The Justice Society of America knows what they’re doing.
Just look at the way they take down the Legends in the first five minutes of the episode. When the JSA confronts the team of misfits about being in 1942 and stepping on their turf, they roundly knock out the heroic wannabes, even though Heywood gets excited about Commander Steel (a.k.a. Heywood’s grandfather) and — oh, right! — the Legends try to explain they’ve met Rex (a.k.a. Hourman) before, when he warned them in the season finale to stay away.
Taken to the JSA headquarters, the Legends argue (while the JSA watches from another room) to no avail over what they should have done to avoid the situation. Vixen suggests getting rid of them, but Rex believes they might as well try to get a word in, as difficult as that sounds. But it’s actually not that bad: Because the historian Heywood volunteers himself as the Man Who Will Explain Everything, he offers an explanation to the stern JSA, saying he’s actually a time traveler and that his dog tags, handed down from Steel to his father to Nate himself, serve as proof.
Rex finally decides to give them a shot, but it comes at a cost. He immediately assumes Stein is the leader, completely passing over Sara, who tries to take command. He explains they have a job to do: Stop the Baron Krieger from advancing his mission in Paris and aiding the Nazis. Earlier, Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash, doing his Reverse-History thing) gave the Reich a single dose of a super-serum he says will help them overtake the Allies.
Of course, the mission’s not as easy as they all think it’ll be. Instead, while the Legends argue again about what to do with the JSA — Ray and Jax thinks Hourman is wonderful and the JSA is precise, professional, and in constant agreement, but Sara says they’re not any better than the Legends — and finally decide to move ahead with having Stein in charge as the captain, just because Rex pointed to him as the leader. They finally agree to leave the past behind, once and for all.
Well, not so fast. At least one member — oh sorry, not-yet-member — of the Legends has an actual reason to like or dislike the JSA. Heywood, who had tried to bond with his grandfather earlier by telling him his father had shared all the battle stories with him as a child, again attempts to understand the grandfather his family revered. Sara says maybe Commander Steel isn’t all Heywood thought he was, but he doesn’t think so just yet. He feels around his neck for the dog tags but — gasp! — they’re gone…which means history has changed, certainly for the worse. Without the dog tag heirlooms, it means Commander Steel must have died at some point in history. According to his note, despite the JSA saying not to return, the 1942 mission the JSA went on to track Baron Krieger left them all dead — so it looks like the Legends do have to go back.
The team arrives in Paris and concocts a plan to take down Krieger at his favorite nightclub. Because Stein bears a passing resemblance to Max Lorenz, Hitler’s favorite German tenor, he chooses to go undercover in the spotlight while Sara, Jax, and Ray find out what Krieger is after and get rid of it before he gets to use it. In fact, he’s so eager to get in on the mission that he forgets his own strengths: Jax reminds him he’s an analytical man who might not be the best guy to handle the pressure of leading a band of superheroes.
That’s not the only issue over which the Legends are butting heads. Sara notices Heywood has an ugly bruise on his side, but while he deflects the question, she continues to wonder how much he’ll be capable of. But she’ll have to worry about that later: At the club, Stein successfully entertains the crowd with his voice, but even after Ray, Sara, and Jax make it inside, they’re greeted again by a Nazi officer who takes a closer look at who they are. After Stein finishes singing “Edelweiss,” the tension’s through the roof — and it only rises when the officer notices Ray didn’t salute Hitler. Ray sputters out an excuse, but the Nazi officer looks straight through him, allowing him to be beaten by the boys around town. Just when it seems all hope might be lost, a bright light flashes through the room. It’s Stargirl and the rest of the JSA! “We came to rescue you,” Stein says sheepishly in response.
Aboard the Waverider, Rex isn’t happy with what happened, but Sara points out the Legends will fight to protect the JSA whether they like or not. She helps bring Hourman to the ship’s computer and Gideon the AI to show how they’ll take advantage of the map they have to win back the Askaran Amulet, something Hitler only wants to collect because it bears some sort of occult power.
NEXT: The clock’s ticking…
Sara, meanwhile, also points out Heywood’s struggle. She noticed his bruise earlier, then spots him sporting a cut given to him by a Nazi while he was off the ship. She shuts him down when he tries to say it’s just a cut — she can tell he’s not telling the full truth about his bleeding, and possibly thinks about people whose blood can’t clot and who are vulnerable to bleeding to death. (I mean, the League of Assassins was dark.)
As for another pair on the combined team, Ray is now forced to defend his every move to the intense Vixen, who’s just angry she can’t return to Paris. She brings out the claws when Ray laments he’s probably doing “the hero thing all wrong,” telling him he isn’t one. And yet, she’s still wrong about this aspect of the mission: Krieger brought his convoy, but he still holds the serum. And when the shots ring out around him, taking down his men, he manages to drive away the Legends and capture both Vixen and Ray.
Ray, though, negotiates his way out of getting a bullet to his and Vixen’s heads by offering his services as a scientist to make more of Thawne’s serum. After all, Krieger has already been impressed by Ray’s hi-tech suit, and Ray says he should be able to replicate whatever’s in the formula.
As he stalls and struggles, the rest of the Legends are back on the Waverider, arguing with the JSA about what to do next. Stein can barely handle his own thoughts about the process and winds up arguing with Jax about what he wants to do. Heywood goes to see Steel, who’s monitoring his injured teammates, but when Heywood again tries to appeal to Steel with his heroism, Steel says he doesn’t want to be looked up to. In fact, all he wants is for his friends to stop getting hurt, and he’d never want to place that burden on his own bloodline.
Amidst all this, at least Sara and Rex are able to keep their heads on straight. The two debate how best to move forward: Rex wants to go all in and strike to finish the mission, but Sara wants to save Vixen and Ray properly. And after having been discouraged enough times during his leadership, Stein concedes the title of captain to Sara, allowing her to guide the teams with her steady hand.
After that, the teams finally head to save Vixen and Ray. The latter angers Krieger, but stalls long enough to take out two Nazi guards in order to escape. Because his suit is damaged and Vixen’s amulet has been taken, neither has a superpower (though Vixen is a black belt and completely capable of taking care of herself) and Ray decides they might have to use his modified serum to escape. Just as he’s about to inject himself, though, Krieger gets all of them on the move yet again, because the Legends have boarded. The teams fight their way past Nazis to find Ray and Vixen, the latter of whom gets her amulet back. Now we’re talking!
Outside, Commander Steel captures the serum-ed up Krieger’s attention and tries to run away. He nearly gets clobbered by the wannabe Hulk (sorry, I know that’s Marvel), but he gets picked up by his grandson, who speeds them both away from the giant until bombs fall around them. One takes out Krieger, but one also lands near the pair, leaving Heywood grievously injured. As a hemophiliac, his bleeding won’t stop — and in the med bay, even Gideon can’t help patch him together. But while Ray laments their team’s status, he finally realizes he still has the modified serum and uses it to stabilize Heywood. Hooray! … At least, until his powers manifest next week.
Anyway, at least everything worked out, right? Not quite: Though the Legends finally leave 1942 (and Heywood gets a sweet moment with Commander Steel), the JSA isn’t safe after that adventure. Right after Rex puts away the amulet they kept out of Hitler’s grasp, Reverse-Flash shows up and murders Rex with a vibrating fist through his torso. He prevents Rex from ever moving forward in the timeline. Poor Rex. He’s discovered by Vixen and manages to gasp “time traveler” to his teammate before he dies.
Still, his death doesn’t have to mean the end for his team of heroes: It means a beginning for another hero we’ll follow, according to the EP. But even if the shocking ending doesn’t mean everything will fail for our heroes, it’s still a twist that comes at the end of another flashy-but-messy episode that trampled through history and character dynamics without much focus at all. Stein, Sara, and Ray had good moments, but Rip was mostly forgotten; Jax has faded into making a cameo every other scene, having about as many lines as Stargirl and Dr. Midnight, among the other JSA members largely ignored by this jam-packed hour. And though Heywood provides some humor as the powerless audience proxy, it’ll be more exciting to see him with actual powers versus watching him bumble behind the rest of his fractured team.