Legends of Tomorrow just did a zombie episode! Happy belated Halloween, everyone!
This week’s hour began like the “Night of the Hawk” episode Legends pulled in season 1, with the team having to battle mutant creatures in a monster-of-the-week format. But this one had far bigger, darker implications: In 1863 Mississippi, Jax and Amaya have to face more than just the undead. They have to face the intolerant racism and slavery of the Confederate South.
And it’s good on Legends for finally giving Jax some proper screen time. We’re only a few episodes into season 2, sure, but Jax has been sidelined on every mission so far, either bickering with Stein or having to fix yet another part of the ship while occasionally doling out a quip or two as the rest of the team takes center stage. But Jax pulling off plenty of heroics tonight wasn’t just well-deserved; it was thrilling to watch.
But first, we obviously have to talk about the zombies running rampant during the height of the Civil War. It turns out a time pirate, the lone survivor of his infected ship crash, lands
into the plot of The Expanse in Mississippi in 1863, where he transmits a distress call and activates a beacon — just before turning into one of the walking dead and spreading the infection to the Confederate soldiers who have come upon him and his escape pod.
Aboard the Waverider, the team receives the message and Sara quickly takes charge, instructing everyone to prepare themselves for their mission — and for the Atom suit-less Ray to stay aboard. Stein makes the same argument to Jax, because he’s worried the color of Jax’s skin will put him in harm’s way. Jax, of course, knows American history, but assures the professor he’s ready for whatever racism he faces; after all, it’s not like racism didn’t exist in the time they came from.
And with that, newly minted Team Mom Ray packs everyone’s lunches before they go off to contain the time pirate. Unfortunately, they have no idea the time pirate’s infection hasn’t been contained — and when they incinerate the escape pod, they come across Henry Scott, a real-life slave who spied on the South for the Union Army, as well as the undead chasing him. After a brutal fight showing Mick using a boulder to smash a zombie’s head, Sara stabbing one (or two…or three) right in the throat, and Amaya going Vixen-mode to toss a zombie, the team gathers to figure out what they need to do now. Stein, for one, wants to get away from the zombies as soon as possible — he’s, simply put, terrified of them. But before they can move, Jax sees Henry Scott has been stabbed and is bleeding out. Before he dies, Henry gives him the intel he needs to complete the mission to steal Confederate plans for the Union.
Back on the ship, Mick succumbs to an infection from a nasty bite wound he received during the fight, leading Stein and Ray to take him to the med bay. Meanwhile, the rest of the team study up on American history: It turns out Henry Scott was on the very mission that would grant, well, Ulysses S. Grant a key victory in battle, and without that mission complete, history is in real trouble. Oh, and there’s zombies everywhere in the South, helping the Confederates make enough of a mess to possibly win over the Union. So, uh, there’s still that to fix.
The team, therefore, splits off into three groups: The first, consisting of Ray, Stein, and Mick, work to save Mick from living life as an extra on The Walking Dead. The second, with Sara and Nate, must venture to Grant’s Union camp to warn them of the zombie threat and find a way to eliminate the infected. The third, Vixen and Jax, must finish the pivotal mission by heading to Henry’s destination: The Collins plantation.
Let’s start with Mick’s predicament: In the med bay, Mick pleads for Ray to help him — and Ray tries his best, creating a vaccine that might cure him. But when it’s injected, Mick’s infection spreads and winds up taking him over. Ray and Stein get out of the med bay just in time to stun and lock Mick in, leaving them to ponder whether Mick really is unconscious or not. (It’s a unique case of Schrödinger’s Mick, if you will.) Eventually, they enter, only to find Mick has indeed wandered away, leaving the ship dark and damaged — like a Legends version of Alien. A shaky Stein and stoic Ray find Mick, but Mick is too vicious to allow either of them close enough to administer another dose of the vaccine, and even traps the pair of brains to a corner of the ship.
After panicking about what to do, Ray realizes they may be able to disperse the vaccine a different way — through the air, via fire extinguisher. So in their third attempt to save Mick, they wander back out, but Ray quickly falls unconscious after Mick attacks him. Stein follows a little later, butcher knife in hand, and prowls through the halls until he finds Mick and blasts the vaccine in his face. It’s impeccable timing: With Mick about to bite into Stein’s face, the vaccine works and brings back normal Mick — who delivers his funniest line yet, thanks to the situation: “Professor, what’s going on?” he asks. “Was I just trying to kiss you?”
Though everything aboard the ship works out, what happens outside, well, doesn’t.
NEXT: Saving and making history
At the Union Army’s camp, Sara and Nate banter about what they should do, with Nate insisting he take the lead because, you know, he’s a man! Sara scoffs but lets him be in charge — and, of course, he falls flat on his face as he tries to pull off his alias as “Colonel Sanders” in the Union Army. It’s a lie that causes Grant to draw his gun, but Sara cools the men’s heads by striding out of camp and bringing back a zombie head as proof of their existence.
But with the zombies approaching quickly, Sara and Nate don’t have enough time to round up more of their team — Jax and Vixen are occupied, and so is everyone on the ship — so they have to craft their own plan. Ultimately, it’s Sara who figures out the best way to destroy all the zombies at once: She spies a giant container of the explosive nitroglycerin and enlists Nate to use his Commander Steel powers and survive the explosion. Nate agrees to play his part, but barely makes it out alive. He distracts the zombies, leading them on a chase away from camp, where he steels on top of the crate and detonates everything.
Covered in zombie guts, he makes it out alive the next morning, and Sara’s overjoyed to see him. (Hmm… Are we seeing a budding romance here? Because if so, I… I’m not that into it. Yet.) With Ray’s successful vaccine available to de-infect the hordes of zombies, all’s well — and Grant takes the opportunity to offer some words of wisdom to Sara, who’s been struggling with seeing her teammates off to certain danger. He explains leaders have to believe in their men and their mission, and that’s all they can do when it comes to these tough decisions. She smiles as he walks away. Second team’s mission accomplished!
Which leaves us with the final pair: Jax and Vixen, who witness more brutality than they were prepared for when they arrive at the plantation. Jax thinks all they have to do is sneak inside — invisible thanks to their race — steal the plans, and get out as quickly as possible. But before they can, they glimpse a female slave getting choked and whipped for burning her master’s tablecloth. It’s an inhumane, painful scene that disturbs Jax and Vixen, as the latter is ready to go in and save the slave. Jax says they can’t, since they have to be careful not to touch any part of history.
At night, they prepare to enter the cotillion the Collinses are throwing. But when Jax doesn’t find anything in the study, he riles up Collins himself after addressing a white woman. He winds up being chained inside a barn with the other slaves, punched for failing to do as Collins said. After the slaves notice how un-slave-like he looks — “Have you ever worked a day in your life?” one asks — Jax asks them how they’ve survived this torture. They explain to him they haven’t gone mad because they know they’re meant to be broken, but have hope it won’t happen. As they sing, Jax realizes he can’t just give up on them because history worked out the way it did, and his anger and pain affects even Stein.
Vixen, after waiting outside, figures out something is wrong and takes matters into her own hands. She gets herself taken to the barn to the other slaves, then beats up the man who took her there and frees Jax, who reverses his earlier position and insists they help free the other slaves, too. Vixen smiles, and they’re about to depart when they see the zombies charging toward the mansion.
To save everyone, Jax convinces one of Collins’ male slaves to accompany him toward the mansion and distract the zombies while Vixen takes everyone else to safety. Inside, the slave finds the hidden Confederate plans and gives them to Jax, before trying to convince Collins to share weapons with them as well. Collins refuses — and for that, he quickly gets overwhelmed in a pile of zombies who eat him alive. Jax and the slave make it out and incinerate them with oil and flames from a lamp.
Outside, Jax takes a moment to enjoy the image of flames flicking across the mansion and what the plantation stood for. When they make it to the Union Army’s camp, he delivers the plans to Grant and says his name is Henry Scott, giving credit to the slave who died.
Back onboard the ship, two key scenes set up what’s to come: First, Ray seeks out Mick to make sure he’s okay and to have a little heart-to-heart. Ray explains he’s felt lost ever since losing his suit, and Mick, in his most heartless moment yet, takes out Captain Cold’s gun and gifts it to Ray, inviting him to be his new partner. Ray reacts in the most appropriate way possible: “Cool,” he whispers, staring at the weapon.
As for the other key scene? It’s the one between Stein and Jax, simply talking over what Jax had seen — a conversation that, to me, encapsulates Legends‘ success in spotlighting Jax and his conflicted feelings about his identity without making light of true slave history. Without this scene, the rest felt a tad too clichéd, but here we got a deeper look into Jax and Stein’s dynamic, and Jax’s psyche as well. Before Stein talks to him, he stands in the library, thinking to himself and thinking of his mother. Stein kindly checks in on his partner, knowing Jax suffered a broken heart from watching “the worst of humanity.” But Jax says he’s not despondent; instead, he saw there’s hope — and that defines who Jax is, after so much time on the show without much development at all. Jax is the Legends’ little brother, and he’s still learning. Though he’ll be sidelined again, with this adventure he learned that although he may be bright-eyed and at times temperamental with Stein, he’ll always have hope, a pure hero.
That character work elevated the episode. The zombies were a stretch and the metaphor for the “abomination” of slavery was laid on a little thick, but that is in keeping with the show’s cheesy style. Plus, having Mick be the one infected worked like gangbusters, especially opposite boy scout Ray and squirming Stein (Victor Garber at his squirmiest is also the funniest note he can play). Sara got some great moments as a leader still figuring out her talents; Nate found a way to be useful to the team without taking all of the spotlight as the new guy; and Vixen is getting some good screen time — though I’m hoping we get to see more of her powers soon and get back on track with her thirst for revenge. We even heard a little more of Barry’s mysterious warning about an impending “war,” making this episode a swashbuckling hour that managed to keep its weightier moments afloat and still feel honest to the team.