The team tracks Vandal Savage to Harmony Falls, Oregon in 1958. There, they uncover a string of murders that scream of Savage's involvement. As Professor Stein and Sara go undercover at a local hospital and Jax begins questioning the local teenagers, Ray and Kendra play house... only to find out that Vandal Savage is their new neighbor!
Pleasantville (time-travelers influence an idealistic 1950s town, name-dropped by Jefferson), Back To The Future (time-traveler copes with an idealistic 1950s town, referred to by Ray), Gremlins (monster terrorizing a small town) and every single 1950's B-Movie where a strange local doctor menaces the local teenagers, a corrupt sheriff does nothing about it, meteors from space cause strange things to happen, etc.
You'd think that Rip Hunter would think better of a) asking Ray and Kendra to masquerade as a couple and b) asking Jax to try and question a pretty white girl in the 1950s. What makes this doubly vexing is that Rip warns Jefferson about being careful when going out on his date with Betty!
The CGI for Jefferson's transformation into a Hawk-creature and back is not the best.
Granting that it's part of the B-Movie aesthetic that this episode is purposely trying to evoke, what exactly is Savage hoping to accomplish by building an army of uncontrollable hawk monsters?
Casper Crump has hammed it up a bit as Vandal Savage in the past. In this episode, however, it works. Partly because Savage is clearly struggling at playing normal and it adds to the humor of the episode. And partly because the attitude works given that Savage is literally playing at being a mad-scientist.
Franz Drameh is given a fair bit of meaty material this time, which play at the inherit conflict of the character of Jackson Jefferson. Namely, that he is an idealist turned cynic who can't quite rid himself of his ability to hope for something better. On the one hand, he is justly skeptical as Professor Stein talks about the glories of the 1950s. On the other hand, he's enough of an idealist to be upset about how casually Snart was apparently able to kill his best friend. It's a credit to Drameh's skill that he is able to simultaneously play the heart of the team and the jaded youth wise beyond his years.
I love the chemistry between Caity Lotz and Victor Garber. It's comedy gold as Stein enjoys bossing Sara around just a little too much and Sara throws the snark right back at him ("Literally for DAYS") whenever she gets a chance. And then the two get a nice moment when they talk about Sara's romancing a young nurse.
The direction by Joe Dante perfectly captures the 50's B-Movie feel the script requires. No small wonder given that he directed Gremlins!
The make-up for the hawk-monsters is rather good.
Trivia Of Tomorrow
Vandal Savage uses the alias Dr. Curtis Knox in this episode. This was also the name of a character from the TV show Smallville - an immortal scientist who was studying people who gained powers from Kryptonite exposure and harvesting their body parts in an effort to make his wife immortal as well. Writer Bryan Q. Miller said they had wanted to use Vandal Savage for the episode, but were unable to due to rights issues with the character at the time.
The secretive ward where Savage is keeping his experiments is Hall H. This was confirmed by the LOTWritersRoom Twitter account to be a reference to Hall H at the San Diego Comic Con - the largest single room in the convention center and the one usually reserved for big media events.
When Snart and Rip are examining the wounded Betty in The Waverider's med-bay, the lights Gideon shines on them turn their dark suits and hats blue and green respectively. The effect leaves them looking somewhat like The Green Hornet and The Spirit - two costumed heroes who dressed in a green suit and a blue suit with a matching fedora respectively.
Professor Stein, lying about his credentials as a psychiatrist, says he did his doctoral thesis on socio-pathology in relationship to serial murder.
The wounds Betty suffers are consistent with those made by talons - not a knife.
An analysis of Betty Saver's blood reveals traces of silicate metals - i,e, an Nth Metal Meteorite.
The meteorite Savage is experimenting with and injecting young people with is turning them into half-man/half-hawk hybrids.
With Gideon's help, Stein develops a gene-therapy to restore Jefferson and the other teens Savage infected. He says they should know right away if a genome bonding occurs.
Rip: Nice work, partner.
Snart: You're not my partner. There's only one person I ever trusted on this job. And we all know how that turned out.
Stein: Seeing white-picket fences and perfect family houses...it's enough to make one nostalgic.
Sara: Or nauseated.
Stein: Oh come on, Ms. Lance. Even someone as jaded as yourself cannot deny how idyllic this time was.
Jax: Yeah. If you were white.
Sara: And a man. And straight. And -
Stein: Okay, okay. I get the point.
Jax: Dude, even if this town wasn't full of small-minded idiots, it would still be creepy as hell. I used to watch all these old horror movies with my mom and they all started off in places like this. See, first it's all perfect? And then BOOM! Some alien monster beast thing starts killing kids on Lover's Lane!
Stein: Well, now I see what's going on. While I've been busy working, you were busy seducing that young woman.
Sara: Actually, I was liberating her. With an option to seduce her later.
Stein: And then what? This poor young woman will have to remain in the sexually repressive 1950s, long after you've returned to a timeship and disappeared from her life forever.
Sara: You know what, Doc? I would love for someone to drop into my life and tell me that the future's going to be a better place.
Savage: Do you believe in fate?
Kendra: Fate is a prison. When free will is gone, what's left?
Rip: I'm sorry, Mr. Palmer. I'm unfamiliar with the term "man cave."
(Upon seeing Jax dressed up for his date for Betty)
Ray: Is tonight the Enchantment Under The Sea dance?
Stein: She's talking about an Nth Metal meteorite!
Snart: Say something that makes sense.
Stein: It seems Mr. Fuller has come into contact with a meteorite with mutagenic properties
Snart: ... try again.
(Stein explains that the meteorite turning people into monsters is similar to the one that gave Kendra her powers)
Snart: And I'm guessing it's not curable?
Stein: Well, I-I suppose if the talons which lacerated her left some mutagenic reside, I could-
Snart: (testily) Yes or no?
Stein: (equally testy) Perhaps.
Sara: In the meantime, we need to get ready to back Kendra up. She's going into the asylum to meet Savage tonight.
Stein: (dryly) Another opportunity for you to see Nurse Carlisle.
Sara: (sighs) Yeah. And apologize.
Stein: I warned you, Ms. Lance. Rushing a repressed woman from the 1950s into the free-wheeling, sexual mores of the 21st Century...
Sara: Actually, I was the one who freaked out.
Stein: ... oh.
Sara: Ever since I... got brought back to life, I haven't really...experienced much in the way of feelings. And then when Lindsey kissed me...
Stein: ... it was like you were being kissed for the first time. How romantic.
Sara: It was more like terrifying. That's the thing that sucks about feelings is.. you realize how much you can hurt someone. Or get hurt.
(Ray is dressed as a patient. He is listening in to Kendra and Savage on an ear-piece. Sara is close by in a nurse's uniform, with Rip on-hand dressed as an orderly.)
Ray: Nurse? Nurse, I keep hearing voices in my head. My wife with another man. It's driving me crazy!
Sara: Well, maybe you should learn to trust your wife a little bit more. (To Rip) Orderly? Show our new patient to his room. And don't hesitate to give him a sedative if he doesn't calm down.
Rip: Right away, nurse!
Snart: I'm sure the kid is fine.
Stein: Jefferson and I, as you know, share a psychic connection but, for some reason, I can't seem to reach him. (sighs) I've grown so accustom to our partnership. To suddenly be without him is disquieting.
Snart: I know the feeling.
As noted in The Pilot, time-travel can cause temporary physical illness and the effects become more extreme the further you travel. In this case, Professor Stein reports his vision going blurry in his left eye and Jax develops triple-vision.
The Amon Dagger - not seen since 102 - makes an appearance. Ray steals it so that Kendra can use it to kill Savage.
Chronos appears for the first time since 105.
The episode ends with Ray, Sara and Kendra still stuck in 1958 as The Waverider is forced to take-off without them.
Harmony Falls, Oregon, USA - March 1958.
The Fridge Factor
Kendra does wind up needing Ray to save her from Savage. She later apologies for thinking she could fight him alone, though Ray also apologizes for playing the protective husband.
The Crisis Factor
Sara's romantic subplot is full of unfortunate implications. The largest of these is her seemingly promoting the stereotype of the promiscuous bisexual, wanting to have a casual fling with a woman who she'll have to abandon once they leave this time period. It's doubly unfortunate if you're a fan of Arrow and consider that - at the time of her death - Sara was in a committed relationship with Nyssa Al Ghul and the series never depicted her asking about Nyssa (who was in the dungeons of Nanda Parbat when Sara came back from the dead) or seeming to give much of a damn about her one way or the other.
The Bottom Line
It's good for what it is as a tribute to classic B-movies. Unfortunately, the script tries to do too much and while there's a number of effective scenes that develop the relationships between characters who haven't had much chance to interact (Stein/Sara, Snart/Stein and Snart/Jax in particular), the fact remains that everything seems a little rushed and nothing gets developed as well as it should have.