Legends of Tomorrow season 2, episode 4, “Abominations,” took the Legends back to the Civil War. Oh, and there were zombies.
On the surface, “Abominations” was a story of the Legends dealing with zombies (sorry, Professor Stein) during the Civil War, but the walking dead weren’t the only abominations present in the episode.
The Legends arrived in Mississippi during the Civil War after receiving a distress signal from a time pirate. They don’t go looking for him because they’re investing in saving the pirate’s life — their last experience with time pirates is enough to dissuade them from that — but rather because the technology the pirate crash landed with could change the course of the Civil War and therefore American history.
And they’re right to follow up because this technology infects those it comes in contact, turning them into zombies. It’s all very Walking Dead.
The team’s first contact with the zombies sets them on their path for the episode; the zombies need to be destroyed, which becomes Sara and Nate’s mission. Meanwhile, Jax and Amaya head to a plantation to steal Confederate battle plans for Ulysses S. Grant after the zombies kill the freed slave who was on that mission. And finally, Ray and Stein are locked in the ship with Mick, who was infected. Ray develops a vaccine but it’s not initially powerful enough, leading to an homage to an old-fashioned horror flick.
I enjoyed seeing Sara and Nate working together on this episode. He initially tried to get Sara to let him do the talking with the soldiers and General Grant, but it’s pretty clear from the jump that he’s not in charge. Sara takes charge and earns Grant’s respect; he doesn’t hesitate to listen to her and even gives her some advice in the end: if she believes in the mission she’s leading (she does), she shouldn’t regret making decisions that put her men (and woman) in harm’s way.
I’m glad to see Sara, who hated herself and felt herself unworthy of love after her years with the League of Assassins, come into her own and lead a team. After her resurrection, she felt even more like a monster with her bloodlust. And now she is leading a team of heroes, protecting history itself. Not too shabby, girl.
Nate, meanwhile, seems to be getting better at controlling his steel powers as he was able to activate them before blowing up the zombies. He also proved his bravery when he led the zombies on a chase to the box of explosives, not entirely sure he would be able to turn his powers on. There’s some steel (pun intended) in this historian.
As for the trio stuck on the Waverider, Ray’s been struggling with finding his place on the team since the destruction of his suit. He has scientific abilities, but he’s not unique in that with Stein also present. So he’s drifting. And it’s Mick, of all people, who throws him a life preserver. He offers Ray Leonard Snart’s cold gun and says he’s looking for a partner.
I have mixed feelings about this development. On the one hand, I love the slow development of Ray and Mick’s unexpected friendship. They are about as mismatched as they come, and perhaps that’s why they work so well together. Mick acknowledges that Ray, like him, is an outsider. And Ray needs to not only accept but embrace that. Mick has had such a wonderful arc, and his unusual rapport with Ray has definitely been part of that. I’m all for the two of them spending more time together.
On the other hand, that’s Leonard’s gun. (I mean, it’s a gun Cisco made but still.) I haven’t moved on yet.
Mostly, though, I just love the weird friendships that develop on this show.
The emotional core of this episode, though, is Jax. He has to go into a Southern plantation, pretending to be a slave in order to get information. Amaya initially wants to help the slaves, seeing how horrifically they are treated, but Jax talks her down; they can’t affect the timeline. But getting even a small taste of absolute horrors slaves faced was enough to change his mind.
He was clearly affected not only by experiencing slavery but also the strength of the men and women who endured it. Listening to them sing “Follow the Drinking Gourd” gave me chills as the slaves proved they would not be broken because that is what the slavers wanted. I was glad when Jax and Amaya decided to free the slaves and bring them to the Union Army for protection.
Despite the zombies, the most disturbing abomination in the episode was clearly the existence of slavery. It’s good that the show didn’t shy away from the darkness of our past. Humans have proven they have a capacity for true evil, and often that is far more disturbing than monsters. And it’s not something that can be neatly solved the way the zombies were taken out in this episode. Humans are messy and complicated while monsters tend to be pretty straight forward, and that’s something we should always keep in mind.
As the saying goes, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. And our heroes learning from the past is a source of hope for the future.