Legends of Tomorrow opened its second season with the mystery of Captain Rip Hunter’s (Arthur Darvill) disappearance, a thread the show hadn’t picked up again until the midseason finale. It was then that we learned he was living as a film director in 1960s New York City, and “Raiders of the Lost Art” revealed how his journey landed him there. Or hinted at it, anyway. Six months ago, while the Waverider was in the midst of a crisis, Rip picked up the Spear of Destiny that was hidden in a secret compartment and then initiated the “Shogun Ballistic” shutdown code for Gideon. Then he said a mysterious prayer and left the Waverider behind.
In the present, Stein (Victor Garber) finds Mick (Dominic Purcell) in the middle of another hallucination of his dead best friend, Leonard Snart. Mick asks for help getting rid of him, but Stein isn’t sure how he can be of service. Meanwhile, Nate (Nick Zano) is busy trying to figure out what the recently dubbed Legion of Doom wants with the amulet they stole in the midseason finale. After some awkward shuffling about how Amaya (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and Ray (Brandon Routh) are not sleeping together, he reveals to them that the bronze amulets are said to have originated around 30 AD. Amaya is quick to figure out it’s actually one artifact instead of two, which leads Nate to conclude it’s none other than the Longinus Medallion.
Delving into the history of the medallion allows Jax (Franz Drameh) a moment to shine, as he explains the history of a famous Roman Centurion that he learned in Sunday school. As slow as these opening exposition scenes are, the small character moments that come from them make it all worth it. The important thing is that we re-learn that the Legion of Doom is using the medallion to find the Spear of Destiny, which can permanently alter the course of reality. Sara (Caity Lotz) begins to doubt her abilities as a leader once she finds out, believing that Rip would never have traded the amulet – even for Stein’s life.
And just like that, we’re transported to hippie New York as Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Damian Darkh (Neal McDonough) steal motorcycles from the men trying to mug them. Their activities quickly cause an aberration large enough for Sara and the team to notice, and that’s when this Legends of Tomorrow episode really begins.
A poorly acted version of Rip and Vandal Savage’s showdown makes student filmmaker Rip all but rip his hair out in frustration while a young George Lucas (guest star Matt Angel) tries to give him some sound advice. The exchange about Vandal’s less-than-intimidating presence felt like meta-commentary on how the audience reacted to the actual character last season. Whether it was intentional or not, that scene was a standout in the episode – especially as it leads to an unconventional battle sequence when the Legends come to rescue Rip. The alternate reality offers Arthur Darvill a chance to flex his range as an actor in a way that Legends of Tomorrow hasn’t quite offered him before, and it’s a treat to watch his comedic timing as he flails over an unfair arrest.
The team uses their quick thinking skills to figure out that Rip is in possession of the Spear of Destiny, which means Sara has to grab Stein and Mick out of their hallucinatory subplot for some role-playing. Stein pretends to be “Philip Gassmer’s” psychiatrist, while Rory hilariously plays an orderly and Sara rounds out the trio as a nurse. His extraction is relatively painless, though it does give Arthur Darvill the chance to yell some more. Ray gets to “channel [his] inner Han Solo” and fly the Waverider with Gideon’s help, which is a great reference given the guest star this week. The attempts to convince Phil that he is really Rip, however, are a little more painful. Perhaps if we had spent more time with this incarnation of him before this week’s Legends of Tomorrow premiere, it would feel more urgent to convince him of the truth.
It’s more interesting to learn that his brain had been altered by something other than time drift, because it calls into question the powers of the Spear of Destiny as well as the over-reaching consequences of messing with the timeline. It’s a little clunky that Ray and Nate immediately start feeling those effects as soon as the possibility of rewriting brain chemistry is brought up, but it makes sense because it’s tied back to Rip’s film set and the infamous George Lucas. Turns out the Legion of Doom scared George away from doing movies, so Ray was never inspired by Star Wars and Nate was never inspired by Indiana Jones. Now they’re both useless to the team, which is a fun plot that feels shoehorned in nonetheless. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall this love of Lucas’ films to be part of the continuity before this episode – which would have been a nice touch. Nonetheless, watching Ray and Nate beg George Lucas to make his claims to fame for their own gain rather than the “greater good” is a lot of fun. Amaya’s speech to him even manages to bring the story some gravitas without veering into cheesiness.
Stein and Mick’s story line is a little out of place, but since Wentworth Miller’s return to Legends of Tomorrow has been highly anticipated it would be a relief to start learning how he will return. The episode spends some time convincing us that Time Masters left an antenna of sorts in Mick’s head, which is pulling the scattered pieces of Snart’s time ghost into a vision that haunts his best friend. Unfortunately, it turns out to just be Mick’s conscience wrestling with itself and missing his friend – which seemed obvious from the start and therefore not the best use of screen time.
George Lucas calls the Spear of Destiny the MacGuffin of his movie, which is dangerously close to what is it in this episode. But just as Amaya rages that she “can’t believe we’re all going to die because of a stupid movie,” the strength of Legends of Tomorrow‘s second season lies in its self-awareness. The adventure to the 60s is pure camp and the stakes don’t feel nearly as high as the characters think they are, but the cast’s chemistry and referential dialogue make it an enjoyable hour of television. And a trash compactor scene that’s a perfect homage to A New Hope certainly helps.
Of all the great moments in an otherwise uneven episode, Amaya taking her necklace back from Malcolm to become Vixen once more is perhaps the most satisfying. Although Rip pretending to gain his memory back to face off against Eobard Thawne (Matt Lescher), only to have to leave the rescue up to Gideon once more is a pretty close runner up.
The episode ends with some successes (the team has the medallion and the spear in their possession) and some failures (the Legion of Doom possesses a severely terrified Rip), but it isn’t until the final scene that the stakes start to get serious. Perhaps next week’s episode will be less comedy and more thriller?