Time travel is hard. You’d think the ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ crew would have learned that lesson by now. Sometimes, when they try to fix the future, they just wind up making it a lot worse.
As teased at the end of the previous episode, Rip has piloted the Waverider forward to the year 2147, a time when our traditional ideas of countries and nation-states have been fully replaced by corporations. He lands the ship in the Kasnia Conglomerate, the most powerful empire in the world, at the zenith of its power. He explains that they’ve arrived five years before an evil dictator named Per Degaton will unleash something called the Armageddon Virus to wipe out most of the world’s population. After that happens, Per Degaton will be betrayed and succeeded by his mentor – you guessed it, Vandal Savage – who will quickly conquer what’s left of the world and make it an even worse place to live.
In this particular year, Kasnia is still ruled by Per Degaton’s father, Tor Degaton. An army of autonomous robots that sure look a lot like Ray’s A.T.O.M. suit oppress the population. Rip goes undercover to infiltrate a Kasnia shareholder meeting, where Vandal Savage argues that the world outside Kasnia’s borders has spiraled out of control and that the chaos will soon spread to Kasnia unless they act quickly to dramatically reduce the planet’s population. He, of course, has a plan to do that involving a virus. However, Tor Degaton is unpersuaded and vetoes the idea.
After the meeting, Rip discovers that not only is Vandal Savage a major stockholder in the company, he’s also the tutor to Tor Degaton’s teenage son, Per Degaton – which would explain where Per gets his bad ideas from. Reporting this back to the team, Rip believes that the only way to prevent the viral apocalypse is to kill young Per Degaton now, before he rises to power. Although Snart agrees, the rest of the team is left aghast at the idea of murdering a child. Ultimately, they all settle on a compromise to find another way to remove Per Degaton from the timeline without killing him. Ray quips: “Great, we’ve gone from infanticide to child abduction… progress.”
The crew splits up into two teams – one to grab the boy and one to shut down the army of police robots. Team Kidnapping consists of Rip, Snart and Sara, while Ray, Stein and Jax form Team Robots. Meanwhile, Kendra doesn’t do much of anything this week except have a bunch of flashbacks to a previous life in 1920 which reminds her how much she used to love Carter.
Despite the boy being surrounded by bodyguards, Team Kidnapping successfully snatches Per Degaton. Undercover, Team Robots pays a visit to Kasnia headquarters and meets with the company’s current Chief Technology Officer, a woman named Dr. Bryce (Jewel Staite from ‘Firefly’). Bryce introduces herself as the great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of the company’s founder and shows them a bust in the lobby that looks exactly like Ray! The Kasnia Conglomerate must therefore be an offshoot of Palmer Tech, and Ray must also have fathered a child he’s not currently aware of. Ray feels directly responsible for (and terribly guilty about) both these things.
After they get him back to the ship, the Gideon computer sadly informs Rip that removing Per Degaton from the timeline did nothing to stop future events. Rip believes they need to take more decisive action and kill him. Sara wants to talk to the kid first, hoping that maybe she can talk some sense into him if he hasn’t completely turned to the Dark Side yet. First, however, she stops to talk to Mick in the brig. She also believes that it will be possible to get through to him. Mick thinks everybody in the team are a bunch of wusses.
Back in Kasnia, Vandal Savage tells Tor Degaton that he knows who kidnapped his son, and offers to get him back.
Rip wakes up Per Degaton, brings him to the jumpship, and tells the boy that he’s going to return him home. When they discover that they’re missing, the other members of the team assume that Rip will kill the kid.
Indeed, that is his plan. He brings Per to a secluded spot outside of Kasnia. The kid is already clearly a little psycho. Nonetheless, Rip can’t go through with it. He’s just not a cold-blooded murderer like that. Instead, he tells the boy that Vandal Savage will betray him and appeals to him to become the man his father wants him to be, not the father Savage wants him to be. (It seems to me that, other than stopping short of genocide, Tor Degaton is no great shakes as a leader either.)
Vandal Savage finds the Waverider (how he does that isn’t explained) and leads Tor Degaton’s army in an attack on the ship. This results in a pretty lame fight scene. Ray and Kendra fly to the robot command center and are confronted by Dr. Bryce. Ray tells Bryce that he’s her great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. Bryce asks incredulously, “You’re Sydney Palmer?” That bust in the lobby wasn’t of Ray; it’s of his brother! (Since when does Ray have a twin brother? Is this something established in ‘Arrow’?) Ray is relieved that he neither has a secret lovechild nor is he responsible for the evil robot army.
Eventually, Ray convinces Dr. Bryce to help him sabotage the robot army. Despite this, Vandal Savage captures Sara during the battle. Rip offers to exchange Per Degaton for Sara’s return and the entire crew’s safe passage out of Kasnia. Savage urges Tor Degaton to stay strong and not negotiate with terrorists, but Tor accepts the offer to get his son back. Per thinks that his father is weak.
Later, Vandal Savage tells Per Degaton a condensed and censored version of the story of ‘Oedipus Rex’, leaving out the parts about Oedipus’ terrible fate. This convinces Per to murder his father, thus inheriting control of the company. Because he’s still a minor, Vandal Savage steps in as his proxy. As his first order of business, he immediately orders the release of the Armageddon Virus.
On the Waverider, Rip realizes that not only did he fail to stop either Per Degaton or Vandal Savage, he actually expedited the release of the Armageddon Virus five years early. His actions have made the timeline worse.
At Sara’s urging, Snart visits Mick in the brig. Mick isn’t exactly pleased to see him. Snart proposes that they resolve their differences with a fight… to the death if necessary. He releases Mick and they grapple. Although Mick overpowers Snart, he ultimately can’t follow through with killing him.
Just then, the ship is attacked. Mick says that after he was captured, the Time Masters would have sent an army of Hunters to clean up the mess by killing him and all the others. Their only option, he claims, is to run.
This episode toys with some interesting questions of morality and teaches the characters an important lesson about the consequences of their actions. For that reason, I’m willing to forgive it any quibbles I may have over the plotting. (I can think of better ways to resolve the situation without returning Per Degaton to his father and allowing him to fulfill his destiny as a psycho dictator.)
While I didn’t dwell on the storyline in this recap, I also appreciated that the episode allows Ray and Kendra to work through their relationship issues (Kendra remembering her feelings for Carter, and Ray feeling guilty about his presumed lovechild) in a mature and reasonable manner. Contrast that to the way similar storylines were handled on ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’, and this one feels refreshingly adult.
Sadly, Jewel Staite doesn’t get much of anything to do in her cameo, and it seems unlikely that the team will return to this time period. For that matter, the entire robot army plotline feels half-baked, as if it was thrown in as an afterthought to give half the team something to do.