Ok, I try to take my reviews at least a little seriously. Every once in a while I can’t. This is one of those times. If you really loved Legends of Tomorrow’s “Abominations” episode, you might want to skip this. Personally, I think this was the worst episode of the season, the series, and the entire CW-verse, including those really shaky early Arrow episodes.
The image I can’t get out of my head is the writer’s’ room being filled with empty bottles and smoke, with someone saying, “Hey, I know…. we should do, like, a zombie episode. Zombies are big, right?” And someone else pointing out it’s a time travel show, and they decide zombies in the Civil War would be cool. Or something like that. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m a fan of heroes, comic book characters, and comic book characters on tv. This one just didn’t work. At all.
The show opens with a time pirate doing exposition by death as he crashes his life pod after sending out a distress call that says the weapon they stole got someone sick and he turned on everyone else. The pirate crashes, gets captured by Confederate soldiers in 1863 Mississippi, and then changes to, well, a zombie, and goes after them. And thus the stage is set.
Back on the Waverider, Stein and Jax listen, again, to the mysterious message from future Barry Allen. He mentions a war, and I’m even more sure this is hinting at the big Supergirl/Flash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow crossover coming up later this season. Sara calls everyone together for a meeting, and plays the intercepted message from the crashed time pirate. They take the ship to the right time and date, change into their period clothing, and tell Ray that, since he lost his Atom suit, he needs to stay back on the ship as backup. Ray gives everyone supplies and even packed them lunches. The poor man looks lost.
Ray bores them with an ongoing weather report and travelogue of what they’re seeing, and Sara seems to not only shut off her coms, but everyone’s at once, leaving Ray, their backup, completely out of the loop. Because that’s tactically sound. They find the escape pod easily enough, and have Rory incinerate it to not contaminate the timeline. I guess his heat gun burns hotter than Firestorm’s nuclear flame? Or maybe it was an attempt to make good use of Rory’s pyromania.
Just as they congratulate themselves on an easy job for once, they hear screams. A black man is running for his life from several Confederate soldiers. Vixen rushes off to help, and Jax and Stein merge into Firestorm to help her. So much for low profile. They save the man, but then get a nasty surprise when a wave of zombies show up. In the ensuing melee, the man they rescued gets killed by what looks a lot like a stab wound in the torso, which is a bit odd for mindless zombies that are trying to grab and bite everyone. Jax takes his place when they learn the man is on an important mission for the Union Army, providing this week’s excuse for why we don’t see more of the very powerful Firestorm.
They regroup back on the ship and discuss the TX-90, the bio-weapon causing all the problems. Things start to get worse quickly as Rory keels over, and they find a bite on his shoulder, which he somehow didn’t notice during the fight. By classic zombie-lore, Rory is now infected and they bring him to the medbay. As Jax and Amaya go off to carry out the secret plan, Sara and Nate go to warn the Union army about the zombies, and Stein reveals he has a serious phobia about zombies, which makes him want to stay on the ship with the infected Rory and Ray.
One of the few things I think they did right on this show was facing the slavery issue head on. Jax and Amaya see a slave getting captured and whipped, and Jax says they can’t do anything about it to complete their mission. They both look sick over it. This comes up a few more times throughout the episode, and it’s ugly, and brutal, and their one bit of serious writing this week.
Aboard the Waverider, Ray tries to come up with a cure for Rory, since this season he went from designing high tech armor to being a bio-chemist. Stein looks on and does a credible imitation of Shaggy in most Scooby Doo episodes. Rory, of course, breaks free and chases them all over the ship. I was waiting for a scene with a hallway and a lot of doors. Gideon obeys voice commands to close doors, but during all the times they’re looking for Rory, they manage to forget to ask her where he is.
Sara and Nate get captured and brought to the Union camp, run by Ulysses S. Grant. Continuing the tradition of not preparing cover identities, Nate decides he is Colonel Sanders. This story falls apart quickly, and they try and tell Grant about zombies. Since that term doesn’t become a part of popular culture for a few decades, he has no idea what they’re talking about. That’s a decent bit of history, so a point for that. Sara finally decides to run off and find one to show them, and the soldiers that were holding them prisoner just sort of let her wander off for no apparent reason.
Jax, of course, manages to get in trouble at the plantation he’s supposed to infiltrate and falls afoul of the amazingly racist plantation owner, Collins. These more ugly scenes which are true to the period but a bit hard to watch. When the master beats on him, he somehow manages to lose his earbud, which hasn’t happened before in any other fight, including Sara’s intense martial arts moves.
There are a lot of quick cuts from Jax and Amaya at the plantation, Ray, Stein, and zombie Rory on the ship, and Sara and Nate at the camp. Things are going well for none of them. Nate still can’t control his Steel powers, which sort of makes me wonder why he’s not back on the ship with Ray. Or why someone isn’t using Rory’s flame gun on the zombies. I don’t know if it’s from Sara screwing with the coms earlier, but none of the groups are communicating with each other. And Gideon is either taking a nap or got shut down when Rory managed to kill most of the lights on the ship. Smart zombie, him.
Sara and Nate come up with a desperate plan involving Nate triggering his powers, some convenient explosives, and what looks like a modern road flare. Sara urges him to, “Run hard, run fast, and don’t die.” and responds that he can promise two of those things. Probably the best line of the show.
Eventually, they manage to wrap up most of the plots this week. The plans are delivered, the slaves freed, Rory is cured. The time pirate who caused all this? No clue. Maybe he was with the group that got blown up. Maybe he’s still wandering around, with a pocketful of whatever advanced tech he brought back with him.
There’s a nice bonding moment at the end with Rory and Ray. They talk about outsiders a lot, which describes Rory well, and is also the name of another DC team of heroes. At the end of it, something happens that shows how much Rory has come to like Ray, and hints at Ray’s future with the team. That was a really interesting development I didn’t see coming.
What I liked: The scene at the end with Rory and Ray was interesting and may change things up in a good way. Sara’s “Run fast…” etc. line was funny. I give them points for not sugarcoating the racism issue of the period.
What I didn’t: There were so many holes in this episode, most of which I mention above. The coms, the time pirate, Gideon not working. They worry a lot about changing history this episode, after they did that on purpose back in the 40’s. The ongoing plots about Rip being missing and finding Hourman’s killer seem to be largely forgotten. I thought Nate figured out his powers in the “Shogun” episode, but evidently not.
The only reason I’m not giving this a 1 is the slavery issue. I’ll bring that up to a 2 out of 5. This really wasn’t that good an episode.