Legends of Tomorrow
It says a lot about how Legends of Tomorrow has improved that I actually missed the show during its hiatus. A lot of that comes down to how the previous episode ended on such an indelible hook with Chronos attacking the Waverider, which leaves Sara, Kendra, and Ray behind in 1958. And “Left Behind” doesn’t disappoint. There’s an unexpected reveal about the fate of Mick Rory, Leonard literally loses a hand to help the team, and Talia al Ghul makes a very brief appearance. The trio moved from shock to hopeful to resigned. They quickly leave Harmony Falls, Oregon, knowing Vandal Savage may find them. They’re able to create a life for themselves living together, playing board games, and missing the comforts of 2016, like Netflix and the internet. Weeks go by, with Ray failing to create a beacon he hopes will contact the Waverider. But Sara is all out of hope. She believes the rest of the team is dead and it’s time to carve her own path. If they’re truly stuck in 1958, they need to make the best of it. And honestly, if I were Sara and Kendra I would be livid about being stuck in that time period. Being a woman — especially one who is bisexual or black — in the late 1950s sounds like a version of hell to me.
Eventually two years go by. Ray is working as a professor and has comfortably settled into the life of 1960. He’s incredibly happy with Kendra even considering marriage. She’s a librarian (although we only learn that in an offhanded bit of dialogue later in the episode). While they haven’t heard from Sara, she’s actually gone back to a past life of hers as a member of the League of Assassins, which figures heavily into the episode. There are a lot of very interesting character moments and revelations in “Left Behind.” The episode mostly focuses on Ray, Kendra, Sara, Leonard, and a character we thought may be dead, Mick. I’m fine with Rip Hunter being sidelined — he’s a black hole of charisma, and any screen time he gets is better spent elsewhere. I’ve grown incredibly fond of Jax and Professor Stein along with their dynamic as Firestorm. They get some cute moments, particularly Jax, who makes snarky asides about Kendra and Ray’s romantic drama that spills over as the team tries to get Sara away from the League of Assassins. Sara’s story line ties neatly into her fear of being controlled by her bloodlust. There’s a lot of pathos embedded into what she’s struggling with. But the parts of this episode that stick with me involve the ever-evolving dynamic between Leonard and Mick.
The last time we saw Mick we’re left to assume Leonard killed him. But of course he didn’t. Leonard has too much history with Mick to do such a thing. It says a lot about his team that they believed him, especially as Leonard has always had more of a moral code than most criminals. But what happened to Mick? Well, it was an outcome I wasn’t expecting. The first sign of something weird is when Chronos decides to kidnap Leonard but leaves Rip and the others on the Waverider. It’s only when Leonard wakes up on Chronos’s ship that he finds out why. Chronos is Mick Rory. Wait, what? Let that sink in for a moment. Apparently the Time Masters found a crazed Mick in the forest and trained him, which is when he takes on the mantle of Chronos. Mick has traded his love of fire for vengeance. He’s the person they’ve been facing this whole time. To quote Cisco from the recent The Flash episode, “Time travel is weird.”
Let’s try not to think of the logistics of this reveal but instead the emotional fallout (I think if we hold up the time-travel workings to much scrutiny a lot of this wouldn’t make sense). Dominic Purcell and Wentworth Miller, thanks to their history on Prison Break and skills as actors, sell the mix of pain, longing, and anger that has now formed between the characters. Who knew a show like Legends of Tomorrow would be able to pull at our heartstrings? Mick follows the team to the base of the League of Assassins to get that vengeance he hungers for. This is when Leonard ends up freezing and breaking his own hand to escape his handcuffs. It’s painful to watch this body-horror-lite moment. But don’t worry: Thanks to Gideon’s regeneration process, he gets his hand back.
Reunited with the team thanks to Ray’s beacon finally working (only two years late, dude), Ray and Kendra are pulled in very different directions. But they have bigger things to worry about as they try to save Sara. Only problem is she doesn’t want to be saved. Hunter does something good for once by using the League of Shadows procedures against itself, asking for a trial by combat, which leads to Sara and Kendra facing off. Kendra holds her own long enough to get Sara to tap into her own humanity like Hunter hoped for. It’s surprising, since Kendra has been out of practice as a fighter for two years and mentions she hasn’t been able to tap into her Hawkgirl side for nearly just as long. But when it’s life and death, I guess that side of her can’t help but come out. (Side note: I have never been fond of how the League of Assassins has been portrayed in Arrow. Mostly because Ra’s al Ghul suffers from some of the same issues as Vandal Savage. How do they make such interesting villains from the comics so boring? Plus, I don’t want to watch Batman-lite when the show is supposedly about the Green Arrow, but that’s another matter.) Sara’s involvement with the League of Assassins in 1960 brings up a lot of questions about how she interacts with Nyssa in the future. Does it really all come down to time travel? Why mention Nyssa, who hasn’t been born yet, to Ra’s al Ghul?
Just as Kendra gets through to Sara, Mick bursts through, guns blazing. I really loved seeing the team working in tandem, tapping into their abilities to fight Mick. Kendra finally seems to be getting the hang of being Hawkgirl and having fun with that role. Thankfully, though, Leonard gets there in time to stop them from killing Mick. When they realize the man behind Chronos’s mask has been Mick this whole time, it sends shock waves through the team. What can they do at this point? They’ll rehabilitate him, though Leonard isn’t that keen on the idea.
Beyond the Leonard–Mick drama, the main emotional moments in “Left Behind” revolve around the relationship between Kendra and Ray. I am incredibly surprised I’ve grown to like them together. I enjoy their chemistry, and Ray seems like the best guy a dame could ask for. But the show undercuts how they’ve grown since we don’t actually get to see much of how they’ve been living together for the past two years, the friends they’ve made, or how they’ve reconciled thinking they were stuck in the past. Once back with the team, though, it is clear they experienced the past two years very differently. While Ray is hung up on their life together, Kendra moves on very quickly. Almost too quickly for me to buy it. Apparently, she felt like she was losing herself by being in the past, even though she falls in love with Ray. The two end up reconciling and deciding to continue their relationship. Kendra makes a very telling speech about how happy she is to be able to choose the man she loves rather than destiny choosing him for her. If the show brings back Hawkman (please don’t), I hope Kendra’s desire for autonomy isn’t dashed in the name of destiny.
The team has grown a lot in the past few episodes, and we’ve seen surprising emotional depth in unexpected places. But where the show hasn’t grown is in the place it needs to: how it writes Vandal Savage. For being this season’s Big Bad it feels like he’s sidelined or disappears every other episode, perhaps because he isn’t all that engaging. But with the team traveling to a turbulent 2147 to kill Savage or “die trying,” to quote Hunter, he can’t be avoided any longer.