Legends of Tomorrow "S1E8 Night of the Hawk" - 50s fright fest
Night of the Hawk – The team follows a lead on Vandal Savage back to a quaint little '50's town of good old-fashioned values and racial prejudice. Yet a series of grisly murders and disappearances reveal that there’s more than one monster in this town.
After last week’s out-of-nowhere awesomeness, this episode doesn’t quite reach the same heights. It has a great idea in being a homage to the classic era of monster movies to which the '50's "Pleasantville" setting plays perfectly. Similarly, the monster creatures themselves are superbly delivered in makeup and effects to feel equally creepy and the fun kind of corny. The retained human clothing stops any Wizard of Oz flying monkey jokes and in some cases, like a certain leather jacket wearer, makes them look rather cool.
The script also takes great pleasure in playing on both classic and modern creature feature troupes. While Hunter and Snart rolling in as incognito FBI agents feels old school, so too does it have a touch of Sam & Dean to it. Then, we also get creepy basements, mad experimenting doctors and kids attacked during car make out sessions. On paper, it’s all great but it loses some of its effect by being such a change in direction to the series to date. A show that based itself heavily on science fiction and superhero lore suddenly plunging into supernatural fantasy is a bit of a handbrake turn, and it may leave some viewers distracted and finding less enjoyment for leaving their comfort zones.
The '50's setting is whole heap of good times. Firstly, there’s so much Back to the Future referencing you’ll be shouting “Great Scott” at the screen in delight. The best examples are Jax nicknaming the diner bully Biff and Ray, implying Jax is going to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance (though thankfully, nobody makes out with their mom here). While Jax also gets his fair share of racial hatred to stand up to, the subject is more entertaining when explored through Kendra and Ray in the suburbs polite society. It feels very influenced by 2011's Oscar Nominated The Help. It’s both funny and entertaining to see the less enlightened locals repeatedly mistaking Kendra for a housemaid but even better to watch Kendra make them eat those words in response. The ideas of changing times are also extended well to homosexuality as Sara finds her first potential love interest since her days with Nyssa al Gul. There’s an interesting “It gets better” feel to her scenes with Lindsey as Sara tells her that she won’t be forced in the closet for much longer. The flip of this arc on her character doesn’t work quite as well for requiring too much subsequent explanation rather reaching the required emotions. However, when Sara’s given lighter material this week she’s lethally funny such as her slow death threats to Stein. Overall, we have to give writers Sarah Nicole Jones & Cortney Norris some serious credit; they could have easily skipped over these period social issues in favour of a lighter tone. Instead they have embraced them for a much more meaningful result.
After 2 weeks off, Vandal Savage returns on the scene, and despite the odd occurrence of the show improving without him, Casper Crump does immediately make the presence felt and actually gives an entirely new dimension on his character. It speaks nothing but praise to his performance that somehow Savage is even creepier while presenting normality than he is while starting over the altar of a human sacrifice. That builds some terrific tension into his socializing scenes with Kendra (they may be the first ancient arch enemies ever to bring each other casserole) as we’re constantly studying his character for the moment of switching or signs that the beast still lurks underneath. Of course, this does come with some draw backs with predictability, especially when Kendra tries to take him down solo. While it’s entertaining to see Kendra straining to hold the charade as Savage gets very personal, the entire premise of the series tells us she’s going to fail before it’s even started.
The fate of Mick Rory is handled very well as a minor note to the episode. By making Snart the only one knowing the truth, it naturally allows other team members to ask what happened to him on our behalf. Did Snart put him on ice or chill out at the last minute? Now while the answer is not revealed, the episode does a good job of gently nursing the highly likely idea that Mick is still alive by focusing on Snart’s actions. Martin Stein sums it up best: this episode has monsters but he is not one of them based on his actions to save other team members. We can call it a near certainty that the big and oddly lovable hot head will be bursting back on to our screens at some point. The question just becomes how and when. In many ways, this nicely leaves Legends with an ace up its sleeve to have Mick acting as the most unlikeable cavalry in an unexpected moment of need.
It’s the most unorthodox Legends episode to date and has a lot of charms to it, but everything just doesn’t quite fit together with the same finesse as some prior episodes (especially last week). This marks the series' half way point (concluding with episode 16), and comes with a nice cliff-hanger going into a 2-week break. Still to come: we have the return of Matt Nable’s Ra’s al Ghul (rumoured for next episode) and Jonah Hex in the Old West. The show, along with its Flash and Arrow counterparts, has just been renewed for another season. It looks like these heroes are just getting started.