In their latest episode, the ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ are formally introduced to the Justice Society of America – which amounts to being a sort of low-rent knockoff of The Avengers featuring a bunch of superheroes you’ve never heard of before. (Please, no fanboy complaints about which came first in the comics.)
The season premiere ended with the Legends being confronted in 1942 by the colorfully-costumed JSA team – the members of which have names like Commander Steel, Dr. Mid-Nite, Star Girl, Vixen and Obsidian. They’ve come to arrest these interlopers who’ve recently caused such a disturbance involving an atom bomb exploding off the coast of New York. Ray and the others attempt to explain that they’re all on the same side. They also freely divulge that they’re time travelers as if that’s something they’re comfortable revealing to everyone now. (To be fair, the allegedly super-secret Justice Society of America immediately announce themselves as well.)
The JSA are not convinced. Some misunderstandings lead to a big, pointless battle scene in which the JSA members use their own unusual superpowers (one can turn day into night, one is possessed by animal spirits or something, etc.) to thoroughly trounce the Legends. They arrest our heroes and drag them back to their headquarters, where the Legends squabble with each other in a cell.
Arguments among the team members continue throughout the episode. The big theme this week is that the team is uncoordinated and dysfunctional without Rip Hunter to lead them, whereas the Justice Society of America operates as a well-oiled superhero machine. Ray is particularly impressed by them.
Heywood, the new guy, claims to be Commander Steel’s grandson. He’s actually wearing his grandpa’s dogtags, which were passed down to him from his own father. He shows this as proof that they’re time travelers. Steel is very cold toward Heywood and doesn’t want to make eye contact with him.
Meanwhile, in occupied Paris, Reverse-Flash Eobarde Thawne meets with Nazis and offers to sell them a super soldier serum that will allow the Third Reich to win the war. In return, he wants a mystical object called the Askaran Amulet that is currently in Nazi possession. As a “proof of concept” that the serum does what he claims, he gives the head Nazi, a guy named Baron Krieger, a single sample dose.
The JSA let the Legends go on the condition that they immediately return to their own time period and stop messing around in 1942. On the way out, the team argue about which of them should be the new captain to replace Rip. With Sara’s endorsement, Dr. Stein takes the job. Before they get back to 2016, Heywood notices that his dogtags have vanished, which indicates that history has changed again. He consults some records and determines that the entire JSA will be wiped out on their next mission to intercept Baron Krieger in Paris. If that happens, Heywood himself will never be born and he’ll simply blink out of existence. That could be a problem. Despite being warned to stay away, the team turn the ship around and head back to 1942.
Stein concocts a plan. According to the new timeline history, the JSA will be killed at a Parisian nightclub where Krieger and a bunch of his Nazis are known to hang out. Stein will go to the club impersonating a famous singer that he happens to bear some resemblance to. Other members of the team will work undercover as a waitress, a busboy, and clubgoers.
Ray spots Vixen, the girl with animal powers, in the crowd and tries to warn her that this mission is about to go sideways. She’s very annoyed to see him again. When Stein introduces himself as the singer, Krieger insists that he take the stage to perform. This seems like it will be a problem until Stein reveals that he actually has a great singing voice. Taking a cue from ‘The Sound of Music’ (which hasn’t been made yet, so these Nazis haven’t seen it!), he belts out “Eidelweiss.” Krieger is actually overcome with emotion and sheds a tear. As Stein finishes the song, Krieger raises a “Heil Hitler!” salute.
One Nazi catches Ray failing to salute the Fuhrer. Ray hems and haws a little, and then decks the Nazi. At this, a giant bar brawl erupts and the members of both the Legends and the JSA have to reveal themselves to fight off the Nazis. Although nobody dies, the Nazis get away with the amulet.
The Legends bring the JSA to their ship. Vixen is pissed at Ray for blowing her cover, and she’s totally unimpressed by him when she learns that he doesn’t have real superpowers and has to wear a fancy suit to battle evil. She flat-out tells him that he’s not a hero.
Sara notices that Heywood was injured during the fight and his minor scrape hasn’t stopped bleeding. He tries to brush this off, but she figures out that he’s a hemophiliac and tells him that he can’t be part of the team. She wants to drop him off in 2016 at their next opportunity. Heywood has a big chip on his shoulder about his family being overprotective his entire life, and is eager to get out and have adventures.
Commander Steel and Stein agree that their best chance of retrieving the amulet is to ambush a Nazi convoy first thing in the morning. Sara worries that they haven’t taken enough time to plan out an attack strategy, but Steel insists that they don’t have time for that and they’ll figure it out when they get there.
During the battle, Stein stays on the Waverider to direct both teams’ actions. Unfortunately, he proves to be a terrible leader or strategist. He keeps trying to overthink and overanalyze every situation, and is paralyzed with indecision. As a result, the squad is trounced by the Nazis when Baron Krieger takes the super serum and morphs into a giant musclebound ‘roid rage monster. (You might say he’s a hulking beast.) Steel manages to recover the amulet, but both Ray and Vixen are captured by Nazis.
Afterwards, Rex Tyler (‘Suits’ star Patrick J. Adams) wants to call in an air strike to bomb Krieger’s band of Nazis to Kingdom Come. He’s willing to sacrifice Vixen and Ray to do it, which naturally doesn’t sit well with members of the Legends crew. Recognizing his inadequacies, Stein passes the baton of leadership over to Sara.
In captivity, Ray bargains with Krieger by revealing that he’s a scientist and promising that he can replicate the super soldier serum. Vixen thinks he’s a traitor and would rather die. Of course, this is just a stalling tactic. Unfortunately, Ray’s suit was damaged in the battle and isn’t operational, and the Nazis took away the magic amulet (which is different than the Askaran Amulet?) that gives Vixen her powers. They have to use their wits (and a heavy microscope) to escape.
The JSA and the Legends attack the Nazi base. Krieger hulks out again and chases Commander Steel, but Heywood rides in on a motorcycle with sidecar and picks him up. Krieger continues to run after them through the forest until the air strike arrives and carpet bombs the area. Krieger appears to get blown up – at least, we don’t see him again this episode so I assume he’s dead. However, Heywood and Steel are also hit by friendly fire. Steel’s power is that he’s invulnerable, but Heywood winds up in a coma. Once the team returns to the Waverider, Ray saves Heywood by giving him the only dose of the new serum he made, which he says has been modified so it won’t turn him into an evil monster.
Heywood not only recovers, but will presumably now have superpowers. His grandfather’s dogtags also return, indicating that the timeline is restored. The JSA take the Askaran Amulet into possession and everybody decides that they’re going to be friends.
This happy ending is interrupted when the Reverse-Flash zips into JSA headquarters, attacks Rex Tyler, and steals the amulet. Rex dies in Vixen’s arms.
This episode feels a lot like it’s secretly a backdoor pilot for another proposed spinoff in the DC television universe. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. For one thing, the failure of Marvel’s ‘Agent Carter’ series ought to give the producers pause when developing a new superhero show as a period piece set in the 1940s.
I have no background history with the Justice Society of America in comic books. As depicted here, they’re kind of cheeseball and remind me of some 1990s superhero TV show where a bunch of miscast actors wear goofy costumes. Perhaps that’s intentional, but I don’t think it works.
With that said, if we do wind up seeing the JSA again (either on this show or another), I hope Rex Tyler stays dead. Patrick J. Adams looks particularly douchey in his “Hourman” costume, and never for a single moment did I believe that his character lived in the 1940s.