Well, we’re finally out of the 1970s, but it’s not necessarily for the best. This week, the Legends visit the height of the Cold War, which means, yes, villains with accents borrowed from James Bond films.
Spoilers follow, comrade!
Hello, 1986! And hello, the Pentagon: Gideon’s discovered a fax (“It’s like an email. On paper.”) about Savage, but too much info has been redacted for it to be useful, so naturally they need to steal the original. From the Pentagon. Rip puts together an almost-clever little heist in which everyone has a role to play and we get to enjoy Snart’s pickpocketing skills: He just needs a keycard, but he can’t leave a wallet in a pocket, apparently. All’s well until Firestorm does something wacky to the alarm system and the team suddenly needs to fight their way out—and Kendra goes all red-eyed and apeshit in the process.
Back at the ship, chipper Ray wants to focus on the positives: they got the file! Hoorah! He’s such a Boy Scout this episode that Snart makes a joke about it later. (That’s Eagle Scout to you, Captain Cold.) The file is full of delightful opportunities for exposition: Savage has gone to the Soviet Union and started some sort of promisingly dangerous science project, using the talents of a Soviet lady scientist named Valentina Vostok (of course, she’s stunning). Rip just happens to have some magical language pills that will make visiting other countries a breeze. Rip, please share with the class.
En route to Moscow, Gideon announces they’re being tracked, despite their futuristic cloaking. “Boba Fett’s back,” jokes Jax, who has only ever heard of one fictional bounty hunter. Rip, who’s having a pretty good week, uncloaks their ship, luring out Soviet jets that take down Chronos’s ship and give Ray a chance to quote Top Gun, to Snart’s inexplicable annoyance. There is nothing wrong with quoting Top Gun, ok?
The Waverider crash-lands conveniently close to where they need to be and without any serious damage; it’s almost like we’re on a roll of things not going terribly awry! Rip, still in effective-leader mode, assigns Science Boy Scout Ray to stalk Valentina at her beloved ballet and chat her up for intel. Snart plays wingman, which is handy, as Ray is too earnest for our sly, eye-rolling scientist. Snart steps in, all cool commentary and creased brow, and saves the day.
Meanwhile, Sara tells Rip about Kendra’s freakout. Rip thinks Sara is just the person to teach Kendra to control her feathery rage; just as naturally, Sara is not interested. “I’m not a fan of feelings,” she says, but Rip argues it’s Kendra’s warrior side that they’re talking about, so ladies, go fight it out with sticks, please.
This episode keeps everybody busy: while Sara and Kendra make violent use of the ship’s long hallways and Ray and Snart practice their pickup lines, Gideon discovers a temporal anomaly in the forest, and Rip and Rory head out to investigate. They find not Chronos but a Time Master, Zaman Druce, played by Martin Donovan, which really is rather like the American version of having Timothy Dalton show up in Doctor Who, except with a lot less spitting. Druce offers Rip a deal: give it up, come back, they’ll fix the timeline and deposit all the would-be-legends back in their own time. Mick Rory, like any person who makes a habit of being suspicious, doesn’t buy it for a second.
Druce gives Rip an hour to talk to his team, which is just enough time to go back and tell Jax and Martin about things. The show would like us to believe that Rip is considering the offer, but it’s pretty obvious, when they return to the forest, that Rip brought backup, just like it’s obvious that Druce is not alone. Chronos appears and there’s a brief and uninteresting fight that gets Jax injured, which freaks Martin right the hell out.
Their relationship is actually pretty complicated here: Jax is still (understandably) pissed that Martin essentially kidnapped him and just keeps bossing him around; Martin is pissed that Jax takes too many risks, and gives him a “this is bigger than any one of us” speech, telling him to grow up and to get his “arrogant, adolescent ego” in check. Ouch. Jax storms off, and Martin immediately starts explaining himself to Ray. He’s desperately trying to get Jax to play things safer—because he’s afraid of losing his other half again (RIP Ronald). It’s a more layered fight than most that happen on this show, but it might’ve been more effective if Martin didn’t have to spell out his entire reasoning to Ray’s convenient, mostly sympathetic ear.
Kendra and Sara spend the entire episode engaged in a training session or three, the first of which ends in a relatively minor (all things considered) Sara freakout. When Kendra complains to Rip about Sara nearly killing her, Rip reveals that yes, of course he knew about Sara’s bloodlust, and he was actually hoping they’d rub off on each other: Kendra’s better at being a person, and Sara’s remarkably good at being a killer. Once Kendra realizes that she’s the teacher and the student, she’s much more invested. This teeters on the verge of becoming A Very Special Plot About Being a Person, but it’s also about the mostly deadly members of the team not flying into bloodlusty rages and killing everyone, which is moderately great.
While they do some more meaningful fighting, the gentlemen (sans injured Jax) head off to Valentina’s secret lab, with Martin very, very excited about getting to play Research Spy. There—gasp!—it turns out that Savage is trying to create his own Firestorm. (This doesn’t make a ton of sense; Savage has seen Firestorm in action, but how would he have any idea what makes them tick?) Martin wants to take the thermocore, the vital piece of the making-more-Firestorms puzzle, and tells Ray to shut down the core so he can get it out of there. (He can’t resist a bit of lecturing, ever.)
Valentina chooses this moment to show up and head toward the core. Snart doesn’t care; whatever, let her get irradiated—but Ray wants to keep playing Boy Scout. Which doesn’t go so well: Valentina knows what she’s working on and what she’s doing, and would prefer that the pretty men stop trying to save her from her own villainous self.
The way Valentina uses Snart and Ray against each other is the actual point of this episode. Valentina puts a gun to Snart’s head and tells Ray that if he doesn’t bring the lab’s reactor online—thus stopping Martin from stealing the core—she’ll kill Snart. Snart says to do it. Ray, as we know, won’t. The situation would’ve been entirely different were it reversed, which mirrors the way that Snart succeeded when Ray failed earlier. Being the good guy doesn’t always work out, but Ray just can’t bring himself to make what he perceives to be a bad guy call. It’s why their team is the mix it is: somebody has to make shitty calls sometimes, and Snart absolutely will—including making the hard choice to leave without Rory (who arrives to help them escape) in order to keep the core out of Valentina’s hands. (Wentworth Miller slow-motion running through a rain of sparks should happen in every episode.)
For now, we end on a cliffhanger: Martin, Rory, and Ray are in evil custody, where the villains will threaten Ray and Rory in order to push Martin into working with Valentina. Snart is quite miffed at Rip for leaving people behind—criminals have a code, dammit!—but Rip says they’re going to get their people back.
On paper, this episode does some of the things I’ve been wanting the show to do, primarily by working in smaller-scale problems (putting Sara and Kendra together to work through their demons; Rip dealing with his Time Master boss). This takes some of the focus off Savage, who doesn’t appear at all in this episode. Rory’s still underused, but Jax and Martin’s relationship is explored, and every scene with Ray and Snart sets them up as glorious opposites who are going to be in each other’s way forever—sometimes for good, sometimes for ill, always for excellent chemistry.
So why does it feel relatively flat? Partly, it’s just the unoriginal sets and overused setting, which feel far more dated than the show’s vision of the ‘70s. And partly it’s that there’s a little too much going on: every one of the plot strands has promise, but needs to be teased out over a little more time. “White Knights” was the kind of episode that doesn’t spark while you’re watching, but moves the pieces around just enough that you want to see what the next play is. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m pretty sure it’s about totally screwing up the future.
THE BEST PART
“Gideon. Bone me.”
Molly Templeton is pretty sure that was an on-fire ValentinaStorm in the previews, and is maybe a little intrigued.