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Friday, 22 April 2016

Legends of Tomorrow S1E12: Last Refuge

Legends of Tomorrow
Series 1, Episode 12
Last Refuge

You know, I think it's time we talked about the mechanics of time travel in this show - not just because it's a show that heavily features time travel, but also because it exists in the same universe as The Flash, which also has time travel as an important element, and the two are starting to contradict each other in a big way.

In this week's episode, a forty-five minute Terminator homage, the team race to find and protect their younger selves before the Pilgrim can kill them. Helpless against the Pilgrim's powers to manipulate time, the group finds itself repeatedly on the back foot - and things only get worse when the Pilgrim gets wise to their scheme, masking her transit through time and later taking their family members hostage, threatening to kill them unless Rip hands over his own past self.

Okay, so, time travel. Perhaps more than any other episode of Legends, this episode hinges on the mechanics of time travel in the Arrowverse, because its central conflict is so intrinsically tied to cause and effect: The Pilgrim goes back in time, kills people's younger selves (which, purportedly, she can only attempt once, or else risk doing irreparable damage to the timeline), and this causes them to die of the same injuries in their current time.

Basically Mary Poppins.

Apart from the fact that that doesn't make much sense - Why would Ray suddenly start gaining internal injuries? Shouldn't he just vanish, because having been killed he could have never joined the mission in the first place? If he doesn't, shouldn't he just turn into a rotted cadaver in an instant? Why is 'we have to race against time to stop this' a thing when time travel is involved? - it also directly contradicts the time travel rules that have been established in The Flash, where the idea of 'timeline remnants', people paradoxically surviving despite their younger selves or ancestors being dead, is a major part of the plot.

(It really shouldn't be, but that's a ramble for another time.)

The Flash also introduced us to the idea that time paradoxes cause either singularities to form or Cisco to die, and there's nothing more paradoxical than 'killing someone's younger self because of something their older self did thus preventing their older self from doing the thing that will cause you to go back in time and kill their younger self.' Why aren't singularities forming? Why isn't Cisco coughing up blood in every episode of The Flash?

The time manipulation is cool, though.

(This is something that other shows handle a lot better - Doctor Who, for all its many flaws, actually isn't too terrible at keeping its time travel mechanics straight, largely because it's always very, very vague in how they work, replacing logic with flapping a hand and saying something vaguely catchy - so it's baffling that Legends is struggling so much with it.)

If it seems like I'm harping on about time travel mechanics over-much, it's because this episode doesn't give me much more to talk about. It feels more like filler than anything, because the Pilgrim doesn't make an especially compelling or effective villain, being so bland and lifeless that you could replace her with an evil lamp and it probably wouldn't affect the plot much. The confusing and inconsistent time travel mechanics are distracting, and since we all know the show won't kill off one of its main cast by having them suddenly and undramatically expire in the present, there's no dramatic tension. 

The B-plot and C-plot (Jax trying to save his father from an IED and Kendra and Ray having more relationship troubles) didn't manage to sustain my interest very far either. Franz Drameh's superb acting could really only take Jax's plotline very far when the show was only willing to devote about five minutes of time to it, and Kendra and Ray's romance is incredibly, deeply boring, and I would dearly like it to go away now.

Young Mick, having his 'fire is great' moment.

The introduction of a home for future Time Masters, run by a Mary Poppins-ish governess, was actually a really nice one that I enjoyed a lot, but it was really this episode's only redeeming feature. I admit, it had never occurred to me to be even remotely interested in Ray's past, but finding out that he was a cutpurse was a nice touch, one that made him a somewhat liminal figure in the team - heroic-ish like Jax, Stein, Ray, and Kendra, but with a criminal past like Len, Mick, and Sara. 

Next episode sees the team going to Savage's invasion of the world, the time period where he'll eventually kill Rip's wife and child. It's all very dystopian looking, and also there's a giant green ... wait, is that a robot Captain Atom? That's - I'm just not sure what to think about a giant nuclear robot, guys. I just don't know.

Anyway, should be a fun episode - god knows that between this one and the last two episodes, we need one. 

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