The Magnificent Eight – In fleeing from The Hunters, Rip takes the team to the Old West town of Salvation in 1871 as being a temporal blind spot in the timeline. Despite calls to lie low, the team can’t help get involved when a group of villainous outlaws threaten to lay waste to the town. Rip also reunites with an old friend in the facially scared bounty Hunter, Jonah Hex.
This is in many ways the most interesting Legends episode to date in the way it almost completely ditches its big Vandal Savage story arc to spend a week having fun with Westerns.... and that is the key word, “fun”, because this episode packs a whole wagon train full of it. In the same way that Star City 2046 worked so well for sidelining the main story and playing with Arrow’s lore, the pressure is off the episode. It comes with no requirements or expectations (other than the previously teased Hunters showing up in the last 5 minutes), making it an episode that encourages you to just sit back and enjoy the ride without needing to piece anything together. The Magnificent Seven title riffing title says it all as the episode joyfully ticks off all entries on its Western bucket list. Bar fights, shoot-outs, saloon drinking, saloon girls and many more besides all feature. However, what makes the alternative time period works so well is the various cast members slide so easily into classic Western archetypes. Ray “the big lovable geek” is on outstanding form as he indulges in the encourageable heroism of the time period for a good old-fashioned save-the-town storyline while Rip Hunter shies away as the reluctant hero. Ray’s choice of fake names also improves dramatically from last week. Then Snart makes the smallest of leaps to being an outlaw gunslinger in such kill-or-be-killed times, and just like in the '70's, Mick Rory was born to be a bar-fighting brawler. Martin Stein gets an interesting Doc Brown angle (“I am a scientist you know”) as he finds his own Clara for a spot or morality time-meddling debating. This also manages to sneak some notions about his family past with more in common with Snart than either of them suspected.
The main attraction here though is Jonah Hex and Johnathon Schaech (Qunatico). No time is wasted in diving into his origins other than a setup prior encounter with Rip Hunter (where Rip got his long coat). Instead the plan is just to let us enjoy him being a badass. He plays perfectly into the existing team dynamic as a straight talking BS caller with his slow steady motions and throat full of gravel. Although we won’t see him taking a seat on the Wave Rider any time soon, it’s highly likely we’ll be seeing him again at some point next season (there will be some main cast substitutions for Season 2, rumors include Vixen and Connor Hawke joining the team).
The Kendra & Sara’s side quest isn’t as enjoyable as the main story but does offer an interesting new take on Kendra’s character. It’s been good to see the show using idea of her of past lives more in recent episodes as here, she meets an unexpected familiar face. It provides some examination of the Ray/Kendra relationship but with the pair spending most of the episode apart, it ends of having to rush together an aftermath for the pair. That and the simple fact that although they can be a laugh, Ray & Kendra just don’t have the same chemistry we saw from the original Hawk duo. It makes it hard to invest in them when we’d much rather have Carter swooping back onto the scene.
The biggest disappointment of the episode are The Hunters. For all their hype last week, the treat turns out to be minimal. It does give the team something, and it gave a good old-fashioned superpowers battle against, made all the cooler by the Western town setting. Mick Rory says it all, “You’ll never win.... wake up pal, we already did”. The Time Masters might have well sent a bunch of Care Bears to get the job done rather than this bunch of muppets. Not only does this impact the immediate episode but it devalues the similar tease of the mysterious “Pilgrim” master assassin. It’s difficult to see her as any real threat after the same claim last episode produced such mediocre results.
It’s an episode that will give western and Firefly fans plenty to yee-hah about as this future sci-fi/Western adventure feels like a less silly version of Red Dwarf’s Gunman of the Apocalypse. It gets riddled with holes in a couple places but regardless of the odd flaw this (like last episode) is more of what we want to see Legends doing: diving headlong into vastly different time periods rather than spending half its episodes in the 20th century. Especially when it gives gems like this that part geekery, part-Tarantino and all round fun as we ride off into the sunset for another week.