When the trail of a Time Abberation leads The Legends to the time of the American Civil War, they will find themselves fighting an army of Confederate zombies. In order to restore the timeline, Jax and Vixen must go undercover as slaves on a Southern plantation as Sara starts to struggle with the burden of command, Nate proves more hindrance than help in dealing with General Grant and Ray and Martin must contend with a zombified Mick Rory on-board The Waverider.
Weird Western Tales (while mostly set in the Wild West era, a story involving Confederate zombies would not have been out of place in this series) the mini-series Roots (detailed examination of the cruel treatment of slaves in American South), The Evil Dead films (behavior of the zombies and general cinematography during the fight scenes) and various zombie movies dealing with zombies in a Civil War setting.
Why does Martin ask Jax if he told anyone else on the team about the message from Future Barry? Ignoring that they probably would have been confronted about it, wouldn't their empathic bond cause Martin to sense Jax's emotions about breaking their promise? The two have exhibited the ability to know when the other was hiding something or feeling guilt before and indeed Stein senses Jax's anger and fear at being chained up as a slave later in the episode.
It's a little odd that Rory doesn't reach for his flame-thrower pistol but instead charges in to start punching the zombies. If ever there was a time for his weapon of choice, this would be it!
Nate claims that of the three million people who fought in the American Civil War, 300 of them were women posing as men. This is a rather conservative estimate, and most Civil War experts mark the number as being somewhere between 450-700.
You'd think Nate, being an expert on The American Civil War, could have thought of a real officer he could have impersonated instead of Colonel Sanders. (Nate is still inexperienced and not good at coming up with information on the fly.)
There's no way Jax throwing the oil lamp should have started that big a fire that quickly unless the zombies were soaked in kerosene.
How does Nate's clothing survive the nitroglycerine explosion unscathed?
This is Franz Drameh's episode, through and through.
It's a subtle thing, but Caity Lotz's reactions as she almost but not quite hugs the zombie-gut soaked Nate are a fine bit of acting.
Good use of shaky-cam and other horror-movie filming techniques during the fights with the zombies.
Trivia Of Tomorrow
While it is impossible to cite anything as a direct influence, there have been a surprising number of stories based around the general idea of Confederate soldier zombies. Among the more famous (or infamous) films are Grey Knight, The Curse Of The Screaming Dead, Confederate Zombie Massacre, Exit Humanity, The Supernaturals and Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.
The episode opens with another new introductory voice-over. This one is delivered by Martin Stein.
According to Ray Palmer, 1863 was the bloodiest year in American history. This matches the historical record, as The American Civil War is the war that has seen the greatest number of American casualties and the two bloodiest battles of the American Civil War - Gettysburg and Chickamunga - took place in 1863.
Hinds County, Mississippi was named in honor of General Thomas Hinds - a hero of the Battle of Orleans during The War of 1812. The state capitol of Mississippi, Jackson (named in honor of General Andrew Jackson, who later became President), is located there.
Dispatches were former slaves and free blacks who acted as spies in the American South, providing information to The Union Army.
The Battle of Champion Hill was the pivotal battle of General Ulysses S. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign. Fought on May 16, 1863, the battle saw high casualties on both sides but is considered a decisive victory for Grant's forces. The historical record says nothing, however, about him receiving advanced notice of the Confederate movements from a Union spy.
Nate claims that 300 women posed as men to fight on both sides of The American Civil War. While real-world historians quibble on the exact number (The Smithsonian estimates the number was around 400 while The Civil War Trust estimates it may have been as many as 750), female soldiers were a reality.
Nate says that General Grant appears taller than he expected. General Grant was 5'8".
Nate claims to be Colonel Sanders of the 31st Pennsylvania Infantry. While The 31st Pennsylvania Infantry was a real unit, they never went anywhere close to Mississippi during their American Civil War.
Colonel Sanders, of course, is a reference to Colonel Harland David Sanders - the founder and mascot of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain of restaurants.
Nate says that the idea of zombies doesn't become well-known until 70 years after The American Civil War. The first known horror movie involving zombies - the Bela Lugosi vehicle White Zombie - was released in 1932.
The Time Bandit who crash-lands in 1863 says that he stole TX-90 from the year 2235.
TX-90 is a futuristic bio-weapon. Those infected by it experience symptoms that cause them to strongly resemble what are commonly known, in horror movie fandom circles, as "fast zombies".
Jax determines that the crashed escape pod has an exposed power core.
Ray guesses that the reason his vaccine didn't work on Rory is because subcutaneous delivery requires more than one dose.
Ray guesses that the reason the lights went out in part of the ship were due to Rory destroying a conduit.
Ray theorizes he can make the vaccine work by turning it into an aerosol and then spraying it through a fire extinguisher.
Stein (voice-over): Time travel is real. And all of history is vulnerable to attack. Which is why we must travel through time to stop the spread of these so-called Time Aberrations and to erase their damage to history. We are a team of outcasts and misfits. So please, don't call us heroes. We are Legends.
(Jax and Stein are discussing Ray Palmer being left behind on The Waverider.)
Stein: Perhaps.. it might be easier if you were to remain behind and keep Dr. Palmer company?
Jax: Perhaps... YOU should remain behind?
(Stein glances to one side nervously.)
Jax: No? Because you're not black? Because you think that me going back to 1863, I can't handle it?
Stein: That doesn't mean there's a need for you to subject yourself to the horrors that await you in that era!
(Jax sighs and puts a hand on Stein's shoulder.)
Jax: Okay. Now, I get that it might be difficult for you to understand this... but I have been black my entire life, Grey. And honestly, I can't think of a time period we could go to where I wouldn't face some sort of racism. So don't worry. Okay?
(Mick Rory starts burning the escape pod. )
Rory: (excitedly) Ahhhhh - what next?!
Stein: Don't you think that's enough incineration for one day, Mr. Rory?
Rory: No, I do not, Professor!
(Nate, Jax and Sara have just discovered the events of The Civil War were changed.)
Nate: Okay. So... how do we fix it?
Jax: We don't. I do.
Jax: There's a reason black people were used as spies - because we were invisible! That's why I'm going in there. Don't worry! If anything happens, it's on me.
Sara: No, Jax, it's on me! Look, Mick is already hurt and I don't like the idea of putting anyone else in harm's way.
Jax: And I don't like the idea of having a flag that has 20 stars on it.
Nate: When we get to wherever we're going, maybe I should be the one that breaks the zombie news to General Grant? I'm someone he'll listen to.
Sara: Because you're a man?
Nate: We're a couple of hundred years away from gender equality.
Sara: Only a couple of hundred?
Nate: Look, all I'm saying is maybe - just maybe - when we get to the Union Army, you let me do the talking.
(Suddenly, the two are surrounded by Union soldiers.)
Sara: Okay. You do the talking.
Vixen: So... what's our plan?
Jax: Well, if things go easy, we sneak in while everybody is asleep, find the Confderate plans and grab them.
Vixen: (sighs) Are things ever easy with your group?
Jax: Eh - good point.
General Grant: And I keep asking, what - in perdition's flames - is a zombie?
(Sara walks into the tent clutching a severed head by the hair. She plants it on the table, where it starts biting at open air.)
(Vixen has just broken Jax free of his chains.)
Jax: Okay. Good. (nods to the other chained people in the barn) Now let's free them.
Vixen: I thought you said if we didn't do our job, we could end up doing more harm than good.
Jax: Yeah. That's still a risk.
Vixen: So what's changed?
Jax: The way these people are being treated? That's the real Abberation. I can see that now. This is the history that needs to be fixed.
(Vixen nods and moves to break one man's chains.)
Man: No, no, I'm much obliged ma'am, but I told you what happens if they catch us.
Jax: Don't worry. We're going to protect you. I know you're scared. I get it! Don't ask me how I know this but... it gets better. Not perfect. Nowhere near close but... better than this! But it starts right now. With us not giving up!
Sara: Run fast. Run hard. Don't die.
Nate: I can promise you two of those things.
(Professor Stein finds Ray sprawled out on the floor.)
Stein: Oh, no! Raymond, don't be dead. (pauses to consider this) On the other hand, if you ARE dead, please stay dead.
(Zombie Rory has Professor Stein pinned. Stein has turned his head and squeezed his eyes closed, waiting for the inevitable. Suddenly, he realizes the inevitable isn't coming and opens his eyes to look up at a very confused and worried looking Mick Rory.)
Rory: Professor? What's going on? Was I just trying to kiss you?
Stein: Uh - I can only hope, Mr. Rory. I can only hope...
(Nate emerges from the pile of blown-up zombies.)
Nate: I am covered in zombie guts.
Sara: But you're alive!
(Sara smiles and grabs Nate as if she's about to hug him and then thinks better of it.)
Nate: I think I'm gonna be sick.
Ray: I don't think it's any secret that... without my suit, I've been wondering what my place in the team is. If... (chuckles nervously) I even have a place, you know?
Rory: Being an outsider is a good thing. It's a great thing. I've been an outsider my whole life. You get to tell people to go... shove it!
(Rory chuckles and sits up, opening up the case his feet had been propped up on. He pulls out Captain Cold's gun and powers it up, pointing it at Ray.)
Ray: What are you doing?
Rory: Something I hope I don't regret.
(Rory depowers the gun and stands, walking over to Ray.)
Rory: This belonged to the greatest outsider I ever knew. (pauses) I'm looking for a partner.
(Rory hands the cold gun to Ray. Ray looks down at it and powers it on.)
Stein: You've just witnessed the very worst of humanity. We share a psychic connection but I... I still can't begin to fathom what you must be feeling. It must be... like your heart is broken.
Jax: Yeah. It is. But I saw something in those people's eyes... I didn't expect to see. I saw hope. I saw dignity. Those men and women? They were treated worse than animals, but they never let anyone stop them from being people, you know?
Stein: I suppose there will always be those who will seek to dehuamize us. But I believe there are more that cling to hope, despite the darkness.
Jax: Yeah. That is exactly how they were.
Stein: I was actually thinking of you, Jefferson.
The time pirate who crashes in 1863 was part of the crew of a ship called The Dauntless.
We here more of the message from the Barry Allen of 2056 to Rip Hunter. The message warns that a war is coming.
Professor Stein never addresses Sara by her first name. It's always Ms. Lance.
Stein has an irrational fear of zombies.
According to Gideon, thanks to the zombie plague and the death of the dispatch The Legends failed to save, The Union forces surrendered to The Confederacy on August 15, 1865.
In the original timeline, Henry Scott had a school named after him for his heroic actions.
According to Nate, mankind is still a couple of centuries away from gender equality in 1863. This suggests he has some knowledge of future events beyond 2016.
Nate did his sophomore thesis on The American Civil War.
One of the slaves recognizes Vixen's amulet as being of Zambesi origin.
Nate's "Steel" form is strong enough to withstand the explosion of a crate full of nitroglycerine at point-blank range.
Mick Rory gives Ray Palmer Len Snart's cold gun.
Jax learned how to do scrimshaw from his mother.
Hinds County, Mississippi - 1863
The Bottom Line
It says a lot about the strength of an ensemble when the portion of an episode dealing with zombie Confederate soldiers is the least interesting aspect of it! The cast is on fire as a whole, but it is Jax's subplot as he puts himself into the shoes of a Civil War era spy that carries the show and shows off Franz Drameh's acting chops to the fullest. The zombie stuff gets a little silly at times but the cast and crew carries it off in a way to do Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell proud. This might have been an ordinary filler episode but it proved to be so much more.