The Legends faced two Cold Wars in their latest outing. The first threatened U.S.-Soviet relations in 1987, while the second threatened to break the team apart.
Presumably, you know the history of the latter, so let’s talk the former. When Damien Darhk causes a time aberration that’ll lead to a time quake — Nate’s cobbled together a newfangled “time seismograph” to detect epicenters — the team travels to 1987 the day before the INF Treaty is signed, only to discover the source of the aberration is Damien Darhk. Darhk is, as you’ll recall, the man Sara would very much like to kill to avenge her sister. But if she does, she goes against exactly what she told Jax not to do: to change history in any way, shape, or form, no matter how much your conscience interferes.
And what’s Darhk up to anyway? It turns out he’s been working on collecting precious relics (anything related to the genesis of fascism is a plus), along with trying to end the world and build H.I.V.E. and the Ark and all the shenanigans Team Arrow eventually dismantles in season 4. But because we’re not there yet, Double D is still up to his nefarious ways. When Eobard Thawne gets him out of a tight spot in 1987, he agrees to help the time-traveling speedster with his latest plot: to ruin the end of the Cold War by destroying the White House and stopping the INF Treaty from ever being signed. That way, they’d be able to stockpile missiles, not destroy them. Hooray for nuclear warfare!
Once the Legends stop bickering among themselves — Ray’s not so great with the Cold gun, so Mick’s on him to rebel a little like Snart would have; Jax and Stein still can’t see eye-to-eye about this butterfly-effect thing — they manage to travel to D.C. in 1987 to stop Darhk. There, Nate accompanies Vixen to reach out to the JSA and see if they can help, but when they arrive at what’s supposed to be the most elite training facility ever, they discover the place coated in dust and cobwebs. Nate, distraught he won’t learn much more about his grandfather, freaks out when a much older Obsidian — or rather, Todd Rice, a.k.a. the son of the first Green Lantern, Alan Scott! — appears and confronts Vixen about her abandoning the team back in 1942. He knocks out poor Todd, but the old man isn’t an invalid; he just needed a breather and gets back up quickly enough to explain what happened to the JSA.
Apparently, after Rex’s death and World War II, the team continued its work, but Eastern Europe grew very shaky under the U.S.S.R. and the Iron Curtain. So at one point, Eisenhower sent them to Leipzig, Germany, from where no one ever returned. Todd stayed behind, because in the 1950s, there wasn’t much respect for a gay man like him. Hearing all this, Amaya apologizes to Todd for leaving and promises to use time travel to perhaps fix what’s happened. But first, they’ll need Todd’s help with getting inside 1600 Penn.
That’s right: The rest of the team is at the White House, and things haven’t gone over very well. Stein was super excited to be visiting the White House in the 1980s, until he realized his younger self had also managed to make it inside, thanks to — again! — the butterfly effect. Mick and Ray come upon President Reagan’s jelly beans (here’s the full story, in case you’re curious) and Ray tries on his new Snart persona by stealing some and eating them by the mouthful. Sara, hearing from Mick and Ray that Darhk is behind the aberration and is mere feet away inside the White House, abandons the mission and immediately tries to kill him. She gets caught by the Secret Service and, well, you can probably guess what happens next. In short, all hell breaks loose; Ray and Mick’s guns cross streams, causing an explosion; and Firestorm helps all of them run away and get back onto the ship.
NEXT: White House (almost) down
So…yeah. The team realizes that not only have they epically screwed up again, but they’ve got to face down Damien Darhk and stop him before he ruins history. And to make matters worse, everyone’s losing focus. Stein yells at Sara, and Sara fights back by saying Stein would never understand caring for someone. As for Ray and Mick? The less said, the better.
Eventually, they figure out their next steps: They’ll stake out Darhk’s next clandestine meeting (thanks for the easy intel, Gideon!) and figure out why he’s there. Ray and Mick take on the task, bantering about their —oof — “feelings” while watching Darhk on a park bench, waiting for… Boris, is it? Igor? Whatever his name is, a KGB agent arrives to talk shop with Darhk and the Legends overhear the plan: Darhk isn’t interested in the treaty at all; instead, he’s there to work out a deal with the KGB — and still blow up the White House, of course.
Then, the team hits a snag by one of their own…from the past. A Young Stein just saunters his way in front of Darhk to both sing his praises and boast about his own accomplishments, hoping this display of self-centeredness would convince the high-ranking Darhk to pass along his ideas to the president. Not so fast, young dummy. Darhk has no intention of letting Stein walk away after learning he followed him there and noticed his meeting with the Russian. So Darhk does what Darhk does: He stabs the young Stein and leaves him for dead.
Luckily, Ray and Mick get there in time to bring young Stein back onboard the Waverider, where older Stein is also in pain. But not just physical pain — Martin can’t believe his younger self would leave his wife, Clarissa, all by herself on her birthday to try and advance his career. Ashamed, young Stein says nothing; Jax, instead, takes the reins and says he’ll tell Clarissa that Marty’s held up at work.
But for the rest of the Legends, there’s still plenty of work left to do. In order to stop Darhk, they have to get inside the White House during the state dinner, which will definitely take place when there are no visitors’ tours going on. This is where Nate and Vixen come back in: The pair beg Todd to use his government connections and score, oh, half a dozen more tickets to the party.
And they do, but first, Vixen has to prove she’s not too emotional to do the job. She explains to Todd she only left because she was so close to Rex; though the pair weren’t together together (shut up, Nate!), they were going to leave the JSA after the war to start a new life and see where it went. Eobard Thawne took that away from her, took her old self and old dreams away, and so she has to move.
Ray’s facing a similar issue. With the Cold gun in hand and his Atom suit destroyed, he feels like his old self has also been stripped away. But when he consults Stein for help, Stein explains that even now, he doesn’t recognize his younger self. People can only live — and live as best as they can, because change naturally has to happen.
Rejuvenated, the team heads to the state dinner in full black-tie regalia. Stein spots Clarissa sitting alone, and when Clarissa comes by to talk to Jax about her husband’s status, Stein takes a chance to dance with the younger version of his wife and comfort her about her terrible birthday weekend. The sweet moment’s cut short, though — the rest of the Legends spot Darhk in the hallway and follow him to the basement, where he begins his deal to exchange a fancy CD-ROM (ooh) packed with Department of Defense intel for a relic procured by Boris/Igor/the anonymous KGB agent. They make the trade, but the Legends crash the party — yet again, all hell breaks loose. Nate, unsurprisingly, is the most durable, allowing the rest of the Legends to chase other matters while he fights the goons.
Ray and Mick are tasked with evacuating the White House and dismantling the bomb, while Firestorm saves Clarissa and Sara gets stuck fighting the burliest goon of all. And though Ray seems on the verge of failing to work with the bomb, Mick finally offers some advice, telling him that all Ray needs to be is just Ray, the man who can “science his way out of anything.” And he does — by taking apart the Cold gun and using the energy to deactivate the bomb. The world is saved!
NEXT: The Legends celebrate, but they’re not the only ones
Almost, anyway. Todd manages to corner Darhk, but when Vixen rushes onto the scene, Todd takes his solid form and takes a bullet for her. Sara then pursues Darhk, ultimately telling him she’s decided against killing him. After all, she knows the future and knows he fails, and she just can’t wait for him to suffer his long fall from grace. Just as she gets close enough for their noses to touch, Thawne rushes into the picture and whisks Darhk away — making Sara realize the time-traveler they’re after is a speedster. Nate’s just happy they survived, giving Sara a big, dorky hug.
Back aboard the ship, Stein lectures his younger self about selfishness, as his younger self tries to pressure him into divulging more details about the future that would help him with his research. Stein gets angry at his arrogant younger self, but Baby Stein appears to listen in the end, wistfully saying, “I love Clarissa.” And with that, he leaves the ship.
At the same time, Todd is healed in the med bay. Though Vixen offers him a spot on the team, he declines, sweetly revealing he met a man in 1987 and wants to go back home to him. Before he leaves, he tells Vixen it’s okay to move on from Rex and to keep an open mind if love should come along again. At that very moment, Nate walks in. (I smell love triangle! Anyone else?) He wants to grab a drink with his grandfather’s now grandfather-age old friend, but Todd declines, leaving Nate and Amaya alone to talk. Amaya finally offers Nate a hint of who his grandfather was, saying he had always loved to sing and had a knack for lifting the team’s spirits. Aww.
But while the Legends celebrate, the, umm, Not Legends are also celebrating. Thawne isn’t all that concerned with Darhk’s failure — Sara wound up swiping whatever he procured from the KGB when she got so close to him — and instead offers him an opportunity to change his destiny. He has Darhk sit inside one of his ships before using his speed to open up a portal, sending both him and Darhk to… Where? The future? Another timeline? Another reality? Oh boy, you guys, it kinda looks like we’re in for a Flashpoint redux, or at the very least, another timequake. Good luck, Legends!
And good going! This might have been the season’s strongest showing so far, with overarching stories and themes that tied together nicely and highlighted each of the Legends struggling with their hero identities. After all, every episode begins with a member declaring everyone not heroes, but a motley crew of legends. While that may be true, each of them has hero-like qualities, along with much confusion about what they’re meant to do. Plus, any episode that gives Neal McDonough this much screen time is a highlight, and getting to see the villains play nice with each other works — even if I’m not quite buying Thawne’s plan so far. (Must supervillains always speak using such vague dialogue?)
Most importantly, I’m just glad Sara’s motivations are no longer “Must avenge Laurel.” It’s understandable how much she would want to murder the man who killed her sister, but if you only watch Legends, Laurel and Sara’s connection has worn thin, especially without appearances from Katie Cassidy. This episode adds a mature, thoughtful layer to Sara’s character as she accepts fate, but also realizes that it doesn’t take away from the love she had for Laurel or what Laurel meant to her. I’m guessing Amaya doesn’t feel the same way about Rex, even if she’s not about killing the people she’s after…