Less than 5 – Skip it, 6 – OK, 7 – Good, 8 – Great, 9 – Phenomenal, 10 – You owe it to yourself to watch this episode!
Travelling back (or in this case forward) to 1986, the crew of the Waverider must make their way into Soviet territory in order to stop Vandal Savage from manufacturing an army of pseudo Firestorms. Combining visual spectacle with engrossing character drama, Legends of Tomorrow is in no need of saving and White Knights is further proof of that.
As is implied in the title, White Knights sets up our heroes as near infallible saviors ready to tackle the time streams issues with the utmost confidence. Only, as has been the case with all of their previous exploits, things don’t go quite as smoothly. As was evidence by their attempt at infiltrating the White House, becoming a team takes a lot more effort than just showing up. As soon as their plan was laid out, I found myself questioning why they didn’t just get Ray Palmer to shrink down and steal whatever it was that they were after. As if reading my thoughts, Palmer himself asks that very question. It’s around this same time that the overly complicated strategy put into place by Rip Hunter falls apart. I really like the approach that the writers are taking with getting these misfit heroes to come together as a group.
We’ve seen them make small strides over the past three episodes, but when tasked with something as big as infiltrating the White House, there is still a long way to go in terms of everyone gelling. Take, for example, Sarah and Kendra. The two have yet to really share any time together, so thrusting them into the middle of an intense espionage mission may not have been the brightest of ideas. From a thematic standpoint, the two characters work well together, especially in light of Kendra’s violent outburst. They make for a fun pair to watch and will help each other grow into more rounded characters as the series progresses (also, White Canary + Hawkgirl… birds of a feather as they say).
Another great pairing this week came in the form of Snart and Palmer. The last time they worked together a bit of a rivalry sparked between the two potential leaders, that same tension makes itself evident here for much more comedic effect. In trying to get closer to the Russian scientist Valentina Vostok, Palmer takes the intellectual approach by appealing to her inner researcher. I loved how his bravado led to him crash and burn, only for the mission to be saved by the cool and collected Snart. Having his “cold” demeanor emerge in his personality outside of his super villainy was a fun way of incorporating his comic counterpart into the more mundane aspects of the show (though manipulating a Soviet scientist creating doomsday weapons can hardly be considered mundane).
Speaking of doomsday weapons, I love how the show keeps explaining the subtleties of time travel while showing how the actions of the team creates slight rifts in the future. Having Savage clue into Firestorm’s abilities after their scuffle at the nuclear auction makes perfect sense, and provides a personal spin for Jax and Stein when embarking on this new mission. Both sides of Firestorm have been vacillating between wanting to remain on the team and returning to 2016, with the looming threat of a legion of Firestorm’s becoming a reality, based on their involvement, it gives them a direct personal link to the larger mission.
With everyone else out on important missions, Rip and Heatwave stay behind on the Waverider to study a temporal phenomenon. It turns out that the wannabe Boba Fett, Chronos, has enlisted the aide of Druce (Martin Donovan), Hunter’s long time mentor at the Time Master Academy. This short side story does more for future storylines than it does for the immediate Firestorm threat but does provide a few fun moments for Rory to become a more nuanced character. Dominic Purcell is always good fun, but when his character is usually played for action or comedy beats, it begins to wear on you. Here he emerges as a much more savvy character, clueing in to Druce’s subterfuge from the get go.
Which leads us to the climactic finale. During the episode Stein and Jax once again find themselves at odds with one another. Remembering how his abundant confidence made a mess of things in the pilot, he chooses to risk his own life in order to save the rest of the team. It was a major character moment for Stein brought to life by Victor Garber’s incredible performance. Unfortunately, it all went to crap. Unable to withstand the sudden influx of nuclear energy, Stein can’t make it out of the complex before getting captured. And with Stein taken, Ray and Rory, in their attempts at saving him, get captured as well.
The entire scene is perfectly planned out and a fantastic blend of both enthralling action and understated character beats. Whether it was Snart risking capture to save his allies or Heatwave sacrificing himself to keep the others out of harms way, it was all done while keeping the core of each character intact while contributing more to their overall arcs. The way the episode ends invites copious speculation, where was Stein taken? What is happening with the other heroes? How will Cold, Hunter, Canary and Hawkgirl rescue everyone from Vandal’s clutches? If the following episodes are anywhere near as great as this one, I can’t wait to find out the answer to all of those questions and more!
Overall, White Knights gets a 9/10.
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