“Cold” War 1986
Professor Stein finds himself in a strange dream sequence where he’s back at Star Labs discussing nuclear physics with Cisco Ramon, except he’s really not. It barely takes seconds for him to realize that the person standing in front of him is a crude representation of Ramon. Before long, Stein discovers his true captor is doctor Valentina Volstok, with Vandal Savage pulling the strings, who vividly remembers the professor and his company of heroes from 11 years prior, when they attempted to bid on the nuclear warhead in Norway. While Professor Stein isn’t prepared to give up his secrets of his life’s work, Savage is prepared to break him by whatever means necessary.
Jax’s mental connection with the Professor tells him exactly what he’s going through. The remainder of the team that hasn’t been captured, Hunter, Snart, Sara Kendra and Jax, are briefed on the Soviet “Nightmare Gulag” Stein, Rory and Palmer are being held, but Leonard and Hunter are already at one another’s throats. Sara, yet again, is the person to strategize a decent plan, implying they get intel from the Russian mob, AKA the Bratva.
Hunter goes over the rescue plan with Sara and Leonard, while Kendra and Jax oppose to being left on the sidelines, but as the two people most wanted by Savage at the given time, Hunter is not wishing to deliver them to the villain “gift wrapped” as he put it.
Prior to shipping out, Hunter shows Sara an unnecessarily vivid depiction of Star City being blown to smithereens by an army of FireStorm copycats as a kind of bad motivational video. Of course, he forces Sara to understand the gravity of the situation so that, if necessary, Professor Stein isn’t alive long enough to help Savage.
Hey, Remember Prison Break?
Leonard, being the snide manipulative one, happens to be the thief with a heart of gold in this situation, as he’s able to tell what it was Hunter asked of Sara, knowing full well that it takes advantage of her need to kill, and goes on to rant about how much pride he had in the fact that he never took out one of his own on a heist.
Meanwhile Rory and Ray are moved to a generic, dinky prison cell and some pretty gnarly porn and beans in this most special gulag, and in the prison yard Ray gets into his first ever prison fight when inquiring others where he find the professor.
Just as the professor is about to be tortured by special soviet solution, Kendra and Jax happen to come up with a plan to send a signal to him that they’re not abandoning him, hoping to give him the strength to endure his imprisonment for a while longer. When his own suffering isn’t enough however, he’s forced to watch his teammates, Palmer and Rory, being tortured. Luckily, he is able to hold his composure, and the other two somehow able to take electricity and blunt objects while still cracking jokes.
When Leonard arrives at Rory and Ray’s cell, they argue about leaving Palmer behind or not, where Rory happens to be having a crisis of conflict in his character, now that he realizes that there’s other people that he can trust other than Leonard, who on the other hand, I find is being a bit hypocritical (or just lazily written for a moment) as he contradicts his own faith in his teammates when guilting Sara about her willingness to kill Stein.
A Soviet Firestorm
In a last-ditch effort to sway Doctor Valentina Vostok, he tells her about the collapse of her beloved nation in the future, and some of the nonverbal reactions from actress Stephanie Corneliu (Mr. Robot) with this monologue about her being on the wrong side of history is one of the more captivating pieces of the episode. Meanwhile, Hunter is requesting the life vitals on Professor Stein from Gideon, when Jax and Kendra approach him about not playing chess with all of his pieces on the board… and after being convinced that Carter’s death was not his fault, and of a new escape plan, he complies.
Unfortunately, the team isn’t fast enough to get to Stein before Valentina sees Jax’s message on Stein’s forearm, and she quickly puts the puzzle together that not only is the professor a leading mind on the subject, but that he’s one half of the single existing Firestorm.
Ultimately, a riot ensues, Kendra and Hunter encounter Savage once more, and Leonard convinces Sara that she’s not a cold-blooded killer anymore. When Vostok unwisely tries to merge with Stain and become Firestorm herself, Jax confronts her joyride of nuclear power by talking to Stein literally through her. When the professor musters the willpower to separate from her, she goes nuclear with an unstable in a what looks like a spaz attack with blue flame.
Of course, the team barely gets a moment to enjoy a shot of vodka and reconcile feelings before they’re bombarded by missiles by Kronos the bounty hunter, and they’re knocked out of the temporal time warp and crash-land in Star City far in the future. It’s looking rather apocalyptic, but if course, where there’s a Star City, there’s a Green Arrow… and in no time at all he arrives on the scene, and he’s not Oliver Queen.