard the Waverider, where he’s supervised by Jax who tells him they’re from a secret agency called ARGUS. Yep, because that won’t possibly stick in the mind of the future criminal. Then again, Mick had to ask Jax what story he told Mini-Mick so, maybe it didn’t? Wait, why doesn’t Mick remember any of this? Two surprising things of note – Mick refers to his younger self as an idiot and he actually thanks Ray for saving Mini-Mick. Ray asks Rip the million-dollar question – why doesn’t the Pilgrim just go back a week earlier and kill Mini-Mick? Rip says that the Omega Protocol calls for precision. Too many attempts to kill the same person throughout time could damage the timeline.

You mean like with Vandal Savage?

The good news is, the Pilgrim only has one shot to kill each of them. The bad news, they only have one chance to stop her each time. They got this! Off to Starling City in the year 2007 where a younger, less assassin-y Sara Lance is handcuffed to a police desk for a paper she’s writing on the criminal justice system. Her father, Quentin Lance, is enjoying showing her the process from the criminal’s point of view. The Pilgrim attacks and tries to murder Mini-Sara, but older Sara and Mick save her.

Mini-Sara is put in the cargo hold with Mini-Mick and Rip tries to locate the Pilgrim again, but finds the Time Masters have covered her trail. They have no idea who she’s going after next or when. Goddamnit, Rip! Get it together! You’ve already lost Hal and Bruce – how many more teammates have to be erased from existence before you figure this out?

What do you mean, “that didn’t happen”? How would we know?

Ray wonders how long it takes for what happens in the past to affect the present – wondering if he could actually be dead right now and just waiting for time to catch up and erase him from existence. The entire team is in panic mode. Rip suggests that Kendra is safe because it would be pointless for the Pilgrim to remove her from the timeline since she just reincarnates. Why? Killing her old west self wouldn’t do any good, true, but killing Mini-Kendra or Barista-Kendra would ensure that this incarnation never joins the team. Also Rip is pretty safe because as a former Time Master, removing him from the timeline is tricky. Sara catches Mini-Mick and Mini-Sara fighting and plays impatient mother with them. “Do I need to separate you two?” Ooooh, this episode is fun. She also gives Mini-Sara pointers on slapping people but Mini-Sara wants to know what’s going on and she wants to go home. Sara doesn’t offer an explanation but when Mini-Sara says she’s worried about what happens if her dad loses her, Sara tells her he’s never going to lose her.

Yikes. Can we please catch Sara up on what’s been happening on Arrow?

Meanwhile Ray and Kendra–SKIP!

Wait, Ray fell over in pain. Hang on, this is something else. Bruises and wounds start appearing on Ray’s body. He’s taken to the med bay where it’s revealed he has numerous internal injuries. Gideon scans his personal timeline and finds an anomaly in 2014. Okay, hang on. The Pilgrim kills people and they vanish in the future. In Ray’s case, he gets a little roughed up two years ago and somehow the injuries appear on him in the present? No wait, for his personal timeline it’s actually four years later. The hell? I will gladly sit down and listen to a lengthy explanation of how time travel works in this universe. I don’t even mind. Just please, someone on the writing team explain to me how any of this works. Well, I guess it’s convenient how the Pilgrim decided to kick his ass before killing him. Firestorm and Rip save…well, I guess he’s not quite “Mini-Ray”. He’s wearing a blue shirt so…Blue-Ray? Sure. Firestorm is taken out by the Pilgrim, who freezes then reverses his attack right back at him. Blue-Ray points to a prototype Atom gauntlet blaster and Rip uses it to blast the Pilgrim out the window of a skyscraper. She survives this. In the med bay, Kendra is with Ray telling him to hold on and that she wants to be with him for however long they have. Ray recovers and drops the engagement ring he bought for her in 1960. He takes Kendra’s desire to be with him as her acceptance of his proposal, assuming she saw the ring before she even picks it up. So yeah, that happened. They’re engaged.

*sigh*

Blue-Ray and Ray are safe now but they still don’t know where and when the Pilgrim will strike next, so Rip plots time jumps for the birthdays of the remaining team members – they’re going to abduct Leonard, Jax, and Stein on the days each of them were born. The downside of these abductions is finally laid on the table: if they take too long in returning their past selves to the right place in the timeline, history cements itself and they disappear from the memories of anyone who ever knew them. But does that affect them? Will they forget growing up in their respective timelines and only remember the new altered timeline where they grew up somewhere else? Would Sara lose her League of Assassins training? Would Ray’s suit disappear because he never finished constructing it in 2014? Would Mick and Leonard never become career criminals who later acquired high-tech guns? Would Stein and Jax cease to be Firestorm?

The babynappings go off without a hitch. Rip and Doctor Mick Rory abduct Baby-Stein while Nurse Lance and Nurse Saunders squeal over how adorable Baby-Leonard is. Baby-Leonard is handed off to Mini-Mick and Mini-Sara for babysitting…because that sounds like a solid idea. When Stein talks about how their fathers must have felt holding them for the first time, Jax tells him his father never had the chance. He was a soldier and had to ship out before his mom went into labor and died in Somalia two weeks later. When Ray and Stein enter the hospital to abduct Baby-Jax, they see Jax’s father there. Turns out Mr. Jackson’s plane got delayed and he was able to get a pass and a jeep from his commanding officer to see his son before he left. Stein delays the mission long enough for Jax to have a short conversation with the father he never knew.

No, you’re crying. Shut up.

The Waverider then heads to an orphanage in an undisclosed time and place where Rip is greeted by a woman he calls “Mother”. She’s his adopted mother who’d raised him since he was a young child. The orphanage is where the Time Masters get their recruits, and it’s the last place they would think to look for their younger selves. Rip’s mother works for the Time Masters but her loyalty is to her children first, and she’ll protect them with her life. Stein’s confident that their younger selves will only be there a short time if all goes according to plan.

“When’s the last time anything went according to plan?”

“I don’t think there ever was a last time.”

Ray and Kendra have been paying attention too. It’s kind of a running theme that the team knows shit is going to go badly whenever they do something, but they do it anyway. Self-awareness doesn’t mean one acts on that awareness I guess. Leonard warns “Mother” that she’ll have her hands full with him, but she says he’s not the first tough case she’s had to deal with and gives Rip a look. I really like the interaction between Rip and his mother. He shares his feelings of guilt about putting his team in danger – and putting her in danger now, all to save his family. She more or less tells him to get over it, suck it up, and stop pouting. Actually I think I said it nicer than she did. I like Mother; I hope we see more of her and get a name.

The Pilgrim contacts the Waverider – she’s kidnapped several of their loved ones and will only release them safe and sound if they give up their younger selves to her. Rip offers a different exchange: if she lets the families go and promises not to hurt the team itself, Rip will give her his own younger self. Eliminating young Rip would ensure the team was never formed in the first place. The Pilgrim accepts and an exchange is set up at an abandoned Time Master outpost. Mother brings a young boy seen earlier at the orphanage – Rip’s younger self – and tells them she doesn’t approve of their plan, but that the other children are safe.

Jax’s father is exchanged for Mini-Rip, but the Legends spring a trap with the entire team attacking the Pilgrim at once. She uses her ability to manipulate time around her to slow down all of their attacks. The whole thing looks very Matrix-like and makes for a very awesome visual effects display to end the episode on. Wait a second, they’re all attacking at once from all around her! I get it, they’re trying to overload her ability to freeze time by giving her too many targets to focus on at once! Genius! So in a second she’ll lose control and one of the attacks will actually–

DID MINI-RIP JUST STAB HER WITH A KNIFE?? OH MY GOD, HE DID IT AGAIN!

Mini-Rip is taken to safety while Rip, Mick, Leonard, Firestorm, and Ray all attack the wounded Pilgrim at once, reducing her to a pile of ash. Holy crap, when they get rid of a bad guy, they don’t mess around. Mini-Rip is taken away by Mother again and Rip tells the team that from the age of five he was a starving thief. He knew what his younger self would do if the Pilgrim tried to hurt him. No one messes with Mini-Rip.

The Omega Protocol is still in effect, so the Legends’ younger selves are still in danger. For now they’ll remain at the orphanage under Mother’s care. The family members of the team are all safe and Jax is finally able to reveal his identity to his dad. After a touching scene where his dad says he’s proud of how he turned out, Jax warns him about the day he dies. Rip reminds Jax that time wants to happen, but suggests that maybe in this case, time wants Jax to have a dad. It’s left open whether the past has actually changed or not, so hopefully that will be addressed in the future. Stein’s wife doesn’t remember him, and Rip takes that as a sign that time is solidifying. If they don’t stop Vandal Savage and return their younger selves soon, they’ll have no lives to return to when this is all over. Fortunately they know where Savage will be – but it’s at the height of his power in 2166.

Jax got a much-needed spotlight in this episode and it damn near broke my heart. Seeing him meet the father he never knew and feeling regret about not warning him about his impending death after the first meeting was rough. But the smile on his face when his dad told him he knew his son was going to do great things was uplifting. Then their last scene together when Mr. Jackson says he’s looking forward to seeing his son grow into the man standing in front of him now finally prompts Jax to risk the timeline by warning him. I think we learned more about Jax in this episode than we have in every other episode combined.

We also learned a lot about Rip. His mother, where he grew up, even his real name – Michael. This is interesting because I believe in the comics his real name is Richard, however in recent years it’s been revealed that Rip Hunter’s father is Michael Jon Carter, a.k.a. Booster Gold. Given how obscure some of the characters and references in the show have been so far, I doubt if Rip’s real name is a coincidence. Also, Rip was at one time a starving orphan picking pockets for money. And he was a vicious one if his attack on the Pilgrim is any indication. His time spent at the orphanage changed him, and by Rip’s own admission, he’s tried to forget his troubled past. Still, using his younger self as an unlikely assassin is a pretty cold calculation. I’m not sure which version of Rip I find more frightening.

As I mentioned before, Mick has a few telling character moments in this episode. Initial disdain for his younger self, thanking Ray for saving Mini-Mick (and sounding sincere), and the interactions with Mini-Mick at the orphanage. He find his younger self playing with a match after they first drop him off and accuses him of not only starting the first by playing with lighter fluid, but running from the house without warning his parents when the flames got out of control. He initially gives Mini-Mick a warning not to let any “accidents” happen at the orphanage or he’ll return and kill him – and I believed him. Mini-Mick says that Mick sounds like his father, which clearly affects Mick. Guess Leonard isn’t the only one of the pair with daddy issues. At the end of the episode Mick tells his younger self who he really is and that for the longest time he blamed himself for the death of his parents. Now he knows he was just a frightened kid and he forgives his younger self. He parts with one last word of advice, “You can’t change the things you did, but you can change what you become. Don’t be like me. Be better.” I don’t think we would have gotten that scene out of a pre-Chronos Mick and I’m curious to see how else he’s changed and to what degree.

All right, there’s the subplot about Kendra and Ray getting engaged, Kendra having doubts again because of what old west Kendra said last episode, them temporarily calling the engagement off, and then making up again at the end of the episode. Why don’t I go into more detail? Because we’ve been here before. We go here every week. I’m not completely adverse to drama or relationship drama in a show like this – I think it can add a lot to it. However, apart from a few plot points here and there, there really hasn’t been much interesting about the relationship drama and it’s not allowing for any character growth. Every episode they’re right back to where they were – in crisis mode, unsure about their future as a couple. In this episode Kendra is dealing with the exact same issue she resolved in the last episode. What happened to ignoring her previous incarnation’s advice and just living her life how she wanted with Ray? Every episode lately is them pulling themselves out of a hole only to fall in the exact same hole the next episode. It also doesn’t help that we barely know these characters as individuals. I would like to see the writers devote less time to relationship drama and more time to some of the other characters, or even Ray and Kendra individually. Give us development on Kendra, give us development on Ray, then develop “KendRay” or whatever the hell cutesy ship name the fandom has for them.

Apart from the very confusing laws of time travel in this series, this was a good episode. It felt very tense throughout, right up to the final conflict with the Pilgrim. As I mentioned, the visual effects were great in that fight – probably some of the best in the series to date. Character development is getting really good; I just want more of that and less of the skipping record relationship drama.

Next episode: with time running out, the team makes one last desperate move against Savage and they may have a way to kill him for good this time.

Legends Of Tomorrow airs Thursdays on the CW at 8 ET/7 CT. Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.

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