Time is running out on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, the crossover series of Arrow and The Flash on the CW. After a fun week spent in the Old West, “Last Refuge” forces the Waverider crew to pluck their younger selves from their timelines, as they’re targeted by the Time Master’s chief assassin, the Pilgrim (guest star Faye Kingslee). Though full of action, “Last Refuge” is one of Legends of Tomorrow’s overall weaker entries, burdened by needlessly complicated time-travel paradoxes.
Before Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) and the rest of the Waverider crew can further pursue Vandal Savage (Casper Crump), the Omega Protocol is activated by the Time Masters and they send their ace weapon, Pilgrim, who targets their younger selves throughout time. We see Jax and Stein as teeny babies, a troubled teen Rory, and a bangs-nificent Sara in her college days. (Ah, the mid-2000s.) They’re placed under the care of Rip’s foster mum, who houses the orphans for the Time Masters in a place that (I think?) is locked out of time. Her loyalty lies with her children above all, so she’s trustworthy.
Legends of Tomorrow has established its own complex rules for time travel. Unlike shows like Doctor Who, changes aren’t immediate and time is treated like a sentient force of nature. “If it’s what time wants,” is something Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) has said on several occasions, and he said it again in “Last Refuge” to Jax (Franz Drameh), who may have prevented his own father’s death as a soldier in the Gulf War. Legends is bold to altering rules that have been long understood since H.G. Wells. But there’s a reason we understand those cliches so well: they’re simple.
But not in Legends of Tomorrow, where time travel is needlessly complicated. Even the characters themselves are befuddled by the rules, which the show hastily and sloppily explains.
If you kill your younger self in the past, you die in the present. It’s not hard. But for plot reasons, Legends complicates it with “fixed points” and undetermined periods of time for changes to “set”. I guess it kinda makes sense? But with vague and inconsistent rules the series makes enjoying what should be a smash and bash superhero adventure feel, unnecessarily, like a chore.
On its own merits, “Last Refuge” fails to excite if only because Faye Kingslee’s Pilgrim is a massively wasted opportunity. With zero investment in our characters or any previous history with Rip, the Pilgrim is just a well-armed sexy Boba Fett with no reason for us to care. A character like, say, Rip’s wife Miranda (Alex Duncan, not seen for several episodes now) would have been stellar in this kind of role, but she would have undermined the entire reason Rip is on his journey. But anyone else would have been fine! Instead of like, Hot Person. We Don’t Know.
Still, the damage isn’t enough to ruin all of Legends of Tomorrow, a superhero show that has, thus far, been fun and experimental in a genre which doesn’t often gamble. “Last Refuge” isn’t its highest mark, but Legends of Tomorrow isn’t at risk. As it approaches the blockbuster season finale, it would have to misfire completely to render this season a waste of time.