After two midseason premieres of DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, one in which we finally met this season’s villains and one in which the Legends got their bearings and prepared for a showdown with said baddies, with but four episodes left you’d think it was time to get this show on the road.
At the beginning of “The Fixed Point” (an indirect Legends reunion episode of sorts directed by Maisie “Vixen” Richardson-Sellers), it certainly feels like Legends Of Tomorrow is moving like greased lighting. Dr. Gwyn Davies makes the assertion that the best way to get the attention of Mean Gideon and her Robo-Legends is to attack a specific fixed point in history, and that plan—stop the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand!—begins to take shape. The Legends plot a course for Sarajevo, 1914. They break out their period-specific duds. The infamous Black Hand are ready to execute their world-changing plot. Sara’s ready to kidney punch an assassin. A reckoning spanning all of time is upon us! And then the episode stalls.
It stalls for very creative reasons. “The Fixed Point” isn’t just articulating what the assassination of Franz Ferdinand is, which is an immutable point in the timeline and thus cannot be changed. “The Fixed Point” is also the name of the watering hole for all the amateur and professional time travelers who fancy themselves brave enough to stop the one incident in time that triggers the Great War and gives us… well, all this. (*gestures broadly*) Sara and her Legends are pulled aside by a time-weary bartender, given a number, and told to wait their turn at disrupting destiny. “Them’s the rules,” the bartender says. And there’s another rule of which the Legends should take heed: The Timeline always wins.
The Fixed Point, as a concept, is a clever one. (Gary describes it as “time-travel Cheers meets Thunderdome,” which is about right.) It’s an interesting looking place where Sara and the Legends can play trial and error with history in order to break it entirely, thereby triggering a visit by the rogue Waverider and bringing them one step closer to home. There are some fascinating time-goons and barflies haunting the place (including an antagonistic pack of Gen-Z travelers who irk Sara something awful) and it has a temporal movie projector which collates the ever-shifting archival footage from the patrons’ many, many attempts at disrupting Ferdinand’s public assassination. It’s wild sci-fi stuff and it’s a hoot. (With apologies to Archduke Ferdinand.)
Superficially it also has some connection to the broader DC Universe. It borrows a bit from Neil Gaiman’s The World’s End collection of stories from The Sandman, in which an inn outside of reality serves as a temporary haven for certain weary travelers, and it borrows quite a bit from the Oblivion Bar, an extradimensional dive in the DC Universe where magic users can hang out without us pesky normies lousing up the atmosphere. The Fixed Point is a new place for Legends where it honestly feels like anything can happen and virtually anybody could show up—and much, much later in the episode, somebody does. (We’ll get to him after a bit.)
While Sara breaks her back (and swallows darts, and inhales poison, and headshots herself with a ricochet bullet) trying to work a way around this fixed point in time, Ava Sharpe and Gwyn contrive a way to save Gwyn’s beloved Alun from his untimely death during the Great War. Ava, a strict Time Bureau evangelist if there ever was one, realizes that if they see this plan through—if Gwyn saves Alun from death—he will never have invented time travel. That means no Waverider, and that certainly means no Legends. But Dr. Gwyn has a plan: He’ll save Alun from death and keep his younger self unawares, go on to invent time travel and doom his younger self to the years of loneliness and anxiety and uncertainty he himself experienced. Dr. Gwyn Davies’ sacrifice to the timeline.
That plan makes a whole lot of sense, even if it is a cruel fate for Gwyn. Ava doesn’t like it—as a woman married to another woman she is especially sensitive to Gwyn’s morbid sense of martyrdom. “It’s what I deserve… for loving Alun in the first place,” Gwyn says. It doesn’t matter where Ava takes him and Alun to be happy, Gwyn won’t be able to reconcile his love for a man with his devout faith in God. Alun’s rescue may be his divine mission but, as he states underneath that wonderful Matt Ryan beard of his, it will also be his divine punishment. Ava doesn’t buy it. “Love is love is love is love is love.” (Her Lin-Manuel Miranda reference probably could have been cut—it’s really conspicuous even without the namedrop—if only to give Jes Macallan’s sterling performance during this scene a chance to shine on its own.)
Do Ava and Gwyn crack the Alun dilemma? Not this week. It’s a frustrating plot development to chew on (should Ava even have an opinion about Gwyn’s beliefs?), but at least it gets some time to breathe. As for Spooner, a Legend who has been conspicuously set in the background since this season’s premiere, a big character trait gets tossed into her lap this week. While there’s points to be awarded for not treating Spooner’s coming out as asexual like a big deal, shouldn’t it have merited more than a “how about that?” before we moved on with the episode? (At least Spooner finally had a moment with Zari, though the show’s continued mix-and-matching of Legends only serves to point out how overstuffed this cast actually is.)
Another fascinating thing that gets the short shrift this week: The Point is a blindspot for Gideon, who has zero idea that it even existed. “It’s always been a word-of-mouth kind of place,” the bartender tells her, which is all well and good... but does that mean Gideon doesn’t have infinite knowledge of the timeline after all? What other things might she not know? And what exactly is a pickleback? Oh, we’re getting distracted already. Existential crisis averted. “Carry on!” Gideon cries. (But... there’s so much story there! I wail, to nobody in particular.)
“The Fixed Point” runs into a real wall towards the final ten minutes of the episode when we discover that the reason time seems to be actively stymying Sara Lance’s attempts at changing history is because time isn’t against her at all: It’s a redeemed Eobard Thawne (Matt Letscher), revived by the Time Wraiths and tasked with protecting this one specific point in time from all those pesky time travelers—Sara especially. The scenes with Letscher are fun, and his explanation for how he’s still around (cheating death, as we know, is old hat for the Reverse-Flash) is a crackling bit of writing. But it’s a whole lot of exposition to drop on us just as the episode careens towards the end credits. Will Thawne pop up next week to make sure Sara makes good on her dramatic pact? Looks like he’d better; Legends Of Tomorrow, ironically enough, just doesn’t seem to have enough time for him this week.
- Episode’s MVP: Take a chance on Sara Lance. ‘Nuff said.
- Richardson-Sellers directs the heck out of this episode. The sequence of close-ups with the Legends in their 1914 gear doing their goofy thing set to a German (?) rendition of “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive was crackerjack.
- I paused the episode to gawk at Dr. Nate’s abstract history board, where the Archduke’s car turns into a hippopotamus, grenades look like balloons, and explosions look like sandwiches. It was marvelous.
- Speaking of the Archduke: I know Legends works with a budget, but Franz’s dollar store mustache made my eyes water. And not in a fun way!
- Astra transforms Gwyn’s time machine into a cassette of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Time”, a concept album about, according to Behrad/Wikipedia, “a time traveler torn between love and technology.” Such an odd, random, thing that never gets any play in the episode. (Literally!)
- Gwyn: “Ooh! Little soldiers!” Ava: “Found them in the attic; Constantine was a bit of a hoarder.” Gwyn: “Seems like a very peculiar fellow.” Legends!
- I think I spotted a Doctor Who trench coat in the bar at one point, as well as a McFly-esque down-stuffed vest. Any other Easter eggs I missed?
- Sara’s resilience in the face of death (she’s an alien-human hybrid immortal? Somebody help me with that in the comments) or her ability to “live, die, repeat” would have been a fine reference to the 2014 Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt actioner Edge Of Tomorrow, but Behrad had to make things squishy. (True story: Warner Bros. low-key rebranded the movie with its tagline, Live. Die. Repeat. for home release.)
- Behrad also references Crocodile Dundee with that “now that’s a knoife!” crack. Behrad’s newfound love is making him insufferable with the references, somebody please help.
- How did you like “The Fixed Point,” group? Will Sara’s pact with the Reverse-Flash doom her to time stewardship? Will Behrad and Astra smooch, or will they just awkwardly stand next to each other for the rest of the season? Where is Mick at this point?? Sound off in the comments below.