This review contains spoilers
We open with Professor Stein back in Star Labs, working with Cisco on the formula for the Firestorm Matrix. I liked seeing Cisco but he seemed off, which Stein also picked up on and realized that he was hallucinating. I had heard that we were going to see Cisco on this show and I have to say I was a little disappointed this is all it was. I had been hoping for a future Vibe. At the same time, I’ve always liked it when shows in the Arrow-Verse reference each other so it’s still appreciated. With the hallucination broken, Stein is now being faced with possible torture from Vandal Savage himself.
Back on the ship Leonard continues to berate Rip over not giving them the backup they needed, leading to the team’s capture. Trying to work out a plan to rescue them, Sara suggests going to the Bratva (the Russian Mob) for help. We haven’t heard from that group in quite a while but they were featured multiple times in the first couple seasons of Arrow. After some… forceful… convincing Sara gets one of the Bratva leaders to give them the information they need to get into the Gulag. Rip goes on to tell Kendra and Jax they are effectively benched. He doesn’t want to risk Kendra having a run in with Savage or Jax being captured giving them even more to work with to create their Soviet Firestorms. I can understand about Jax, especially since he currently doesn’t have Stein so is effectively powerless. I don’t understand Kendra however. She’s the one person that they have to get close to Vandal. Of course it’s possible that’s a big picture item, and Rip was solely focused on retrieving their captured teammates. Still, it seemed like Rip didn’t learn much from last episode when he held people back and they failed.
Before going on the rescue mission, Rip tasks Sara with insuring that Savage does not get the information he needs to create a firestorm, and shows her a probable future if that happens. Star City is decimated by multiple firestorms and Rip goes on to say it’s the same world-wide. Her mission, if they can’t rescue Stein, is to kill him. When Sara is prepping, Snart talks with her and figures out what her real mission is. Once again he shows us his sense of honor and let’s it be known that he has never left a member of his crew behind that way. It’s an interesting contrast to have Sara, who leans more towards being a hero, and Snart, who leans more towards being a villain, on opposite sides of this. But it’s a nice dynamic and definitely fits with their respective histories.
In the Gulag it’s immediately clear that Ray could not stick out more if he tried, as he’s being marched to his cell and is greeting the other prisoners as if he is at a corporate benefit. Mick, on the other hand, is clearly at home. This leads to some conflict between the two, when Ray is handed a beat down by a “prison alpha” for talking out of turn, and Mick just watches as it happens. He simply says it wasn’t his business to step in and help Ray, a concept that Ray can’t fathom.
Jax had been struggling with feeling helpless, and through their connection, feeling that Stein is afraid and in trouble. At the beginning of the episode, I had wondered why Jax and Stein weren’t trying to communicate with each other more directly. While explaining their connection to Kendra, Jax remembers Stein telling him a story of when Stein and Ronnie Raymond were able to communicate over a great distance by literally cutting a message into their arms (during a season one episode of The Flash). Using that idea they were able to tell Stein that they are coming to help, giving him the morale boost he needed to continue resisting Valentina’s interrogation.
Because of the way Stein is resisting, Savage has Mick and Ray brought in front of him so he could witness their torture. In a brave but questionable move Ray taunts their tormentor into laying off Mick (who had just been repeatedly electrocuted) and takes the beating for him. While absolutely juvenile, the “your mom” joke that Ray told here was hysterical, aided largely by the fact I had no idea it was coming. It’s not something I want to see them go back to however, as I feel they can only get away with it once. Ultimately Savage’s plan worked here, as Stein relented and gave up the information.
While infiltrating the Gulag Leonard continues badgering Sara about her side mission, but that doesn’t stop him from leaving her side when he see’s an opportunity to help Mick. One thing that they have definitely reinforced is that Mick and Leonard may be willing to help their teammates, but their number one priority is to each other. Leonard’s sense of honor is underhanded in this scene however, taking me out of the story a bit. Ray has passed out from the beating he took and while Mick wants to bring him on their escape, Leonard says to leave him since they can’t bring him out without drawing more suspicion. This was never reconciled with his earlier statements about not leaving a man behind.
Sara actually had a shot at taking out Stein, but was convinced not to by Leonard (via communicator) and Rip (who has finally decided to bring Kendra and Jax in to help). What wasn’t clear was if she would have gone through with it or not regardless of their interference. Later it’s implied even she isn’t sure.
Having gotten what she needed to become part of Firestorm, Valentina exposed herself to the nuclear core and then merged with Stein. It’s never explained why Stein, is always the one to give up primary control of the body. At some point I would be curious to see how he would handle being physically in charge of Firestorm. Perhaps this is explained in the comics but I admit to not knowing much about Firestorm in that form.
I really appreciated Stein influencing Valenina’s actions as Firestorm, and even forcing their connection to break. While that was happening, Rip had yet another confrontation with Vandal, ending with Rip blowing him up.
After the mission is over, and back in the time ship, they are attacked by Chronos in the Temporal Zone and crash land in Star City 2046. They are greeted by Green Arrow, though not Oliver Queen. This must be Conner Hawke (Ollie’s son from the comics). I am very curious to see how Conner is handled next episode, as I am a big fan of his from the comics.
* While prepping for their mission, Sara and Leonard had the miniaturized ATOM suit with them. Why would Ray ever leave that behind? Since he can make it small enough to be stored in his pockets, there is literally no reason it should ever leave his side when he is on a mission.
* Rip has already been shown multiple times that he doesn’t always make the best team descsions. He repeatedly splits up the team when working in full force would be more beneficial. Perhaps someone else should lead the next mission.
* Vandal asked Rip if he ever grew tired of killing him. I’m happy to see that the next episode appears to not resolve direclty around their hunt for Savage, as that would feel pretty repetitive if it happened every episode.
* I loved the two references to Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell’s previous show. Leonard said “This isn’t my first prison break”, and more subltely while in the Gulag, Mick referred to Ray as “Pretty” (as a name, not a description).