“Last Refuge” is a total mess. Modeled after the plot of The Terminator, the episode features the team rushing through time to prevent the Time Masters’ latest bounty hunter from killing their past selves, and it’s one big, tangled bundle of time paradoxes and unearned emotional moments. The time travel rules of this series have always been flexible to the writers’ whims, but they’re bent past their breaking point in this episode, which has Rip and his colleagues rounding up their younger selves before The Pilgrim finds them.
At first, The Pilgrim can only attack at one specific point in each person’s life because the Time Masters’ Omega Protocol requires precision to minimize any damage to the time stream. That rule suddenly changes once Gideon is unable to track The Pilgrim, because apparently the Time Masters’ strict protocol is only applicable if the agent can be tracked? That doesn’t make any sense. Legends Of Tomorrow is already a silly, nonsensical show (just look at Hawkgirl’s arc over the course of the season), but writers Chris Fedak and Matthew Maala deliver a script this week with no internal logic, making the whole story feel like aimless filler.
The narrative has minimal suspense because there’s very little risk that the show will actually kill off any of its main cast members before the finale, and the concept of the episode forces the writers to jump through a lot of hoops to keep the characters alive in the face of an assassin that can reach them at any point in their lives. A teenage Mick and Sara are brought on board before the others decide to grab their baby selves to protect them, and the older Mick and Sara have no qualms about interacting with their past selves despite the possibility of creating time paradoxes. Ultimately, there’s no use in worrying about paradoxes on this show; the word is thrown around to remind the characters to be wary as they enter other time periods, but as we’ve seen thus far, whatever paradoxes this team has created haven’t have any significant consequences on their timelines.
Will Jax telling his father about the I.E.D. that kills him in Mogadishu save the man’s life? Rip reminds him that time tends to find a way to make things happen that are supposed to happen, but then he says that maybe time will change now and it will want Jax and his father to have a life together. Those are pretty big distinctions, though, and the former sets boundaries that are important for the success of a time-travel plot. Those boundaries keep things focused, and this episode is all over the place without them.
Jax’s story with his dad is one of the big emotional arcs of this episode, but it lacks gravitas because the writers rush through setting up the foundation. Jax reveals that his father died two weeks after he was born, and about two minutes later, Jax is meeting his father in the past before he’s shipped out to Somalia. They have what is supposed to be a heartfelt conversation, but it’s hard to make an emotional connection to the material when the relationship has been so hastily established and has the most basic definition. The writers only introduce this character dynamic so that there are higher stakes when The Pilgrim abducts Jax’s dad along with other major people the team cares about, and despite the considerable effort from Franz Drameh to bring some emotional depth to this storyline, the shallow script prevents him from succeeding.
The other big emotional arcs involve Ray and Kendra and Rip and his mother, the former of which continues to be a slog while the latter offers some handy background information to make Rip slightly more compelling. Kendra’s season-long narrative has been so heavily tied to her relationships with men that it’s been hard to get a feel for her character, and her ties to Ray become even tighter when he proposes to her this week. I appreciated how “Left Behind” rapidly accelerated Kendra and Ray’s romance, but since then, the show hasn’t done enough work explaining why they make a good couple. The show can fast forward to get them to a certain point, but eventually it needs to justify why the characters are at that point and it fails to do that in this episode, which once again has Kendra worried about what her ancient Egyptian curse means for her love life.
The mysteries of Rip’s past aren’t nearly as compelling as this show believes they are, but it’s still nice to get some more information about our team’s leader by meeting his mother and his younger self. Young Rip is a scrappy young lad, and he ends up saving the day by stabbing The Pilgrim in the leg when she’s concentrating on stopping the superheroes attacking her from all sides. That big action sequence takes place in one of the Time Masters’ outposts in the time stream, which is just a big airplane hangar with a few light-up cylinders set up to give it a vaguely sci-fi look.
The design is as lazy as the action staging, which there is hardly any of because The Pilgrim can manipulate time in the immediate area surrounding her. So instead of a dynamic fight, we get a sustained shot slowly moving through bodies frozen in time, showing characters leaping into action and shooting a variety of colorful beams. It’s cool at first and then it starts to get tedious as the camera lingers over to each individual member, but it does end with the dramatic tableau of the final shot showing what all these disparate elements look like from a distance. That image requires a certain amount of care and specificity to construct, but it’s unfortunately one of the only elements in this messy episode that can be described as such.
- Faye Kingslee doesn’t have enough intensity to make The Pilgrim a believable badass when she’s not in action, and while her wooden line delivery is intended to convey a cold personality, it plays like bad acting when it doesn’t have that intensity behind it.
- Caity Lotz has a very young face so she’s able to play Sara from a decade ago convincingly. The voice and physicality help a lot, too.
- I maybe could have accepted Ray’s “Come with me if you want to live” if he didn’t follow it up with the even more predictable “I always wanted to say that.” That moment elicited a big groan.
- “You! Hands to yourself. And next time hit with a flat palm. And you…you’re not her type.”
- Martin: “It’s somewhat disconcerting that my father would give me up so willingly to two complete strangers.” Ray: “Well, the ’50s was a much more trusting time. Trust me, I lived then.”