This week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrow, set in feudal Japan and titled “Shogun,” could have been a disaster. Instead, it has some of the most interesting character drama so far this season, and included an inoffensive heterosexual subplot to boot.
The episode opens with Vixen beating up the entire Legends team in order to get to Mick, who she believes murdered Rex Tyler. Obviously, we know that was Reverse Flash, but she doesn’t know that. In the midst of her attempting to murder Mick for killing Rex, Nate Heywood stops her, having turned into a shiny metal version of himself. He knocks her out, and they put her in the brig.
The team discusses Nate’s new powers. Ray explains that he’d altered the serum to give the user five times normal strength and skin like steel. Nate decides to use ‘Steel’ as his code name. I’m a little disappointed they went with just ‘Steel’ instead of the full ‘Citizen Steel,’ from the comics, because one of Superman’s successors in the comics was a black metalworker who took Steel as his moniker as a hero. This could easily cause confusion for new fans coming to comics after enjoying the show.
Nex, Sara goes down to the brig to talk to Vixen. Vixen firmly believes that Mick killed Rex, and Sara tells her, equally firmly, that she’s wrong. Some of the strongest character writing in this episode belongs to Vixen, in fact. Eventually, Sara and Vixen come to an accord, and Sara lets Vixen out of the brig.
Meanwhile, Jax and Ray try to train Nate in his new powers, and it goes remarkably well until it doesn’t. Nate accidentally breaks a hole in the ship and gets sucked out of it. Ray follows, to try and rescue him.
The damage to the ship renders it inoperable, so Mick, Sara, and Vixen follow Ray and Nate to the Edo period in Japan. Nate lands first, actually pretty jazzed about the period before he loses consciousness again. Ray gets taken captive by samurai and tortured for information about his suit. A pretty young woman named Masako finds Nate and brings him home to her father, a doctor and blacksmith. The shogun steals the Atom suit, and Masako reveals to Nate that the shogun intends to marry her. She does not want to marry him, because he’s awful.
Then, we cut over to Sara, Vixen, and Mick, who are debating the existence of ninjas as they go looking for Ray and Nate. Meanwhile, on board the damaged Waverider, Jax and Martin discover a secret compartment on the ship.
Back in the Edo period, the shogun’s men come ask Masako if she has seen any foreigners. She tells them no, but Nate reveals himself. He insults the shogun and tells the men, “His wedding is cancelled on account of his being an asshat.”
The shogun’s men laugh, and then stab Nate. Nate hasn’t figured out the mechanics of his powers too well yet, so he almost dies. At least he tried, though. At least he tried.
Sara, Mick and Vixen go to the location of the Atom suit, still discussing ninjas. On the Waverider, Jax and Martin find a secret hatch that Rip didn’t tell anyone about. Then, Sara, Mick, and Vixen walk into the shogun’s palace and confront him. Ray, in his cell, begins to fight his captors, as well. Sara gets into a fight with a ninja, which goes well, but she also gets an assist from Vixen. The shogun also has put on Ray’s suit, having stolen it for his own.
After the next commercial break, we see Nate and Masako having a romantic moment. They almost kiss, only for Ray, Mick, Sara, and Vixen to arrive, ruining the moment. The team talks about their next step and next plan. Ray has to teach Nate to control his powers. Sara and Vixen have to come up with a way to protect the villagers and Masako from the shogun’s wrath. Mick decides to sleep in a wheelbarrow until the action starts, because that’s more his style.
Back on the Waverider, Jax and Martin find that the hatch leads to an extensive secret armory that Rip had maintained before he vanished. On the back wall, they find a secret database that includes a voice message from Barry Allen. This message comes from the year 2054. We the audience don’t get to hear the whole thing, but we do know that Barry believes that Rip shouldn’t tell the team about it. And whatever the rest of the message said, it deeply unsettled Jax and Martin.
Ray and Nate keep going with Nate’s Steel training. Nate can’t figure out how to summon the skin at will. Ray is deeply upset at the fact that to defeat the shogun, he has to teach Nate how to destroy the Atom suit. In the last couple weeks, Ray’s feelings of inadequacy out of the suit have been the core of his emotional arc. The idea of losing it wounds him, but he knows it’s the only way to stop the shogun.
In a really great scene with Masako’s father, the old man talks about his son, a great samurai forced to kill himself by the shogun. He reminds Ray that the thing that really matters is the man inside the armor, not necessarily the armor itself. You need armor to fight, obviously, but it doesn’t have to be a specific kind.
Meanwhile, Sara and Vixen secret the villagers away in a temple in the woods. Vixen confides to Sara that her village in Africa wasn’t so different from this place. She left it because she knows that the wider world needs protectors as much as her village did. She worries, though, whether or not she’s leaving her home unguarded. Vixen’s dedication to duty and protecting innocents over all else really sets her apart from this ragtag bunch of chaotic neutral to chaotic good Legends, and I love it. I also love the immediate connection and chemistry between Sara and Vixen.
While I have no evidence exactly to back up the idea that they could be a romantic subplot in the making, I could totally see them developing into strong friends first, and then maybe something down the line. Both women will definitely benefit from their current dynamic, though — that much you can already tell.
The next section of the episode covers the battle between the shogun’s men and the Legends of Tomorrow. Nate confronts the shogun directly, but receives help from Ray and Mick. Mick then goes off to fight some ninjas. Vixen and Sara protect the temple and fight back to back at one point. Eventually, Ray can’t really fight the shogun anymore. Masako steps in to try and protect him and get justice for herself. The shogun almost kills her. Then, Nate steps in, finally managing to go steel again.
Nate defeats the shogun by blowing up him and the Atom suit. He tells Ray how sorry he is, and Ray pretends he’s okay. In the next scene, Nate and Masako kiss, and Nate returns Masako’s brother’s sword to her. He tells her her village still needs a protector and that maybe she could take on that role. Masako’s father and Ray have another brief talk about armor. Mick comes in with some comic relief, as he is wont to do.
Back on the ship, Martin and Jax avoid telling Sara about the message Rip hid from them. They speak cryptically to each other about it after she leaves their presence. Then, in the final scene, the team decides that, for the moment, they’re going to just let Sara drive, and then they’ll figure out what comes next in their missions.
I really, really enjoyed this episode. I’m not able to speak to how racially sensitive it was, because I don’t know nearly enough about Asian representation in media, but it seemed respectful on the surface level. I thought Masako made a really great single-episode character, and I really believe she’ll grow into a great protector. Vixen and Sara’s dynamic, like I said, was marvelous.
Overall, I had a really great time with this episode, and cannot wait for next week. Three words: Civil. War. Zombies.