It's the End of the Beginning for DC's 'Legends of Tomorrow'

In Soviet Russia, prison breaks you.

The CW

“This isn’t my first prison break.”

There you have it, Prison Break fans. Legends of Tomorrow gave you your shout out, courtesy of yet another golden one-liner from a deadpan Wentworth Miller.

The series’ fifth episode, “Fail Safe,” has DC’s Legends of Tomorrow find a nice groove now that the team is down a man and the novelty of these heroes together have passed. Only two of the Legends could be “extras” (Jax and Kendra), and even then their purpose increases significantly in the third act. Consider “Fail Safe” a wrap-up for the honeymoon phase of Legends of Tomorrow: Be prepared when it dives into the really good stuff like next week’s anticipated dystopia “Star City 2046.”

The game plan of “Fail Safe” is simple: Break up the team and have them fight to be together. Separating three of the Legends — Ray, Mick, and Professor Stein — together in a brutal Russian gulag just before the collapse of the Soviet Union is not only a fun concept but also … well, have you seen Eastern Promises? You can feel Legends of Tomorrow paying homage to David Cronenberg in the bathhouse fight scene — just absent of hanging dong. Putting superheroes in a Russian prison is a hell of a way to humanize them, and to quiet critics who feel unfulfilled by the genre because they can’t die. Indeed, shrinking tech and nuclear absorption are still no match for classic Soviet torture.

Since losing Carter Hall, Legends of Tomorrow has gained necessary time to develop its characters’ interrelationships, which is do or die in ensemble pieces. We have yet to see dynamics like Ray and Jax or Kendra and Snart, but I have confidence they’ll happen in due time. The prison was a bonding experience for Ray Palmer and Mick, whose predicament reminded me of Batman Begins —except that Bruce Wayne is a handsome, hilarious dumbass and his only friend doesn’t help him. For that reason, I wouldn’t mind seeing more Palmer and Mick together sometime again.

For Professor Stein, however, the gulag was a crisis of conscience. He is the genius of the whole group, and the only reason he’s alive is so Vandal Savage and his Russian scientists (among them the scary lady from Mr. Robot) can obtain the formula for the Firestorm Matrix. Unfortunately, Legends of Tomorrow isn’t immune to cliches of the genre. Vandal’s torture of Roy and Mick to leverage Stein into giving up the formula is something you’ve seen a million times before, made unique only by a snarky Brandon Routh.

Next week Legends of Tomorrow will go hard into DC lore, exploring a dystopian distant Star City of the future. It’s the anticipated episode with Arrow’s Stephen Amell as a grizzled, one-armed Green Arrow. Connor Hawke will be introduced and, also, Deathstroke for some reason? Rest assured, Legends of Tomorrow is just getting started.