The best thing I can say about “Destiny” is that it outright ignores Vandal Savage, Kendra, and Carter. Might I remind you there is only one episode left and Savage is still a wholly boring villain? The fact that Legends of Tomorrow still hasn’t given us a reason to care about Savage (or Kendra and Cater, for that matter) is a major problem. Next season will obviously introduce a new set of characters and villains. For now, Sara, Mick, Leonard, and the duo that makes up Firestorm are enough to make the show enjoyable. The writers behind Legends of Tomorrow just don’t know their strengths. Which explains why the show’s best character was killed off in the most pointless way.
While most of the crew reckons with being captured by the Time Masters, Leonard and Sara are still on the Waverider, thanks to his uncanny ability for getting out of tight situations. Sara wants to save the team, but Leonard is more interested in saving himself. Even though Leonard likes to believe he’s still the same selfish man from the first episode, he’s definitely grown into a reluctant hero. With the help of Gideon, Leonard and Sara come up with a plan. Meanwhile, things aren’t going so well for the rest of the team. Poor Mick is being tortured into becoming Cronos again, and Rip Hunter is learning just how thoroughly the Time Masters have helped Savage.
As I’ve written in previous recaps, the tension between destiny and free will is a big part of this show’s DNA — but it doesn’t always make sense when the show picks a side. We’re supposed to be rooting for free will, of course. However, Kendra’s story line regularly contradicts that idea. Maybe she’ll choose not to believe that Carter is her only chance at love. Maybe she’ll develop as a person on her own terms. Being single isn’t a bad thing. In this episode, she and Carter are minor figures, so at least the story line doesn’t feel as contradictory as it usually does, even when the shows swings heavily toward destiny again.
Hunter learns that the Time Masters have orchestrated everything. No one on the team has had any sort of free will. They’ve used Hunter to inadvertently aid Savage. When Hunter learns the truth, he comes undone. He’s a shell of his former self. But is this really surprising? Again and again, the team has sped Savage’s rise to power and helped him learn important clues. (See: The Russians’ attempt to create their own Firestorm, or almost any other mission.)
Since all bad guys apparently need to lay out their plans in detail, Time Master Druce (Martin Donovan) thinks it’s a bright idea to tell Hunter about the Oculus. The Oculus allows the Time Masters to not only see time, but manipulate it. They’ve been using the Oculus to help Savage. Druce even lets Hunter take a peek, which leads him to see Ray’s death at some point in the future. We also learn why the Time Masters decided to help Savage in the first place: In the near future, Earth is attacked by an alien race and Savage is the only one who can save humanity. Which alien race will do such a thing? Apparently, it’s the Thanagarians.
(Quick digression: In the comics, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are Thanagarians, which makes this mention especially curious. I still don’t understand why this wasn’t tied into their origin, rather than suggesting that their hawk were imbued by some Ancient Egyptian magic and a meteor.)
Though Hunter doesn’t think that’s a good enough reason to let Savage conquer Earth, he’s so downtrodden by the truth that he doesn’t even try to come up with an escape plan. Yet again, Hunter’s moodiness makes him the worst leader. No matter, Sara and Leonard end up concocting their own rescue attempt — but not before Mick is turned back into Cronos. His first assignment? Kill Sara and Leonard.
Just when it seems like they’re going to escape, Mick busts in with his gun trained on Leonard. Turns out the induction process didn’t work as well as the Time Masters hoped, and he helps the team escape. Now they’ve now got a new plan: Destroy the Oculus, which will prevent the Time Masters from controlling their actions or aiding Savage. Leonard is surprisingly on-board with a plan. “This is madness,” he says. “I like it.” Maybe he’s truly a hero after all.
Although “Destiny” is breezier and and more enjoyable than typical episodes, it’s hard to ignore a major flaw that has plagued the season: Savage is such a non-factor. Also, shouldn’t the Oculus have been destroyed earlier? At least half of this season’s episodes feel like filler.
As the team quickly learns, destroying the Oculus won’t be easy. Remember how the Time Masters have manipulated them every step of the way? Well, it happens again. When the team shows up, they find themselves in a trap. Their capture has been preordained. But what hasn’t? Jax’s intervention.
In last week’s episode, Professor Stein forced Jax to use the jump ship to reverse the effects of the temporal distortion, which caused him to age at an accelerated rate. It works, but Professor Stein starts to grow unstable. If he doesn’t merge with Jax soon, he’ll die. Back in 2016, Jax meets up with past-Professor Stein, who is momentarily freaked out. With his help, Jax is able to adjust the jump ship and save the crew before the Time Masters lay waste to them.
The relationship between Jax and Professor Stein has proven to be an important aspect of the heart of Legends of Tomorrow. I love the rapport between Victor Garber and Franz Drameh; they have great chemistry and there’s an interesting father-son dynamic at play in their performances. I really hope to see more of these two characters next season, if only because they add something different to the team. Seeing them form into Firestorm toward the end of the episode is a small reminder that when this show works, it’s an utter joy to watch. Unfortunately, that seems all too rare.
While Ray tinkers with the Oculus, Hunter is reminded of witnessing Ray’s death. They learn that, for the plan to work, someone needs to be present with the Oculus when it’s destroyed. One team member will have to die. Will it be Ray? He’s been has been a sore point for Legends of Tomorrow since the beginning. Although he was a refreshing presence on Arrow, he has devolved into the dumbest genius on television. It’d be no great loss if he dies.
But Mick decides he’d rather sacrifice himself instead. He’s out for vengeance with the Time Masters, which is understandable. If there is any character the show can cut loose, aside from the trifecta of boring that is Kendra, Carter, and Savage, it’s Ray. Just when we think Mick is going to sacrifice himself, Leonard knocks him out to take his place — killing off Druce and some other lackeys in the process. “There are no strings on me,” he says before the Oculus explodes. He gets a kiss from Sara before he martyrs himself, which I guess is supposed to make up for everything else?
Throughout the first season, Leonard has the most fleshed-out character arc. He’s undoubtedly the best character on the show. Somehow, Wentworth Miller’s performance marries outright ridiculous lines, scene-chewing excellence, and legitimately interesting emotional beats. He’s exactly the kind of character that the CW’s DC shows need when they introduce anti-heroes. It’s a tremendous shame to lose him.
In the end, the Oculus is destroyed. Gideon can’t review the timeline, Savage no longer has the backing of the Time Masters, and the team’s destiny is finally in their own hands. But was it worth Leonard’s life? His sacrifice isn’t necessarily surprising, but the execution feels clumsy at best. If you’re going to kill off your best character, create a stronger setup!
There is some good news, though: After this episode aired, Deadline reported that Wentworth Miller will regularly appear on all of the CW’s DC shows in some capacity. Leonard will be back, thankfully. Unfortunately, that doesn’t distract from his poorly written death in an episode that lacked dramatic tension. Hopefully, next week’s finale will finish on a stronger note.