There are legendary spoilers to follow in this review, so be warned, because Doc Brown’s busy and there’s no DeLorean laying around for you to use.
Regular Cast: Brandon Routh (Ray Palmer/The Atom), Victor Garber and Franz Drameh (respectively Dr. Martin Stein and Jay "Jax" Jackson, who merge to become Firestorm), Arthur Darvill (Rip Hunter), Caity Lotz (Sarah Lance/White Canary), Dominic Purcell (Mick Rory/Heatwave), Wentworth Miller (Leonard Snart/Captain Cold), Ciara Renee (Chay-Ara/Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl), Falk Hentchel (Khufu/Carter Hall/Hawkman) and Casper Crump (Vandal Savage). Written by: Marc Guggenheim & Chris Fedak Directed by: Dermott Downs
Time Period: 1975
“Blood Ties" unfolds in three distinct storylines. First, Kendra’s life is still in mortal danger from the attack by Vandal Savage, splinters from the blade used on her gradually moving towards her heart. Ray Palmer has to overcome a lack of confidence – first fostered and then partially resolved by Martin Stein – to go all Fantastic Voyage/Innerspace on her as he shrinks and enters her body to use his suit to destroy those fragments, successfully saving her life.
Rip Hunter and Sarah Lance engage in a plan to steal Savage’s fortune and thus remove a substantial part of his power, but things go wrong almost from the outset when the employees at Savage’s private bank turn out to be warriors working for him. Thanks to Lance the duo is victorious and they bring one of them – Blake – back to the ship, where they discover that Savage’s people, described as “legion in number,” are well aware of him. This is due to a failed attempt by Hunter to kill Savage back in Ancient Egypt; a moment of self-perceived weakness he’s never forgiven himself for.
Earlier, before departing with Lance, Hunter establishes in conversation with Gideon that “The Jumper,” a small exploratory vessel in the belly of the Waverider, needs to be repaired from the episode one attack by Chronos before they can go anywhere. Hunter suggests that since Jax is a mechanic, he should take a look at it. At first protesting that he’s an auto mechanic, Jax nonetheless asks for some wrenches so he can see what he can do. Even at this point you know he’s going to get that vehicle from the future to work. And despite the fact he’ll claim there was a really detailed instruction manual, it’s the kind of contrivance that instills headaches in the viewer. It’s like any of the other DC shows where (following a tradition established by Chloe Sullivan on Smallville) hackers are able to crack virtually any system, no matter how sophisticated. But because the story needs the heroes to accomplish a particular goal, the impossibility of such a thing gets thrown out the window. It’s a heck of a lot easier to believe Superman’s cousin is flying around performing feats of wonder or Barry Allen is running fast enough to crack the time barrier than it is to think that some twentysomething or younger can hack away at computer systems or, in this case, fix a vehicle from the future. And why wouldn't the ship’s AI have the ability to guide such repairs?
But we digress.
While the cat’s away, the criminals will play: Leonard Snart and Mick Rory convince Jax to fly them to Central City in the repaired Jumper so that they can steal the Maximillian Emerald, the stone Snart’s father is eventually supposed to take and, as a result, end up with a five-year prison sentence (previously on The Flash). Instead, Snart gives it to his father in 1975, offers some words of encouragement to his younger self and departs. Ultimately he learns his father got busted for trying to sell the emerald and ended up in jail for the same five years: nothing has changed (which doesn’t bode well for the Legends’ ultimate mission).
Things get a little more twisted towards the end when Lance and Hunter invade a Savage ceremony for “the vessel,” which turns out to be the corpse of Carter Hall. Everyone at this ceremony – which is a black-tie event – is a follower of Savage’s, all of them, it turns out, having their lifespans extended by a century or more by consuming the blood of either Carter Hall or Kendra. It’s a chilling revelation as is the fact that there is a cult that has risen around Savage, which will no doubt fuel his global domination in the 22nd Century.
Back at the ship, Kendra awakens with a scream, having a premonition of the others being in danger, which leads to the rest of the team gathering together to battle Savage and his followers. During said battle, Hunter attacks Savage and stabs him, saying it’s for his wife and son, who he names – names Savage says that, once he heals, he’ll remember. And so Hunter’s personal tragedy continues as he has helped to seal the fate of those he loves the most.
There is one thing that makes absolutely no sense in this scene: Hunter tells Snart to leave while he takes on Savage. Why? Because logic screams that with Savage immobilized, temporarily dead while his body regenerates, Snart could use his freeze gun to keep the man on ice until they figure out what to do with him. Instead, they simply leave him behind whereas they could have taken him out of time and dropped him, say, 65 million years in the past, or sent him into space. A strong episode on so many levels, marred by such a massive plot contrivance.
As good as they were in the first two episodes, the fight sequences and visual effects are steadily improving. More importantly, from a character perspective what’s most interesting about “Blood Ties” is the pervasive sense of loss that many of the characters share. Palmer was helpless to save his fiancée (previously on Arrow), and for a time feels equally helpless about saving Kendra even though the power to do so is quite literally in his hands. For Lance, it’s the loss of who she once was before becoming a part of the League of Assassins, dying and being resurrected in the Lazarus Pit, from which she is fighting the blood lust that has consumed Thea Queen for much of this season of Arrow. For Snart (and this is probably Wentworth Miller's best episode to date as the character), it’s about a lifetime of pain; of trying to stop an abusive father from heading down that path and perhaps changing his own destiny in the process. And for Hunter, it’s the continuing feeling of loss he has about his wife and son, and the self-loathing he has for not having had the “strength” to kill Savage when he had the opportunity.
Things end with a funeral service for Carter Hall, and the recognition that one man can’t save the world; that only together can they hope to accomplish this seemingly impossible mission.
Point made. Time to move on.
Next stop: 1986.