Am I crazy, or did Legends of Tomorrow just air its best episode so far? Okay, maybe it was just because Frank Freaking Lapidus — I mean Lost actor Jeff Fahey — played the villainous Turnbull, but it was also because this episode pretty much had everything I’ve ever wanted from a show called Legends of Tomorrow: A character pulled a Spider-Man 2 and stopped a train in its tracks, Dominic Purcell went full beast mode while dressed as a desperado, and Sara Lance kicked ass with her physicality and her wits. It was goofy, it was fun, and no one said “howdy” while in the West. Oh, and did I mention that tease for next week’s epic crossover? What more do you need from a time-travel show centered on a motley crew?!
It’s all thanks to a time pirate who, in 1874 Liberty, Colorado, wanders into the path of Turnbull, who shoots him and takes his device, which had been tracking a mineral inside a mine that was more powerful than gold. That mineral turns out to be the dense dwarf star alloy, which had powered Ray’s Atom suit, can obliterate matter easily and becomes Turnbull’s ticket to potentially taking control of the West to build into a country for himself and his fellow outlaws.
On board the Waverider, the time-quake device (or “Trouble Alert,” as Ray puts it) sounds the alarm. Nate is grateful to have something more to do than just sit around researching the amulet they collected off of Dahrk (it’s something that hasn’t left a trace in history at all, therefore stumping this historian), and Ray can’t wait to go back to the wild, wild West. The pair chat while dressing up, and Ray spots Nate’s rough sketch of a costume for himself. Nate’s been itching to play superhero again, and though Ray offers to guide him, Nate’s eager to see some action.
And so, when the team lands in Colorado, Nate recklessly strolls right into the middle of the commotion they spot in the fields, in which bounty hunger Jonah Hex (Johnathon Schaech, re-reporting for duty) is being hanged by Turnbull’s men. The bullets fly off of Nate, but scare off Hex’s horse, which leaves Hex dangling until Sara shoots through his rope. Hex is grateful, but not all that excited to see the time travelers again. Back in the Waverider, he’s dismayed to find that Sara, a female, is leading the charge with Rip is gone. What’s worse: Turnbull’s on track to control the West. He’s managed to drive people away from the town of Liberty and put the rest to work mining the dwarf star alloy.
Sara immediately puts her boys and Amaya to work. She sends Mick to rustle up some trouble in the whorehouse to draw Turnbull’s attention, then tells Amaya to keep watch. She also has Ray, Nate, and Jax take care of business — financial business, that is, by posing as tax collectors to get inside Turnbull’s office and see what they can find about his plans. She and Hex, meanwhile, pardner up to wait and grab Turnbull.
Let’s start with the tax-collectin’ trio, though. Nate whines yet again about not getting to have a blast (oh just you wait, Nate), but they quickly get cornered by Turnbull’s outlaw pals and fight to earn themselves a costume change. Now dressed as outlaws, they’re allowed into Turnbull’s camp and into the mine, where Ray recognizes the dwarf star allow. Nate finds the time pirate’s detector, and they decide to leave as the dwarf star’s much too dense to carry away.
Mick and Amaya, though, have less success. Mick gets Turnbull’s attention pretty quickly by insulting him and his importance, but the two end up bonding — and completely annoying poor Amaya, who can only grimace as she watches the two animals pat each other on the back for their distaste of the federal government. Hex, hearing that Mick’s not sticking to the plan, decides to veer off track as well: Though Sara had told him to stay behind, he disobeys her and strides straight into the bar to confront Turnbull.
You probably know what happens next. Fight breaks out, and when Turnbull uses his extra-powerful dwarf star bullet, he leaves a hole in the wall where Hex almost died again. Sara yet again saves Hex’s life, but the team — now reunited with the undercover-tax-collectors-turned-undercover-outlaws — races to get back to the ship. As the dwarf star bullets just miss them, Mick, for some reason, decides to test Turnbull and steps out with his own guns pointed at him. When the weapons catch, Turnbull fires at Mick, and Nate rushes to block the bullet while in his steel form. Instead of the bullet bouncing off, however, it pierces his body and leaves him bleeding in his teammates’ arms.
NEXT: Turn around, Turnbull [pagebreak]
With Nate’s injury, Gideon and the Waverider are working overtime. Not only does Nate have a 51 percent chance of surviving — “Would it kill you to say ‘better than average,’ Gideon?” Nate says in one of the funniest lines of the night — but Stein has also been having severe headaches during which he has visions of a woman he doesn’t recognize. He does, however, get the sense that she’s important, and as he tells Jax later, she’s someone he loves. In other words, he’s having new memories that must be overwriting his old ones, thanks to whatever changes Young Stein is making. It’s all very heady, but viewers of The Flash have a good idea of where this is headed…
For now, the team has to focus on stopping Turnbull. Sara interrogates Hex about why he didn’t follow the plan, and finally gets him to tell the full story of why he’s out for revenge: It turns out Turnbull is the man behind his scarred face, as he had burned a church full of townspeople, women, and children down that Hex narrowly escaped. Without anyone left to care for and rage fueling his heart, Hex has since been intent on killing Turnbull once and for all — a feeling Sara understands. Her Turnbull is Damien Dahrk, but as she tells Hex, he has to follow orders if he wants to succeed.
At the same time, Mick needs some encouragement as well. Amaya checks in on why Mick idiotically tried to shoot Turnbull, but Mick insists that he is an animal and that’s all he’ll ever be. Hey, at least he knows who he is; Nate, on the other hand, is having a bit of an identity crisis in the med bay. He tells Ray that, as a child, he tried to stand up to a bully, only to get his face punched in and his nose broken in two places. Since then, he explains, he’s been afraid — until he became Citizen Steel and could really be a superhero. Ray empathizes, saying he felt the same fear after losing his Atom suit, but tells Nate that the suit didn’t make him a hero. It was the fear that drove the bravery and, well, plenty of other aphorisms he’s got on the train of thoughts stored in his super-brain.
Speaking of trains, though, Ray finally figures it out: Turnbull wants to use the railroad to move the dwarf star alloy to Summit Pass, a key location that could, if blown up, block the West completely from the East — and thus, from federal control. But without Stein, an Atom suit, and a fully healed Nate, will they be able to stop Turnbull?
Sara has faith. (It’s not her first rodeo, remember?) The team splits up again to carry out the mission. First up: Mick, Amaya, Hex, and Sara, who head for Turnbull and his mines. Mick and Amaya set out for the mines with dynamite, intending to seal it, while Hex and Sara wait to finally exact revenge on the man. Mick and Amaya quickly take out the outlaws inside the mine and dash away — Amaya has to prod Mick a bit to stop kicking the men while they’re down — to safety away from the explosion. Sara, however, uses Hex as a Trojan horse, parading him in as a prisoner so Turnbull would take them both to the entrance of the mines. He gloats about the mines, but when he’s about to pull the trigger on Turnbull, Mick and Amaya’s dynamites explode, and Hex and Sara get the better of Turnbull. (Sara gets her Eowyn moment when Turnbull spots her hair and realizes she “ain’t no man.”) Hex nearly kills Turnbull but at the last second, with a glance from Sara, decides to knock him out and to take him to the feds later instead.
As for the train, well, Nate has that covered. Despite Jax and Ray’s misgivings, Nate is determined to stop it with his arms and legs of literal steel — and when he gets to the tracks, he reminds himself that he’s got this, Laurie Hernandez-style. And he does: He grasps the train’s first car, pushes against it, and eventually slows it down to a full stop. In that moment, the camera zooms in on his delight before Jax and Ray join in to cheer him on, delivering a scene reminiscent of early Flash episodes, as well as Heroes‘ Hiro, who also likes to punch the air cheering his powers.
But if that didn’t make you smile, maybe this did: Back in the Waverider, Ray has used been tinkering with a little project and invites Nate in to see it. Turns out, Ray has built Nate a suit — and it’s pretty close to what Nate had in mind. Still, that’s enough bro-ing out for now: Sara rushes in to interrupt the geeky pair to say that 2016 has called, and they really want their heroes back. Squee! It’s crossover time!
And yet, for all the rollicking tempo of the episode, there were some slower, darker moments, especially when it came to Mick’s story line. After Amaya spoke with him about his animal instincts, he wound up doubling down on them in the mine, and when they return to the ship, she visits him again, telling him in metaphor that he needs to control the flame inside him. She offers to help him control the temper and bloodlust-like instinct. They’re bonding, but I’m not 100 percent clear where they’re going with “controlling” Mick. Having him be the unpredictable team member pinballing around their adventures has generated plenty of laughs and cheer-worthy moments on the series; if they’re now moving him away from being Ray’s verbal sparring partner, that would be disappointing. After all, having him partner with Amaya for a plot with more gravitas is just not as entertaining.
Even so, that’s my lone issue with what was otherwise a fun superhero-meets-Western smackdown. Sidelining Stein made sense, despite denying us of seeing him stumble his way through playing an outlaw, and Jonah Hex is welcome anytime. Best of all, Nate has transformed into a more self-assured character — and I’m looking forward to seeing where they take him next. Oh, and again, that was Frank Freaking Lapidus as Turnbull. (We’re still not going to Guam, are we?)