The Legends make like the Council of Elrond and enlist the help of J.R.R. Tolkien in World War I

By Shirley Li
March 21, 2017 at 11:44 PM EDT
Cate Cameron/The CW
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It began with the forging of the Spear of Destiny. This Spear was bound the strength and the will to govern reality. But they were all of them deceived, for the Spear’s power was too great for any mortal to wield. Deep in the trenches of history, Rip Hunter attempted to destroy it and hide the pieces, but it was no use as the Legion of Doom sought to hunt the Spear down and dominate all life. One Spear to rule them all.

Alright, you get the point. The Legends found a young, pre-Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien to help with their mission this week, but of course, at first, they didn’t need to. Sure, the cold open saw them in media res, caught in the trenches of World War I, but 72 hours before they got trapped there, they were actually enormously successful. Having collected four of the pieces of the Spear, all they need is the piece the Legion of Doom has with them — and to do that, they have to go to their headquarters, which Rip knows after his time with them.

Their headquarters, it turns out, are located at the Vanishing Point, outside of time. It’s a place they last saw in the season 1 finale — and destroyed, thanks to Captain Cold. But though the memory of Leonard Snart lingers inside and gives Mick pause until Sara snaps him out of it, no other obstacles get in the Legends’ way. They find the small obelisk Thawne has used to house his piece of the Spear, and with some nifty transmutating, Firestorm manages to turn the contraption into Rip’s favorite candy: jelly beans.

Atom, keeping watch over Thawne, raises the alarm when the speedster finally learns of the breach. He’s too late, though, and as he lets out a scream while watching the Waverider flies away, it’s the most satisfying wail to hear.

But of course, the story lasts much longer than that — something Tolkien, as Nate points out, likes to do with his tales. Aboard the Waverider, the Legends learn more about the way the Spear works: It’s not some prop that can be wielded by anyone. It’s a dangerous tool that draws on people’s weaknesses, desires, and regrets, and when people are handed absolute power, they tend to use it incorrectly. (Power in the hands of the unworthy, after all, was the lesson of season 1. RI-the-opposite-of-P, Vandal Savage.)

The problem is, Rip’s plan to destroy it didn’t work — the Spear is crazy durable — and his plan to hide it in pieces clearly didn’t pan out. So what now? Should they all travel to Middle Earth, find Mount Doom, and throw it in there after an epic struggle?

Something like it. Nate, though more apathetic at first toward the entire mission after losing his grandfather on their last outing, perks up when he learns that the Spear, when burned with fire, displays a secret message, one that translates to, “Born of blood, undone by blood.” It’s another, fancy way of saying that Christ’s blood helped create the Spear — and that very blood destroys it. And short of the Legends traveling to the crucifixion to take some of Jesus’ blood (yeah, even Rip calls that out as far too ridiculous for the Legends to meddle with), Nate points out that they can investigate a theory on Sir Gawain, the knight who set out for the Holy Grail. That theory states that he in fact brought back the blood of Christ, and that he buried a vial somewhere in Northern France. Northern France is a large area, so where should they even start? A clue may come from the theory’s author: Tolkien himself.

Meanwhile, Darhk has returned to the Legion of Doom’s headquarters — now that I think about it, they really should have just called it Mount Doom — and he finds it hilarious that Thawne managed to lose their only treasure. But Thawne says it might not be a bad thing: Now that the Legends have the full spear, it’ll be much easier to steal the thing back. And, Darhk proposes, who’s the best thief who can help them, seeing as Merlyn’s still sidelined? Well…

…He pops up pretty much immediately in 1916 France, where the Legends arrive to track down Tolkien. Mick, along with many of the Legends, is out looking through the carnage in the battlefield’s hospital wing — Tolkien was sidelined in World War I because of trench feet — with Amaya when he sees Snart. He chases his former partner outside, but he considers Snart an illumination — er, sorry, a hallucination. Snart, though, gives him quite the wake-up call by punching Mick in the face, but he only does that after he allows Mick to inadvertently reveal the Legends’ plan to consult Tolkien to find more info on Sir Gawain and more info on where to find the blood.

Eventually, Rip and Nate find Tolkien suffering in a trench and manage to move him away from his commander and on board the Waverider. They fill him in on what they’re looking for and manage to convince him by talking about how the darkness of the war will pass one day, and how they’re fighting a much bigger battle on humanity. Besides, as a fan of legends and lore, Tolkien has heard of the Spear of Destiny — and he can’t help himself when it comes to tracking a mystical artifact like that down. Now all they need is a library to consult — and luckily, the Waverider can always giveth.

Well, not always. In the dining wing, Amaya sits by herself, worried about the future she saw and now wishes she could erase. Sara checks in on her, but Amaya can’t get past how much the nightmare of the war mirrored the nightmare of her village burning down in the future and leaving her granddaughter orphaned and alone. Sara sympathizes, telling Amaya that if it helps, Laurel once told her about Amaya’s granddaughter, the future Vixen, a girl who endures and becomes “a pretty remarkable person — a hero.” It’s a touching moment that I wish the episode spent just a few minutes more on; it’s always lovely to see the women of the team bond, and Sara surely has insight on how painful it is to know a future or a tragedy and not be able to change a thing.

Still, Amaya isn’t the only one haunted this week. Mick gazes longingly at the Spear, but Stein stops him from looking at it for too long. In fact, the professor comes off a little harsh in this scene, criticizing Mick’s intellect and not believing what Mick says about seeing Snart. It only makes Mick question his place in the team more, and when Sara tells the Legends Tolkien says Sir Gawain’s resting place is in a cathedral in Vienna, they move on so quickly he doesn’t have any time to process his grief and confusion at all.

NEXT: One does not simply find Christ’s blood

The cathedral (a cleverly disguised set that had been used for the Knights of the Roundtable episode) is covered in rubble, and Mick quickly spies the golden goblet that holds a clue to where Gawain’s body has been kept. They follow the instructions and find the skeleton kept behind a wall, still in his armor. On the breastplate, there’s an engraving that looks like a map of sorts, but then things go south.

The sequence quickly mimics the mines of Moria — just as this fellowship of Legends finds a clue, they wind up cornered by the bad guys, only this time, they’re not evil monsters; they’re the Legion of Doom, and they’ve brought Snart and a whole group of fighters with them. Mick confirms with the others that they can actually see Snart, too, and Snart takes advantage of their proximity to drive the knife in further, telling the Legends Mick was the one who told them about their plan. The Legends turn on Mick further, but Mick still sticks with them. “You actually care about these losers,” Snart scoffs as Mick backs away.

Mick starts to doubt how much he should trust his team. Jax and Stein go all in on accusing him of his wavering loyalty, and when Mick asks Sara how she feels, she tells him to “be careful,” which, sure, is good advice, but only provides fuel to the spark Snart lit. And in the background, Ray says nothing — and as Brandon Routh puts it, it’s something that’ll affect him going forward.

But if the group is splintering like the Spear had, at least Tolkien and Nate are bonding over their love of history. Tolkien confesses he’s a bit of a coward, but when he reflects on that, he realizes the engraving on Gawain’s chest might be a map of a battlefield instead of a typical map.

And Mick isn’t completely alone: He finds Amaya also entranced by the Spear, having heard voices from it, too. She’s considering changing her destiny, because she’s been raised to care about her legacy. Mick says that having a chance to rewrite reality would be interesting, and though he hears his parents telling him not to play with fire, he wants to, really badly.

Before they can think about it further, Sara gathers the team to talk about their next step. Gawain’s map points to the middle of no man’s land, between trenches, between heavy fire. Yeah, it’s nuts. “One cannot simply walk into the middle of a war zone,” Stein says. And Amaya agrees. She asks why they don’t just use the Spear of Destiny and rewrite reality as a way to remove the Legion of Doom completely? Everyone else disagrees, but Mick comes to Amaya’s aid — only to be shut down quickly and painfully.

With that, everyone moves on to doing it the hard way and must find a way to venture into the middle of World War I and track down a vial of Christ’s blood. It’s crazy, for sure, but they actually manage to do it, just not in the way they wanted to. Rip and Tolkien try to have the British commander cease fire, but he says no, and Stein and Ray try to persuade the German side to do the same to no avail. Sara, Mick, Amaya, and Nate wind up climbing out of the trenches and into danger…

…until Rip throws a Hail Mary. He knocks out the British commander, sits down at comms, and delivers a rousing speech that should sound familiar to anyone who, like me, has watched Return of the King one too many times. “A day may come when the courage of men fails,” he says, “when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship.” For Frodo!!!! I mean for humanity. This is Earth, not Middle-Earth.

An armistice is ordered and the action ceases as both sides venture out to take care of the wounded and retrieve the thousands dead. Sara and the Legends find the vial, and just as they begin to celebrate, the Legion arrive yet again to ruin their fun.

When Mick sees his partner this time, he’s much more inclined to switch sides — and even more so because he’s the one holding the Spear. (Oh, Mick, if you only realized Sara handed it to you because she trusts you! Sigh.) Snart delivers several more blows to Mick’s ego, and the man known as Heat Wave finally makes a choice: He chooses to join the Legion and be with his old partner again. He also tries to convince Amaya to cross over with him, but Amaya says no — and as much as she attempts to look out for him before going back on board the Waverider, there’s no chance of turning Mick back. Not yet, anyway. “I wish things could have been different,” Mick says before Thawne whisks he and the other Doom-ers away.

The Legends have to escape on foot to be picked up by the Waverider, and en route, the bottle holding Christ’s blood gets hit with a bullet — and their key to destroying the Spear disappears. But that’s an issue for another time: For now, they need to figure out a way to track down the Legion.

Nate, though, points out another, more pressing problem for the opponent: Do they even know how to use the Spear? Bad news, Nate: They do, thanks to an artifact Malcolm Merlyn brought back that includes the enchantment he has to recite to make the Spear work. And as the camera circle around them and the Spear starts to glow, it’s clear our heroes are about to be in very real, reality-bending trouble.

Yeah, this is certainly not how remember Lord of the Rings ending, but then again, there is more to the story, and for now, Tolkien’s part is over. Humanity may not have been saved this time, but darkness eventually lifts — and, I hope, so do the awkward pacing decisions in this episode that tried to elevate the epic scope of the show to match one worthy of its special historical guest star, but fell short. It reminded me of the King Arthur episode: The hour tried to do more than it could muster, and wound up leaving little screen time for moments to properly resonate or action to gather any steam. The battlefield sure looked dangerous, but the stakes never felt all that high.

Still, as a LOTR fan, it was fun to figure out which of the fellowship members the Legends most resembled. Rip took Aragorn’s place, but I’d argue Sara’s Aragorn at this point and Rip is more like Sam, right? Nate is Frodo, in a way, because he’s the one who sparked the journey. Amaya is in some ways Boromir — she tries to convince the others the Spear is a tool — but she’s somewhat of a Legolas as well, capable of fighting and of seeing their path forward clearly. Mick is Boromir-like, too, but more so like Gimli, a brawler happy to go into any fight or any battle, as bloody as it may be. And as for Stein and Jax? I’m being lazy and calling them Merry and Pippin. Why not, you know? Though being Firestorm would make them enemies in the Ents’ eyes…

Anyway, I’ve overthought all of this and still can’t figure out who Ray would be, even if he would love to be as wise as Gandalf. No one on Legends is Gandalf. If anything, they could use one. On to un-reality next week, folks!

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Led by White Canary, a band of superhero misfits defend the time stream with an assortment of wacky threats in the fourth Arrowverse series.
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