TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow – Season 1 Episode 5 “Fail-Safe”

EPISODE 5: "Fail-Safe"

SYNOPSIS: "After some of the Legends are captured and thrown into a Russian gulag during the height of the Cold War of 1986, Snart leads the team in an elaborate escape plan to free their comrades.  However, Rip gives Sara a secret side mission that could prove not only to be a liability, but fatal to the team."


So here's the score. I thought tonight's episode was decent, though it certainly did not match the wit and excitement of last week's installment of the series. Like any other fan of the two-seasons-and-a-film-too-long Fox program PRISON BREAK, I was really hoping for a few more in-jokes from our friends Snart and Rory. That said, I did appreciate Snart's declaration of having already busted his way out of more than one prison, during his questionable past. Honestly, I'll take what I can get in this regard. It's not like the writers of this episode, Beth Schwartz and Grainne Godfree, are going to waste time in the writers room trying to cram a Robert Knepper cameo in, right?

Back to the task at hand. I must admit that I was a bit dis-heartened by the significance and length of Cisco Ramon's (Carlos Valdez) guest-spot on tonight's episode. Really, when I'd heard that he would be making an appearance, I'd gotten myself all psyched to see what my favorite character from THE FLASH would have to contribute to “Fail-Safe”. It turns out that he was nothing more than a clever hallucination of sorts, but at least he got a chance to be all shady and nefarious – both of which are traits more akin to his Earth-2 counterpart. But I digress. It was cool to share a moment with him, but damn if I wish that his role had amounted to more than just a simple drive-by mwuahaha!

Thinking back on the events of this episode, I can't help but feel as if this was more of a “let's advance the plot” outing than a “let's strengthen our characters” one. Which is odd when you consider that tonight's prison break will go down in history as being the teams first straight-up victory. Think about it: Every member made it in and out of the gulag alive, Valentina Vostok and her plans for the Russian Firestorm project have gone up in smoke, and Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) was reduced to nothing more than a smear on a prison wall. I'd call that a pretty good day for our league of legends, wouldn't you?

That said, I do have a few nagging thoughts about the hypocritical actions of one Captain Rip Hunter. Seriously guy, how are you going to lecture Kendra and Jax about endangering themselves when your Plan B is to kill Professor Stein should things go tits up? I'm nearing the point where I need to see Rip adhere to his own advice. I understand that learning to properly manage his team is a part of his character arc, but dude's got to start owning his position fast if we're to continue taking direction from him. It's a minor quibble, but it's there.

Moving on, let's take a moment to give it up for Ray, right? As foolish as it might have been to go sticking his nose where it didn't belong, you have to admit that he stepped up this episode. Oh sure, getting your ass kicked and offering yourself up for torture might not seem like the most heroic thing to do, but it certainly is one of the most selfless acts we've seen from any member of the group thus far. Additionally, I enjoyed that Palmer and Rory had an opportunity to bond. Ray knows that Mick values loyalty, and seeing him go to such lengths in the hope of connecting with his teammate was a nice move. More so, knowing that Mick acknowledged Ray's efforts – and even went so far as to ensure his safety – is the sort of team-building exercise I can applaud. Okay, so I guess there was some character building going on.

I'd also like to take a moment to give props to Stephanie Corneliussen and her power-hungry portrayal of Valentina Vostok. Once a saucy target for Leonard Snart's charms, Ms. Vostok had proven herself to be quite persuasive in her effort to gain information from a weak-stomached Martin Stein. For me, her character was made even better once she and Stein had merged, becoming a fiery vixen of brains and nuclear-level brawn. Though coated in CGI, I could still see the wild look in her eyes as she relished in her newly-acquired powers. Part of me wishes that she'd stuck around for another episode or two, but I totally understand why she wasn't able to keep herself together once the professor had packed his bags for Splitsville.

For me, “Fail-Safe”served as a way of getting Ray and Rory to connect. Even with the Firestorm stuff going down, the moments shared between those two characters are the most memorable. It's cool to see Kendra and Jefferson stepping up to the plate. Though, I'll be the first to admit that they both have a ways to go before I endear myself to them in any way. Jefferson's impassioned arguments with Stein during last week's “White Knights” episode was a step in the right direction, so let's not follow that up by having him regurgitate too many Stein-like inspirational speeches, yeah?

I have a feeling that next week's episode is going to be a good time. Things look to have changed in Star City, and not for the better. I'd like to know who the black Green Arrow is that we saw during the close of tonight's adventure. Also, I'm anxious to bask in the glory of Oliver's on-model facial hair once he inevitably makes a guest appearance.


Tonight's episode began with Professor Stein back in S.T.A.R. Labs, rapping about the ins-and-outs of his Firestorm research with none other than his old pal, Cisco Ramon. Only, there's something not quite right about Cisco. First off, he's wearing a blazer atop his latest order, and second, dude's hair is tied back into a proper ponytail. Where is the clever, quipping Cisco we all know and love? Realizing that he's obviously under some form of trickery, Stein breaks the illusion and finds himself standing with an eager Valentina Vostok. After Stein shares a few stern words about how the soviets will never learn the secrets of the Firestorm project, Vandal Savage enters the room, looking a touch disheveled and short of patience.

As the time-hopping psycho paces about the room, he shares with Stein that he remembers him from several years ago. You remember, don't you? About that time when a certain arms deal went wrong? Savage then warns the professor that he's still holding Rory and Ray hostage, and that he's got Stalin-inspired torture methods waiting for them – should Stein decide that he's going to be difficult.

Aboard the Wave Rider, we join Kendra as she enters the infirmary. Upon her arrival, she finds herself a fitful Jax Jefferson, suffering from a fever dream brought on by the bond shared with his Firestorm counterpart, Martin. After waking, Jax warns Kendra that he can sense that the team is running out of time, and if they want to save their friends they're going to have to move fast. You know what that means, don't you kids? That's right, it's time for a good old-fashioned prison break! Cue the theme song!

As we join Rip, Sara, Snart, Kendra, and Jax inside the main cabin of the ship, Gideon informs the group that no one has ever successfully broken out of the Russian gulag where their friends are being held. Scoffing at the thought of a prison that he wouldn't be able to break in or out of, Snart proclaims that busting their teammates out will be a piece of cake, once he's acquired the proper information. A scene transition later, we find Rip and Leonard inside of a Russian steam room, hoping to a make contact with a member of the Russian mob named Yury. While making their introduction, the conversation quickly goes south, and Yury orders the other nearby members of his organization to attack.

Before long, but after Rip takes quite the beating from Yury, Sara barges into the room – a littering of pummeled Russian thugs are strewn throughout the hallway behind her. Impressed with her skills, and intrigued by their goal to erase Savage from the history books, Yury concedes to giving the team the information they're looking for. With the makings of a plan well in hand, it's time for Snart, Sara and Rip to suit up and make their way into the prison. Eager to help, Jax and Kendra offer their unique services but are shot down immediately by a nervous Captain Hunter. Feeling side-lined, Kendra and Jax head toward another part of the ship to contemplate their lack of participation.

With the details of their caper finalized, Rip pulls Sara aside, and then asks for her help in executing a Plan B if things should go south. In a nutshell, if the team is unable to extract their friends – particularly Martin Stein – Sara is to kill the professor before he's forced to aid the Russians in creating their own version of Firestorm. Taken aback by Rips request, Sara is then shown a computer-generated image of what the future of Star City could be should the Russians be successful. Horrified by the carnage presented to her, Ms. Lance agrees to take Stein out if necessary. Little do either of them know that Snart is listening in the other room, completely aware of their little side-mission.

Back at the gulag, while out in the exercise yard, Ray starts asking the wrong questions to his new prison pals. Before long, Palmer is approached by a rather ghoulish looking inmate, who then starts beating the crap out of him as Rory looks on and does nothing. Returning to the lab, Stein continues to try reasoning with Valentina, and reminds her that without the addition of a splicer, two individuals cannot possibly harness the power that comes with being a Firestorm. As Vostok waves away Stein's warnings like so many buzzing flies, Jax communicates with Stein via skin-o-gram, as the words “We're Coming” etch themselves into Stein and Jefferson's “shared” arm. Certain that his friends will come for him, Martin begins stalling to by them some time.

Oh joy! It appears as if the Russians have grown weary of the good professor's disobedience. For it appears that they've decided that it's time to lock him in a cell, and force him to watch his teammates Ray and Rory get tortured – gulag style, bitches! Soon, the weasel-faced colonel tires of electrocuting our incapacitated heroes, and decides that he's going to bash Rory's head in with a hammer. You know, to keep things interesting and maybe lighten the mood! It's then that Ray decides he's going to take Rory's beating by busting out his best Reggie Warrington routine on their torturer. After a few wet smacks of the hammer to Ray's spine, Stein caves and agrees to give the Russians the information they want

Next, after gaining access to the prison, Snart announces to Sara that he's changing the plan – as Rory's liberation from that awful place is his only concern. Not looking to have an argument, and having an agenda of her own, the two part ways. Back in their cell, Ray and Rory are found sharing words about Ray's thoughtful but arguably dumb Superman gesture he pulled back in the torture chamber. Ray exhaustively explains to Rory the value of sticking up for what you believe in and then promptly shuts his eyes in pain.

Tired of sitting around while their teammates do all the heavy-lifting, Kendra and Jax decide to enact their own plan for getting inside the penitentiary. Outside the lockup, Sara has set herself up with a mighty-fine snipers nest, while on the inside, Snart has managed to successfully gain access to Ray and Rory's cell. As Leonard looks down at an injured Ray Palmer, he urges his partner-in-crime, Rory, to leave him behind. However, if there's one thing Mick understands, it's loyalty. Thus, he slings his beaten buddy over his shoulder and together they make for the exit.

Back in the lab, Vostok has uncovered the secret behind Stein's understanding of the Firestorm project, after discovering the scarred message on the professor's arm. Valentina then realizes that she no longer needs for Stein to reveal his secrets, but that she can merge with him instead, and become the very first Russian-born Firestorm. Some prison break hijinks later, and Valentina is now a flaming hot nuclear reactor with incredible legs! Feeling the exhilaration brought on by her new powers, Firestorm Vostok makes her way to the gulag's main entrance – leaving fire and destruction everywhere she goes.

Meanwhile, several of our legendary heroes have managed to re-unite, minus one very-merged Professor Stein, of course. With so much chaos happening all around them, it's easy to forget that both Rip and Kendra have been separated from the group, and are more-than-likely dealing with their own set of problems. Well guess what? Ding ding ding! That's right, Vandal Savage has caught himself a whiff oh his old enemy, Shiara, so of course he catches up with her – probably so he can monologue her to death. 

It's while Savage is blah blah blahing about destiny that Kendra expresses her new-found courage and tells her immortal enemy to “get bent” – more or less. Then, Rip arrives, a glowing pistol aimed squarely at the time tyrant's Cro-Mag-non-like brow. Oh, but Rip doesn't shoot him. Nah, instead he exits the room while activating a kill-switch linked to several explosives he's apparently placed around the joint. We're to believe that Savage is blown to pieces in the blast, but we all know better than that.

Re-joining our heroes, who've each made their way to the front entrance of the prison, we bear witness to Jax attempting to coax Stein out of his new partnership. Inspired by the words of his true partner, Stein breaks free of Valentina's hold on him, leaving Vostok vulnerable to the adverse effects of being a one-woman Firestorm. Unable to harness the power of her new form, Valentina explodes, leaving nothing more than a mushroom cloud to be carried off by the wind.

Presumably safe aboard the Wave Rider, the team is enjoying their first true victory in their war against Savage when Gideon alerts them of an approaching enemy. Yup, it's Cronos, again! Unfortunately, before the team can make their escape, the Wave Rider is damaged and knocked off course. After a not-so-nice landing, the team finds themselves back in Star City. Only, the year isn't 2016, it's 2046! Fudge. Oh, and look, there's a new Green Arrow there waiting to meet them! He looks pissed. Until next time, folks!


NEXT ON LEGENDS OF TOMORROW: "Star City 2146" airs February 25th – When a malfunction sends the Waverider crashing into 2046 Star City, our heroes face a startling version of their own future where they never stop Savage  and never return home.  The city is in ruins and overrun by criminals, which thrills Rory. Sara is despondent over the destruction of her home and stunned when she learns what happened to her old friend, Oliver Queen.


Source: joblo,

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.