River of Time – After discovering that the captured Vandal Savage has been manipulating time, the team rush him back to The Vanishing Point to get The Time Masters back on their side and make him face judgement. But will they make it there in one piece?
There’s no denying that this is a stalling episode. It’s just here to stretch the situation of a captured Savage out a little longer before the final two episodes, and as such, it does feel quite claustrophobic, being almost entirely contained within the familiar Wave Rider interiors. That doesn’t make the episode is a write-off, it just means that director Alice Troughton (Merlin) needs to be more creative in framing and presenting her scenes... but sadly she doesn’t, making this the most generic Legends episode to date. Then combine that with the episode’s centrepiece: the captured villain worming his way into our heroes minds with hard truths and manipulation of fears, is something we’re getting far too used to seeing in the modern superhero genre (Joker in police interrogation, Loki in the hellicarrier cage, Wilson Fisk in prison etc.). It’s a shame because Casper Crump is doing a lot of good work here as he picks apart each of his visitors, especially his attempts to sympathize with Ray as another guy pining for Kendra but knowing they’ll never truly have her. Yet the blander presentation pulls things back down to ordinary levels. You really can’t shake the feeling that we’ve seen this all before and better on the big and small screen alike.
Playing with Rip Hunter’s obsession fairs far better though as given all we’ve seen from this season, it feels very in-character for him to push things too far in his need to finally defeat Savage. Arthur Darvill has been the show’s standout performer all season long, and that doesn’t change this week as he battles with his own denial superbly. Not to mention that the reveal of his Egyptian prison break is one of the most enjoyable moments of the entire season. The Jax story is also quite an interesting feature of the episode. There’s been a long-running long joke about consequences and after effects to time travel, but this is the first time we’ve really seen that explored in a drastic fashion. Yet it all develops into little more than a cool idea and even Jax’s makeup effects are unconvincing. After his mask-based reappearance last episode, Falk Hentschel makes a good return as Carter and really makes us wish he’d been brought back sooner. He does well with the off-character brainwashed persona to show just enough of the Carter/Hawkman we knew while providing a harsher contrast for Kendra to play off against.
The usage of pre-departure flashbacks is largely very effective. Firstly, they allow for a nice roll call of Flash and Arrow character cameos and manage to reflect back to their character’s present day issues without felling overly pandering. Secondly, there’s a nice book ending feel to looking at the beginning as the end approaches. The Sara/Nyssa farewell is particularly touching. Despite being a conversation-heavy episode, the final act action we do is impressive and it’s good to see more of the team in direct physical conflict with Savage. In fact, the entire final act really does pick the episode up as it becomes more eventful. The CG exteriors of The Vanishing Point may be brief but they utterly breathtaking and worthy of a Tivo rewind. It’s such a contrast from the gloomy council chamber interiors we’ve previously witnessed and hopefully feature again before the end. Then of course, the climatic events and Time Master reunion come with some good twists and less expected play out to leave the show in good position going into final episodes of the season.
It’s a shame that what could have been such a fun setup results into the only genuinely disappointing episode of the season to date. It has a few laughs like Mick’s snack outrage but too much of what transpires feels out of character for those involved, especially Ray going berserk against Savage.... why? However, this is an episode with a clear story objective and with that accomplished, hopefuly Legends will be back to its best to go out with a bang.