Warning: the following article contains spoilers for “Turncoat,” the latest episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.”
A quick question: when did “Legends” become the most fun of the DC shows on The CW?
That’s not to say it’s the best of them, but while even the frequently sunny “Supergirl” has grown darker, “Legends of Tomorrow” seemingly has no more you-know-whats to give. While the first season and the first half of the current season had some high points, the last three episodes — tonight’s “Turncoat,” as well as “Legion of Doom” and “Raiders of the Lost Art” — have been a horse of a much more colorful color. Is it perfect? No. Is it entertaining? You bet your boots it is.
“Turncoat” isn’t quite on the level of the previous two installments, but it’s still good stuff. The biggest reason for that: Arthur Darvill and the writers who have given him so much to do. The choice (or, given his other projects, the need) to remove Rip Hunter from the board in the first half of season two only to bring him back as a nebbish American hippie film director? That was a winner all on its own. Now Rip’s back, but he’s got a head full of Legion-scrambled brains, and whatever tweaks Eobard Thawne made to his programming turned him into a coldhearted American-hating cad.
Darvill isn’t what’s fun about this episode. He’s not a scenery-chewer, so his villainy is genuinely villainous, rather than campy. No, what’s fun is that “Legends” seems ready to jump in whatever direction will create the most entertaining dynamic. In this case, they went with Christmas, the Revolutionary War, a chore wheel, a Hamilton joke, “chill” sex, a Mick Rory statue and lots and lots of Bad Rip. Oh, and there was a rat chase. Put plainly, “Turncoat” is a mess, but it’s a highly entertaining mess and there are much, much worse things to be.
The titular turncoat — Bad Rip — is also a redcoat, and his assassination of General George Washington causes a timequake that he’s sure will lure the Legends right to him. (Spoiler: he”s right.) The Bad Rip storyline dominates the hour, as he and his troops (troops? How? Never mind, this isn’t an episode where logic dominates) crash Washington’s holiday party and run into the Legends, who were ready for a fight. Bad Rip’s ready too, letting loose an electro-magnetic pulse that shuts down the Waverider, the Atom suit, all the fancy futuristic weaponry and Firestorm’s powers. As Sara and Mick try to get Washington to safety, Bad Rip shows up, shoots Sara in the stomach and hustles the others away to the British Army.
From there on out, the story splits into no less than four parts. We follow Jax and Stein’s attempts to keep Sara alive and the Waverider and (and stowed spear fragment) safe, Amaya and Nate’s rescue mission and “chill” romantic encounter, Mick’s efforts to convince George Washington to stop acting like a gentleman and be an American, for crying out loud, and most bizarrely Ray’s attempts to outrun a giant rat that may or may not have the bubonic plague. The last is the easiest to summarize, the least essential and still somehow the most fun, so here goes: Ray’s suit gets stuck in tiny mode, and as he tries to help get the Waverider online, he has to outrun a rat that’s been feating on Mick’s trash. He does not get eaten by a rat. Fin.
Amaya and Nate are tasked with rescuing Washington and Mick from the British, but they get side-tracked by… well, a few things. First there’s nature and Tinder, then an unexplained ambush and then by Nate’s hypothermia. Amaya says he needs skin on skin contact to warm up, and despite the fact that they’ve been told to save a major historical figure, you can guess where all that contact leads. Maisie Richardson-Sellers and Nick Zano have a reasonable amount of chemistry, but this story made even less sense than the rat. It feels like a naked, if you’ll forgive the pun, excuse to get to attractive people relatively undressed while stirring up some ship drama. By episode’s end, Amaya tells Nate that teammates shouldn’t fraternize, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
Mick’s storyline is nearly as simple to sum up as Ray’s. Washington says gentlemen don’t fight back when taken prisoner, Mick tells him he’s not a gentlemen but is instead an American, and they escape. In the future, there’s a Mick Rory statue in Washington. It’s all fine, but the single best Mick contribution was his narration of the opening summary, which somehow tops the explanation given by Damien Darhk. Of all the solid things about this episode, this is perhaps the best indicator that “Legends” is on the right track. They’re the rowdy younger sibling of the DCTV bunch, and they’ve earned the right to have some weird fun.
Last, Bad Rip chases Jax through the ship as Stein is, once again, forced into acting as a medical doctor (“I’m a physicist!”) in order to save Sara’s life. It’s taut and tightly acted, but pretty hard to sum up — it’s dark, Jax runs, Rip chases, they outsmart each other, et cetera — so suffice it to say it all ends with Rip forcing the location of the fragment of the spear of destiny out of Jax by threatening Sara. Then he kills her.
She’s not dead, of course. Gideon pops back online just in time, and Sara’s on her feet in time to stop Jax from shooting their once and former Captain dead. She tells Jax it’s Christmas, Bad Rip tells him he’s weak, Jax lowers his gun and off Bad Rip goes, fragment in hand. We get a Christmas dinner at episode’s end, presumably to end on a happier note, but it’s a relatively dour end to an hour that contained a rat chase.
It’s tonally muddled, sure, but the world could use more shows like “Legends of Tomorrow.” Last season was all about the drama, but this year both the Legends and their writers have cut a little bit loose. In a time that most superhero properties lean heavily into darkness, it’s nice to see a rat chase once in awhile.
Airing Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT on The CW, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” stars Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter, Brandon Routh as the Atom, Victor Garber and Franz Drameh as Firestorm, Caity Lotz as White Canary, Maisie Richardson-Seller as Vixen, Dominic Purcell as Heatwave and Nick Zano as Citizen Steel.