Things take a turn for the Norse in a winter finale that also finds the time to offer closure
As much as I like to poke fun at how ridiculous this show gets, I have to admit that tonight’s winter finale accomplished something special, something that I feel like it’s come close to achieving before — particularly with Sara — without really getting there: It captured exactly why we like stories of time travel so much.
Yes, focusing a show on the device of time travel can mean fun costumes and wacky historical scenarios, but stories like these can also be…soothing. It’s a matter of wishful thinking — if you could travel to the past, what would you do? What would you fix? If you had more time, what would you say to the people you love?
Stein’s death is unlike other deaths on the show, or really on any Arrowverse show. There’s no one, nothing to be angry at. You could say it happened because of Nazis on another planet, but the Nazi who shot him was a faceless character and was destroyed seconds later, unlike Damien Darhk (a physical reminder of what Sara lost), Reverse-Flash (the same to Barry), and, to be honest, everyone Oliver has ever faced on Arrow, from the moment he returned to Star(ling) City and made a list of names to target.
But what’s more, time travel not only gives Jax closure, but also grants it to Stein. Will he eventually hate the fact that Jax has revealed a key date in his future to him? Maybe, but maybe not. And will Jax one day be compelled to return to the Waverider, take the drop ship to a younger Marty, and spill the beans once and for all? Maybe, but at this point, probably not.
All of this is to say that I ultimately loved the way they handled Stein’s death. I thought it had been glossed over too quickly in the crossover, but here, it really did get room to breathe.
Even if that breathing room began with an eyebrow-raising visit to some Vikings who landed in North America long before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and who, in the world of Legends, wind up worshipping a Furby-like toy named Beebo because a young Stein gets torn out of his time and into 1000 A.D. It’s…a lot, so here’s a summary: A young Stein is at the mall trying to make off with the last Beebo toy when he becomes an anachronism captured by Vikings. They use his genius to conquer North America instead of returning to Greenland, because they’re convinced Beebo is a deity. Worst of all, the clan leader Leif Erikson’s sister Freydis has been using Beebo’s words to enforce their rules.
And so, enter the Legends — and Agent Sharpe, who had called to offer condolences and then got recruited to help give the team an outsider’s perspective on the situation. The team goes undercover to the Yuletide Feast, only for Mick to ruin it when he goes snooping around Beebo’s offerings and tries to steal some mead. (Leo, see, has turned the Waverider into a dry ship to try to make Mick control his drinking.) Just as he’s about to be burned alive, Leo saves him, and the Vikings believe Beebo to have forgiven Mick — only to then spot Amaya and Nate god-napping their precious Beebo. A fight breaks out between the Legends and the Vikings, and Beebo gets hot-potatoed between members until…Mick blasts the toy with his gun and sets it on fire.
Just as the Legends think they’ve accomplished their mission, Damien Darhk arrives to offer the Vikings a new God to worship: Himself, dressed as Odin, the God of War and Death and Glorious Blond Locks. (Next: Welcome to the Upside Down, Sara!)
Realizing they’ll never beat Darhk without backup, the team regroups aboard the Waverider. Sara’s discouraged to learn that Sharpe can’t even bring more agents to help them: As it turns out, Rip’s been sent to prison, and the Time Bureau has been in shambles since, unable to stop Darhk from altering parts of history using the anachronisms he’s rounded up, like Gorilla Grodd.
And so, Sara says that she might as well try to carry something out on her own. She comes up with a pretty poor plan: She’ll just get brought to Darhk and try to take him out before he snaps her neck. Of course, the team won’t let her do anything alone at this point just because she’s afraid to lose more members. Instead, they all join her on the mission, with Atom flying a new Beebo out to convince the Vikings that they should go back to caring so much about Christianity they leave North America, as well as Mick and Leo knocking out Darhk’s daughter, which causes Darhk to be distraught enough he stops trying to kill Sara and Nate.
Sara catches up to him just as he and his daughter are about to teleport away, but instead of traveling with them, she finds herself in a new dimension, an empty, soulless place where the only voice she hears is that of Mallus, the evil entity Rip has been obsessed with destroying. Sharpe arrives just in time to pull her back out of the Legends version of the Upside Down, and when Sara learns that time has course-corrected, she has everyone retreat back to the Waverider.
There, Gideon’s happy to report that the timeline has been corrected. This, though, is bad news for Jax: Earlier in the episode, he had traveled to Central City in 1992 to drop Marty off with his family, and tried to execute a loophole at Zari’s urging. He had written Marty a letter Marty needed to open on Nov. 28, 2017 — a letter that explains exactly what Stein needs to do to prevent his death.
But even though Jax is hopeful Marty will keep the letter, he realizes that Stein’s future hasn’t changed at all, which means he must have decided not to follow Jax’s instructions. Jax visits again to deliver Beebo to Lily and to talk to his old partner. Marty understands — as a genius, he had figured out exactly why he wasn’t aboard the ship — but he also doesn’t want to change his future. If his fate lies in 2017, then that means he’ll have lived to 67, seen his daughter grow old, and had adventures with a friend like Jax through time. What more could he want? Well, just a goodbye, in the end — a goodbye Jax grants, as much as he doesn’t want to have to let Stein go.
Jax takes that lesson with him back on board the Waverider. When Sara asks him what Stein chose — she, too, can deduce what’s going on with a teammate without having to go through a Leo-induced therapy session — he explains that he’s realized he needs time alone. That means leaving the team, at least for now, and finding a “different” kind of adventure.
Sara’s sad to hear this, but she says she understands. And though Jax says to keep his departure a secret from the team, Sara disobeys and gathers the rest of the team instead to throw Jax a going-away Christmas feast. And at that, Jax smiles. He ends up making a speech, toasting his friends — including Mick and Leo, who have made amends after fighting Darhk together and realizing they can’t change each other’s ways to match the doppelgangers they lost — and then walking away in good spirits, after one exchange with his captain.
When Sara returns to the ship, however, she finds a surprise in the cargo bay: John Constantine, the man who once saved her soul, and who now needs her and the Legends’ help exorcising a demon from a little girl, a demon who apparently knows Sara’s name. That’s one creepy note to end on, but hey, Constantine wouldn’t have it any other way.