Legends of Tomorrow: 107 “Marooned” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
In its first handful of episodes, Legends of Tomorrow has proved to be a confounding addition to the DC TV universe. It’s generally delivered in the barmy comic-book fun stakes and excels at character interplay and action scenes, but the actual story of the season has been frustratingly rickety, providing a very unstable core for the rest of the show to orbit around. Legends is still working out what elements it wants to prioritise going forward, and that experimentation manifested last week in the form of the baffling, messy and thrilling Star City 2046, an episode that seemed to focus on everything at once with unusual results.
This week, Legends delivered a considerably more focused episode, and it was all the better for it. Fuelled by a snappy and irresistibly silly premise (Pirates! In space!), Marooned provided a minimalistic storyline in order to focus on this show’s twin pillars of character interplay and action – and though the results weren’t perfect, this was a confident return to stability for the show (you can expect an actual score at the end of this review!). For the first time, Legends placed the spotlight on the Waverider captain himself, Rip Hunter with a set of flashbacks sketching out his romance with his future wife while he was employed in the Time Masters. These flashbacks aren’t particularly scintillating television – ‘competent’ would describe them more accurately, reflecting the way that Marooned efficiently and somewhat mechanically ticks the boxes it needs to, getting from A to B with no glaring missteps in the storytelling. Yet, despite this slightly mechanical feel of cycling through a list of necessary plot points, the flashbacks were a welcome addition to the episode.
Rip’s been a troublesome character for the show because his motivations have been tied to characters who appeared for 30 seconds at the start of the pilot, so it’s often been hard to understand his frequently weird decisions. When Rip has acted harshly in order to keep the mission on track, it’s generally seemed selfish and annoying because Legends gave us very little reason to sympathise with him aside from a thin and hopelessly generic ‘dead family’ motivation that was hard to care about without seeing what his wife and kid specifically meant to him. The uninspiring execution aside, these flashbacks may just prove to be very useful in the future, because they finally turned Rip’s wife, a crucial figure to this show’s narrative, into an actual character with motivations and a personality, and gave Rip a specific and adequately touching reason to owe his wife a great deal. Instantly, there’s a lot more clarity and depth to the core mission of Legends because it stems from real characters rather than nondescript names who are heard and not seen, and Rip’s often bone-headed decision-making now seems a little more understandable knowing that his wife sacrificed her job to keep Rip in the Time Masters. The flashbacks had a low bar to clear in achieving this goal, but having seen the messy and aimless flashbacks Arrow has served up this season, there’s something to be said for flashbacks that simply achieve what they set out to do and don’t have pretensions of anything grander .
If Rip’s story was competent and efficient but not all that dynamic, then Mick’s story this episode provided enough (ahem) spark to make up for that. Mick’s storyline has been a consistently rewarding facet of the last two episodes because it’s one of Legends’ few plotlines that can realistically be described as somewhat slow-burning. Mick’s growing rebelliousness and rift with his partner has been compelling to watch in the short term, but it’s still been carefully and patiently building up to an explosion over the past couple of episodes, with Legends cranking up the intrigue each week as Mick and Snart’s feud took another surprising turn, peeling away layer after layer of the facades that these characters deploy to cover up their true selves. The explosive pay-off came here, and it’s instantly easy to become invested in this storyline because Legends of Tomorrow gives us numerous reasons to sympathise with Mick even as he slips into outright villainy. Mick’s character arc works here due to the way Marooned explicitly underlines the moment in which Mick finally snaps and decides to betray his crew – and in that moment, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for a guy who has recently been wrenched away from his dream world, stripped of his autonomy by his ‘boss’ Snart and then had to hear that he was only recruited as an unfortunate add-on to the guy who stabbed him in the back just a few days before. He might be a psycho, but Legends makes sure to show that Mick has very legitimate reasons to feel aggrieved, so his betrayal feels like an organic and justified development for the plot rather than a cheap twist for shock value.
It’s arguable that Mick post-breakdown is the most engaging villain that Legends has served up thus far – there’s a really good balance of sympathetic and understandable motivations (the reasons for which we’ve seen patiently play out over the past few episodes) and a sense of genuinely unchecked psychosis that makes him as fearsome as he is sympathetic. Dominic Purcell capably holds all together with a performance that’s brimming with a raw, palpable sense of betrayal and an almost childish desire to lash out at his teammates – but Purcell keeps things consistent and cohesive by clearly showing that Mick’s fury very much stems from his usual persona, only without his partner to keep him in check. It’s easy for actors to stray too far from their usual performance when a character undergoes a big shift like this – so, alongside with a strong script that satisfyingly brings Mick’s rewarding, slow-burning character arc to an explosive conclusion (for now), Purcell deserves plaudits for advancing and developing his performance in meaningful ways in this episode.
Aside from Mick and Rip, Marooned offers a handful of character vignettes that circulate around the time pirates story. Stein’s adventures as a ‘space ranger’ are a lot of fun, and it’s hugely enjoyable to see the always-delightful Victor Garber larking about and showing off his comedic strengths (I’m not sure why Stein was able to beat up a time pirate, but logic and Legends have never gone hand in hand). Captain Cold has a slightly less active role than usual right up until the end, but his conversations with Sara as they freeze are solidly entertaining, providing intriguing tidbits of character back-story as Snart reveals how he met Mick (a great way of increasing sympathy for Mick and adding weight to Snart’s final confrontation with his partner) and Sara reveals what death was like (unsurprisingly miserable). The only real bum note of these scenes is the Kendra/Ray storyline, which delivers a lot of fun and entertaining interplay between the two characters before careening off road with their first kiss – a development that not only contradicts last week’s episode to a considerable degree, but also formally introduces a thin and non-engaging romance into the show on a permanent basis. This character pairing seems to have come out of absolutely nowhere, and it badly suffers from Kendra’s lack of development, leaving a major imbalance in this new character dynamic between a fully fleshed out veteran of this universe and a character who seems to still be in search of an individual storyline and/or depth beyond complaining that she used to be a barista every now and then. This new romance feels gratuitous and shallow, so it’s not a particularly welcome addition to Legends – and its prominence as a big emotional moment at the end mars Marooned as an episode.
Back to Mick, then, who had become an unsustainable member of the Legends due to his mutinous actions. It’s a testament to the time that Legends has put into fleshing out the complexities of this partnership, one that was mostly played for comedy over on Flash against the compelling backdrop of Snart’s move towards the side of the angels that this final scene works so well. There was every chance that the final scene could have been a ludicrously hammy, over the top confrontation with no tension or emotional stakes, but, conversely, Marooned really stuck the landing with this undeniably emotional final scene that somehow made the ‘death’ of a psychopathic pyromaniac who tried to kill all his friends into a gut-wrenching moment. Legends has excelled at showing what these two characters mean to each other recently, so Snart’s final severing of ties resonates as a huge shift in the character dynamics of the show. I can’t imagine that Mick’s actually been killed off on a permanent basis – it would be strangely out-of-character for Snart to execute his best friend after the development he’s had lately, and Mick is a unique character who would leave a bit of a hole in the show that would be very difficult to fill. Whether Mick’s alive, dead or somewhere in-between, however, it’s very likely indeed Legends won’t quite be the same after this…
Marooned concentrates on what Legends does best; a small-scale instalment with limited stakes and no focus on Vandal Savage, allowing the characters to come to the forefront for some compelling and enjoyable developments, alongside some excellent and cinematic fight scenes. It’s not a momentous episode, and it’d be fair to classify this as filler, but Legends is going to need episodes like these if it’s going to foster investment in its entire ensemble cast going forward.