by Agent Nur Hussein (a.k.a. The Robot Whisperer)
In a small town called Harmony Falls in 1958, four teenagers race their hot rods down a deserted forest road, as 1950s teens are wont to do, at least according to pop culture. After one of their cars crash, they happen to come across a mysterious glowing meteor; and Vandal Savage right beside it!
And, thus, we join our team of plucky heroes, now without Mick Rory, arriving in 1958. We aren’t shown Rory’s fate from the previous episode, we are meant to think Snart killed him, so the team is somewhat upset by this. However, their goal is finding Savage, whom their intel predicts is in the neighborhood. They put together an undercover team, consisting of a pretend-married couple of Ray and Kendra, who actually have a budding relationship going on.
Ray and Kendra rent a house in town, and their (fake) marriage front starts offending the bigoted small town residents who don’t like the idea of an interracial couple. As a cover, it’s pretty terrible; they draw attention to themselves and Savage would recognize Kendra the minute he saw her, so I’m not sure who thought that would be a good idea. And, by sheer coincidence, Savage lives just across the road from their new rented home, and even brings a housewarming gift of tuna casserole. Awkward. Does Savage recognize Kendra? He isn’t really letting on, and they continue their little charades.
Meanwhile, Jax, Stein, and Sara go about town to investigate the murders and disapperances of locals. Stein and Sara go undercover in a mental hospital as a doctor and a nurse, while Jax plays a new kid in town. Before long, in another totally unconvincing coincidence, they happen across one of the racing teens from the cold open. She is the girlfriend of the boy whose car crashed. Jax decides to flirt with her, a white girl, and raises more eyebrows in the small town.
Snart and Hunter also go undercover in town, dressed as government spooks, asking local law enforcement for the case files on local missing people. Their efforts all lead to Vandal Savage; he works at the mental hospital Stein and Sara had infiltrated, performing experiments on the inmates in a mysterious wing. The experiments turn out to be people who have been turned into bird monsters, using the power of the meteorite. The monsters are genuinely creepy, and this part of the episode plays out very well, thanks in part to this installment being directed by Joe Dante of Gremlins fame.
It all leads to yet another failed showdown with Savage in the end, since you can’t kill the big bad without ending the series. Throughout the episode, we are presented with ’50s small town America through the eyes of our heroes, who have 2016 sensibilities. There is a small subplot of Sara and one of the female nurses in the hospital falling for each other, and this was a no-no back in 1958. The episode often not-too-subtly addresses the sexism, racism, and homophobia of the era, providing a commentary on how far we’ve come (and yet, these problems still persist today).
Although they fail to kill Savage, our heroes did learn a thing or two about teamwork and about themselves. That cliffhanger at the end though, will half the team be stranded in 1958? We await next week’s episode to find out!