[Review] Legends Of Tomorrow Episode 2×08: “The Chicago Way”

written by Kate Spencer

SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT

Fresh off defending the Earth against an invasion, the Legends travel to 1920s Chicago to fix a time aberration. This is going to be about as historically accurate as that old Bugs Bunny cartoon “The Unmentionables”, isn’t it?

Chicago, 1927. Al Capone and a few of his men head down to the docks to meet the “new players in town”, Damien Darhk and Eobard Thawne. They offer to help Capone, but he ain’t having it, so he does that thing where evil bosses with goons say just the right phrase that makes their goons raise and cock their weapons. I always liked that cliché in movies and TV. Do they rehearse it ahead of time? “All right, if they ask for directions I’m going to say ‘Sure, I know the way downtown’ and then you guys point your guns at them.” Anyway, Thawne kills the goons and Darhk repeats their offer, warning of some new enemies coming. But Thawne and Darhk are not alone – they’ve recruited Malcolm Merlyn. Capone just stares blankly, wondering if that’s supposed to mean something to him or just the viewers.

I hope Rip gets back soon. I’m going to be disappointed if Rory Williams and Jack Harkness also don’t meet in this show.

Ray and Nate are sparring in the cargo bay, because that worked out so well the last time. Sara scolds them, and when she leaves the room, they mock her like a couple of children. Time is doomed. Jax checks on Stein, who is still thinking about his daughter. He’s beginning to gain more and more memories of her. Jax warns that an unchecked time aberration is dangerous and the others will find out soon enough. Stein is confident that a small aberration will go unnoticed. Queue the new time aberration alarm.

It’s not Lily, though; it’s an aberration at Union Station in 1927. The Legends head there, but they’re not sure what they’re looking for until Nate spots Eliot Ness, agent of the Bureau Of Prohibition. Nate correctly guesses that someone tipped off Capone about Ness’ arrival. Ray offers to protect Ness, but some helpful police officers escort Ness to the Bureau instead. Nate arrives too late to tell Ray how stupid that is, since most of the cops are on Capone’s payroll. Thanks to Stein being distracted by memory flashes, the cops escape with Ness.

Back on the Waverider, Nate asks Gideon to check a newspaper from October 24, 1931 – the day Capone originally went down for tax evasion (only it’s not – he was convicted on October 17th). Time has changed and rather than going to prison, Capone now becomes the mayor of Chicago. Why are they worried? It’s not like he’s be the first corrupt politician in history. Actually, you might be able to argue that far worse people have or will hold a political office – even in, say, 2017. Specifically, January 20th, 2017. I’M SAYING YOU HAVE AN ABERRATION TO FIX RIGHT HERE, LEGENDS!

Also I can’t count the number of times I accidentally typed “Trump” instead of “Capone” in this review. Weird, right?

The Legends head down to the docks to save Ness from sleeping with the fishes and Darhk comments to the camera that the Legends took the bait. Wait, if Ness was bait, what sort of fish were they trying to catch? O.o Ness is taken back to the ship, but he was without oxygen for a while, so he has brain damage. It will take Gideon a while to repair it.

Nate: “You can undo brain damage? Why haven’t you helped Rory out?”
Gideon: “Who says I haven’t?”

Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folk, behold: the rare Gideon burn.

Ness has to be around to get a ledger which holds the evidence that will eventually convict Capone of tax evasion. Since Ness is in no condition to do so, Nate goes undercover as Ness with Ray for backup. Jax, Stein, and Sara go undercover in one of Capone’s speakeasies to find the ledger.

And then…things get weird. Mick is left on the Waverider to keep an eye on Ness and Amaya is left to keep an eye on Mick. Mick’s eyes are on something else though, namely a hallucination of Leonard Snart, his dead friend. “You’re not right in the head, Mick,” the vision tells him. “That’s why I’m here, to set you straight.” Oh, Leonard. You definitely are not capable of setting men straight.

Mick responds to this by drinking even more beer.

At the speakeasy, it doesn’t take long for things to go pear-shaped when Darhk and Thawne show up. Thawne starts zipping around and Stein helps by telling Jax to “run”. Um…I know Jax was a high school quarterback and I know they have to be quick on their feet sometimes, but if the Reverse-Flash wants to sack you, your ass is getting sacked. Jax dives across the bar and Thawne is only able to make off with Stein and Sara before Nate and Ray bust in with the feds.

Sara and Stein are tied to chairs and Merlyn offers Sara a deal – the amulet the Legends stole from Darhk some episodes back in exchange for giving Sara a do-over on her life. Merlyn and his associates will travel back in time to prevent his younger self from sinking the Queen’s Gambit, the ship Oliver Queen and Sara were on years ago. Sara and Oliver would never be stranded on an island, Oliver would never become Green Arrow, Sara would never join the League of Assassins, and Laurel would never get mixed up in the whole vigilante thing and be killed. Sara rejects the offer, saying that was never meant to be her life and she’ll take a nightmare that’s real over a dream that’s a lie. I like this a lot. This is a Sara who’s learned from her mistakes in trying to kill Darhk to save her sister. She’s not only accepted the things she can’t change, but has learned to reject the easy fix for the things she can change. If you watched last week’s Arrow, you saw her reject a virtual reality version of what Merlyn is offering here. Now she’s rejecting the real thing. She won’t endanger the sanctity of the timeline for an easy life. Oh sure, there’s a fight scene coming later in the episode where Sara gets in a few good hits, but somehow she looks like even more of a badass here while she’s tied to a chair.

When Merlyn leaves, Sara credits Stein for teaching her the right and wrong of time travel and he finally confesses to her about how he retconned a daughter into his own life. Sara is naturally upset and seems to want to fix the aberration, but Stein gives an impassioned speech about how real the memories and his daughter are to him now. Stein is then taken away to be tortured for information and Thawne uses a device on him which normally kills the victim, but Thawne has adjusted it so it’s just going to hurt a lot.

I was a tiny bit confused by a couple of things here – why Stein doesn’t recognize Thawne and why Thawne doesn’t simply kill Stein, and then it hit me. I don’t think Stein was present when Thawne as fake-Wells reverted to himself before being erased from existence. As far as Stein is concerned, Harrison Wells was the Reverse-Flash and that person no longer exists. Now why does Thawne need Stein alive? Well, barring some elaborate future plan which requires him, the most obvious answer I can think of is Stein’s connection to Jax. Jax would be able to feel it if Stein died. At least in theory…but we’ll get to that in a second.

“Bonnie and Clyde” (Amaya and Mick) hijack a truck going to Capone’s warehouse and are able to track down Stein, Sara, and the ledger. All the while, the hallucination of Leonard is playing the little devil on Mick’s shoulder. Ooooh, I really don’t like where I think this is going…Capone tries to stop them from leaving, but he’s easily dealt with. A little too easily.

Amaya surprises Mick with a hug back on the ship, leading to another hallucination where Leonard mocks his affection for Amaya and his willingness to play the hero. Stein seems really out of it, but he’s eager to get back to work trying to figure out the amulet. Jax is suspicious and keeps an eye on him through the library security camera. Stein begins searching the room for the amulet at superspeed. Uh-oh, that ain’t Stein. Sara is headed to the library and doesn’t hear Jax’s warning, so he runs to Team Frat Boy Nerds for help.

Jax: “Stein’s about to kill Sara in the library!”
Ray: “With the rope or the candlestick?”

Fuuuuuuck youuuuuuu! I was going to make that joke! Also I would have said it properly – the Professor is about to kill Sara in the library. Now what am I going to say? I’m Plum out of ideas for jokes.

Miss White Canary tries to ask Fake-Stein about the aberration he caused, but he’s dismissive. Sara thinks he’s acting strange and asks if Merlyn offered Stein a deal to protect his daughter. Nate runs in and completely bungles an attempt to cleverly get Sara to leave with him, but Fake-Stein also messes up and refers to Jax as “Jax” instead of “Jefferson”. Fake-Stein knocks him down and vibrates back into his real form to reveal Thawne! *gasp* Also how did vibrating at super-speed change his DNA back to his own and change his clothes? Unless that was a different type of device from what he used on the real Wells.

Comics!

After briefly being stopped by Jax (with an anti-speedster weapon) and Ray (with his Atom suit), Thawne goes to the bridge. They wonder what he’s doing until Gideon cheerfully announces that the cloaking device has been turned off and the cargo door has been opened. GIDEON, STOP LISTENING TO BAD GUYS, DAMN IT! I just watched the pilot again recently and Gideon made a point of telling Jax that Rip specifically told her not to take orders from Jax or any of the other Legends. I assume he adjusted that order when he left, but it still shouldn’t cover total strangers, so what the hell? Capone’s men and Merlyn come aboard and start a firefight. Ray and Nate neutralize the goons while Amaya and Mick shoot Thawne again and Amaya gets in a few good punches. Speaking of, Sara completely dominates the fight with Merlyn, making Barry and Oliver’s one-time nemeses look like pushovers. Thawne gets the upper hand when Amaya hesitates after some villainous taunting, but runs away after…his watch beeps? Maybe he had a roast in the oven.

Sara is forced to let Merlyn go after giving him the amulet in exchange for Stein…who she then rescues from Capone at the same goddamn pier they rescued Eliot Ness from earlier in the episode. Why did they need to make a deal with the baddies if Capone is that predictable? Anyway, speaking of Ness, Ray and Nate turn the ledger over to him to preserve the timeline. Ray wonders why it takes four more years for the government to take Capone down. “Because it’s the Federal Government,” Nate responds. Well, that and they wanted to get him on the 5,000+ violations of the Volstead Act instead of just tax evasion.

Amaya presents Mick with a bottle of booze she swiped from Capone’s warehouse and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Hallucination-Leonard asks Mick what would have happened had the speedster killed him. Mick says he’d be dead like Leonard. I honestly don’t know where they’re going with this. It’s obviously not the real Snart from a different point in history hiding around the ship and fucking with Mick because no one else can see or hear him. Is Mick actually going crazy? Are these drunken hallucinations? Is it a manifestation of guilt and/or grief? I hope they’re not going to go with a “Mick is bad again” plot because that would be a huge backslide for the character. Elsewhere, Sara tells Stein she sees the team as a family. She can’t save Laurel, but she can protect the Legends and their families, and that includes Stein’s daughter.

Meanwhile, Thawne, Darhk, and Merlyn combine the two amulets – actually one amulet in two parts. It projects a map which Thawne says leads to the Spear of Destiny, an artifact rumored to be the spear used to pierce the side of Jesus of Nazareth after his death. Thawne says the spear can now rewrite reality. I don’t know, man. I wouldn’t put too much stock in ancient legends like that. It’s hard to separate truth from crucifixion.* They need additional help finding the spear, though…they need Rip Hunter.

Cut to Rip running from a man with a gun. He falls over a trash can and a director suddenly yells “cut!” It’s not Rip Hunter at all, but an actor dressed like him, and we’re on a movie set in Los Angeles, California in the year 1967. And the director himself is none other than an American-accented Rip Hunter.

What.

As mid-season finales go, this one was pretty good. Action, character development, and finally some friggin’ answers. But not complete answers. We now know some whats and wheres, but we don’t know the hows and whys. We know what the Legion Of Doom is after, but we don’t know what their exact endgame is or why they want the spear. We now know where Rip Hunter is, but we don’t know why he’s either undercover or has no memory of his past life. I’m guessing the latter, though it’s still neat that some of Rip’s mannerisms shine through in the director. He yells at the people on set like he used to lecture the Legends. He stutters on words he’s strongly trying to emphasize, and then there are the hand gestures. It’s easy to say these are just quirks of the actor, but these weren’t evident in Arthur Darvill’s performance on Doctor Who. These are very deliberate things which tell us Rip Hunter is still in there. Also I just love that he’s apparently making a ’60s sci-fi film based on his own life.

If it wasn’t obvious from my gushing earlier, I loved Sara’s scenes in this episode. She started off as a great character, but she’s grown into an even better one with a few bumps along the way. Amaya continues to make Mick her little project, trying to find the good man under the tough criminal. This is something that could have gone either way, but the way the show seems to be doing it is by having her be almost like a rehab sponsor for him. She checks up on him and reminds him to be human, even when she’s having him use his criminal talents. Nate and Ray are becoming a great pairing, both in comical banter and on missions. The sibling-like rivalry they had going this episode was actually entertaining. Finally, Stein’s big moment to shine was when he told Sara about Lily. You can tell he’s really growing attached to the daughter who weeks ago didn’t exist. He loves her like a parent should, and he wants to protect her – especially from “fixes” to the timeline.

The show is on break till January, so it will be a while before we get any resolution to these plots, but this episode shows a lot of promise for the rest of the season.

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

Leave a Reply