Why is it that almost every time we see a reenactment of the 1950s in a movie or TV show, the song “Rock Around the Clock” is the default song playing in the background? That’s like one of the first things I noticed while watching the recent episode of Legends of Tomorrow, “Night of the Hawk”. I liked how this episode managed to show us an entertaining (yet racist and sexist) era in American history while also acting as a tribute to the classic horror movies of yesteryear. “Night of the Hawk” may have been one of the better episodes of the season so far. (spoilers ahead!)
The episode begins with two pairs of teenagers getting into a drag race in 1958 in a town called Harmony Falls. The race ends when one of the cars’ tires blows out, leading to a minor crash near a glowing blue rock. Vandal Savage appears out of the woods and suggests it was destiny that these teenagers should happen upon this fallen meteorite.
Cut to our heroes landing in 1958 to investigate a series of grisly disappearances and murders in Harmony Falls, which Rip Hunter believes to be the work of Vandal Savage. But serial killing isn’t exactly Savage’s M.O., so the team ventures out to investigate. As we learn throughout the episode, the 50s aren’t exactly accommodating of anyone who isn’t a straight white male. Jax, Sara, and Kendra experience instances of racism and sexism that make them feel uncomfortable, and as a viewer, I felt pretty uncomfortable as well.
At first, I figured it was going to be overplayed throughout the episode, but the show manages to convey it in a rather accurate and meaningful manner. The realtor showing the house to the faux-married couple Ray and Kendra assumes that the latter is the live-in maid; people who notice Jax talking to a young white lady at the bar quickly move their seats. It’s the small stuff like this that truly makes an impact on the show, and I have to hand it to the actors for portraying it so well. There’s even one scene where Stein (posing as a doctor) asks Sara (posing as a nurse) to fetch him a coffee, and she instantly rebuffs him without hesitation. She ain’t having that.
I’ve mentioned several times that I’m not a fan of Franz Drameh‘s acting. Frankly, I think he’s an intense over-actor who sounds like he’s forcing every single line. But he did a great job this episode. Jax tries to get closer to Betty, the young woman from the drag racing accident in the first scene, to find out more about what happened that night, and as you can expect, people don’t take to it kindly. A gang of your stereotypical 1950s school jocks attempt to surround him, but Jax doesn’t back down. I loved that he called the one character “Biff” as a tribute to Back to the Future. A part of me wanted to see a full reenactment featuring Jax stealing a skateboard and tricking the gang into crashing into a manure truck.
Stein and Lotz take up positions at a nearby asylum to investigate the mysterious Dr. Knox (Vandal Savage) and his “restricted wing”. While they’re there, Sara strikes up a friendship with another nurse, eventually discovering that she’s a closeted lesbian. As you can imagine, the nurse is secretive about her orientation, and it’s not until Sara talks to her and reassures her that it’s okay that the two finally share their interests in one another. It just sucks that Sara won’t be able to spend much time with her new partner seeing as she eventually has to return to her own time 50+ years in the future. Overall, Caity Lotz killed it with her performance this episode.
We soon learn that Knox’s restricted wing houses a gang of mutant hawk-men, and that Savage lets them roam free at night to feed on unsuspecting townspeople. The makeup effects on the hawk monsters were well-done, and the concept strongly reminded me of the classic 50s horror movies. I would pay for a full-size poster of “Night of the Hawks” done in a retro 50s style.
Adding on to the already complex and saturated plot, we have Kendra and Ray posing as a newly married couple and attempting to learn more about their neighbor Dr. Knox. I’m glad this episode focused more on the actual plot rather than the relationship between Kendra and Ray. Nothing against either of them, but if there are any relationships that feel forced on Greg Berlanti‘s shows, it’s this one. Thankfully, the episode revolves more around them trying to steal Savage’s dagger, and then trying to use it to kill him.
Unfortunately, things go wrong quickly. In the climax of the episode, Jax is arrested when he’s caught driving an injured Betty home late at night (Betty having just been attacked by the hawk monsters). Jax is taken to Savage, who injects him with the meteorite’s substance (revealed to be the Nth metal), turning him into another monster. Don’t worry, the team saves him and transforms him back to normal, so there goes that big conflict. Thank goodness for quick resolutions!
On a side note – during the episode, Jax keeps trying to turn everyone against Snart, who apparently “handled” Rory last week. Why is nobody else suspicious of Snart? He supposedly killed someone else on the team. Jax is the only one making sense by throwing him under the bus. Yeah, Rory had betrayed them, but I can’t understand why everyone was so nonchalant about Snart executing him. Despite Jax’s accusations, Snart still refuses to kill the young man when he’s been turned into a murderous hawk monster, thus earning Jax’s trust by the end of the episode.
Predictably, Savage gets away, so the team decides to venture to another time period to catch him. The team says goodbye to their lives in the 1950s, with Jax giving a new souped-up car to Betty and telling her to get out of Harmony Falls – yeah, a pretty cheesy conclusion if you ask me.
All is well and good until Chronos shows up on the Waverider and attacks the team members. Rip tells Gideon to take off, but in doing so, he strands Ray, Kendra, and Sara in 1958. Oh, no!
“Night of the Hawk” was a fun time, and definitely one of the better episodes of the season, but the show needs to be more consistent with its quality. I’m hoping Legends of Tomorrow has found its footing, and that it will continue to improve in coming weeks.
Final Grade: B
+ I liked the overall depiction of the 1950s, even though it was a bit cliche in some parts.
+ The episode felt like a nice little tribute to classic horror movies.
+ Lotz and Drameh did a fantastic job.
– Dammit, Savage – you got caught monologuing!
– Cheesy conclusion for the Jax/Betty subplot.
– Jax made a good point – why is everyone so casual about Snart doing away with Rory?
– Though I enjoyed the subtle references to Back to the Future, I would’ve absolutely loved a skateboarding/car-crashing-into-the-manure-truck reenactment.
What did you think of this 50s’ take on Legends of Tomorrow? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!