“That’ll teach you to mess with an nuclear physicist.”
These were the words uttered by 60-something Professor Stein after he made short work of a time pirate, defeating him off-screen and claiming both his gun and beret, the obvious hat of choice among all time pirates. We were meant to expect the pirate to easily subdue an elderly man like Stein, especially when the sound of fist fighting could be heard after they both exited off-screen behind a sliding door. Instead, Stein confidently emerged the victor, wearing a look on his face which said “Like that’s really the first time I’ve had to do that.”
It was a flip on expectations in Legends of Tomorrow‘s first full-on Star Trek episode.
The crew receives a distress signal from another Time Agent’s ship, and since her ship has a piece of tech which could prove invaluable to their larger mission (rhymes with Mandal Ravage) Rip takes Mick, Jax and Stein on the away mission. Ray serves as the acting captain for the rest of the crew back on the Wave Rider.
Rip’s only contingency plan in case they happen to be walking into a trap (which they are) is to leave the good Professor behind on their boarding ship as back-up. Stein’s easily the least qualified member of the so-called Legends to slip into full-on Die Hard mode. So, of course, that’s exactly what he’s forced to do, living out his own version of “Rick Starr: Space Ranger” (something he read as a kid) and consistently surprising those who would underestimate him, ultimately taking out several thugs and freeing Rip and pals from the brig.
It’s an amusing turn of events, but it’s also a reminder of this show’s fundamental silliness. There’s no logical explanation for how the elderly Stein could defeat a hardened pirate in hand-to-hand combat. Maybe he actually had a weapon hidden on the other side of that sliding door, and he baited the pirate into his trap. However, the sound effects don’t support that explanation. Instead, it sounds like Stein more or less delivered an Austin Powers-style judo chop to the pirate’s shoulders, causing him to instantly lose consciousness.
It doesn’t have to make sense because it’s a light-hearted moment in a fairly silly show. Plus, Victor Garber appears to be having the time of his life with it. It’s the type of moment you watch and remember “don’t take this show too seriously.” Come on, he’s fighting a freakin’ time pirate! Not your run-of-the-mill pirate or maybe a space pirate. Nope. A time pirate, as if that’s the most normal thing in the world.
AS FOR THE REST OF THE EPISODE…
The problem, as Vulture argued, is that although “Legends of Tomorrow isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, that doesn’t mean it gets a pass for its many problem. For a show like this to work, it needs a compelling villain, high stakes, an interesting mythology, and a fun cast.”
Well, they’re already pretty screwed on “compelling villain” because Vandal Savage is just all kinds of terrible, laughable instead of menacing. The “stakes” are “end of the world” high, but that too borders on the comical because of the melodramatic tone Rip always takes when discussing the doom and gloom they aim to prevent. The “mythology,” if that’s what you’d call it, suffers from the fact it’s so tied to a boring villain, but it also suffers because this show is still figuring out what it wants to be.
Most of the time Legends wants to be a comic book time travel show, but for budgetary reasons at least a third of every episode has to take place on the established sets of their space ship. Then, out of nowhere, “Marooned” gave us a Star Trek episode set entirely in space, splitting its time between CGI ships firing on each other while maneuvering through the stars and scenes where the good guys wander the various corridors of the ships, the production crew obviously working overtime to redress the same old sets.
It’s not that it wasn’t well done. In fact, the climactic fights spread across the Wave Rider and the pirate-controlled ship were among the best in this show’s history. It’s more that you want to tell the producers to pick a lane and stick to it. We don’t really need to see time pirates invading ships just an excuse to cue up Rip’s flashbacks to how he met his wife, who was a better Time Agent than him but gave it all up after they fell in love.
That leaves just “fun cast” from the Vulture criteria, and at this point some members of the cast are only really fun when used right. Not surprisingly, the dissolution of Mick and Leonard’s partnership has been the most compelling arc for any of the characters because it actually predates the show. It’s a continuation of something those two started on The Flash, and Miller and Purcell already have a long history together thanks to Prison Break.
“Marooned” cut through their typically cartoonish performances to show some of their humanity, i.e., Leonard telling Sara how Mick saved him when they were teenagers, Mick expressing his anger and sense of betrayal upon learning that Rip never even wanted to bring him along. The final scene of Leonard taking out Mick after he turned on the entire team is most likely a swerve, with Mick later returning, actually in cahoots with Leonard on some last-second scheme he cooked up to save their partnership. Even so, they played their final confrontation to an effective end.
As for everyone else, they’re still building up their histories together. Sara, who’s usually been paired with Rip, made for a compelling partner with Leonard in “Marooned,” the two huddled together and near-death, bonding over how they both come from darkness and are now drawn to the light. Stein was good comic relief while Jax was mostly just around. Rip and Mick’s confrontation was theoretically interesting, but it was actually another example of how Rip might just be the worst captain ever.
Kendra and Ray continued their romantic banter, and in the end she passionately kissed him, finally consummating
their long courtship that flirtation they literally just started last week after barely ever talking to each other. Their chemistry seemed more organic this week, but this still feels rushed in service to this show’s consistent challenge to find something for all of the characters to do.
“Marooned” was a technically well-made episode, likely born out of a budget-conscious need to only use (and redress and reuse) their pre-existing sets for a week. They showed us more of Rip’s background with his wife, and brought a temporary end to Mick and Leonard’s partnership. The climactic fights were well choreographed and edited, including one swooping camera moment on the Wave Rider which recalled the iconic hero shot from the Avengers. In the end, not much was actually accomplished toward their ultimate goal, though. Such a diversion away from the fight against Vandal Savage is welcomed because Savage is a terrible character, but this is the second week in a row they’ve done that. Next week’s episode promises to get away from such wheel spinning, but is it a big problem that this show’s best episodes so far has been the ones which pretended that Vandal Savage doesn’t exist?
1. Biggest Nitpick: Gideon piloted the ship for Mick when he returned to the Wave Rider with the pirates, but how did her sensors not pick up the presence of the pirates in that ship?
2. Guest Star of the Week: Callum Keith Rennie was the time pirate captain. Good for him. I still mostly associate him with the old buddy cop procedural Due South. You might know him from Battlestar Galactica.
3. Notable line: Rip – “They’re time pirates.” Arthur Darville says this line with complete sincerity, and the foreboding musical score wants us to take this declaration quite seriously. Come on, Legends. You’re a goofy show. You don’t have to play this all so straight. That would have been a great time to cut to Jax saying, “Time pirates? That’s a real thing?”
4. Parting Question: Is Kendra knowing her Star Trek similar to Morena Baccarin knowing her Star Wars in Deadpool, i.e. the type of geek knowledge male writers give to Hollywood-gorgeous female characters to make them seem like the ultimate dreamgirl? Or is it sexist that I’ve even think that?