Legends of Tomorrow: Freakshow

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome one and all, to the best show on Earth! That is a working title."

The Legends third season continues to gel in a fun episode that answers a few questions from the premiere while practically marinating in action comedy beats.

But I'm just going to say what we're all thinking. I wanted there to be more B'wana Beast.

It was fitting (and almost certainly deliberate) that this episode was set against the backdrop of P.T. Barnum's circus, because it was filled to the brim with misdirection and humbug itself.

The short version

Episodes like this are pretty much the reason the word 'romp' exists, and yet there is actually a fair amount lurking under the surface here if you feel like taking the time to look past the jokes and sly in-references. Much of it was laugh out loud funny, and it addressed my main problems with last week's season premiere.

The longer version

This episode was all about misdirection, and I feel like we really need to give a shout out to the ad campaign this week for playing along. I (and I suspect many of the rest of you) went into the episode completely convinced that it was going to be about the saber-tooth tiger.

I was therefore more than a little surprised and pleased when they pulled the rug out from under us early on and we learned that the saber-tooth wasn't really the anachronism that was causing all the problems this week, the Legends themselves were. They even went so far as to have the Legends replace the tiger in its cage, just to underscore the point that the Legends were going to be playing the role we expected the tiger to play.

Other examples of the show playing with misdirection this week:

-- When Gideon made a point of mentioning that P.T. Barnum probably didn't ever say the quote about suckers it led me to believe that we were going to be getting one of those situations where we meet a historical person and find out that they were much nicer and more human than we'd been led to believe (much like Richard Nixon's appearance on Doctor Who. But then Barnum went pretty quickly and enthusiastically for kidnap and human trafficking, so... not so much.

-- The sinister man in black was really just Gary from the Time Bureau. (I really love Gary. I'll admit it.)

-- The opening scene with Amaya made a point of holding back the title card specifically to beg the question as to where exactly Amaya was in both her personal timeline and the larger timeline overall.

-- The escaped and embiggened saber-tooth tiger was an excellent and logical reason for the Legends to have to reconnect with Amaya. Her animal powers were exactly what they needed for that job.  But did anyone notice that she didn't actually use her powers to capture it? I certainly didn't on first viewing. That was a nice detail to lead up to the final revelation that her powers have gotten out of control and she's in danger of losing control completely and becoming animalistic every time she uses them. Combine that with the Legends accidentally becoming the anachronism themselves and we have a clear theme of the week: be careful that you don't become the problem yourself.


Ah yes, Amaya. One of the issues I had with last week's premiere was that the previous season had gone out of its way to end with Amaya not going back to her own time. So when this season started with the reveal that – JK, she totes went back anyway. Psych – it felt like they'd been wasting our time. They made up for it a bit with the final scene last week, which basically was just there as a promise that they hadn't forgotten about Amaya and they'd get back to her eventually, but it had hung over the episode for me to a minor degree.

(Speaking of that last scene in 'Aruba-Con,' did anyone else think at the time that the way her powers were used there was uncharacteristic?  Typically the animal form encompassed her and endowed her with their characteristics, but in that scene the animal forms actually went out from her and charged the soldiers down.  At the time I just chalked it up to inconsistency in how they visualize her powers, but now I think it was deliberately done as a clue to her situation.)

It's entirely believable that Amaya would make a beeline to Detroit to see her granddaughter. What seems less believable to me is that she would have packed everything she owned as she cleared out to do it. Unless the convenience store that Nate went to for donuts was a few towns away, she probably had somewhere in the realm of half an hour to go from lovey-dovey baking donuts from scratch to completely packed and gone. In this case, however, I think that the inconsistencies are down to the fact that we don't know the whole story yet. For instance, Amaya says that Rip told her that her granddaughter would fade away if she didn't go back to her own time. When exactly did Rip tell her that? It had to have been after she left that night to go to Detroit, as that was what convinced her to leave and there was no sign of her even thinking about leaving earlier.

Obviously, whatever went down with Amaya that night, Rip was involved, which means time travel was involved.  I'm guessing there's a lot more to the story than we've been told yet, and I'm officially intrigued as to what it is.

My other main beef with last week's episode (which I actually really liked, despite what it's starting to sound like here) was that I just didn't get why anyone was acting like the Time Bureau had any more intrinsic authority over time than the Legends did.  Who the hell were they to tell our heroes what they can and can't do?  This week we learned that Rip had apparently negotiated a deal with the United Nations to make the Time Bureau a sort of global time police.

That more or less explains the status shift, but it also leaves me with a lot of questions. First off, when did the UN become aware that time travel was possible? Why didn't every single leader involved in the deal immediately try to get the tech for their own nations and kick off a Dalek-style time war as they all tried to improve their own histories? (Call me a cynic, but I really believe that that's exactly what most of them would do.) What about all the nations that aren't members of the UN? Do they get a say in how history is meddled with? Do they even get to know time travel is a thing now? And why is Sara so willing to acknowledge the Bureau's authority over what she and her team are allowed to do?

Most of these questions can be more or less dealt with if you sort of squint at them and remind yourself that history is scrambled right now and since we haven't really been told how the anachronisms work, we can assume that any inconsistencies are the result of the changes the anachronisms are making/have made, but it still would be nice to know. The issue of Sara's attitude can (as was helpfully pointed out to me in last week's comments) be explained as a sort of self-imposed punishment for having been the one to break time in the first place.

What did we learn this week? 

As mentioned above, the anachronisms remain frustratingly ill-defined.  For instance, why doesn't whatever was wrong at the Great Wall have any knock on effects in 1870 Wisconsin? With the aberrations we were told that there was a time limit for fixing them or time would set and future changes would become permanent. With the anachronisms we don't seem to have either the time limit for correcting them or the knock on effects for future history. It's not really a deal breaker for me, but it would be nice if the show at least acknowledged, if not explained, that part of the issue.

The anachronisms come with a handy coding system rating their danger level on a scale of 1 to 10, which is a nice way of demonstrating an escalating threat, I suppose.

Apparently, while it would have been a danger to time for the crowd to have seen the saber-tooth tiger, having the crowd see Firestorm restrain Amaya's animal-power carnage is no big whoop.

Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider took us to 1870 Wisconsin, while the jump ship took Sara on a side jaunt to 1942 Zambesi.

We were denied a trip to the Titanic, although I remain curious what the anachronism there was. Probably someone with a helpful diagram showing how two people could easily fit on a floating door.

Side note on the Titanic: I get that the joke was there because of the mutual presence of Victor Garber and Billy Zane, but it felt to me like they overplayed the joke just a little bit. This is notable, because it's something that Legends of Tomorrow almost never does.

Quotes:

Amaya: "So, all this was for nothing."
Nate: "No. Donuts are never for nothing."

Ray: "What if we have another L.A. situation?  Ha.  Try putting a dinosaur in the brig. Huh? Not gonna happen."
Nate: "No."
Ray: "Unless it's an Aquilops."
Nate: "Or a Compsognathus."
Ray: "Or a cute little Oviraptor."

Ray: "This is a classic slice of Americana.  The air is thick with the smell of popcorn, candy, and wonder."
Mick: "If I see a clown, I'm outta here."
Jax: "What, you afraid of clowns?"
Mick: "No.  I just don't like their stupid faces, and funny shoes, and... razor sharp teeth."

Sara: "Don't worry, we just have to rescue the team and get back on the ship before that saber-tooth embiggens."

Sara: "I like 'em dumb and loyal.  Speaking of which, we should probably check on Gary."

... and the winning exchange of the night:

Ava: "You want to take a break?"
Sara: "I could use some water."
Ava: "Yeah."

Ava Sharpe is SO Sara's love interest for the season. Just check out their mutual heaving bosom moment right before Sara head butts her.

Bits and pieces:

-- It was really great that the guys got the emotional plot while the women were the competent ones that went out and dealt with the tiger.

-- Billy Zane's performance was very Jack Nicholson's Joker inspired.

-- As Nate made the snippy comment about Amaya having let herself go (she hasn't, for the record) I feel empowered to mention that Nick Zano has looked a little puffy the last couple weeks. Mick did once again call him 'Pretty,' though.  Does this mean there's hope for Mick and John Constantine?

-- So how did Amaya get to Detroit from Central City? Per the internet, the assumed location currently for CC is somewhere on the border of Missouri (although opinions and sources vary on that point) so the trip isn't impossible, although if she's driving or bussing it she isn't getting there that same night. Realistically you're probably looking at a twelve hour trip or so. Did she dolphin swim up a river, or cheetah run, or what?  (Can Amaya fly? Have they ever addressed that?)

-- The map of the time anachronisms looked very Van Gogh to me.

-- I wondered if they blew the extras budget on the circus scenes, because Amaya's village seemed curiously deserted to me.


-- Not that I'm complaining in any way, but why didn't B'wana Beast throw a shirt on to go out drinking with friends? Or, you know... ever? Did circus strong men really just walk around as beefcake all the time?

-- Speaking of B'wana Beast (or Carny #3, as he was credited for the episode), when it was announced that B'wana was going to appear this season I got really, REALLY excited that it meant that we might be getting into some Grant Morrison Animal Man story territory. Unfortunately it looks like that's off the table, but you should all immediately track down and read Animal Man #5: Coyote Gospel, because it's mind-blowingly amazing.

-- Today we learned that Nate has balls of steel.

-- Barnum basically offered up his acrobats to have sex with Ray and Jax, and Jax was surprisingly enthusiastic about being up for it.  That felt icky this week.

-- The lengths that they are having to regularly go to in order to keep Martin and Jax apart and Nate from steeling up are really becoming notable.

-- Sadly, Martin's clown makeup was NOT the makeup Victor Garber wore in Godspell, which really disappointed me.  I feel like they missed a trick there.

-- Not much Mick this week, but I suppose he had a lot last time.  It still seemed odd to me that he didn't go out drinking with the boys though.  And where was Martin while the guys were out? Did he have an early night in with a good book or something?

I realize there was a lot of nitpicking here, but this really was a fun episode, and it's a credit to the program that even on what is ostensibly a lighter episode there was so much to dig into.

3.5 Cute little Oviraptors out of 4.

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.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Nice review, Mikey. I thought it was a fun enough episode, but it felt like it lacked substance. For me, it was the baby tiger, Sara/Ava fight and the Titanic jokes. :) Maybe I just don't care for the circus.

ladydmaj said...

I laughed more at this episode than I do at most comedies.

What really endeared me about Barnum's lure of the acrobats is that it didn't have any effect on Ray whatsoever...he was just there for the circus. I'm not sure if he's just that innocent or actually demisexual.

You didn't mention the flying Graysons in the background, which surprised me.

Mick is my favourite character on television (with David Mazouz's Bruce Wayne a very close second), and it just warmed the cockles of my heart how engaged he was with the crew. Playing poker, welcoming Amaya back with a hug, making her feel better about her confession with a gentle dig at Haircut - awesome.

And Mick obviously eschewed drinking with the boys so he could make supper for the sabre-tooth. He has a pet rat too, so I'm suspecting our Mick has a soft gooey spot for cute l'il critters. Which explains his affinity for Ray, who is pretty much a Labrador puppy in human form.

Mikey Heinrich said...

There were a bunch of things I wanted to say that I just ran out of space for - the poker game for chores that seems to be a straight homage to the Firefly episode Shindig would be the top of the list. I also loved the way Mick made the joke about Ray at the end as a way of welcoming Amaya back to the fold - that was incredibly sweet

That said, here's my shameful confession-

I totally missed the Flying Graysons

I'm going to blame my B'wana Beast obsession for distracting me at the relevant time