Warning: Spoilers ahead for tonight's episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, titled "The Chicago Way."
In the final moments of "The Chicago Way," tonight's episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, audiences learned that -- at least as far as we can tell -- Rip Hunter is not actually dead, as he has been depicted since the beginning of the season.
Instead, we found Rip Hunter in Los Angeles in 1967...apparently directing a movie based on the adventures of Rip Hunter, Time Master.
That's one way to keep your profile low, Rip.
It's an interesting place to rediscover the character who was last seen seemingly going down with his ship -- which, of course, didn't actually go down at all so it kind of makes sense that he's not dead. But still.
It's likely safe to assume that he was tossed there, either by the same time scatter that sent the rest of the team throughout time and space in the premiere or by some combination of chronal and nuclear energy when the Waverider got rid of the detonating nuclear warhead.
So what ideas do we have about what's going on with Rip Hunter, and what it could mean? Read on...
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DC's Legends of Tomorrow airs Thursday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. New episodes will return the last week in January.
Rip appears to be speaking without his English accent, and making a movie about himself. What's going on here?
Maybe when he landed in the United States in 1967, he didn't have any memory of who he was and somehow, subconsciously, it's started coming back to him...but he thinks it's all stories.
Unaware that he's documenting his ostensibly-secret missions as a Time Master and a Legend, he starts making a movie based on his own life, not realizing that it's his own life and thinking that it's essentially a fantasy version of himself.
That, obviously, could prove to be an interesting challenge for him when the Waverider comes and he has to face the fact that whatever reality he's been hiding in for however long he's been in the '60s is just a fabrication, and this fabrication he has been making up for work is...real life.
He's pretending to have some kind of trauma or memory loss, or pretending to be someone he's not, as part of a deep cover operation to nail the Legion of Doom?
Early on in the episode "Justice Society of America," the Legends relate the story of how they had been talking with Rex Tyler when he suddenly "glitched" out of existence and vanished. While the rest of the crew of the Waverider looked baffled in the flashback, Rip instead looked queasy.
Later, the audience learned that the cause of the "glitch" was that the Reverse-Flash had traveled back to 1942 and murdered Tyler, meaning that his attempts to alert the Legends of the danger to themselves in that year were interrupted by the fact that he would not, in fact, live long enough to really deliver the message.
(The rules of time travel in the DC Universe, and on Legends of Tomorrow, are a little wonky. One has to assume that this works in the same way that Eobard Thawne was alive right up until the moment Eddie Thawne killed himself -- and Eddie's suicide didn't create a wave of changes that altered time, prevented Eobard's birth and thus the need for Eddie to die, and on and on.)
At any rate, that realization -- that Rip knew something was up when nobody else did, and kept silent about it -- got us to thinking.
Back in 2006, DC Comics was publishing a year-long event series titled 52. Like the TV series 24, it was named for the number of installments it featured. The comic shipped weekly and the events contained inside of it unfolded more or less in real time -- a rarity for DC or Marvel, who have rolling, compressed timelines to make it so that their characters aren't constantly getting too old and retiring.
The conceit of 52 was that with most of the DC Universe's biggest names out of action for a year, B- and C-list heroes had to pick up the slack. One such hero was Booster Gold.
Booster is from the 25th Century, where he was a college athlete disgraced in a gambling scandal. With nothing left to live for in his own time, he stole some high-tech equipment from a museum and traveled back in time to the 20th Century to make a name for himself as a superhero by fooling people into believing the things he could do becuase of his future technology were in fact powers.
In addition to saving lives and joining the Justice League, Booster shilled products and for a time featured sponsor patches on his superhero costume. His crass sense of humor and get-rich-quick schemes often led people to believe he was less capable than he really was -- although as a time traveler, he maintained a pretty good relationship with Rip Hunter.
When Skeets -- a robot from the future that kept Booster constant company and monitored history texts for crises the hero could avert -- started to remember things incorrectly, it became clear time was not flowing the way it should. Booster sought out Rip Hunter's help to try and figure out what it was and what had caused it -- but Rip was way ahead of him.
Skeets had been infiltrated by a villain who wanted to manipulate Skeets's past to impact the world's future -- but not for the public good or even for the money, like Booster. Instead the villain was pushing a malevolent agenda that had to be stopped.
Of course, we weren't told any of that right away. No, Booster left Rip's lab and told Skeets, who had waited outside, that Rip was looking into it for them. Booster, who had recently been publicly disgraced, was struggling to retain his sponsors and good standing, so he and Skeets sought out a good deed to do.
A nuclear sub, it turned out, was going to detonate in midtown Metropolis that day. While Booster thought this sounded like a preposterous scenario, he trusted in Skeets and the two made their way to the location where, sure enough, a giant monster was dragging around a beached sub.
As the sub went into meltdown, Booster redirected the energy from his force fields to contain the blast and, in the process, died heroically (see right).
Supernova, a mysterious new hero who had been quietly going about his work and stealing Booster's spotlight, was there to watch, and carried Booster's dessicated, skeletal remains down to Skeets.
Later, of course, it would turn out that the whole thing was a ruse: using the sub as a distraction, Booster and Rip Hunter figured out a plan to get Booster off the chessboard without Skeets and the villain who was controlling him being any the wiser.
By "killing" Booster, it would in fact free him up to act behind the scenes. Traveling back in time, Booster took on a new costume and became Supernova, helping to sell his own bit by first undermining himself and then retrieving the body -- which would match Booster's DNA becuase it was, in fact, Booster's body moved there from the future, long after his death.
Why is all of this significant? Well, we bet some of you have figured it out already.
Booster Gold used Rip Hunter's expertise about the timestream, along with his own duplicity (using "Supernova" to keep an eye on Skeets while Skeets wasn't paying attention to him) to eventually stage a triumphant return that allowed Booster and Rip to literally save he multiverse from extinction.
That flicker of recognition in tonight's episode was Rip's moment of clarity, realizing he could use his expertise about the timestream to his benefit. The Nazi submarine with a nuclear warhead is the nuclear submarine in midtown Metroplis. And Rip doesn't even need to infiltrate the team from the outside to keep tabs on what's happening on board the Waverider and throughout time -- he's got Gideon.
THE REAL HIM
That said...since Rip Hunter is Booster Gold's son in the comics, maybe this is the "real" Rip -- at least his voice.
Obviously, yes, Arthur Darvill is British and has an accent. But there's nothing to say that Rip Hunter does.
That may be a stretch, but it's one we thought was at least worth mentioning, especially since the idea of glamorizing your own adventures for profit is something that Booster Gold has done before, with movie and comics deals struck within the DC Universe to immortalize his stories.
A CRY FOR HELP
There's also the possibility that he's violating the most sacred trust of the Time Masters and the Legends -- not advertising what he's doing -- specifically in order to attract the attention of the crew.
If Rip set about creating the largest temporal anomaly he could with the fewest repercussions, he could create a situation where he managed to get himself found, even if he had no equipment or means to call attention to himself in any kind of direct way.
Making a movie, then, about the adventures of a fictional "Rip Hunter, Time Master," would almost certainly attract the attention of Gideon and bring the Waverider looking for him.
Maybe he's literally just doing this so he can get attention.