Legends of Tomorrow: Aruba-Con

"Oh, we know exactly who you losers are."

The season three opener of Legends of Tomorrow comes not to praise its Legends, but to bury them... or at least insult them a lot.

If I were to say that season two's finale, "Aruba," feels very much like the end of Legends of Tomorrow: Volume One (And I did, in actual fact, say that), then "Aruba-Con" is certainly Legends of Tomorrow: Volume Two, Chapter One.

The Short Version –

Good. Mostly. An enjoyable chunk of television that had a few good jokes, some interesting and unexpected plot twists, and an intriguing set up for the rest of the season. Where it fails is that it's frequently a little too dedicated to that task, and as a result a lot of the episode felt like set-up for the rest of the season.

The Longer Version –

The thing that frequently gets forgotten about Legends of Tomorrow is that the title was supposed to be ironic. The very first twist that the show really gave us was that they were not Legends at all, but the also-rans. They were specifically picked because they weren't important enough to matter. They were the losers. The other guys. The Bowler and Mr. Furious. From the beginning they were the Bad News Bears of superhero teams.

As time went on, and they became more Legend-y*, we sort of forgot that. Indeed, over the course of season two they actually became heroic enough that by "Doomworld" they were able to make Ray and Nate being turned into losers a disorienting character beat.

*I know that the word is really 'legendary,' but I feel like Buffy would prefer it this way.

So, with that in mind, season three here firmly planted its flag on one major thing this episode – returning the Legends to their downtrodden, underdog status.

This is all well and good, but some of the steps they took to achieve it were poorly conceived and/or jarringly out of character, frequently to the extent that they took you right out of the story.

A couple of examples:

-Yes, Sara had a valid point about even vigilantes having to pay their bills, but there's just no way in God's Green Earth that Sara Lance would ever have taken that job at Bed, Bath and B... Sinks, Showers and Stuff. (That is a fun name though.)

On a character level it was there to force Sara into a position of subservience and undermine her growing flair for confident leadership, but there's just no way she would have ever, ever have taken that job. Not least because she had at least a couple hundred better options. Private security firms would kill for an asset like her, just for starters, and it's highly unlikely that the shadier ones would have cared that she'd been declared dead a couple of times.

In fact, the episode goes out of its way to undermine Sara's authority from the beginning. Consider the opening exchange – it's stated unequivocally to Sara repeatedly that she broke history, not they broke history.

-Ray would have absolutely no need to work for Upswipes, regardless of how holistic a social networking platform it might be. Last I checked he was a billionaire. And even if I've missed or have forgotten some detail of him losing his entire fortune when he gave his company to Felicity (which is not impossible – I drink a lot of wine... and did anybody else want to throat-punch douchey millennial boss when he made that bitchy comment about Felicity? Because I know I sure did) or that his being declared dead had similarly wiped out all his money. Taking a low level job with a hook-up app is simply not what Ray Palmer would instinctively do in that situation.

In that situation, Ray Palmer would find venture capitalists, form his own new company to develop his technology for shrinking organic matter (as the movie Ant-Man went on about at great length, that sort of tech would be kind of a big deal), he would then hire Sara as his head of security as he both knows and trusts her, and then would accidentally trigger the destruction of society as we know it, because that sort of tech is insanely dangerous. This is because Ray Palmer instinctively thinks big, is a good friend, and fails to consider the long term consequences of his actions, respectively.

In both of those cases, the episode forced them into situations that made no sense for their characters for the sake of longer term thematic development.

On the other hand, Nate bonding as superBFFs with Wally West is exactly what Nate would do, and I thought it was a nice touch that he was using Ray's Upswipes app to schedule his date. This was only slightly marred by the fact that when we're shown the app itself there's simply a green check or red X – no actual 'swiping up.' This wouldn't have mattered if they hadn't made such a big deal about it earlier. And this is as good a time as any to mention how lovely it was that they again snuck in Amy Louise Pemberton's photo for Gideon's fake dating profile.

On the other, other hand – While I recognize that giving the Legends a more proficient and organized authority to answer to is another method this episode uses to reinforce their status as underdogs and 'losers' – just who the hell does Rip think he is? A short list of grievances from this episode:

-Rip accusing anyone else of stealing the Waverider is a bit rich, seeing as he stole it himself in the first place

-Who the Hell do the Time Bureau (and I'm going to refer to them as the TB from now on because I can not consistently spell the word 'bureau' correctly) think they are to dictate anything to anyone about anything?  Actual Beureau's (dammit) and protection agencies get their authority vested in them from somewhere. A government, a vote of the people, even a dictator's whim, but somewhere. The Time Beareaux (dammit) doesn't get their authority from anywhere. It's just Rip saying 'Nyah, nyah, nyah, I get to be the boss of Time now!' and that's kind of bullshit.

-Rip's new haircut is stupid.

The Julius Caesar plot, fares slightly better, although I'd argue that it goes on for one twist too many.
The phrase 'Crossing the Rubicon' essentially means taking that one final step that irrevocably commits you to your course of action. (It's actually an interesting story, but since the episode didn't make a big thing of it I won't go into it further here – it is worth your time to Google it if you're interested, however.) When they announced that that was the title of the premiere episode, I kind of assumed that meant that a key plot point would be one or more of the Legends making a similar final step and committing themselves to a course of action. It was therefore a little disappointing when that didn't really happen. There was a slight echo of it when Sara decided to go to ancient Rome, but it wasn't really the big deal I was expecting it to be. Still, I suppose that's what I get for getting all pretentious with my historic literary references.

The one twist too far that I referenced earlier was the whole 'Legends accidentally create a time paradox by leaving a book behind' thing. Clearly this was done so that the Beurauo... DAMMIT.... TB could walk into the trap afterward so that the Legends could save them, so that they could reach some sort of d├ętente, but it wasn't really needed and felt really forced.

And Amaya basically showed up at the end with an 'I'll be important later' t-shirt, so I'll just say here that I'm glad she's still around.  I was briefly worried that they'd written her out.

What Did We Learn Today?

This years time tech is less about chunky spaceships and more about shiny square time windows. Basically they look exactly like the sling rings from Doctor Strange if The Ancient One had been super into right angles.

Apparently the Legends didn't so much break time as they did stir it up like a giant spatio-temporal fruit on the bottom yogurt. This apparently means that the rest of the season will be spent frantically running from one place to another putting the aforementioned fruit back on the bottom. Fair enough – it makes a nice change from aberrations, and has taught a bunch of viewers (and Mick) the word 'Anachronism.'

How exactly did they put Big Ben back in place through one of those portals?

Was the implication that the TB's main headquarters is in LA in 2017? That seems like a suspiciously convenient choice. Rip's not native to this time period – wouldn't it have made more sense to base it when he's from, or did the timeline get too chewed up when the Time Masters went boom?

Everybody Remember Where We Parked:

This week the Waverider took us to LA in 2017, Aruba also in 2017, and the banks of the Rubicon in 49 B.C. (approximately 50 years before his forces helped unearth the Pandorica, if you follow that sort of thing).

Quotes:

Mick: "I guess this means we're not going to Aruba."
Martin: "You said you broke time."
Sara: "No, I said we broke time."
Jax: "Yep, but it was your idea."

Amaya: "Perhaps we should continue this argument somewhere there aren't dinosaurs."

Rip: "Well, you really have buggered everything up this time."
Mick: "Her idea."

Ray: "Wow. I had no idea you were so unhappy with your new life."
Sara: "Chhh. Are you kidding me? I'm ah... I'm... I'm loving it. I'm doing really good work."
Nate: "It says you work at Sinks, Showers and Stuff."
Sara: "Yeah. Well. Even vigilantes have to pay their bills."

-I did like the silent moment when Sara, Nate and Ray all tacitly agreed to stop pretending that their lives didn't suck now right after this exchange. That's what happens when talented actors work together for a few years and know and trust one another.

Nate: "I'd totally rather get shot than look like a Sears model."

and finally

Mick: "Your salad sucks."
-God bless them for no over-explaining that joke.

Bits and Pieces:

-Did they already have the Men in Black forgetting flashlights? I don't remember seeing them before, which I think qualifies as irony... right?

-I totally fell for the fakeout when we were supposed to think Nate was meeting Amaya in the park and it turned out to be a hookup app date.

-I spent a lot of the episode wishing that Caesar had been played by Peter Capaldi. It was because of the way he referenced his household gods.

-I adored that Rory still called Sara 'Boss' and that his first instinct was to call her for orders.

-Ava Sharpe (aka Agent Hottiecakes) is clearly Sara's love interest for the year. Just look at the way they bickered while Sara rescued her and then they fought together. That's textbook romantic comedy.

-Nate's Tank top said, 'Sun's Out, Guns Out.' I demand an action figure.

-How were they monitoring Mick's STDs? No... don't tell me...

-I have a sneaking suspicion that Rip deliberately orchestrated the Legends stealing the ship and taking Caesar. Every scene he has with Sara can be equally read as him pushing her buttons because he knows what her response will be. Or maybe I just don't want to believe Rip's a douche now.

-There's lots more, but this review is already way too long, so I'll just part on the happiest note: they've announced that Matt Ryan will be guest starring on episodes 9 and 10 of this season AND confirmed that John Constantine is bisexual. The line to shipping Constantine/Mick Rory begins behind me, just as soon as I can think of a cute couple name. Constantory? Suggestions in the comments below, please.

Two out of four salads crossing the Rubicon

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:

Billie Doux said...

I thought this episode was pretty darned funny, even though I've spent a lot of time complaining about how illogical it can be. Certainly, Sara should be working as a security consultant, or even as a part-time assassin, but how fun was it that she was folding towels for a living?

Mick telling Julius Caesar that his salad sucked made me laugh out loud for five freaking minutes. :) Caesar taking over the toga party on the beach was pretty much priceless, too.

ladydmaj said...

I'll stand in that Constantine/Mick Rory line; I'd pay real money for Mick to be bisexual. I think Purcell would be game, and Mick strikes me as the type to sleep with someone and not give a shit about the plumbing if he's horny enough. Atomwave will always be my first love, though.

I really liked the premiere. I fanwanked Sara's retail exile as punishing herself for losing the team and the Waverider, and Ray's burying himself in a dating app company because to pursue his life in the way you described would be tacit to admitting that he's never going on the Waverider as a Legend again, and he couldn't face it.

I too was caught out by the Amaya fake. I literally gasped. That was really well done.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I don't watch Legends of Tomorrow, but I will definitely watch the Constantine episodes. I love that beautiful bisexual exorcist.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Billie - I agree. It was a very funny episode, and Sara folding towels is intrinsically funny. It just took me out of the episode a bit because it seemed so inexplicable

That said, Ladydmaj has totally sold me on the theory that Sara was in self imposed exile and Ray just wasn't willing to admit he wasn't going back to the waverider. Both of those explanations make total sense. I just wish the episode had given a nod in that direction so that I could have stopped worrying about it earlier.

Love the usage of the term fanwank btw - Craig Hinton would be proud :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Private Sally Morgan did dating apps. For context, Amy Pemberton plays Seventh Doctor companion Sally Morgan, in House of Blue Fire, Black and White, Project: Nirvana, Gods and Monsters, Afterlife and Signs and Wonders.

mazephoenix said...

Mick Rory contiunues to be a delight. His STD were monitored by John Constantine, and .. umm. shipping starts here. So glad he's still bi in the tv-verse.
Sara vs. Caesar was a hoot. Why is Rip such a dick?
Hi, Amara.