Let’s just imagine that this episode exists because someone shouted, “Time pirates!” and everyone else involved in Legends of Tomorrow said, “Why yes, that’s a most excellent idea! Every show can benefit from the addition of pirates!”
They were almost right.
“Marooned” is a strange mix of emotionally resonant scenes and goofy adventure; some moments work as a combination of both, but for the most part this episode is a bit of a see-saw. For every moment that works, there’s a sloppy bit of writing that distracts from what the episode is trying to do: talk, at least a little bit, about how the people we love and admire make us who we are.
In the main timeline, the Waverider picks up a distress signal from the Acheron, the flagship of the Time Masters’ fleet, which is somewhere in space. It’s probably a trap, but their ship’s temporal database would be useful in the hunt for Savage, so Rip takes the inexplicable boarding party of Stein, Jax, and the still-pissy Mick Rory to investigate. In a moment of wisdom, Rip asks Stein to wait behind in the jumpship.
Guess what? It’s a trap set by time pirates! (TIME PIRATES!) And it’s also a reason for Rip to remember the time he and Miranda Coburn, before she was his wife, beat a time-pirate simulation at Time Master school. She saves the day with some quick—and unorthodox—thinking, but they get caught making out in the hallways. As we’ve established, the Time Masters don’t allow emotional attachments, so they are in big trouble. Rip says there must be some way to fix it; Miranda needs time to think.
At long last, the show turns its focus in part to Mick, but what we find isn’t pretty. “Marooned” sets Rip and Mick Rory up as direct opposites: Rip was a promising young lieutenant who got a second chance; Mick a young criminal with no prospects. Rip eventually gave up his place with the Time Masters; Mick never had a place with anyone but Snart, who’s now betrayed him.
This is effective on the Mick side, not least because Dominic Purcell glowers and burns through all of his scenes, especially when a furious Rip tells him that he only recruited him as part of a package deal. Rip’s scenes start out strong but go downhill: The episode opens with him silently watching an old hologram from his wife and child, on loop. Arthur Darvill sells his self-loathing so fully that it’s uncomfortable to watch him stew. But the flashbacks don’t hold up: Eventually it’s revealed that Miranda resigned her place with the Time Masters so that Rip could keep his. She believed in him—which makes his sense of failure all the more palpable; he feels he didn’t deserve her faith. But then she gives a speech about how she couldn’t be a Time Master because she found love, and it’s so unfortunately sentimental that it nearly undoes the relationship groundwork the flashbacks have been striving to establish.
Meanwhile, in the action portion of the episode, the Waverider is damaged, and Snart and Sara are trapped behind bulkhead doors when they try to fix the hole in the hull. Their conversations are simple, straightforward, and blessedly free of any romantic suggestion; she tells him about the loneliness of dying, and he tells her about when he first met Mick. While Ray takes the Atom suit on a space run to fix the hole, he and Kendra banter, and the show drags out the “Will he run out of oxygen?” question just long enough that you know Kendra’s going to smooch him when he gets back. Which she does, never mind that a week ago she wanted a little more time to figure out who she was before getting involved in a relationship. (I for one wanted her to have that.)
The time pirates are a distraction, even though they’re led by everyone’s least favorite Cylon, Callum Keith Rennie (playing Jon Valor, for those of you tracking how many easter eggs can be dropped into one episode). He’s a nice enough pirate, perfectly happy to drop everyone off where and whenever they want, provided they give him the Waverider. Everyone says no to this deal until Mick gets tired of being stuck in the brig with Rip, Jax, and Acheron captain Eve Baxter. Once Rip lets slip that he didn’t even want Mick on his team, Mick really has no reason not to sell them out.
Meanwhile, Stein has been playing Space Ranger, just like he always wanted to, saving the day a little bit behind the scenes. Victor Garber spends a notable amount of time alone this week, but his little-kid joy at getting to go to space and have an adventure is an absolute delight. There’s a lot of delight threaded through this hour, sneaking around the edges of the mopier bits; Star Trek and Star Wars references abound, and Ray, acting as captain, absolutely lights up: “I’m more like Sulu right now. Or Han Solo!”
When it comes time to wind things up, character development gives up a stretch of ground to plot shenanigans. The most frustrating of these is when Sara faces off with Mick, who inexplicably pretty much beats her. Sara Lance has taken down bigger brutes than Mick Rory before, and no matter how much of a bruiser he is, she’s trained to deal with that. You cannot convince me otherwise, show, but you wanted to show that Snart would shoot him, and so that’s what happens.
Much of Rip’s story is about him regaining his confidence, which comes two ways, one more convincing than the other. Eve Baxter changes her tune; she starts out full of scorn about his interest in changing history for personal reasons, but when he saves her ship, she’s all praise about what a hell of a Time Master he is. (She’s still a little skeptical about the whole love thing, though.) More meaningfully, Rip saves the day with the move he learned from Miranda, way back in Time Master school. Do I wish she hadn’t had to give up her career in order to demonstrate how much she believes in him, and in love? I really, really wish that. But having Rip borrow her personal Kobayashi Maru move was a nice touch; we know he misses her, but now we also know how much he admired her, too. It says more about their relationship than any terrible, gushy speeches about the glory of love.
Surprisingly—and satisfyingly—this episode brought at least a temporary close to the conflict between Snart and Rory, though we all know the rules here: No one’s dead for real until we see the body. This arc had a relatively slow, subtle burn, from “White Knights” on, and that careful growth is what keeps me convinced that there’s a better show inside this shiny package. Somewhere.
- If Miranda’s speech about love serves as a kickoff to the show really looking at the deeply flawed Time Master structure, it’ll be partially forgivable.
- Sara and Snart playing cards on the floor was the best.
- Time Masters have fake names! I want to know how old—or young, rather—Rip Hunter was when he chose his.
- This week’s action scenes—though the result of the Sara/Mick one made no sense—were really strong, especially the hallway. Nice to see Kendra being a total badass again—and I’m delighted that she was as much of a Star Trek nerd as Ray was.