Legends of Tomorrow: ‘Shogun’ Review
By Mitchell Sigal
Welcome to Japan, 1641! This week on Legends of Tomorrow, the Legends are largely examining what it means to each of them to be a hero, and naturally each has a different answer and a different way of getting there.
The main storyline focuses on new team member Nate Heywood, aka Citizen Steel, as we continue to get to know him. When his powers activate just in time to save Mick from Amaya (who somehow got on board the ship undetected, via a little too much handwavium for my tastes), Nate’s downright giddy that he has superpowers now, but just as quickly encounters some performance issues when he and Ray accidentally end up in feudal Japan. His journey to heroism and reclaiming his powers is a little muddy, however — while outwardly it takes the form of having his ego physically struck down, getting to save the girl and the village of innocents from the evil warlord, and engaging in some teamwork, it’s not really clear what action in particular makes him able to “steel up” again at the end. At best, it seems to be the direct threat to Masako, his love interest, but it’s not like he knows her well enough for us to say he loves her and that’s why. Nonetheless, his hero’s journey is a good one, and while it’s convenient his hemophilia is completely cured now, Nate’s played with such sincere enthusiasm for finally getting to be the kind of hero he dreamed of but never could be that I can’t help liking him. Also, his nerdiness is endearing; claiming Master Yoda as the one who taught him such wisdoms as “Do or do not, there is no try” was great.
Ray’s journey is more clear cut. Of course, he has the benefit of having more backstory that we’re familiar with. The recurring question thrown in his face of whether he’s a hero at all without his suit is once again front and center, having been brought up once again last week by Amaya. I did mention then I was tired of this coming up, but in this episode that’s not the case because something is finally different. This time, Ray not only loses the suit and has to prove himself, he has to help destroy that is not only his life’s work but his heroic security blanket. His moments of self-pity and self-reflection are earned this time around, and his talk with Masako’s father is touching. That the old man is willing to give Ray his dead son’s armor and sword so that he can stand up to the warlord who (essentially) killed his son is not a gesture whose significance goes unnoticed by Ray. And when you get down to it, Ray’s genuineness and undeniable innate goodness is what makes him a hero and always has. The suit sure helps, there’s no denying that, but as he tells the shogun, “Armor is only as strong as the man wearing it.” Ray’s no badass and he probably never will be, but he is still strong in a different and more subtle way. In some ways, his strength is the kind that’s far harder to come by. I don’t doubt that he’ll make a new suit in a matter of episodes, but the choice he makes here is a big step for him in finally, truly accepting that he can be a hero without the suit.
Next up is the newest member of the team, Amaya! I mentioned it before, but seriously, how did she get on the Waverider? We’re not given a clear timeline on when Rex died relative to when the Legends left the JSA, but it sure felt like time had passed there. Her just showing up on board leaves a lot of unanswered questions. So does her being able to sneak up and knock out Sarah with one punch — the League of Assassins have often not been good at their jobs, but Sarah is generally on the ball. But let’s move on! Amaya is the stoic sort, short on humor (so far) and particularly irritated by Mick, whom she views as a selfish criminal. It’s nice that she isn’t stubbornly clinging to thinking the Legends are the ones who killed Rex, but given how they helped the JSA, it does follow that there’s some other hand at play in her friend’s death. It was nice to find out more about her background, inheriting her amulet (one of five, hmm) from her mother, worrying that her small village is undefended now that she’s with the JSA (all this does make me wonder why she doesn’t have an accent, though, since I get the impression this village wasn’t American, but it’s never directly said). She bonds with Sarah in a way that feels natural, and she gets to take on the role of defending a small village again, which is a nice nod to her origin story. And she even manages to make nice, briefly, with Mick at the end, now that she’s starting to see past his gruff exterior. Speaking of which, it’s nice to see that Snart’s redemption is having an effect on him still.
And finally, in another storyline entirely, Jax and Stein discover a secret room on the Waverider, filled with display cases of weapons and a message from Barry Allen, the Flash, from 2056. It’s sent directly to Rip Hunter and he asks Rip to not repeat what he’s going to tell him to his crew. Naturally, we never hear the contents of the message beyond that, but Jax and Stein are also keeping it a secret for now which is more interesting. What is the message? Does it relate to why Rip vanished and where he went? I look forward to finding out in sweeps week! This minor storyline really shows how the show is doing much better integrating all characters this season. In each episode, they’ve all had something to do, but the show has never forced more screentime than is needed for anyone like they often did last season. Jax and Stein had exactly as much screentime as they needed here.
Our heroes win the day, naturally, but the end of the episode is really awkward. They don’t have a set destination in mind, and though finding Rex’s killer is mentioned, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to really follow up on it right now. Nor is finding Rip mentioned at this point, or any other changes to the timeline like what Nate noticed that first sent him to Oliver Queen. It feels strange and doesn’t fit the episode or even the show, and seems emblematic of the show taking a more fun and light-hearted feel in its second season. I would’ve preferred even a throwaway comment about some clue to guide them to their next destination, personally.
– Some fun quotes in this episode! Among them:
– “How is it you people have managed not to kill yourselves yet?” “Day’s still young.”
– “I designed it so an idiot could use it.” “An idiot does.”
– “If I’ve learned one thing from Lost, it’s that you do not go opening secret hatches.”
– It took a few fights for Caity Lotz to get to show off her skills again, but the final fight with the Scarred Man had Sarah back in her zone again! And, naturally, cheating so she could win. Assassin!
– Mick’s fixation and admiration of ninjas was very amusing