One of my biggest surprises of this television season – apart from how the two veteran superhero shows on The CW have faltered – is how Legends of Tomorrow has redeemed itself and completely reinvented the tone of the show for the better. In its first season, Legends never really resonated because it was always coming a serious direction, not to mention the characterization of some departed characters and predictable storylines.
But Legends of Tomorrow’s second season is proof that you can turn things around once you acknowledge that there are things that are not working. The first four episodes of this second season have been an absolute delight to watch. They’ve managed to utilize the time travel element in a very fun and intriguing way, as well as really honing in on those real-life issues within episodes.
“Abominations” was one of the better episodes when it came to exploring an issue from the past and how it connected with a couple of our present characters. Given our Legends traveled to the Civil War there was the pretty obvious issue of slavery. Given Jax and Amaya’s ethnicity, this wasn’t exactly a time period that was going to treat them well. Well, when you think about it there’s really no good time period in the past.
Jax, who didn’t think he was going to have a problem living in the Civil War time period, ended up getting a front row seat to just how brutal and cold times were. It became personal. It became really hard to face. It became one of the better storylines we’ve seen this season.
“Abominations” was a solid episode that featured a mix of some of my favorite things: an intriguing time period, humor (especially involving Martin Stein’s irrational fear of zombies), action, and most importantly: heart.
Here are 10 things that we loved the most about “Abominations”:
1. Zombies in the Civil War
Here’s the thing about the zombies in the Civil War, it’s absolutely ridiculous. But that’s what made it so much damn fun. The idea is enough to make you initially scoff, but actually watching Legends of Tomorrow play with this storyline was just so damn entertaining. Here’s the thing, Legends is gelling so well this season in part because it’s not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say there weren’t emotional and serious moments in this episode – because damn there were – but Legends isn’t trying to be some mind-trippy time travel show. It’s just having fun exploring different time periods and putting its own spin on it. Zombies in the Civil War? Seriously who would have ever thought about that? It’s genius.
2. Martin Stein’s Fear of Zombies
Perhaps my favorite thing about this entire episode was Martin Stein’s continued reactions to the presence and existence of zombies. I’ve never laughed so hard than when I was watching Stein completely lose it at the mere mention of the term “zombie.” Then when he actually saw a zombie, sheer brilliance. He was so terrified, and I know I shouldn’t have been laughing as hard as I was – because let’s face it zombies are scary – but it just felt like it was supposed to add some comedic flair. The point of giving Stein this fear of zombies was to address one of the themes in the episode of overcoming fear. Whether it’s mental or something physical. Stein had to overcome his fear of zombies in order to save him and Ray. And you know what? He did it. And we still have an entire episode where Stein was terrified of even the word zombie. Bless.
3. Mick as a Zombie
The thing with Legends of Tomorrow is that now that it has learned to not take itself too seriously things like this are possible to execute well. Following our Legends run-in with a group of Confederate zombies, Mick discovered that he had gotten bitten by one of those zombies. Let’s just say, things weren’t so good for Mick in this episode. After Ray attempted to inject Mick with a vaccine, we soon learned that the dose wasn’t enough and Zombie Mick was on the loose as Ray and Stein ran for their lives in a storyline that I enjoyed so much more than I probably should’ve. Luckily it was Stein who saved the day and sprayed Mick with the vaccine before he ate his brains, which left Mick and Stein in a hilarious position. “Was I about to kiss you?” Mick asked. “I could only hope,” Stein said.
4. Ray and Stein: Zombie Hunters
Ray and Stein are one of those relationships that thrives in its natural rapport between the actors. Anytime these two characters are together – and their personalities mix – it’s entertaining as hell. Throw zombies into the mix, and that spells a recipe for success. Ray and Stein, who don’t have the luxury of either a super suit or super half, were left to fend for themselves using their intellect, which in itself is a super power. Given the personalities of both characters, these scenes thrived in humor and heart.
5. Ray Finds a Purpose Without a Suit
Ray Palmer has become my favorite character on Legends of Tomorrow this season, which is surprising given how I felt about him on Arrow. But look at what some real character development can do. I’m really loving his storyline this season as we’re getting to see Ray grapple with what it takes to be a hero without his Atom suit. Last week was a huge episode for that, and this week’s episode saw the effects as Sara made the decision for Ray to stay behind because he didn’t have the suit as a means of protection. Ray was searching for a way to be helpful and useful to his team. And the answer was staring him right in the face: his intelligence. Much like Felicity Smoak or Caitlin Snow or Winn Schott are heroes because of their smarts, a super power that Ray never realized he had was his intelligence. And he was able to discover that in this episode.
6. Mick Recruits Ray as his Partner
While Ray found his purpose for being on the team even without his Atom suit, at the end of the episode Mick did something that made me feel all the feels. Mick, who lost his best friend and lifetime partner in crime Snart, came to Ray and asked him to be his partner while handing Ray Snart’s cold gun. I’m not even focused on the cold gun so much as I’m focused on the exceptional dynamic that has been building for Ray and Mick over these two seasons. They’re two people who make absolutely no sense together, but seeing them as a partnership is everything I’ve been waiting for. And I cannot wait to see how they work together.
7. Civil War Gets Personal for Jax
The heart of “Abominations” lied in the personal nature of the Civil War, where Jax found himself up close and personal with the harsh and brutal truths of the time period when it came to African Americans. Jax, who didn’t think it would get to him, found himself overcome with emotion and pain as he saw just how terrible it actually was back in the day. Sure, things still aren’t good in the present, but Jax saw just how terrible African Americans were treated in the 1800s. It was one of the more compelling storylines of the episode as you saw Jax kind of grow up a little bit more. You saw just how personal this became – especially because he was a part of it as he was chained and beaten with those slaves. It goes to show just how balanced Legends of Tomorrow can be when it comes with the humor of time travel but also the seriousness of the issues it presents.
8. Sara Lance Learns What it Takes to Be a Leader
Sara Lance is the leader that this team needs. She always has been. It’s been fantastic to watch her flourish in that new role. But in “Abominations” we saw that she had to make some really tough decisions. One of the first calls she made was benching Ray because he didn’t have his Atom suit anymore. It wasn’t because she thought he wouldn’t be any help, it was that Sara wanted to protect Ray from the possible dangers. And he was always more safe in that suit. It’s issues like that that make it difficult to be the leader; to be the one to say “no” when it’s difficult for others to hear; to do the things that have to be done. So it was nice to see Sara working alongside Ulysses S. Grant in this episode and then getting some sage advice from the former president and general. Sara learned that it’s her job to make those tough decisions when others can’t. That’s what she signed up for. That’s what she’ll do. And she’ll continue to be the best leader.
9. Amaya Shows Men Who’s the Boss
Perhaps one of the most satisfying things to watch in this episode was watching how Amaya used her “innocence” as a slave woman to lure this elitist slave owner into giving her what she needed and kicking his ass in the process. After Jax found himself captured, chained, and beaten by this slave owner, Amaya used him to get to Jax. Then she proceeded to kick the crap out of this guy in a moment that had me fist pumping and cheering for my girl. One of the most frustrating aspects of history is how people that weren’t male and white were treated. We saw this up close in this episode, including how a badass woman like Amaya was viewed as just something for this slave owner to play with. It was so satisfying to watch her give it right back to him and watch him go down with his house as it burned to the ground.
10. The Duo of Stein and Jax
One of the relationships that doesn’t get as much emotional emphasis is between Stein and Jax, who have a father-son relationship. It’s so beautiful because Stein never had children and Jax’s father died before he even knew him. These two men have found each other for a reason, I believe that. Sure, together they make up the superhero Firestorm. But more importantly, they complete each other in an emotional, personal way. Getting to see that physic connection on display as Jax struggled with the emotional trauma of the Civil War as Stein was trapped on the ship was something that hit me hard. And the moment they shared at the end of the episode was something that makes a show like this is so great. It’s more than just the superhero and time travel aspect. At the core, this is a show that thrives off the emotions and heart of the characters. And Stein and Jax are such an important part of that.
Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW.