Legends of Tomorrow: Fellowship of the Spear

"When the chips are down, they'll look at you the same way they always have. As a thug."

This episode felt a lot like going to Disneyworld by way of driving through South Dakota. I liked where we ended up, but a lot of the journey was boring and stupid and there were about a million better ways we could have gone.

To be fair, there were a lot of things I liked about "Fellowship." It's just the things that were wrong with this episode were so egregiously wrong that it was hard to look past them.

It's tempting to blame a lot of the problems in the episode on the shorter season length. With only two episodes left to go before we're done with the season they had a lot of ground they needed to cover here. (And seriously, PTBs, I know the season was actually extended from fifteen to seventeen episodes, but can we please get a full 22 next year?)

So, this week we needed to get the final piece of the spear, assemble the spear, be tempted by the spear, discover and locate the means of destroying the spear, drive a wedge between Mick and the rest of the team, bring back villain-Snart, and lose both Mick and the spear in a heartbreaking moment of betrayal. Oh, and hang out with J.R.R. Tolkien for some reason.

Any of those pieces could legitimately be an entire episode on their own, and shoving them all together here resulted in everything but Mick getting short shrift. Instead of an exciting reveal about the location of the final piece of the spear we get the world's most perfunctory heist sequence. Sir Gawain's final resting place, supposedly so difficult to find, is immediately behind the world's most obviously breakaway pillar (Yes, I know that the church was supposedly recently damaged by the war, but that wall might as well have had a sign saying 'In case you need Sir Gawain, kick here' on it.) Most damningly, the blood of Christ is hidden beneath about three grains of dirt. Lucky the Legends were there to grab it before it was stepped on by Huns, really.

And it's that sort of rushing through story beats that really hurts the episode. The reveal that Thawne had been hiding in the Vanishing Point should have been a huge deal, but it just gets skated over. Can the Time Wraith not go to the Vanishing Point, as it's outside of time? Because that's sort of brilliant. Combining the implications of that with the Legends' personal history of losing one of their own there should have had real emotional weight, but there isn't time for that here.

Side note: one side effect of the trip to the VP was that we're reminded that the Snart we knew really was a much nicer guy than the Snart we see here. Has it been so long since the beginning of the series that I've forgotten how nasty Leonard originally was, or are they deliberately making him nastier? It's entirely possible that Snart, now aware of the details of his own death, is deliberately trying to push the other way in an attempt to avoid his fate. It's also worth noting that both he and Thawne are in exactly the same position; trying to simply not die. That could have led to some fascinating interplay between the two of them, but unfortunately we don't get that because the episode still has a couple Lord of the Rings references to shoehorn in and it's far more interested in getting to that.

Which is as good a time as any to address a serious issue in time travel shows. The whole 'Going back in time and meeting Famous Author, only to inspire most of their work' is one of the laziest cliches ever to darken the doorstep of genre storytelling. It was lazy when ST:TNG met Jack London. It was lazy when The Doctor and Peri met H.G. Wells. It was lazy here. Yes, we get it, our heroes have a weapon too dangerous and tempting to exist and they're on a quest to destroy it. We see the parallel, thanks. Beyond pointing that out, all J.R.R.'s presence here accomplishes is an endless stream of 'Remember that part of Lord of the Rings? Wasn't that cool?' Even in a more focused episode this takes away from the rest of the story, and with as much plot to get through as they have here it's practically criminal.

That all said, there was also a lot to like in the episode. The good stuff can be broadly called 'Everything Mick Rory said and did.'

When Legends first started I made the obvious assumption that Hawkman and Heatwave were just there to be written out fairly quickly, leaving a leaner, more manageably sized team to bond over their losses. Then came the big reveal about Chronos (still one of the best twists the show has pulled off) and I realized how much I had been underestimating Dominic Purcell.

Since Snart's death at the end of season one Mick has been growing as a character by leaps and bounds, and I've been absolutely loving how the show was acknowledging that. It was only a few episodes ago that we were all agreeing that Mick had the strongest brain on the team. Martin has genuinely seen Mick's emotional capacity as he helped him through the 'visions' of Snart. And I seem to recall Mick once threatening to shave Ray's head if he ever told the rest of the Legends that Mick actually cares about them.

Which makes it all the more disappointing that this episode goes out of its way to ignore all that and pretend that everybody still thinks exactly the same way that they did back in episode one. It's entirely in character for Jax to lash out and judge others without knowing the facts (he did the exact same thing to Snart last season, after all) but the others should have known better. Sara knows what Snart meant to Mick. Ray knows that Mick cares about the team. Martin knows that Mick has been struggling with grief and loss all year

Oh, and Jax?  Attacking someone verbally and then complaining that they're not team-mate-y enough kind of makes you an enormous asshole. I feel like that needs to be said.

So, after an episode of being attacked, having his opinion immediately dismissed (such as when he tried to stick up for Amaya), and generally being treated like crap, why wouldn't Mick choose to go with the partner and friend he's been missing all year? If you saw the way Dominic Purcell raised his eyebrows when he says, 'I didn't think he was real...' and your heart didn't break for Mick, then you simply weren't watching.

Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider went to the Vanishing Point, France in 1916, and the Battle of the Somme.

The Battle of the Somme was fought between July and November of 1916. It's hard to say from the weather exactly where in that stretch the Legends popped in for a cup of GodBlood, but it appears to be long enough after they picked up Tolkien that word of his leaving with Trench Fever has reached the Somme, but not so long that his disappearance has raised any questions.

So, what have we learned today?

Not a lot of information about the rules of time travel this week, although as I noted above there was a strong implication that Time Wraiths can't go to the vanishing point.

The interesting thing that we did learn this week is that in the Flarrowverse Jesus was real, and genuinely divine. This is notable because shows rooted in sci-fi concepts tend to avoid that particular question with every fiber of their being. This is partially down to the fact that no matter what you say on the subject you're going to tick somebody off, and partially to the fact that once you start even hinting down that road you're on a dangerous path to, 'Jesus was really a space alien/computer from the future!' territory.

Yes, we got a nice hand-wavey explanation from Martin about the spear being made of some science-y stuff to justify why it sealed itself back together, but we are also seconds later told in no uncertain way that the spear's power comes from being in contact with Jesus' blood. Any further discussion on the issue and you're committing yourself to either declaring that Jesus was exactly as Christianity describes, or coming up with some sci-fi explanation for Jesus' existence, and there just aren't many more dangerous waters than that.

Probably for the best then that Rip immediately jumped in with 'Convenient in-universe justification for why we're never going to go meet Jesus or bring up the subject again.'

Quotes:

Darhk: "I should have that zombie speedster you're so afraid of eat your brain."
Thawne: "No... No, this is actually a positive development."
Darhk: "Or maybe he already has..."

Mick: "Piece of cake."
Jax: "Whoa, You thought that was easy?"
Mick: "No, I want a piece of cake. And a beer."

Ray: "Please don't tell me you used the Spear of Destiny as a back scratcher."
Mick: "Who said anything about my back?"

and finally

Jax: "That looks like something you might hide something in."

Seriously, that line is a microcosm of everything wrong with the heist scene. It's stupid, it's lazy, and it bears almost no resemblance to human speech. There aren't words for how much I hate that line.

Final bits:

— The reveal that Snart wasn't just a hallucination Mick was having was masterfully handled. I now want to go re-watch the whole season to try to decide when he was real and when he wasn't.

— For all the effort put into Rip's speech about how the Spear would use its power to tempt them, it didn't really ever do much tempting. It was pretty much just Amaya saying, 'Hey, should we use this? No? Ok, never mind.'

— Neal McDonough didn't have a lot to do this week, but he always seems so dang happy to be there that it can't help but lift things.

— I'm always a little disappointed when Sarah puts on her official White Canary outfit. It always looks filthy to me, and she looks so much better in literally everything else.

— Speaking of, Dominic Purcell should always wear that WW1 uniform, because he looked amazing in it

— There's a serious problem waiting in the wings as to Firestorm's power level. The jelly bean bit was cute, but Firestorm's ability to transmute pretty much anything into pretty much anything else at a molecular level is just way too powerful for future conflicts to have any stakes at all.

— What in God's name is Eobard actually doing during the heist sequence?  Revising his plans for the Death Star? Prepping an evil extro-temporal PowerPoint? What??

— Tolkien reminded me a lot of the Brigadier. Similarly, the time period and her outfit made me spend most of Amaya's scenes thinking about Martha Jones.

— On the Doctor Who front, two notable proponents of the 'Holy Grail is really Jesus' blood' theory (itself based on a misunderstanding of how noun declension worked in Medieval French, but that's another discussion) were Bob Baker and Dave Martin — co-creators of K-9.

-Did John Barrowman have something else to film this week? Because I feel like his story of how he got that book might have been worth seeing.

Despite all my nit-picking above there was a lot to like in this one. I just wish it had been three episodes instead of one.

So, two out of four jellybeans.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

6 comments:

Patryk said...

John Barrowman had to sing on Flash this week. :)

I do enjoy all the time travel with famous people as they are not taking it too seriously at all. George Lucas, now Tolkien, they just know their target audience.

There was a bit too much contrived distrust for Mick to facilitate his betrayal, but I'll forgive them if it leads to fun double agent action inside the Legion.

yodudeyo100 said...

I totally agree that season would have been much better drawn out to 22 episodes! I love what's here, just wish they had more time for everything to develop.

Billie Doux said...

Excellent review, Mikey, and I so agree. If anyone had told me that Dominic Purcell would end up being MVP on this show, I never would have believed it. It actually did make sense that he'd cross over for Snart, too. I just hope, like you said, that double agenting will be involved.

Big year for Purcell and Wentworth Miller. The Prison Break revival is coming soon.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I confess to hypocrisy on this issue. I really, really loved the George Lucas episode

ladydmaj said...

This storyline is really good, but I don't want Mick to die or turn evil or leave the Waverider! He's been pure gold on Legends just like he is; why change that?

mazephoenix said...

Oh team..if you mistreat Mick he is obviously going to leave with his (boy)friend who is not a hallucination. I want Mick to stay good,and take Snart with him. He was the best player all season.
Can we lose Nate instead? Screw fate, Amaya can stay too.