written by Kate Spencer
SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT
This week the Legends travel back in time to the days of the Apollo program and it’s a race to the moon with the Legion Of Doom.
This one is going to give me a migraine, isn’t it?
A pre-Legends Rip drops off Commander Henry Heywood in Manhattan, 1965. He instructs him to disappear and assume a new identity in order to protect his piece of the Spear Of Destiny. Henry is concerned about leaving his wife and newborn son behind, but Rip reminds him it’s to save the world. Before they part, Henry gives Rip his dog tags to give to his family. A second later, the Legends arrive in the area looking for Henry. They don’t find him, so they begin searching for him on the Waverider. Reasoning that he would get a military-related job and picking the space program as a likely candidate, they search historical records and find him working at Mission Control during the Apollo 13 incident.
I remember that. Weird as hell movie. The found footage stuff was weird and then when the moon rocks started coming to life it just– oh, sorry. I’m thinking of something else.
Rip walks in with some research of his own, but the Legends have already found Henry. He’s shot down again when he suggests a plan, but Sara interrupts with her own: infiltrating NASA. Is that a subplot I’m sensing? At NASA in 1970, Rip and Ray find Henry at a press briefing and Rip gets punched in the jaw.
Welcome back, Rip. It’s like you never left.
Rip is thrown into an interrogation room while Henry and Ray have a casual talk. Henry has issues with Rip, but doesn’t want to talk about that. Also, Henry’s look is a little less “1970s Mission Control” and a little more Falling Down. That’s sort of a fine line to begin with. The rest of the team arrives and there’s a warm reunion between Henry, Nate, and Amaya. They tell him about the Legion Of Doom and about Doctor Mid-Nite’s death. Henry assures them his piece of the Spear is safe and Nate figures out that it’s in the flag that Neil Armstrong planted on the moon. Henry has to get back to the control room and adds that the mission is going perfectly…except that’s not what happened. History has already changed.
Aboard the command module, the crew goes radio silent as they cross over to the dark side of the moon. At that moment, Swigert knocks out Lovell and Haise before revealing himself to be Eobard Thawne!
So…wait, Thawne is aboard Apollo 13, a mission which never landed on the moon, so he can land on the moon and get the piece of the Spear. But if the fragment was planted there in 1969, why didn’t he just take over Apollo 11, the successful mission without the catastrophic failure? Or why not use super-speed to swipe the flag kit as it’s being loaded into Apollo 11? Also, was Neil Armstrong in on the whole thing? Because the flag was assembled on the moon.
There’s going to be a lot of this throughout the review. Strap in.
Mick, Stein, and Jax infiltrate Mission Control as members of the British space program studying NASA’s procedures. This tickles me since Jax’s actor, Franz Drameh, is British, so he gets to use his real accent for once. The Waverider takes the rest of the team and Henry to space to track down Apollo 13. Henry still doesn’t want to talk to Rip, but he has a heart-to-heart conversation with Nate, who says he doesn’t have a great relationship with his dad. Henry wants to return to 1956 when this is all over and reunite with his family
They find Apollo 13 and Ray shrinks down and heads inside, where he finds the unconscious astronauts in the command module and Thawne entering the lander module. Thawne spots Ray and a zero-gravity scuffle breaks out. Neither really has the upper hand because Thawne can’t use his speed without gravity…well, he can’t run, but he should be able to move his body at super-speed regardless of whether he has gravity and/or friction. MOVING ON! During the scuffle, the big red button is pushed and the lunar module is released to the surface. Let me just add that to my list of ways history is irreparably fucked.
Back at Mission Control, the Legends need to cut the feed before NASA sees a guy in a futuristic suit crash on the moon. Jax tries to cut communications but needs more time, so it’s up to Stein and Mick to create a distraction. Stein begins singing the Jamaican folk song “Day-O” (you’ve heard Harry Belafonte’s version before) and Mick joins in.
Am I high? Is this what being high feels like?
A very confused Mission Control loses contact with Apollo 13, the command module starts spinning off-course, and Ray manages to land on the moon. Unfortunately, he’s burned up all of his fuel and the fight with Thawne damaged his suit’s thrusters, so he’ll need the Waverider to pick him up if he wan’ go home.
THAWNE: “Puns – the lowest form of humor.”
Well fuck you too, Thawne.
Amaya tries to convince Nate not to let Henry return to 1956, but Nate thinks that if his dad had grown up with a father, maybe he wouldn’t have been such a jackass and Nate himself could have had a better childhood. Amaya doesn’t see the need to “fix three generations of Heywood men” since she likes Nate the way he is. They’re interrupted by Gideon warning them of an imminent collision – they’re pursuing the command module, but it’s about to fly into some meteoroids. Rip says the tractor beam wouldn’t work because the command module’s velocity would just pull them in anyway. Really? The ship with all kinds of maneuverability and its own gravitational field can’t slow the command module? Sara grabs the command module and puts the Waverider between it and the meteoroids. Rip argues that destroying the meteoroids is a far better plan. Sara recalls the time when the Waverider tanked a nuke. Rip retorts that he had the decency to time scatter them first, Sara complains about getting sent to a time period of witch hangings…
Mommy and Daddy are fighting. :(
The Waverider survives, but is critically damaged along with the jump ship…meaning not only is Ray not getting rescued any time soon, but the other Legends themselves are in trouble. Ray does get to do a moonwalk in the Atom suit to recover the piece of the Spear. Heh, the Atom on the moon. That’s one really small step for a superhero.
Ray has a plan to get off the moon! He’s going to route dwarf star power from his suit to fuel the lunar module long enough to link up with the command module again.
Thawne backseat engineers the whole situation, telling Ray what he’s doing wrong since he’s “a scientist from the future”. Really, Thawne? Then how come you couldn’t devise a way to fly to the moon and get the Spear fragment at any point in history after 1969? Why did you have to hitch a ride on a failed mission and alter history so badly? Whatever; I’ll cover that more in a minute. Ray unties Thawne, since they have a mutual interest in getting off the moon.
Amaya tells Henry about time aberrations and how his return to 1956 could screw up Nate’s life. Nate spills the beans about Amaya’s own future to convince her that family is more important than history. Yeah, about that – remember one of the big time travel rules from Season 1? How when someone is in the Temporal Zone they don’t technically have a future until they return to their own timeline? How does Amaya’s granddaughter even exist? I know why Ray remembers Mari – he’s in the Temporal Zone, so his memories aren’t affected – but any descendant of a Legend shouldn’t exist while they’re time-traveling.
Henry reconciles with Rip, saying he’s more angry at himself for his decision to go on the Spear mission than he is at Rip. For his part, Rip regrets not finding a better way to protect the Spear. Henry compliments Rip for making the Legends a better team than the one he originally met, but Rip can’t take the credit for that.
My next headache comes when Thawne says he misses working with Caitlin and Cisco. Which is weird, because up to this point I assumed this Thawne was the one who had just finished killing Nora Allen after Barry fixed Flashpoint, but somehow this is a post-Flash Season 1 Thawne who never disappeared into nothingness when his ancestor shot himself. That makes no goddamn sense. Anyway, Thawne pulls that “we’re not so different” crap with Ray, but also reveals that his sole motivation for getting the Spear is saving his own life, not personal glory. I’ve got to say, Thawne seems earnest when he says that. They launch the lunar module and dock with the command module, which is still in the Waverider’s tractor beam. Ray and Thawne board the Waverider and the command module is released back on its course to Earth. Jax restores the feed.
JAX: “Let’s get history back on track.”
OH, I AM GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT THIS.
Lovell and Haise wake up, answer Mission Control’s call, and everyone cheers…but no one questions what the fuck just happened or why Apollo 13 is now missing its lunar module and command module pilot. But yaaaaay, happy times! Oh, except the Waverider is on reserve power and heading for Earth with very little chance of landing safely.
They need more power to activate the heat shields for re-entry, so Rip has them shut off heat and water filtration, which makes Nate sarcastically comment that it’s not like they need clean water to survive. Well, not during atmospheric re-entry you don’t! On the ground, Stein talks them through re-entry but also spies Hank Heywood (Nate’s father and Henry’s son) in Mission Control, who has won an essay-writing contest which Henry fixed so he’d get the chance to meet his son. All looks as good as it’s going to get, but they need an angle for their descent, otherwise they’ll either burn up or skip off the atmosphere. Thawne gives them the correct approach angle. Nobody is sure if they want to believe Thawne, so Rip leaves the decision in the hands of Captain Sara. She goes with Thawne’s angle, but the thrusters go offline and they need another way to right the ship. While she and Rip argue about who’s going to blow themselves out the airlock to force the ship into the correct angle, Henry runs off to do it himself, sacrificing himself so the Waverider can land safely.
Thawne escapes the brig, but Ray delays him long enough that his Black Flash timer goes off and he has to escape instead of searching the ship for the Spear. Nate finds his teenage father and gives him some cryptic advice along with Henry’s last words. Sara and Rip have a talk that results in leaving Sara in command. Rip has realized Sara is a much better captain, and it’s implied he’s going to stay on as a Legend. Nate and Amaya make up, but as Nate leaves, Amaya asks Gideon the for the historical records of her village and her granddaughter.
Oh my god, where do I start? The episode was all right in plot, characters, and action. It had some funny moments and sad moments and there are some things I really like about it – namely Nate’s interaction with Henry and even Thawne’s conversation with Ray. The problems stem from the absolutely absurd ways history was fucked with in this episode that defy even the regular suspension of disbelief for this show. Apollo 13 was a real mission, a pretty famous one. It was well-covered and documented even in 1970, so there would have been massive aberrations caused in this episode which would have normally have Rip screaming.
In reality, the lunar module stayed with the craft until they made it back to Earth. Lovell, Haise, and Swigert actually spent much of the trip in it because the command module was shot to hell. Both the service and lunar modules were actually photographed after their separation, and these photos as well as the astronauts’ observations contributed to figuring out what went wrong with the mission in the first place. The investigation, subsequent reports, and recommendations later went into improving future missions and preventing future catastrophes. I’m not great at explaining it, but there are several resources online where you can read about the mission. Or, if you like, you can watch the 1995 film Apollo 13, which was historically accurate…ish.
In this new history the Legends have created, the lunar module was separated from the command module and it landed on the moon. Jack Swigert was apparently never on the crew, and the command module splashed down with only James Lovell and Fred Haise onboard. Haise and Lovell also have no memory of the mission after “Swigert” stabbed them both with a needle moments before communication blackout. This would have led to huge aberrations and mysteries which would have continued to be investigated to this very day, yet somehow “history is back on track”.
I thought the Pentagon incident and the couple of nukes the team set off in Season 1 were bad, but this takes the cake. When you’re writing time travel stories which were “totally part of history all along”, you have to have at least something plausible. Bend historical fact, don’t break it. Otherwise you end up with a plot that functions like a goddamn cartoon. I’m not even much of a space program nerd, but when even I can’t sit through the episode without rolling my eyes at this stuff, well…Houston, we have a problem.
Next time: the Legends are going to World War I for…reasons? Also a familiar face shows up and makes a bunch of fans happy.
Seriously, fuck you Eobard.
Legends Of Tomorrow airs Tuesdays on the CW at 9 ET/8 CT. Kate can be reached on Twitter @WearyKatie.
Like our content? Please consider supporting us on Patreon!