The team's first and second attempts to take down Vandal Savage fail to go as planned

By Shirley Li
January 29, 2016 at 01:35 AM EST
Diyah Pera/The CW
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Ah, October 1975: When John Lennon and Yoko Ono welcomed their son, Sean; women gained admission for the first time into West Point, Annapolis, and other U.S. service academies; NBC aired its first episode of Saturday Night Live; the Cincinnati Reds beat the Boston Red Sox at the World Series…

…and a group of time-traveling misfits royally screwed up an attempt to kill an immortal megavillain.

If only Stein, Sara, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave were better at acting the part of megavillains themselves. The four dress up as terrorists — the Waverider is able to provide clothes matching the time period they’re in — to enter a weapons auction Professor Boardman (RIP) had recorded in his notebook as Vandal Savage’s likely location. Despite smooth-talking the guard to get inside, Stein’s inexperience with terrorist-run weapons auctions ruins the rest of the plan to kidnap Savage. First, he forces Heat Wave to bid on the nuclear warhead Savage is selling, only to accidentally win the bidding. Second, when Damien Dahrk (a chilly Neal McDonough taking a quick break from his adventures terrorizing Star City on Arrow) stops by, Stein fails to get rid of him in time. And finally, he lets slip to a curious Savage that the warhead they purchased might not even work properly in “this era” — giving Savage a clue that they’re not who they say they are. 

Savage, intrigued, announces to the convention of terrorists that he’ll offer a 25 percent discount in the auction to the ones who kill the foursome from the future. At that, all hell breaks loose: Captain Cold and Heat Wave whip out their guns, White Canary breaks out her guns (you know, the ones without bullets, *wink*), Stein and Jax merge into Firestorm, the Atom flies out of Stein’s pocket, and the Hawkcouple descend on Savage. But Savage is undeterred; instead, he’s delighted to observe everything the “legends” can do and disappears immediately after activating the warhead. To stop a nuclear explosion from wiping out Norway, Firestorm grabs the warhead, takes it to a remote forest, and then absorbs its energy in the blast. 

Back on the Waverider, the team bickers about who failed them (my vote goes to Stein), but Rip Hunter has worse news in store: A piece of the Atom’s suit fell off while he was fighting, and Savage collected it.

Diyah Perah/The CW

According to Gideon’s projection, that small piece, with its advanced technology, will allow Savage to harness even greater destructive power, creating a butterfly effect that will leave Central City in ruins…unless they can retrieve the MacGuffin piece of Atom’s suit first. To do so, they’ll need to find a way to track the piece, which emits alpha particles. To track alpha particles, they’ll need to talk to the preeminent expert on them in 1975: A young Dr. Stein.

Meanwhile, the Hawkcouple have a MacGuffin an object of their own to find: the Egyptian dagger Savage used to kill them in their past lives, because objects associated with the Hawkcouple’s deaths can be used to kill Savage permanently. To do so, they’ll need to steal the dagger from “a rich Russian douchebag,” who, according to a news clipping Boardman carried, had purchased the relic. They’ll also need to figure out the incantation inscribed on the dagger, but Kendra has to remember how to read it first. 

Phew. Got all that? Alright, moving on…

NEXT: Buckle up for the Missions of the Week…

With all that determined, the “legends” split into three teams with three missions…

1) The Hawkcouple IN Operation: Make Hawkgirl Remember a Super-Specific Flashback

Carter needs Kendra to remember how to read what’s on the dagger by sifting through hundreds of past lives. To help her, he…feels her up, and suddenly, she has steamy memories of them being, well, intimate. Naturally, Kendra’s disturbed by what she sees; after all, she’s not used to Carter’s whole “we’re meant for each other because DESTINY” way of treating her. But because they need the dagger to destroy Savage, she later apologizes and tries again. The sexy flashbacks return, but this time, she remembers exactly what they need: her first life, when she was a priestess and received the dagger as a gift from the prince/Carter and read the poem inscribed out loud. (If the priestess read it out loud, couldn’t Carter have also dug through his previous lives and remembered this moment, too? Oh well.) They figure out the incantation to recite while killing Savage with the dagger, and the Hawkcouple grows closer. Mission status: Accomplished!

2) The Atom, Captain Cold, Heat Wave IN Operation: Steal a Dagger From a Rich Russian Douchebag

The trio head out — this time without Ray’s super-suit and its millions of tiny parts that can be left behind — to do what Captain Cold and Heat Wave do best: robbing the rich blind. Unfortunately, this leaves Ray with nothing to do but to earnestly cause trouble. He accidentally triggers the alarm after being fooled by a dummy box, gets into an argument with Captain Cold over smashing and grabbing expensive relics that aren’t the dagger, and causes the two of them to be trapped inside a massive cage. Heat Wave runs to find a way to get them out, and while he’s away, Ray and Captain Cold bond just a tiny, Atom-sized bit: The Atom wonders why the criminal, who’s quite handy with the wiring, never wanted to go into electrical engineering, but a coolheaded Leonard simply responds that robbing was always “more satisfying.” 

Just as the two finally tap into the security box, the owner of the dagger returns — and it’s none other than Vandal Savage in his 1975 identity, dragging poor Heat Wave along as he walks in. Mission status: Failed!

3) White Canary and Firestorm IN Operation: Find Young FrankenStein Without Damaging Time and Space

Stein — for this episode’s purposes, I’m referring to him as Old Stein from now on, apologies to Victor Garber — takes Sara and Jax along to find Young Stein, and find him they do: Young Stein is dallying around the campus of Ivy Town University (heads up, Arrow fans: Ivy Town is where Oliver and Felicity briefly lived between seasons 3 and 4 in the TV DC universe). Old Stein lies to Young Stein, telling him he’s “Professor Elon Musk” (SpaceX is the closest thing we have in real life to science fiction, so I guess this works) and that he’s there to ask Young Stein about alpha particles. Thanks to some smooth flirting from Sara, Young Stein invites them all along to see his lab, where, as soon as Young Stein steps out to grab snacks to supplement all the marijuana he has, Old Stein explores to find the alpha particle tracker. Unfortunately, Young Stein spots him holding the tracker, and Sara resorts to knocking him out so they can make their getaway. 

Old Stein freaks out, afraid that Young Stein might not wake up in time to make it to the faculty mixer, where he’ll meet his future wife. What happens turns out to be much worse: Although Sara quickly snatches Atom’s suit piece back from Savage’s men, Young Stein wakes up and uses the tracker to follow them back to the Waverider, shattering any illusion that Old Stein and the gang come from 1975. And just like in Back to the Future, evidence of Old Stein’s marriage begins to fade, as his wedding ring disappears right off his finger. Mission status: Almost accomplished!

Luckily, Old Stein manages to convince Young Stein to leave and lead a good life, and as soon as their latest unwelcome guest departs the Waverider, a message from the trio at the mansion comes through for Rip Hunter: Vandal Savage wants them all to meet — and the rest of the “legends” promptly arrive for their second battle of the hour.

NEXT: The Hawkcouple strikes again! And again! And again! And—

At the mansion, Savage almost shoots Heat Wave dead, but Firestorm arrives just in time to fend him off. The Hawkcouple then catch up to Savage, and Carter engages in a valiant attempt to kill him once and for all, only to find that because the weapon is only effective when wielded by its owner (that would be Kendra), his attempt had no effect. Instead, Savage stabs him right back with the dagger, leaving him to die. (So…how quickly do the Hawkcouple reincarnate again?) Although Savage stabs Hawkgirl as well, an attack from the other “legends” drives him away, and the entire team retreats to avoid being captured by Savage’s men. 

In the Waverider’s medical bay, Kendra finally remembers everything about her past lives — though, by now, it’s too late for her to tell Carter. His “death” affects everyone on board, and not just because Rip Hunter says they have to stay put to avoid hurting Kendra with time-traveling side effects, but also because they’ve learned to bond as a team. So with all that said, they make a final decision to follow Rip Hunter’s plan and continue chasing Vandal Savage. 

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But before they go, Rip Hunter has one last move to show Stein. He reveals that he called Young Stein and encouraged him to go to the faculty mixer, a risky call that could have mutated time and space — but didn’t. “Time changes,” Hunter concludes. “People don’t.”

And with that, the two-part, two-week pilot’s over…but this recap sure isn’t! Beginning with this episode, I’ll be crowning a line and a “legend,” as in:

Cheesiest Line of the Night: This is a tossup, I think, between this Hawkcouple exchange — him: “You ready to end this?” and her: “We’ve only been waiting 4,000 years” — and Firestorm’s “I don’t just burn, pal. I blast things, too.” The latter’s just a tad cheesier, because it strongly reminds me of this awful line from the first X-Men film that had Storm delivering a similar entrance. (For those who have never seen it, she says, “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.” Chilling!)

This Week’s Winner of the Unofficial EW Legends of Tomorrow Scenery Chewing But in a Good Way Award, a.k.a. The Legend-ary Ham of the Week: Dominic Purcell, for growling “I’m no one’s lapdog, Birdman!” without a hint of irony. (Honorable mention goes to Neal McDonough for hamming it up as Damien Dahrk. That man can practically play the role in his sleep now.)

And of course, we’re left over with a few timey-wimey notes:

  • A commenter pointed this out last week, but yes, White Canary’s looking more like Streaky Gray Canary these days. (Then again, keeping the suit 100 percent white is a lot easier to do on the page.)
  • Speaking of White Canary… The flirting between Sara and Young Stein was played for laughs, but how uncomfortable was it when the characters continued to repeatedly call back to that in later scenes? I hadn’t expected Stein to be the first team member to ogle Sara, so maybe that’s where my unease comes from. 
  • Who knew Stein was such a pothead? And moreover, who knew Stein had a wife he cared for so much but was okay with leaving for this adventure? (No, really, have we ever heard Stein talk fondly of his wife before on this series or on The Flash?)
  • Fans of Arrow and The Flash know that The CW’s DC shows all begin with voiceovers, and I was wondering who in this sprawling Legends ensemble would get the honor: Rip Hunter, it turns out. 
  • I’m hoping that the fourth-wall breaking final shot of Hunter means we’ll be zooming away from 1975 soon to more exciting time-traveling adventures!
  • Speaking of 1975, though, did the set for Ivy Town University look oddly similar to the one used to represent St. Roch University, or am I just nitpicking now? The echo of Part 1 may be why I want the team to start heading to new times and places that have nothing to do with tracking down professors and experts.
  • Confused about why Rip Hunter wouldn’t let them travel back to save Boardman but is fine with Old Stein meeting Young Stein and then just letting him go without any memory modification or excuse whatsoever? Here’s showrunner Phil Klemmer on how the show’s time-traveling rules work
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