Legends of Tomorrow "S1E4 White Knights" - Review: From Russia with nuclear physics
White Knights – The team trace Vandal Savage’s next reported location to 1986 in the Soviet Union, where their actions in the '70's have inspired a very particular research project. Sara and Kendra help each other control their inner rage and Rip Hunter reunites with his mentor from the Time Masters.
So after 3 episodes, we’ve finally left the '70's with a fresh barrel of nostalgic fun to dip into in the '80's. The movie references along make it worthwhile as Ray has a complete Top Gun geek-out and Heat Wave threatens to go Rocky IV on a particular Russian henchman. It all helps the show balance out the more serious moments and still feel fun. The opening Pentagon heist sets that tone well as the team’s infiltration is accompanied with the occasional laugh. Snart’s cool little maneuver being a highlight, but Heat Wave gets the Joker of the Week award as his every scene this episode carries some little comedy gem. The multi used technique of Hunter call the out the steps of a plan from the Wave Rider as the team implement them works incredibly well to keep the narrative moving rapidly without feeling rushed, and especially with the Pentagon heist, allows things to be condensed very efficiently within the episode’s run time. The more dominant Russian setting feels very in keeping with the story and its feature of nuclear research, and the cold war material plays well as a period poised on the threat on war that the slightest medalling ripple effect could tip over the edge. It also introduces the comic character of Valentina Vostok (able to transform into Negative Woman) that’s set to become a recurring face. The developing story also plays on the running theme of causality as their '70's fight with Savage inspired the '80's secret project in question; one of the team may soon be feeling much less unique.
Ray & Snart continue to be a very enjoyable pairing as they spend most of the episode together with some great opposites attract chemistry; Ray is lawful good while Snart is chaotic neutral; Ray is enthusiastic and easily over excitable while Snart always keeps his cool. They completely work as a duo as their escapades force them to accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses despite some mutual resentment. The episode also spends some good time fleshing out the fledgling Firestorm pairing as Stein becomes too much of a back head driver for Jax. Once again, Victor Garber proves what a real asset he is to the show as his post fall out monologue flips audience perceptions in an instant, that his anger and frustration towards Jax is not out of patronisation but fear and protection as Stein still blames himself for the death of Ronnie Raymond (Thank God, he didn’t go to Earth 2 this week) and couldn’t live will himself if the same happened to Jax. It almost gives them an odd father-and-son relationship, which feels quite natural being oldest and youngest team members respectively. Just like any parent, we see Stein learning the importance of listening to your child just as much as scolding them.
The Rip Hunter sub plot of the Time Masters catching up with him falls a bit short of the rest of the episode. Martin Donovan is convincing enough as the mentor trying to talk Hunter out of his time meddling, and his course of actions does give us a better picture of the Time Lords as an organization rather than just having Hunter describe them but there is a problem here. The “all is forgiven offer” of abandoning the mission never feels believable for a moment. It feels too strongly against Hunter’s character for the idea be given any serious consideration when considering the lengths and extremes he has already gone to in getting this far. Therefore, the moments of Hunter doing just that fall very flat. Even with Carter’s recent death (and even he’ll be back soon enough), the team isn’t really on the back foot or defeated. If they were down for count after getting recently owned by Savage or they’d just royally screwed the timeline beyond simple repair (like bringing back parachute pants), then this idea would work much better but at this point in the season, it feels far less powerful. The Kendra and Sara combat therapy session also feels a bit wanting. It has some good elements to it but the biggest problem is that Kendra’s sudden “Hawk Goddess rage” feels far too manufactured for the purpose of the story rather than being organic to her character. It’s entirely farfetched but really feels injected more as medium for Sara to talk about her Bloodlust further than to develop Kendra’s character. There are also a few minutes during their sparing when Caiara Renee sadly doesn’t convince with her staff fighting.
Although this is still a fun episode, it’s the first case of Legends showing some inconsistency that will hopefully just be a waver in quality. The visuals are still great with the action sequences (especially the aerial fight) looking gorgeous. It sets up a great cliff-hanger and continuation for next week, and with episode 6 being a known jump to the future, we can be sure of a conclusion. Hmmm.... going from the '80's to the future; I wonder what films they’ll be referencing?