For their latest misadventure in history, our time-traveling heroes make a pit stop in the era of crimped hair, shoulder pads and Reaganomics. It’s, like, a totally bitchin’ ’80s flashback on ‘Legends of Tomorrow’. Rad to the max!
Dateline: Miami, 1987. Never-aging villain Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), of course wearing a white suit with no socks, gets caught in the middle of a DEA bust while trying to exchange drugs for a goofy-looking axe that supposedly belonged to some important historical figure. He collects these things, I guess. It will never be mentioned again. In the middle of a shootout, the Reverse-Flash suddenly shows up to help and takes out all the agents. Darhk hasn’t seen him in 40 years, but to the Reverse-Flash it’s barely been a few minutes. He says he wants to be partners and promises Darhk tremendous power.
On the Waverider, Jax argues with Stein about how he thinks they should actually change history more than they already do. Stein insists that preservation of the timeline is their utmost priority, failing in any way to acknowledge his own role in messing with so much history. Jax grumbles that they’re just “time janitors.”
Ray practices with the cold gun Mick gave him but is a pretty lousy shot with it. (I don’t recall him being a poor shot with the weapons in his A.T.O.M. suit. Perhaps the suit’s targeting systems aimed for him?) Mick tells him that he needs to channel his inner darkness and anger. Ray spends most of the episode trying to emulate Leonard Snart, because he thinks that’s what it takes to be a badass, but he’s clearly just not cut out to be that guy.
Nate, who is all of a sudden a scientist as well as a historian, builds a device called a “time seismograph” to detect timequakes. Sure enough, almost as soon as it’s activated, it finds one in 1987. The location this time is Washington, D.C., on the date of an important summit between Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. Sara sets course immediately. Amaya suggests that she should reach out to the Justice Society of America for help. Nate offers to go with her, in order to help her navigate the strange futuristic world of the 1980s (as it would seem to someone from the 1940s). Everyone else will go undercover on a White House tour to scope out the situation.
Amaya brings Nate to a warehouse that she says houses the JSA’s secret training facility. She has no problem entering a passcode into a digital keypad that certainly would not have been there in her time. She enters, and is shocked to find the place abandoned. She and Nate search for clues as to what happened to the JSA, when the building goes dark and they’re attacked by her old compatriot Todd, a.k.a. Obsidian, who’s now an old man (Lance Henriksen). He stops fighting after he realizes who Amaya is, but he’s quite bitter about the fact that she just up and left the JSA so many decades earlier without warning or explanation. When she asks what happened to the rest of the team, he explains that they were all killed when a mission in Leipzig went bad in 1956. He was the only survivor – and apparently he’s just been hanging around this empty warehouse for the past 30 years
On the White House tour, Dr. Stein is surprised to spot the younger version of himself in the building. Although he remembers being in Washington at the time, he insists that he spent the whole day doing research in another part of town. Changes to the timeline must have resulted in him coming to the White House instead. He attempts to avoid being seen by his younger self.
Those changes to the timeline may have something to do with the fact that Damian Darhk is somehow now a Presidential advisor. When Sara learns this, she breaks away from the others and goes off-book on a personal revenge mission, hoping to kill him now so that he won’t murder her sister in the future.
Ray and Mick cross Sara’s path when the three of them are surrounded by Secret Service, who don’t like the looks of the weapons they’re carrying. How Mick and Ray managed to sneak their heat and freeze guns into the building past security is not addressed. The two of them hold off the Secret Service agents, but they inadvertently “cross the streams” on their weapons due to Ray’s bad aim, causing a small explosion. Firestorm has to fly in, cause a big scene, and rescue them. This all winds up reported on the national news. So much for not changing history.
Back on the ship, Stein lectures Sara about the importance of not changing the timeline (more than he himself just did?!). Because she knows that she can’t be objective when it comes to Damian Darhk, Sara agrees to step back from this mission.
Mick and Ray go on a stakeout, tailing Darhk to a secret rendezvous in a park with a KGB agent. Unfortunately, the meeting is interrupted by Young Stein, who also followed Darhk there hoping to talk to him about a science initiative he’s working on. Darhk, who can’t let his dealings with the Soviet Union be known, stabs Young Stein. As soon as that happens, Old Stein also collapses.
Ray and Mick bring Young Stein to the ship and get him stabilized in the medical bay. Old Stein yells at his younger self not just for being so foolish, but more importantly for standing up his wife on a date they’d planned.
Amaya convinces Todd (Obsidian) to help. He has some political connections and manages to get the whole team invitations to a state dinner that night. As they arrive, all gussied up in tuxedos and evening dresses, Old Stein sees his wife (the young version) sitting at a table, waiting for young him to show up. She doesn’t recognize him, but feels that she knows him. He claims to be a work colleague of her husband and makes excuses for him being delayed.
Darhk secretly meets with Russians in the White House basement, where he trades state secrets on a CD-Rom (the latest in CIA technology!) for something in a tiny jewelry box. When Sara and Obsidian interrupt, he warns her that he planted a bomb in the ballroom above. Ray finds it and works on disarming it while she and Todd have a big fight with the Russians, during which Darhk shoots Todd. Eventually, Ray disables the bomb using Snart’s freeze gun, and Sara gloats to Darhk about the miserable failure in store for him in the future. The Reverse-Flash then zips in and swoops Darhk away. Sara recognizes that the time traveler they’ve been hunting is a speedster, but fortunately she was able to steal the jewel box away from Darhk.
Old Stein chastises himself for not paying enough attention to his wife. Todd survives his gunshot, but elects not to go with the team to their next time-travel destination. He’s an old man who will just slow them down. Also, he has a husband that he can’t abandon. (Someone should point out to the show’s writers that gay marriage wasn’t legal yet in 1987, because I have a feeling that none of them were even alive in that year.)
The episode closes with Darhk telling the Reverse-Flash that he wants to time travel in order to change his own destiny. The Reverse-Flash puts him in a spherical time travel pod, and races around it to create a vortex.
If this episode provided an explanation for what was in the jewel box, I must have missed it. If I were in the mood, I could complain some more about the characters continuing to expose themselves and seriously impact the timeline of everywhere they go, but at this point we just have to accept that as a given. It’s going to keep happening, logic be damned. If the episode is fun otherwise, I can move past that. The 1980s setting this week is indeed pretty fun, but I think the show probably could have done more with it if the writers had tried a little harder.