Last week, the “Legends” crew ended up in Cold War Russia. Things did not go well, and the team was divided both physically and by some of Rip’s decisions. This week, the Russian adventure concludes with a few surprises and twists along the way in “Fail-Safe.”
The opening scene, bizarrely, starts with Stein talking with Cisco at STAR Labs. Everything seems perfect, but Stein figures out it’s a bit too perfect. Cisco isn’t quite himself, and Stein eventually works out this is a trick by the Russians to get him to reveal the formula he worked on for so long to create Firestorm in the first place. How this illusion was generated they never really explain that well. Once Stein snaps out of it, he has some bickering with both Valentina Vostok and her master, Vandal Savage.
Things aren’t looking too much better back on the Waverider. Jax is in the medbay, being driven a little nuts by the link between him and Stein. Gideon has been giving him meds to try and damp it down, but that’s not working well. Elsewhere, Rip plans a rescue with Sara and Snart. Snart is still annoyed (which seems to be both his default state and about as expressive as he allows himself to be) that they left Mick Rory behind at the lab. Palmer, he doesn’t care so much about. Sara gets a nasty ultimatum from Rip about what to do if the rescue doesn’t work right.
Trying to find a way in to the gulag, Snart, Sara, and Rip go visit the Bratva, or Russian mob. It’s not exactly a smooth negotiation, but eventually they manage to persuade them to give the team some help getting inside. Speaking of inside, Ray and Rory are showing the difference in their backgrounds. Rory is no stranger to prisons. Ray doesn’t fit in quite as well, and there are some places you don’t want to stand out.
Vostok, her illusion having failed, plies Stein with food. She is convinced that even if the creation of a Soviet Firestorm leads to war, it will still be good because Russia will emerge stronger than before, like after the Nazis. I think a lot of Russian citizens might disagree about that being a good thing. She also demonstrates her devotion to Savage.
Ray and Rory debate their philosophies about getting through their time while the rest of them plot and plan. Jax uses the Firestorm link to try and give Stein some hope that they are coming for him. Stein is relieved, although Ray is having a really bad time.
The team manages to get inside, still debating Rip’s plan. As the rescuers try and get in position, Ray and Rory are used as leverage to try and make Stein talk. The Russians are just as brutal as their reputation suggests. Ray does manage to earn some grudging respect from Rory during this chaos.
After Stein agrees to help, the prisoners are taken away again, and the rescue starts. Rip’s plan gets revised, and I’d argue improved. There’s a lot of fighting and some of it is too late, as Valentina manages to use Stein’s work to merge with him and become a female Firestorm. In the comics, there’s a vaguely similar character called Firehawk. Valentina isn’t quite either Firehawk or her more direct comic analog, Negative Woman. Her fusion with Stein is interrupted by Jax, who plays a part in the rescue that shows his own bravery, but also for the first time actually has the limits from his knee injury actually shown. After Jax’s desperate, if hobbling, sprint, he says, “Barry Allen who?” which was one of my favorite lines of the episode. The gulag is taken care of fairly effectively, Valentina and the sadistic guard Mihkail are left to uncertain fates as the team just barely escapes.
The time line is restored, Russian Firestorms no longer dominate the future, and the team appears to have succeeded at least not making things worse. They have a few nice character moments, but the episode doesn’t quite end there. They get attacked by an old foe, the ship crashes, and they end up in the future facing a hero they don’t quite know as well as they thought.
What I liked: The hints at Firehawk, Mikhail (as part of Firestorm), and what may come with them are all great Easter Eggs for comic fans, but you don’t need to get the reference to enjoy the show. The scenes with Snart/Cold and Sara/Canary were some nice character work and a really interesting pairing. I like that Jax’s injury actually became more than a talking point, and that he was able to do something useful for the team without his powers. And they managed to avoid past versions of themselves. The set up for next episode has me really looking forward to it.
What I didn’t: Ray seems to be the least effective member of the team on a regular basis, shown up by almost everyone. I’m hoping they give him a chance to shine in the future. He sort of impressed Rory this time, but he did that by getting his ass kicked several times. Rip needs to stop underestimating his team.
I’m giving this one a low 4 out of 5. It was a fun episode with some good scenes, character development, and action.