For its first year, the Legends have enjoyed a pretty busy and productive, and also visiting everything from Feudal Japan to Civil War-era Mississippi to Star City circa-2046. “Outlaw Country” marks the first time the team has revisited an old stomping ground. The game was served as a direct sequel to Season 1’s “The Magnificent Eight,” with Johnathon Schaech returning as Jonah Hex to help the Legends battle another band of rascally outlaws, with the entertaining result, even if it did occasionally suffer from sequelitis. The novelty of the Wild West setting was definitely diminished.
“The Magnificent Eight” was a pretty straightforward homage to the classic Western The Magnificent Seven, hence the title. “Outlaw Country” didn’t attempt to follow that up with another direct tribute to a classic film (as far as I could tell, anyway), and that’s is probably just as well. There was enough fun in simply seeing the characters poke fun at some of the more common Western tropes.
The most significant wrinkle this time around is that Hex squared off with his archenemy, Quentin Turnbull (Lost’s Jeff Fahey). In the process, the episode was able to delve a little deeper into Hex’s tragic past and even explain how he acquired his trademark facial scars. This offered Schaech the opportunity to flex his dramatic muscles a bit more rather than simply play the grizzled badass. He delivered a solid performance during his conversations with Caity Lotz, even with that pesky facial prosthesis slurring his words a bit.
Turnbull didn’t fare quite so well. He was an entertaining villain, to be sure. Fahey brought a lot of energy to the role and built Turnbull into one of the more colorful, charismatic villains this side of Damien Darhk. But the character came up a bit lacking in the villainy department. There wasn’t enough of an aura of danger of menace to Turnbull, certainly not what you’d expect from a man who’s eluded Jonah Hex for eight years. I never really felt invested in their rivalry. The writers could have done more in that regard. In the comics, Turnbull has just as much reason to hate Hex as Hex does him. I would have liked to see that reflected in his characterization here.
For the most part, this episode wasn’t overly important to the larger Season 2 narrative. It mostly served as a way to pair off various characters and build their relationships. Sara stepped up in the absence of Rip to butt heads with Hex and remind the loner cowboy that there’s nothing wrong with a woman giving orders. That served as a fun validation of her new position as team captain. Though her conflict with Hex did seem a bit hypocritical at times. Who is she to complain that Hex screwed up the plan when she’s bungled multiple missions because of her pathological need to kill Damien Darhk?
It was a great week for Nate, whose wide-eyed optimism became even more pronounced as he was presented with the opportunity to play cowboy. Nate and Ray had some fun banter going as the former soaked in his new surroundings and the latter tried to nonchalantly play the “been there, done that” card. Over the course of the episode, the two forged a pretty solid bond as Ray imparted some of his recently earned wisdom about bravery and the fact that powers don’t make the hero. And in the end, Nate acquired his new Steel costume and Ray gathered the raw materials for a new Atom suit. It’s been fun watching Ray adjust to life without powers, but I’m about ready to see him return to the Atom role again. It’s probably safe to assume that’ll happen at some point during the course of the Invasion crossover at the end of the month.
It is a little disappointing that the writers seem to have lost interest in exploring the Ray/Mick partnership. Now Amaya is being positioned as Mick’s unofficial new sidekick. I suppose it’s about time she started becoming a little closer to her new teammates, especially in light of her interaction with Obsidian last week. But so far, there’s not a great sense of chemistry between Dominic Purcell and Maisie Richardson-Sellers. Not to mention that the whole “taming the animal” angle seems a little on the nose. But maybe this partnership will bear fruit down the road.
The Professor Stein/Jax subplot was easily the most intriguing element at play this week. This was one of those weeks where it seemed the writers felt obligated to contrive a way to keep Firestorm out of the fight and tipping the balance. Even with his fancy exploding bullets, Turnbull was hardly the most physically threatening villain the Legends have ever faced. Despite the lack of Firestorm, Stein and Jax enjoyed some of the strongest scenes this week. The continued dilemma over Barry Allen’s secret message remains intriguing. But even better than that is the revelation that Stein’s past is apparently rewriting itself. It’ll be interesting to see exactly what’s changed for Stein back in 2016 and whether any of this is tied to the ramifications of Flashpoint. It’s past time that this series started exploring the fallout of that alternate timeline.