Picking up where last week’s episode left off, this week opens with Dr. Stein at STAR Labs with Cisco discussing the Firestorm formula, though things do not seem quite right. Stein quickly realizes that he is not actually in STAR Labs with Cisco, and the illusion drops, revealing him to still be in the Gulag with Miss Valentina, though the show makes no effort to explain how exactly the vision happened (though to be fair, on ‘Legends’ they rarely bother with actual logical explanations.) Valentina promises to torture Stein for what she needs, an offer backed up when Savage himself appears and threatens Stein, after revealing that he knows Stein and his companions are time travelers.
Ray and Heatwave (Mick) meanwhile are thrown in with the regular prisoners, though Ray is excruciatingly cheery and annoyingly optimistic, and I cannot help but sympathize with Mick for being stuck with such a tool. Ray seems to have no grasp of the direness of the situation he is in, and in no time manages to piss off the alpha male of the yard, who rewards Ray’s attitude with a massive beat-down, during which Mick only watches, as he plays with his new lighter (am I the only one who thought Mick might actually use the lighter to do something cool in the episode? I guess I am still expecting too much from this show). Back in their bunk, which the two share together, Ray gets pissy that Mick did not help him, while Mick says Ray deserved that beating, and you know this is an odd show when I completely agree with the villainous Mick.
Back at the Waverider, Jackson is getting the shakes or something from feeling Stein’s fear, and apparently he cannot sleep, to which I say, why is anyone on the team trying to sleep when they should be launching a rescue attempt to get their friends back. Rip is worried about the future if Stein gives up the Firestorm formula to Valentina and Savage, and despite knowing that the frail, old scientist could lose heart at any moment and give up all the information their enemy wants, Rip and company decide to sit back, lick their wounds, argue about leaving people behind, and then devise a nonsensical, overly complicated (and ultimately useless) plan to try to save Stein, Ray and Mick. Adding to the insanity, Rip decides the only super-powered people on the team should not join in on the mission in which the team is already down 3 members, ordering Jax and Kendra to stay behind for fear of giving Savage both Firestorm and Hawkgirl. After the planning session, Rip calls Sara into his office and reveals the future to her, wherein we see Star City overrun with Firestorms, but of course, this is not the actual future, but rather the one currently cementing if they do not save Stein quickly (which he explains to her while they waste time making BS plans to save Stein). He urges Sara to kill Stein if they cannot rescue him, and once again I realize just how much Rip sucks as team leader, and how little I like his character.
Apparently Stein is much tougher than anyone gave him credit for, and though we never see him actually being tortured, Jax’s reactions are supposed to tell us that Stein is taking it pretty hard. Luckily for him, Jax remembers the story about Ronnie Raymond and Stein where Ronnie carved a message to Stein on his arm and it showed up on Stein’s arm, and Jax does the same, alerting his partner that the team is coming. And just in time too, because Savage has decided to step up the torture game, having Stein watch Mick and Ray being tortured with electricity. Stein allows his friends to suffer through the electric jolts, but seems to throw everything out the window when they start beating on Ray with a hammer (they were initially going after Mick, but Ray decided to turn the attention to the guards to him by opening his mouth, trying to save Mick a beating). At this point Stein stupidly relents and agrees to help Valentina, seeming to completely forget that the death of his two friends would pale in comparison to the utter destruction to the timeline and the world should he help Savage develop Firestorm.
So in the end, it is only Sara and an annoyed Snart who sneak into the Gulag, Snart fully aware of Sara’s side-mission to take down Stein, and not liking it. Apparently Snart is the only character with real morals and character on the show, which does not really fit considering the heroics we have seen from everyone else when they appeared on ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’ (minus Rip Hunter of course, who has always just been terrible in the Arrowverse). They sneak in using a truck and a bribe, all while pretending to be part of the Russian Bratva (the group itself being a half-hearted call-back to an old ‘Arrow’ plot point, and only real reason they are in the episode is so we can get more action as Sara takes down Bratva guards while Rip and Snart negotiate with their leader for access to the Gulag where their team is being held). Suddenly they are in a hallway on the way to Stein, with Snart in a Soviet Guard uniform pushing a cart with Sara on it pretending to be dead. Snart spots Mick and abandons Sara (one again, the members of this team haves stupid priority issues, Snart is willing to risk the future just to save his friend first, even though the plan clearly called for everyone to be saved eventually). Sara is left alone, and though she just took down 6 bratva members all by her lonesome, she is somehow unable to take down 4 Russian guards and Valentina who are escorting Stein at the moment, and when they enter a door in the hallway, she for some reason decides the jig is up, and it is time to kill Stein. (Why she could not simply keep following them and take out the remaining guards is uncertain, perhaps she has a limit to the number of Russians she can kill in a day and had already hit her quotia? I don’t know.)
So in the next strange and nonsensical twist of the night, Sara LEAVES THE GULAG and sets up her sniper position on a hill just outside the prison, where she can take a shot at Stein as he crosses the prison yard. How does she know he will be escorted across the prison yard, and not just through the main building? Because of poor writing and plot conveniences, duh. Snart meanwhile, frees Mick and puts the ATOM suit into the unconscious Ray’s pocket, opting to leave his teammate behind when he does not wake up. (I’m sure leaving the ATOM suit in the Russian Gulag where Savage can find it on his unconscious teammate will not have dire consequences for the future.) Fortunately, Mick feels he owes Ray one for taking that beating for him (because suddenly the concept of teammates means NOTHING to Snart and Mick, despite their being part of this team now) and carries him out of the Gulag with Snart.
Stein meanwhile gives Valentina the formula, but warns her that she needs the atom splicer to be able to safely initiate a Firestorm, though she senses she is missing something. Then, based on the writing on Stein’s arm, she pieces it all together (in like 15 seconds, which you know, I guess you can do when you are a mad Russian scientist) and realizes Stein is the missing piece of Firestorm, and that she must merge with him. (remember that ‘The Flash’ episode where they spent all episode desperately searching for potential candidates that would actually be able to merge with Professor Stein and complete Firestorm, and then only found TWO people that could do it, and then only because they were around when the particle accelerator exploded? Well good news, apparently in Russia in 1986, anyone can join with Stein to become Firestorm). So Valentina goes to the reactor and absorbs Firestorm energy or something, and has Stein brought to her so they can merge. And yes, you guessed it, the guards decide to bring him to Valentina across the prison yard, so Sara can finally have her shot at the man.
Meanwhile, while all of this is going on, Jax and Kendra are feeling left out of the action, and try to convince Captain Hunter to let them join in on the fun. Rip is at first against it, content to just let Sara kill Stein (a man Rip put in this position), but then he relents and decides to let them join the mission, flying them over in the jump ship (I kid you not, this whole scene happens WHILE everything is going down at the Gulag, definitely some timing issues). Jax’s initial mission before finding Stein and re-merging with him is to run across that damn prison yard and shut down the power, which he manages to do but does hurt his knee again, but I’m not sure why he needed to do it. Sure, it freed the prisoners, but Ray, Mick, and Snart were already free at that point. Kendra meanwhile was sent into the building itself to lay explosives, which once again, I’m not sure why this was needed, as she did not seem to be going after any target in particular. It seems she is doing this just so they could have her confront Savage, who threatens her right before Rip appears with a gun to Savage’s head, demanding back his watch with the pictures of his wife and son. Savage complies, then mocks Rip with the knowledge that he will kill his family in the future. Kendra and Rip exit the room, and blow the explosives, “killing” Savage again, but not really doing any other serious damage to the facility.
Back to Sara, who is about to pull the trigger on Stein, but stops as Snart tells her she is not a killer anymore, (the future be damned apparently.) So with everyone watching and no one doing anything Stein is forced into the reactor with Valentina and merges with her (quite easily, nullifying the logic of Firestorm) and she becomes the first female Firestorm. She comes back to the prison yard and starts launching fire at prisoners, as Jax decides to save the day. He urges Stein to take control of the body, and then once Stein has stopped Valentina’s attack, Jax touches her arm and the new Firestorm splits apart, leaving Stein and Jax unharmed, but Valentina turning blue and nuclear-y. The team takes off in the jump-ship as Valentina explodes in a nuclear blast that destroys the gulag, and apparently leaves no lasting effect on the future despite the extensive ecological damage that usually comes with a nuclear blast.
Back on the ship, the team does a Vodka toast to their ridiculous victory, until they are hit by a blast from an enemy ship, who somehow found them inside the temporal zone inside the timeline. They manage to lose Chronos and his ship, but not before a missile hits them and knocks them out of the time warp and into Star City of 2047, where they will need to repair the ship. They exit the Waverider to head out for supplies, spotting the SMOAK Tower in the distance replacing the Palmer Tech sign from the present, and find Star City in ruins. They are spotted by what appears to be the Green Arrow, and while Sara and Ray call out greetings the man reveals his face and the fact that he is not Oliver Queen, right as he prepares to shoot them with his bow.
THEORIES FOR TOMORROW:
– Line of the Night: Wentworth Miller – “This isn’t my first Prison Break.” – I love meta jokes.
– So Felicity took over Palmer Tech by 2047, so Queen Industries was never restored? I ask because that future newspaper from ‘The Flash’ had a headline about Queen Industries and Wayne Enterprises merging, doesn’t seem likely if Palmer Tech never became Queen Industries again.
– Was the archer of Star City 2047 Connor Hawke? What happened to Team Arrow? If they had fixed the timeline how was Star City in ruins?
The show definitely struggled to find its footing this week, as the character motivations and general decision making was often illogical and against type. Definitely a frustrating episode, but in all honestly, it was partially saved by the epic ending in Star City of 2047. Here’s hoping they start figuring it out soon, as the Arrowverse audience is definitely not going to continue to watch this sub-par show when there are much better super-hero shows out there for them to enjoy.