[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 2×03: “Shogun”

written by Kate Spencer

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

With Rip still MIA and the Legends without a babysitter, I’m sure nothing more will go horribly wrong this week. Yep.

*sips tea*

Nate is recovering in the med bay from his ordeal last episode, but he’s still not conscious. Ray tells Stein the modifications he made to the formula should prevent a terrifying superpowered threat from roaming the halls of the Waverider. And then Vixen a.k.a. Amaya Jiwe incapacitates the entire crew one by one. Why doesn’t she have her own show? Clearly she’s better than an entire team of superheroes.

Amaya knocks out the others and holds a knife to Mick’s throat accusing him of “killing him”. Mick says he’s killed a lot of people and she has to be more specific. Now’s not the time to be a smarmy asshole, Mick. They fight, but Amaya is soon knocked unconscious by Colossus–hmm? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m being told that’s Nate, who is 100% not Colossus.

(He’s a giant metal man, he’s Colossus, okay?)

After everyone wakes up and has a lovely post-“shit goes wrong” meeting, Ray confesses that he redesigned the serum to quintuple his strength and transform his skin into an alloy one hundred times stronger than steel. Nate throws out potential codenames like Corporal Steel, Mr. Steel, and Citizen Steel, but then confesses he doesn’t know how to control the transformation. Sara volunteers Ray to help with that since it was his serum. Ray says it’s not like he has some sort of instruction manual…and we’re under four minutes in before I start yelling at my screen.

Ray changed the properties of a superpower serum to give specific powers, yet he claims he has no idea how it works. Also presumably he doesn’t know how to make more. Look, if I altered my TV to intercept broadcasts from one hundred years in the future but claimed to not know how to build a TV or even so much as change the channel, you would call bullshit on that, right? All right, just so we’re clear.

Nate begins his training with Jax and Ray. Ray reasons that the transformation is an adrenal response, so he shoots Nate with one of the Atom suit’s blasters…ugh, let’s check in on the ladies instead.

Sara questions Amaya, who stowed away on the Waverider as it was leaving 1942. Amaya claims Mick killed Rex, but Mick has been on the Waverider with the Legends since they left the JSA’s headquarters together. Rex’s dying words were “time traveler” so Amaya just assumed he meant the Legends. Sara tells her about the rogue time traveler they’ve been tracking and the two apologize to each other and shake hands. Aww, see? This is good superheroing. Amaya wants to stay with the Legends until they find Rex’s killer, but Sara says they don’t know how long that could take and assures her “we’re professionals; we know what we’re doing.”

Heh…hehehe….HAHAHAHAHAHA!

*ahem* Sorry. Well, Sara’s sentence is punctuated by an explosion upstairs, so the show kind of proved my point anyway. Ray keeps blasting Nate and Sara amends her statement to “professional-ish”. Nate elbows Ray right into the cargo bay door and then gets sucked out into the time vortex with Ray in hot pursuit. Somehow the explosive decompression does a lot of damage to the ship, so the Waverider has trouble following the two idiots, but manages to make it to the correct time period. Nate crashes down in the Kansai region of Japan in 1641. Only part of the team for a few episodes and he’s already on his way to screwing up history. Somewhere out there, Rip Hunter is screaming.

Ray is found by samurai and is knocked unconscious for the second time in ten minutes. He’s brought to a guy who ties him up and steals his armor because Ray isn’t going to let a new guy upstage him in the “fucking up history” department. Meanwhile, Nate is found by a woman named Masako, who takes him to her father for care. Her father is worried about what the Shogun will do if they find out they’re harboring a foreigner. Nate asks about a particular warlord he knows from history – seems Masako is supposed to marry that same warlord. Oh dear. The Shogun arrive looking for other foreigners and Masako almost successfully sends them away before Nate blunders in to try to get the wedding called off. He fails to activate his powers and gets stabbed.

Jax and Stein work on the repairs to the Waverider, but during a diagnostic, Gideon lets it slip that there are thirty-six compartments aboard the Waverider. Jax – who has been learning the Waverider top to bottom – only knew of thirty-five. Rip has a secret compartment somewhere aboard the ship! Stein has Gideon pull up the schematics and the two put off further repairs to go searching for the secret compartment. They find a hatch with a keypad, but Jax is hesitant to open any secret hatches.

Sara, Amaya, and Mick go searching for Ray by tracking the Atom suit. Mick brings up old ninja movies, but Amaya doesn’t believe ninjas – a secret order of trained assassins – really exist. Sara says they do, because she’s basically one of them. Amaya: “I miss the JSA.” Preach. They track down the Atom suit and find not Ray, but a warlord wearing it. Ray escapes from the cell in time to join the others retreating from his own suit. Yeah, Rip Hunter must be dead. I’m sure they would hear his screaming across all of time and space at this point.

Nate is surprised that he’s recovering from his stab wound – seems the serum also cured his hemophilia. He flirts with Masako and supposedly they’re both speaking Japanese and I’m left to wonder why there was a Japanese word for “hardcore” in the Edo period. The other Legends have tracked Nate down…somehow, and bring him up to speed. The warlord Masako is supposed to marry is the same one who took Ray’s suit and he has a habit of killing his wives, so Nate wants to stop him. Oh, and how does a 17th-century Japanese warlord know how to operate the Atom suit? Ray designed it so an idiot could operate it. Heh, an– “An idiot does.” Oh, um…thanks, Mick.

The best course of action is to stop the shogun when they attack the village. Nate says he’s having trouble accessing his powers. Heh, don’t worry, it happens to lots of– “Sounds like you’re having performance issues.” GODDAMNIT, SARA! All of you stop stepping on my jokes!

On the Waverider, Jax and Stein find an armory behind the sealed hatch. How did they get the code? Does Gideon take issue with them being in there? They also find Rip’s voice mail and a message from Barry Allen of 2056. Future Barry has asked Rip to keep this message a secret from everyone, even the rest of the team.

Ray briefs Nate on how to combat the Atom suit. Nate notes that the suit sounds impenetrable. …what? No, if I start making a joke they’ll just steal it again. Ray shows him on a training dummy how to overload the suit but in order to get that close, Nate is going to have to harden. *sips tea* …still nothing? Fuck it, let’s keep going. Nate still can’t control his powers and thinks they were only temporary. Ray throws a fit and it suddenly becomes clear what Ray is training Nate to do – the Atom suit has to be destroyed.

Amaya fills Sara in on her origin story. She’s from a small isolated village that was protected by the totem she wears around her neck. The totem lets her summon the life force of the animal kingdom and it’s passed down from daughter to daughter. She joined the JSA to protect the world, not just her village. She worries about her village and whether there’s anyone left to protect it without her.

Masako tells Nate that he shouldn’t try so hard to access his powers but just sort of let them come naturally to him. Nate quotes a great sensei from his own time, Yoda, who said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s not a joke, that’s an actual discussion in this episode. The warlord and his men arrive and Nate sends Masako ahead to warn the village.

I’d like to take a moment to say that this season I’m reviewing these episodes by watching them on the CW app. That’s not an advertisement because one, the app is free; two, they aren’t paying me; and three, I’m not recommending it. Sure, it’s okay if you absolutely have to watch the episodes a day later because your local CW affiliate bumps the show from its normal time slot to show high school football games, but it’s not exactly the most stable. I just wanted to comment how I’m not sure which commercial I’m most tired of – the Target ones or the Season 3 promo for The Flash with Crowder’s Run Devil Run.

“I got somethin’ make the devil gonna run…”

Anyway, back to feudal Japan where a warlord wearing a samurai helmet and 21st century high-tech armor riding on a horse confronts a time-traveling historian with Colossus powers. Huh, I just realized this show is kinda silly. The warlord wants his bride, but Nate defiantly stands up to him and gets a laser blast to the chest for his trouble. Ray arrives wearing Masako’s deceased brother’s armor and wielding his sword. But Mick just blasts the warlord with fire.

“Konnichi wa, scumbag!” (I know, but it’s almost over, I promise.)

Sara and Amaya fight the warlord’s men to keep them from killing the villagers. Ray fights the warlord and uses the sword and his knowledge of the suit to destroy certain systems one by one. Mick…Mick is confronted by ninjas. Then Sara and Amaya are backed into a corner and Mick shows up dressed as a ninja for reasons and…look, I’m making this sound stupid, and it is stupid, but it’s at least entertaining. Which is more than I can say for some superhero stuff. Ray is knocked down and loses the sword. Masako picks it up and goes all Katana on the warlord…wait, Katana. Hold that thought. Masako is saved by the sudden deus ex machina appearance of a powered-up Nate, who has decided on a codename: Steel. Ray tosses the sword to him and he uses it to slash the suit’s stabilizer, obliterating both the suit and the warlord.

“Run devil run devil run devil run…”

Nate passes the sword to Masako and suggests she should defend her village. Ray seems to recognize the sword and asks Masako’s father what their family name is. He says it’s Yamashiro. You can let go of that thought now. They leave and Mick bitterly says he doesn’t have any proof ninjas exist. Back on the ship, Amaya tells him she’s got him figured out – he’s not so bad, and he might even make a good hero. She leaves him with a throwing star as proof that he met an actual ninja.

Stein and Jax don’t tell the others about the message, but both regret ever hearing the message themselves. Yeah, because people keeping secrets on these shows never goes wrong. Also: goddamnit, Barry, stop fucking with the timeline! The Legends assemble on the bridge to make a jump into the timestream to find Rip and put a stop to Rex’s killer.

I don’t really know how I feel about this one. In the absence of an ongoing persistent threat, shows like this have to resort to finding conflicts outside of the season’s “big bad”. Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl manage this with everyday criminals, metahumans, and aliens, but given that there’s never really any particular reason to travel to a time period other than to stop time travelers from messing with history, Legends Of Tomorrow doesn’t have much in the way of a bad guy pool. The show has the whole of history to use as a setting, but it struggles to find a reason to use a certain time period sometimes. Sometimes those reasons work, like the old west episode last season where the Legends were only hiding out in the old west and accidentally stumbled upon the plot of the episode. This episode they had to rely on “Ray and Nate did something stupid”. I touched on this in another episode last season that did the same thing. Having your characters do stupid things as a flimsy excuse to push the plot along just makes your characters look even stupider in the long run.

It did lead to a pretty okay episode this time around, with some good action. I’m not versed on Japanese history enough to know how accurate any of it was, but this show doesn’t pride itself on historical accuracy. To the untrained eye, it all at least looked authentic. I also liked the little nod to Katana at the end of the episode. If it’s one thing the show does really well, it’s references to the rest of the DC Universe.

I don’t know how I feel about Nate’s powers. I don’t question them giving him powers and I actually enjoy seeing Steel/Citizen Steel on TV, but the effects are questionable. In the comics Nate Heywood (at least the version of Nate I’m familiar with) isn’t like Colossus at all. His bones and skin have been turned into a sort of organic metal so that outwardly, he looks human, but he basically has the same abilities as metal Nate in the show. I kinda get why they wanted to do it this way – a totally impervious character who can’t be knocked out would be impossible to write on this show. But the effect just looks…off. It’s decent enough, but it lacks the detail to make it look “real”. My comparisons to Colossus weren’t for a cheap joke; the effect looks a lot like Colossus in the X-Men films – an effect I never really liked.

Sometimes simpler effects are better, and we see that with the other new Legend, Amaya. Yes, we get the blue glowy animal spirit overlay when she activates her power, but it’s not there all the time, nor does she turn into a CGI animal or anything. As a matter of fact, remember the bar fight from the last episode? They didn’t even use the special effect for her there. They played a wildcat sound and had her pounce on someone – that was effective. We knew enough about how her powers worked at that point to know what was going on. All it took was a sound effect.

Next week: Confederate zombies! No, not those “it’s about Southern pride, not racism!” idiots in your Twitter mentions, actual Civil War Confederate zombies! …yeah, I don’t know. I’m just rolling with it now.

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

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