Had last week's episode of "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" aired in the middle of the season, maybe tonight wouldn't have felt like such a backpedal. But "Leviathan" contained so many epic events -- the return of Hawkman, the capturing (though not the killing) of Vandal Savage, and The Atom brawling with a giant badass robot -- that, with only two episodes left, "River of Time" undoes all of its good work.
For one, it's never wise to follow the series' best action sequence with a bunch of talking -- not in the home stretch, at least. "Leviathan" built up so much momentum, and it fades away with every flashback; with every character that gets shoehorned into a pointless subplot. I still don't understand why the show has to touch on every one of its eight main characters in every single episode, but alas, we once again visit the past lives of Professor Stein, The Atom, and others in their moments before joining Rip's mission.
While it continues to expand their characters, it also doesn't give us insight into anything we don't already know about them. And with so few hours left, the time would be better spent on something else -- Jackson and Stein's subplot, perhaps? Despite the considerable talents of Franz Drameh and Victor Garber, they only get enough screen time for Jax to stumble around doing a laughable old-man impression as the professor tries to save him from aging to rapidly. It's so rushed that any heartfelt emotion (especially when they get separated) quickly devolves into slapstick geriatric comedy.
But all of that pales in comparison to the episode's biggest problem: the escape of Savage. His capture last week was easily the most significant advancement in Rip Hunter's mission, even if he couldn't kill his archenemy because of Hawkman's mental state. So why have Savage get released just an hour after he gets placed in his cell? Even worse, it results from an uncharacteristically boneheaded mistake from The Atom. I buy that Savage could get into his head with all the love-triangle business, but I can't see Ray so stupidly endangering the rest of the team by venturing behind the barrier to fight him.
The one upside to Ray's blunder is that it finally gives the audience some action after 40 or so minutes made up entirely of ponderous dialogue. There's a fistfight, a gun battle, Hawkman's semi-return from the darkness to save Hawkgirl, and a recapturing of Savage. Rather than kill him, however, Rip brings him to the Time Masters, who are apparently on Savage's side. I'm sure they have their reasons, but that doesn't make the end of "River of Time" any less frustrating. What was the point of Savage getting captured last week if he just gets freed a mere one episode later?