Legends of Tomorrow
At one point in this episode, Ray says, “I don’t believe in fate. I believe in choices.” It’s meant to rouse Rip Hunter into getting his act together as he starts unraveling for the umpteenth time under pressure. But Ray’s statement ultimately reveals the contradiction at the heart of Legends of Tomorrow.
This show has many problems, but one of the biggest is its outright inability to take a firm stance on the question of fate. Throughout the season, we’ve seen speeches that underscore the importance of free will. Kendra’s decision to not listen to the version of herself from the Old West suggests that fate isn’t set in stone. Sara’s entire arc exists as a reminder that these characters create their own destinies. On the other hand, the show refuses to abandon the juvenile idea of soulmates — Kendra can’t escape her (terrible) relationship with Carter no matter what life she chooses to live.
At another point in this episode, Hunter explains the many times he tried and failed to save his family. Ray’s response? “Time wants to happen.” Apparently, certain events cannot be altered. So, which is it? Does this show believe in fate or free will? Is Kendra’s link to Carter a gift or a curse? The answers to these questions prove to be just as muddled as the show’s rules for time travel. Despite its faults, “Leviathan” does provide some good character moments, a nice dash of humor, and some much-needed development in the Vandal Savage plotline. It’s easy to forget he’s the Big Bad, considering how he’s ignored every other episode.
Rather than searching for Savage through history, Hunter decides to go where and when they know he’ll be: London, 2166. This is where the last of the resistance stands against Savage’s tyranny. The world is a clichéd post-apocalyptic mess. (What’s the point of ruling the world if everything has turned to ash?) Once they arrive, Hunter has another bright idea: Target Savage at one of his rallies while he’s out in the open … and surrounded by hordes of soldiers. It doesn’t work, obviously, and spoils the team’s element of surprise. Hunter is so boldly idiotic, it’s a wonder how he hasn’t killed himself.
Meanwhile, we learn that Savage’s right-hand woman isn’t some anonymous lieutenant — it’s his daughter, Cassandra (Jessica Sipos). I don’t know why this reveal is so drawn out, but at least Dominic Purcell gives Mick a great reaction shot when that information drops.
In the comics, Savage actually isn’t a stranger to fatherhood. His children include Scandal Savage, a badass member of the Secret Six, and Kassandra “Kass” Sage, an FBI agent living a good life in contrast to Savage. Cassandra isn’t meant to be either of these women. She can certainly handle herself in a fight, but Sipos’s performance is more insolent and humorless than badass. Perhaps anyone closely connected to Savage’s story line suffers from terrible writing, questionable acting choices or no. Cassandra shows a faint spark when she interacts with Leonard, who once again proves to be the most reasonable member of the team.
After they manage to kidnap Cassandra, Leonard makes it his mission to win her to their side. He knows what it’s like to live with an abusive, tyrannical father. But will Cassandra see the truth? When she mentions that her mother was killed by the Armageddon virus — and that she believes Per Degaton released it — he finds his angle. First, he shows her the members of the resistance who fled to the Waverider for protection. Even though it’s obvious these people are suffering and just want peace in their lives, it doesn’t break through the years of conditioning Savage has put Cassandra through. Only after Leonard tells her the truth — that Savage released the Armageddon virus — she starts to believe him. She betrays her father, which gives the team the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to take him down.
Let’s pause for a minute to sing the praises of Wentworth Miller. He chews scenery like its a five-course meal. The way he draws out his words, throws side-eye, and saunters through every moment is an utter delight. Although Legends of Tomorrow has proven to be a mixed blessing at best, Leonard (and Mick and Sara) should stick around the CW’s DC shows for a long, long time. Loose adaptations of the canon don’t always work, but Leonard illustrates how wonderfully DC’s characters can jump to television.
Mick also gets some good moments. (The best line of the night is when he refers to Sara, Leonard, and himself as “killer, klepto, and pyro.”) It’s a shame that characters like Jax, Professor Stein, and Sara aren’t given much shine. Instead, “Leviathan” wastes a lot of time dealing with Kendra’s love life. Again.
As I’ve mentioned in previous recaps, Legends of Tomorrow and the CW’s other DC shows rarely treat their female characters well. They’re terribly underwritten, drained of the verve and depth that made them iconic in the comics. When the actors can’t elevate the writing, it gets much worse. In various other adaptations, Hawkgirl has proven to be a fun and witty powerhouse. We see none of that fire here. Even as “Leviathan” attempts to develop Kendra’s character, nothing seems to stick.
I’ll admit: Kendra’s relationship with Ray can sometimes be cute. But it doesn’t feel like a real relationship and it does little to address her character’s flaws. She has no sense of self or personal compass guiding her way. Every time she mentions Carter — or we get another sepia-toned flashback of their lives together — the show immediately falls apart. Kendra’s story line contradicts the idea that a person controls her own fate.
Back to Cassandra. Kendra notices she’s wearing a bracelet that was present during her first death. With Mick’s help, she melts the bracelet down and uses it to coat Carter’s mace, which she now wields as her own. It’s definitely progress, since we’ve been told that she’s the only person who can kill Savage. But with three episodes remaining, Kendra’s most definitive character trait is making stupid decisions. Is it any surprise that when she gets the chance to kill Savage, she doesn’t do it?
Thanks to Cassandra’s betrayal, most of the group is able to face off against Savage and his soldiers. Professor Stein is unconscious back on the ship — he was injured while they face off against the Leviathan, which is essentially a big robot that Savage uses as a weapon. Ray adjusts his Atom suit to become a giant, then goes head-to-head with the Leviathan. The scene is not nearly as cool as it should be, since it lacks a strong visual dynamic. (It was cute to see Jax give Ray a pep talk, though.)
And that brings us to Kendra’s fight with Savage. It starts off pretty awesome: When she wielded the mace for the first time, I felt the character has finally begun living up to her comic-book counterpart. The choreography is aces. Seeing Savage’s face when he realizes that the mace can kill him adds weight to the scene, too. However, they’re interrupted by one of Savage’s soldiers. Kendra quickly subdues him, but when his helmet is knocked off, the soldier is revealed to be a brainwashed Carter. Kendra can’t kill Savage; she thinks it will doom Carter.
Wouldn’t he eventually be reincarnated? Given all the resources at her disposal, it’s a bit ridiculous that she makes this decision. Is there no way to undo Savage’s brainwashing without his help? There are so many lives hanging in the balance: Hunter’s family, the whole team, the remaining members of resistance. Yet, Kendra chooses to protect a version of Carter whom she doesn’t know and who doesn’t know her. We don’t see her breakup with Ray, but when she tells him they need to talk, it comes across as very ominous.
“Leviathan” leaves the team in a particularly tenuous position: Savage is locked up on the Waverider, and Kendra must make a choice. Will she save the world or save Carter? Will she carve her own path or will she be burdened by destiny? Legends of Tomorrow has skirted the answer for 13 episodes. It needs to decide.