NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Legends of Tomorrow” are present in this review
Legends of Tomorrow kicked off its second season with a fantastic bang last week, and the strength of that season premiere grew once again with another excellent episode this week, “The Justice Society of America.” The title really says it all, picking up exactly where the cliffhanger ending of the season premiere left off, with the titular JSA, a secret faction of 1942-era superheroes, cornering the Legends and demanding that they explain their presence in the time period.
As I said in my previous review, the JSA is normally an alternate superhero team that operates out of Earth-Two in DC Comics lore, which was later retconned to be the location of DC’s Golden Age comic book tales from the 1930’s and 1940’s, with the JSA comprising most of DC’s recognizable Golden Age heroes, as well as some successors to said heroes. This TV version comprises several heroes from DC lore’s Earth-Two regime, including Stargirl, Doctor Mid-Nite, Obsidian, Commander Steel, the previously-glimpsed Hourman, and a new version of Vixen, who appears to be the grandmother of Megalyn Echikunwoke’s Vixen from the present day. Placing the JSA in the past of the core DC Television Universe worked pretty well for Legends of Tomorrow, where an early (and impressive!) fight sequence shows how much more capable, organized and unified they are as a team, and inevitably, the Legends get their asses kicked by the JSA pretty fast.
Another wrinkle is added when Rex Tyler, a.k.a. Hourman, who identified himself as a JSA member at the end of the first season finale last Spring, claims he doesn’t recognize or remember the Legends, and definitely doesn’t know anything about going to 2016 to warn them not to travel to 1942. The consensus quickly lands on the Legends being better off leaving the time period before they do any more damage, and originally, it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen, until Nate, whose grandfather is the JSA’s Commander Steel, notices that his dog tags are missing. This is because history has changed to have the JSA be wiped out in their next mission, threatening Nate’s own existence.
Despite being a presence in the background for the most part, Reverse Flash remained a key villain this week, as he’s revealed to be the one responsible for history’s re-write, supplying a Nazi named Baron Krieger with a bio-enhancer that gives him the power to become a hulking, berserk super-soldier. This originally seems to indicate a very by-the-book villain-of-the-week for Legends of Tomorrow, but the way that the episode uses this turn as a springboard for other great story developments is actually awesome. After the Legends try to intercept the JSA at a Nazi nightclub for example, with Martin cutely posing as German singer, Max Lorenz, the JSA rightly bring up that the Legends’ intervention could very well be what dooms them in the history change. The JSA easily taking out the entire bar with one shot from Stargirl’s staff too, after Ray starts a brawl by refusing to salute Hitler, seems to further reinforce this theory.
The Legends becoming more comparable to established and beloved superheroes was all-around in great focus this week, particularly due to another plot development that saw the crew trying to appoint a new leader, now that Rip seems to be gone. Originally, after Hourman assumes that Martin is the leader, Martin takes charge, but quickly finds that he has a hard time acting without an extensive thought process of all the facts first. This leads to a shaky operation that sees the JSA completing their mission against the Nazis with some help from the Legends, namely stealing back an occult-powered amulet that Hitler wanted for some unknown reason, but also sees Ray and the new Vixen, Amaya being captured by the Nazis. This leads to the JSA deciding to take out the super-powered Baron Krieger and destroy the means of making more super-soldiers, though they also feel that they have to leave Ray and Amaya for dead, something that Sara immediately rejects, and refuses to back down on.
Martin conceding to letting Sara take up the position as the new team leader made a lot of sense, since he is correct when he says that Sara has slowly become the team’s, “Beating heart and steady hand.” Sara’s strength, experience and conviction really do make her the ideal new leader to the Legends (plus this turn explains Sara now narrating the show’s traditional opening monologue with this episode, instead of Rip), and it’s thanks to her efforts, along with some clever ingenuity by Ray and Amaya, that the heroes are saved, Baron Krieger is destroyed, and everything is good again!… Until Commander Steel and Nate get hit by a bomb during a run that Hourman ordered, leaving Nate in critical condition.
The episode revealing that Nate is a hemophiliac was another interesting development, especially since he confesses that his condition led to a very sheltered childhood, which was very frustrating when he idolized his grandfather, and wanted to be a soldier just like him. It also led to a normally cold and distant Commander Steel confiding in Nate the burden of being a hero, and what it means to be a hero, which was really hit home when Nate risks his own life to save the others, ignoring reason and logic, to the point where he’s almost killed by internal bleeding. In fact, were it not for Ray reverse-engineering a modified bio-enhancer from Reverse Flash’s serum, Nate would have died! Instead though, the serum saves Nate’s life, and the Legends soon prepare for their next adventure, with the obvious tease of the serum turning Nate into his DC superhero identity of Citizen Steel/Captain Steel also hanging in the air.
It seems like a bummer to leave the JSA so soon, but it looks like their tale is still going to remain tied to the Legends going forward, as Reverse Flash confronts Hourman at the very end, revealing that Hourman’s ‘disappearance’ after his warning was him being erased from the timeline. Reverse Flash then stabs his vibrating hand through Hourman’s heart, leaving a distraught Vixen to discover him as the episode ends! This will likely serve as a big excuse for Vixen joining the team for at least the rest of the season, which the showrunners have already revealed during promotion, and it was an exciting way to end a superbly exciting episode!
“The Justice Society of America” not only made for an excellent way to introduce its titular squad of Golden Age superheroes to the canon of the DC Television Universe, but also delivered another standout story for Legends of Tomorrow on its own merits, particularly in finding the right leader to carry the team forward. All of the Legends have come a long way as heroes since this show started, but Sara in particular has had a very interesting journey since she was brought back to life during the fourth season of Arrow, beginning this show as an unstable, uncompromising and very distrusting assassin that had no business being on any kind of team, and now having been shaped by her experiences on the Waverider to become a strong, capable and trustworthy leader, the kind worthy to succeed Rip Hunter. Legends of Tomorrow seems to be poised to return to business as usual next week, as the team visits another new setting, but it’s finally feeling like this mismatched squad of DC B-listers is fully coming into their own, worth just as much as any Green Arrow, Flash or Supergirl!
Legends of Tomorrow continued its second season with another excellent episode this week, providing a brilliant introduction for the Justice Society of America, and a heartfelt appointment of Sara as the new team leader.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Excellent introduction for the JSA all around
Reverse Flash's plan smartly lending itself to strong story developments