Half of the team has been captured. If they don’t save them soon, the future will be broken.
Savage and Valentina Vostok have Dr. Stein, Ray and Mick inside a Russian Gulag prison. That means that they need a good old fashioned prison break. Rip, Sara and Snart pay a visit to the Bratva (that Russian crime organization that Oliver Queen was a member of) in order to get some information on how to break in. They get the info they need, but Rip isn’t convinced that they can get to Stein successfully. He tells Jax and Kendra to stay on the ship so that they don’t risk losing either of them to Savage. He also pulls Sara aside and shows her the current future of Star City. It’s overrun by Soviet Firestorms. If they can’t get to Stein in time, Rip wants her to kill Stein in order to prevent that future.
Inside the prison, Vostok is working on Stein to get information on how to finish creating their own Firestorm. Stein has a lot of back and forth with Vostok but he stays strong because his connection with Jax lets him know that the rest of the team is coming. Meanwhile, Ray is having a hard time adjusting to prison life. His boy-scout ways end up getting him beaten up by another inmate. He and Mick are then taken to be tortured in front of Stein in order to get him to cooperate. In order to prove to Mick that they are a team, Ray taunts the guard into beating him instead of Mick. Stein finally concedes and the two are returned to their cells.
Snart and Sara make it down into the prison right when Ray and Mick are being taken back. Sara follows Rip’s plan and goes after Stein while Snart follows his own plan and goes after his teammates. By the time he gets to them, Ray is passed out, but Mick’s been won over by him and decides to carry him out. This leaves Sara to take care of Stein, but she can’t get close enough to him to save or kill him and he ends up locked in a guarded room with Vostok. He shows her how to balance her equations, but she knows that there’s something else he’s not saying. When she sees the message that Jax wrote to him on his arm, she figures out that Stein himself is part of Firestorm. This gives her a new idea, to merge with Stein and become Firestorm herself.
Fortunately for Stein, Kendra and Jax are able to convince Rip to trust them and let them in on rescuing Stein. Rip cancels the kill order on Stein, and has Kendra drop Jax into the middle of the facility so that he can disable the security. Jax manages to make it, but tears his ACL again in the process (at least, I think he did; they never really explain that). With the security down, a prison riot ensues. Vostok has Stein moved to the reactor during the confusion. Sara has a shot at him but Snart convinces her that she doesn’t need to think like a killer and to let him go. Sara allows Stein to enter the reactor with Vostok, who merges with him to become a new Firestorm, despite Stein’s warnings. Jax appeals to Stein in order to get him to break the bond with Vsotok through will power. Once he does, Vostok becomes unstable and detonates, taking the prison with her. Rip, who paid another visit to Savage in order to stop him from taking Kendra, rendezvous with the team and flies them back to the Waverider. With everyone back safely, the team drinks a toast courtesy of some vodka stolen from Yuri the Bear, one of the Bratva members. Before they’ve been relaxing for too long, their ship is attacked by Chronos (again) and they crash land in a future version of Star City, where they’re confronted by someone wearing the Arrow costume that isn’t Oliver Queen.
It’s only five episodes in, and this is already starting to feel redundant. Step 1: Team tries to do something. Step 2: it goes wrong. Step 3: The future is wrecked. Step 4: They have to race against time (because of the way time works in this world) to stop it. Wash, rinse, repeat. I believe that this is the 2nd or 3rd time that they’ve almost irrevocably altered the future by accident. Hopefully the show isn’t going to continue to rely on this formula too often because it’s already stale. I also find myself getting a little bit annoyed by these convenient drop-ins from Chronos. If he’s going to be a consistent villain it would be nice for him to do more than just occasionally, shoot, and let things fall where they may.
I do think that the show is learning a little bit more about how to handle its large cast and get some character development with limited screen time. I thought the scenes with Ray and Mick where especially well done in that regard. It was also nice to see Dr. Stein finally not just act like a dick for an entire episode. Well, at least he didn’t act like a dick to his teammates. He managed to exchange plenty of barbs with Vostok while she was interrogating him. The pairing of Sara and Snart also felt somewhat effective although it didn’t seem very organic for Snart to suddenly take an interest in Sara’s humanity. It seems like Snart is shifting more and more towards a leadership role within the team, even if he is still determined to play the anti-hero. The Kendra/Jax scenes didn’t really land for me, although I did think they served their purpose in providing a solution for the episode. I’m just glad that the groupings felt like they were more natural this time around instead of characters being arbitrarily paired up for a mission.
The next episode looks like it could be promising. With the team landing in a ruined Star City there’s a lot of possibilities for what could happen. I am hoping that the episode shows me something a little different or better than what’s been up so far.