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Friday, 15 April 2016

Legends of Tomorrow S1E11: The Magnificent Eight

Legends of Tomorrow
Series 1, Episode 11
The Magnificent Eight

Ugh, the Wild West. It's never been a setting I've been massively fond of (my enduring love of Red Dead Redemption aside), because even though I do understand the appeal somewhat, the misty-eyed romanticism that writers tend to approach it with, which bleeds into nearly any work set in it, has always put me off of it, somewhat. As I've gotten older, that's only been compounded by understanding the issues of colonialism and whitewashing that surround Westerns, but I found the setting boring and a little bit irritating even when I was a tiny child.

Still, the Arrowverse doesn't let me down tremendously often, so maybe I would enjoy Legend's take on it. Or, at the very least, maybe it would only last an episode.

Fleeing the Hunters, the Waverider and its crew land in a 'fragmentation', a time and place that the Time Masters cannot see - the town of Salvation, Dakota, 1871. Spurred on by their romantic notions of the Old West, the team heads out for a little downtime, only to quickly end up murdering an important member of the local Stillwater gang and getting into a brawl. With the Stillwater gang seeking revenge on Salvation, the team bands together with mysterious cowboy Jonah Hex to stop them. Meanwhile, Kendra tracks down a woman she met at the saloon, only to find that she's meeting herself from a past life.

Ray, people are staring.

Oh, lordy, where to start with this episode. I don't even mean that in the sense of 'it wasn't very good', I mean it in the sense of 'I genuinely don't know what I'm meant to say about this episode.'

We'll start with Jonah Hex. The man's clearly being set up to potentially join the cast of the next Legends series, but he doesn't really have a lot going for him. Jonathan Schaech plays him growly-voiced and surly, which is fun right up until you realise that he's almost incapable of playing any emotion which isn't 'nonchalant surliness.' With no particular backstory or personal stake in the plotline he becomes essentially a prop for the rest of the cast, providing either exposition on local customs and gang politics, or exposition on Rip's past - both of which could have (and arguably should have, if only to save on makeup costs) been done by Gideon. In a cast full of bombastic characters, he is more often than not drowned out by louder, more entertaining people, meaning he often fades into the background.

Jonah Hex.

All of which hits on one of Legend's recurring problems, which is that its massive ensemble cast (often too massive for it to cope with, given that it keeps having characters sidelined) does not lend itself well to guest stars. We saw this last episode with Ray's brother's descendant, whose name I've already forgotten, who showed up for two scenes and whose extremely plot-relevant character arc was basically implied rather than ever actually seen. We saw this back in the Star City episode, where the conflict between Connor and Ollie was reduced to about six lines of dialogue, making it seem like their potentially years long disagreement really could have been solved if someone had poked their head around Ollie's door and given him an encouraging platitude.

The Hunters, bigged up in the last episode to be cyborg monstrosities, suffer a similar fate to Jonah, turning up only to give the heroes a chance to use their superpowers before they're rather unceremoniously killed - one by Ray (wow, Ray, that's going to be an awkward conversation with notoriously anti-murder Felicity), one by Mick, and one by - um, someone else? I actually missed who did that one. As if to add insult to injury, the show has Mick rip off one of their masks, revealing what appears to be a middle-aged fellow, and not, as the show had led me to believe, a deformed cyborg killing machine.

So much for 'there's nothing human left of them.'

You still don't really blend in, Ray.

The other plotlines were a little better handled - Stein's treatment of a young boy with tuberculosis was a very heartwarming plot, if a slightly cliched one. It closes with him finding out the boy is named Wells, and it was genuinely up in the air for a moment if the show would decide to go down the 'oh my god, you're HG Wells' route or the 'oh my god, you're Harrison Wells' great grandfather' route, because either would have made sense for Stein, who is, after all, both a science fiction geek and work colleague of Wells.

Kendra departing from the main storyline again to go track down some woman in a valley, however, I was somewhat less keen on. While the idea that Kendra would encounter herself in the past is interesting, all it really came down to was a rant about how she can only be with Carter, culminating in her reaffirming that she wants to be with Ray. That was pretty much her subplot last episode, as well. Also, it was her subplot the episode before that one. Please stop giving Kendra subplots that exist only to reaffirm her romantic interest in Ray. 

Next week apparently sees another hunter, the Pilgrim (who is the biggest, best hunter the Time Masters have, apparently) trying to kill the team as children. That should be fun.

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