As if the depiction of time travel on ‘The Flash’ weren’t infuriatingly illogical and inconsistent enough, spinoff ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ somehow makes just as little sense but in completely different ways.
Frankly, I doubt that the writers on ‘Legends’ have ever consulted with those on ‘The Flash’ to develop a unified rulebook for how time travel is supposed to work. Even though both shows allegedly take place in the same universe, each goes about its own business without hardly ever thinking about what happened on the other. (Take, for example, the “Time Wraiths” that recently appeared on ‘The Flash’ but have never been mentioned on ‘Legends’.) Even if you accept that much as a failure to coordinate between shows, however, neither one seems to be able to stay true even to itself.
Episode ‘Last Refuge’ goes heavy on the ‘Terminator’ references, even going so far as to have a character (Ray) quote the “Come with me if you want to live” catchphrase. We start at Time Master headquarters, where a time pirate is put on trial and sentenced to eradication from the timeline by the feared assassin known as The Pilgrim, whose M.O. is to go back to her targets’ pasts and eliminate them in childhood. The Time Masters are clearly big fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Almost as soon as the pirate is sentenced, he disintegrates in front of everyone’s eyes and vanishes from sight. And yet everybody still remembers him, which shouldn’t logically be the case, but whatever…
It turns out that this Pilgrim is kind of a babe (Australian actress Faye Kingslee). She next travels to 1990 Central City. Assigned to take out the entire Legends team, she arrives to kill teenage Mick Rory as he sits outside at night, watching his own house burn down. (We’ll come back around to what that means later.) Before she can get him, however, Ray appears in his A.T.O.M. suit and fights her off. He brings the kid to the Waverider in order to remove him from the timeline so that the Pilgrim can’t find him. Adult Mick wants nothing to do with his younger self.
Rip has been using the ship’s computer to track the Pilgrim and calculate where she’ll strike next. He plans to grab the young versions of the entire team and leave them in the ship’s hold until they can figure out how to deal with the situation. When Dr. Stein asks why the Pilgrim wouldn’t just go back an additional day and kill the kid then, Rip delivers some total BS justification for why she only gets one shot at each of them. The explanation doesn’t make even the remotest bit of sense. Even if it did, it just opens up the question of why Rip needs to hold young Mick in the ship if the Pilgrim already blew her only shot at harming him. He should be free and clear now.
The next destination is 2007 Starling City (before the rename to Star City). Teenage Sara Lance (unlike Mick, she’s played by her usual actress, who looks like a 30-year-old wearing a stupid wig) tags along with her cop father (Martin Donovan) on Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. The Pilgrim, who’s apparently bulletproof, tears through the police station shooting up the place until adult Sara and Mick battle her back and rescue the girl. They bring her to the Waverider as well and leave her in the hold with young Mick. Adult Mick warns Adult Sara that this isn’t a good idea (I think the implication here is that he’s a rapist?), but she assures him that her younger self is capable of taking care of herself.
Just as it seems like Rip’s plan may actually work out, the Gideon computer stops being able to track the Pilgrim. Ray freaks out, worried that any one of them could be in imminent danger. “Could I be dead right now and not know it?” he asks. In trying to predict the Pilgrim’s next likely target, Rip reasons that it’s probably not Kendra (whose ability to reincarnate makes her a poor choice of victim) or himself (because killing a Time Master would create all sorts of trouble with the timeline). This doesn’t exactly reassure Ray.
A man with just about the worst timing imaginable, Ray attempts to propose to Kendra again, but suddenly doubles over in pain with injuries all over his body. Rip determines that he’s being attacked in 2014, before he joined the Legends, and his injuries there are carrying through to the present. (Don’t even pretend to understand how that’s supposed to work. It’s not worth the effort.) So off they go to 2014 Star City, to stop the Pilgrim from killing Ray at his office in the Palmer Tech building. Stein and Jax merge into Firestorm and toss an atomic fireball at her, but she freezes time and reverses it and throws it right back at them… or something. It looks cool, whatever she does. Fortunately, Rip blasts her out a window using a gun from the prototype A.T.O.M. suit.
Why Rip and Firestorm don’t bring that Ray to the Waverider like young Mick and Sara isn’t explained. Instead, they take him to a hospital, and regular 2016 Ray starts to heal. As soon as he feels better, Ray finally proposes to Kendra. She accepts, but feels conflicted about the decision, both because she was put on the spot and because of the prophecy about all her relationships ending in heartbreak.
Unable to predict what the Pilgrim will do next, Rip decides that the best course of action is to abduct everyone remaining on the very days they were born. That will keep them out of the timeline for their whole lives. The danger in this tactic is that, if they’re gone too long, everyone will forget them as if they never existed.
In 1972 Central City, Kendra and Sara pose as nurses to snatch newborn baby Snart from the hospital. They leave the child with young Mick and Sara to babysit.
Next stop: 1950 Ivy Town. Rip and Mick grab baby Stein.
Ray and Stein go to 1993 Central City to find Jax. When Stein sees Jax’s father at the hospital, he can’t resist bringing modern day Jax to meet him. (His dad is a soldier who will ship out to Mogadishu shortly and get killed without Jax ever knowing him.) Jax can barely resist warning his father about his fate. The Pilgrim arrives at the hospital shortly after they leave and curses them for beating her there.
The ship now overwhelmed with passengers, Rip pilots it to a safe harbor – a mansion that exists at a secret location in history. It’s a Time Master orphanage for children that go missing from the timeline. The place is presided over by Rip’s own adopted mother, a stern but loving woman named Mary Xavier. She’s been waiting for him and graciously takes in all the kids they’ve abducted. Rip says that the Time Masters would never think to look for them there, but I’ve got to say that seems like the very first place they ought to look.
Before they leave, Adult Mick confronts Young Mick about burning down his own house and killing his abusive parents. Jax feels bad about not being able to save his dad. Kendra ‘fesses up to Ray about what the old woman told her last episode, but he insists that their destiny is their own to make.
Rip receives a message via something called a “transchronal beacon.” It’s the Pilgrim, and she has Jax’s dad a prisoner. She says that if she can’t kill them, she’ll kill all their families and loved ones until they turn themselves over. Rip proposes a counter offer. He’ll turn over his own young self (who happens to be in the orphanage when they arrive) in exchange for leaving everyone else alone. By killing him, the Legends team will never exist. The Pilgrim accepts this trade.
They meet at an abandoned Time Master outpost. Rip’s mother brings Young Rip. They do a prisoner exchange, the boy for Jax’s dad, but it’s a trick. Ray rides along on the kid’s shoulder in his shrunken A.T.O.M. suit and attacks. The rest of the team also leap out of hiding to team up against the Pilgrim as well, but she’s stronger than all of them. Like before, she freezes time in the middle of their attack (depicted with a very elaborate “Bullet Time” effects shot). However, as she’s distracted holding them all off, Young Rip pulls a knife and stabs her in the gut. With time unfrozen, everybody else piles on and finishes the Pilgrim off, reducing her to ashes.
Victory achieved, they all return to the orphanage. Mick reveals to his younger self that they’re the same person, because the kid is apparently too dense to figure that out, and tells him not to be like him. Sara and Jax explain everything to their respective fathers. Jax even warns his dad about his imminent death. Rip decides that he’s OK with everybody changing the timeline willy-nilly. He throws up his hands with a ‘Fuck it!’ attitude and tells them to do whatever they want.
Suddenly, Rip announces that their younger selves have been gone from the timeline too long and time will set without them unless they kill Vandal Savage immediately. No, I don’t have a frikkin’ clue what one of these things has to do with the other, and I doubt the show’s writers do either. It feels like two random, unrelated sentences that have been smashed together to sound like one follows from the other for no particular reason.
The plotting in this episode is straight-up incoherent. There’s no possible way to make any sense of it. I can barely begin to catalog the massive plot holes – the most fundamental of which is: If all of these characters were abducted by time travelers in their youths, why do none of them remember it later? Although Rip mentions something about “amnesia pills,” it doesn’t seem like anybody actually takes them, except maybe Sara’s father. Jax’s father certainly doesn’t, or else what’s the point of Jax warning him about his death? Nor does Young Mick, for similar reasons.
It was previously established many times on this show (and is reiterated in this episode) that changing the past has an immediate and direct reaction on the future. You kill somebody in the past, they disappear in front of you now. Yet our heroes make huge, sweeping alterations to the past that will fundamentally change most of their lives, and basically nothing comes of it.
Random trivia note: This episode was directed by Rachel Talalay, the auteur behind such esteemed classics as ‘Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare’ and ‘Tank Girl’. I’d be inclined to blame her, but it’s clear that this is all a writing problem, not a directing problem. (To her credit, the action scenes all look pretty cool.) On a show like this, the individual episode director has little to no input on the script; that’s the responsibility of the producers and show-runners.