Legends of Tomorrow: Beebo the God of War

"Beebo loves you!"

Now that's how you execute a mid-episode pivot from lighthearted romp to something much more serious and darker.  Or should I say Darhker.

I should say right off the bat what we're all thinking. I wish to God that they'd been able to get whatever permissions they would have needed to use Tickle Me Elmo directly instead of a thinly veiled stand-in. I understand why they didn't really have the option, but just imagine how great that would have been.

As the last episode before the mid-season break, this episode had a lot of housekeeping that it needed to do. Which makes it kind of amazing how lightweight and 'romp-y' they managed to make this. In an episode essentially built around the sight gag of a muppet doll sitting on a wooden throne being worshiped by Vikings, they also managed to deal with the fallout of Martin's death, give us our first ever so slight glimpse of this season's big bad, keep the Darhk family in the mix without revealing any more of his actual plan, advance Sara and Ava's relationship, and have a thoughtful meditation on the nature of grief and the ways religion can be perverted for personal gain.

That's a lot of ground for one sight gag to cover.

Let's take those in reverse and talk about Legends of Tomorow v. Religion. Cards on the table up front, I am personally an atheist. I wouldn't want anyone to think that the following discussion was an attempt to proselytize.

We're all clear how absolutely bizarre Legends' attitude toward Christianity is, right? We've talked about it a bit before, but generally speaking genre shows will move heaven and earth to avoid going anywhere near discussing religion in general and Christianity specifically. And yet here we have a show that unambiguously used the actual blood of Christ as a plot coupon last season, and tonight had one of its major players lecture a group of Vikings about how Jesus is the one true God. Yes, he was saying it for purely utilitarian reasons – and it would have added something to that moment if we had any idea what Ray's personal religious views are IMHO – but the very fact that a superhero show said that out loud is astonishing.

What makes the mention notable tonight was just how blatant the rest of the episode was about its theme of religion being used as a tool by those who want power. If you take any of Cuddle-Me Beebo's lines on their own they remain the cute/saccharine sorts of things that that sort of doll would be programmed to say. However, in every single instance Freydis just takes whatever he says and puts her own agenda onto it. “Beebo Hungry” becomes a call for vengeance, or sacrifice, or whatever the hell she wants it to be a call for at that moment. Damien's pretense of being Odin, just as Ray wanted to do in the first place, is essentially the exact same indictment of religion; if you can get people to believe in something, then controlling them is no problem. Intriguingly, the show doesn't make any excuses for the Legends doing the exact same thing. By invoking the Vikings' belief in Beebo and steering them towards Christianity, they are really no better than Damien or Freydis.

See, this is why genre fiction tends to steer away from talking about Jesus. Things get morally murky so very quickly, and it's just way too easy to tick people off.

Intermingled with this, we have a long meditation on grief.

Now, any show involving time travel is going to run into this problem when a major character dies. Specifically, why can't they just use time travel to fix it? Bringing back Graeme McComb as young Martin was an excellent way for the show to confront that issue head on. Of course seeing him would trigger Jax to try to preemptively save his life. What I was surprised by was how Martin reacted to the situation. I was hugely impressed with how the show avoided most of the cliches and subverted our expectations on this one. It was absolutely the right choice for Martin to have completely understood the situation from the beginning. I was genuinely surprised and touched by the amount of grace he showed regarding Jax' attempts to save his life. His quiet acceptance of his own death and the effort he put into helping Jax to move on and live his own life was a standout moment.

I also love that he was completely unfooled by Jax' Back to the Future machinations, and that he called Jax out on the reference.

With all of the Martin Stein grief in the episode, it's easy to overlook that there were two other characters grieving this week. Namely, Mick and Leo. As much of a staple as the 'evil parallel universe doppelganger' is in this sort of show, you rarely ever see a show make the point that the situation would be just as strange and off-putting for the doppelganger as it is for the regular universe folks. When Mick looks at Leo he sees an echo of the best friend that died, but so does Leo. The way Leo compulsively calls Mick 'Mickey' shows us just how much he's failing to differentiate between the man standing in front of him and the best friend that he lost.

That said, the 'Mick's drinking problem' plotline was the one piece of the episode that really didn't work for me at all. While it did highlight the issue of Leo trying to force Mick to be Mickey, it felt like it came out of nowhere, and playing alcoholism for laughs isn't a place I can get to right now. To be fair, that last part is my issue, not the show's.

In other plotlines, we appear to have confirmed that Ava is gay. At least, that was clearly how Sara took her comment about husbands. And Sara clearly checked her out right after she'd processed the news. I liked the steps they took this weeks to soften Ava's character, both letting her hair down literally as a visual cue, but also the way she seemed to genuinely feel badly for them about Stein's death.

I also applaud the restraint that was showed with the filming of Beebo on his throne being worshiped. That as an image is intrinsically ridiculous, but everything from the camera angles, lighting, and soundcues played the moment as absolutely serious. It would have been so easy for them to shoot those moments as self consciously wacky, and it would have totally ruined the effect.

What did we learn today?

When Martin fell back through time, we saw knock on effects occurring throughout history, most notably the pleasingly well-structured joke about Beebo Day/Odin's Day/Christmas. I'm taking this as confirmation of my theory regarding aberrations v. anachronisms. If a change in time happens in isolation it conforms to the old rules and we have to deal with the causality and changes to the future. The massive changes that happened all at once at the end of last season do not obey causality or have knock on effects because the universe is essentially supersaturated with them. A more in depth explanation of this theory wrapped up in a half-assed chemistry metaphor can be found here.

Also, did Darhk cause Martin to fall backwards in time, or did he just take advantage of the anachronism? Seriously, what does Darhk actually want? I know we're not supposed to know yet, but it's driving me crazy.

Neal McDonough as Chris Hemsworth

Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider took us to North America, 1000 A.D. Although they seemed to refer to Finland later on in a way that confused me. Did I miss something, or was I perhaps kicked in the head by a mule?

The jumpship took a few separate jaunts to Central City, 2017.


Leo: “This is therapy, not acting class.”
Nate: “Nice! That's the right level of frustration. That's very Stein.”

Sara: “All right everybody. I know you're sad, so this is what we're gonna do. I want you to take all of your feelings about Martin and put it in a box. And then I want you to close the box. And then you're gonna lock the box.”
Honestly, Sara is such a dude sometimes.

Mick: “Couple of days. 42 hours.”
Leo: “48.”
Mick: “Mmmmm.”

Ava: “Beebo Day's part of the anachronism, isn't it.”
Sara: “Yeah.”
Ava: “Yeah. Never felt right.”

Freydis: “Are you sure this is wise brother? We know nothing about these people.”
Sara: “We brought booze.”
Vikings: “Hooray!”

Beebo (as voiced by Ray Palmer): “It is I, Beebo, risen from the grave!”
Leif: “Like Christ himself!”
Beebo: “Yes (cough) Yes. Jesus is the one true God. Which doesn't mean that science or evolution isn't real. Anyway, you need to return to Greenland.... mm.... which... uh... will soon be melting. Thanks to global warming. Which is also real.”

Jax: “The thing is, when you get a bunch of broken pieces and you put them all together the right way, they make something new. And suddenly they don't feel so broken anymore. And I'm pretty sure that's what a family is.”

Bits and pieces:

Thor Knai as Leif Erikson
--  The guy that played Leif Erikson's real name is Thor. And he had amazing hair. Those two things made me a huge fan of his.

--  It became clear later that Martin was wearing that sweater to cause some confusion when the Vikings referenced their blue God, but it did make me wonder – are ugly Hanukkah sweaters a real thing?

--  Martin's toy bow in the toy store was green. And they played the Arrow sound cue when he fired. That made me go, 'awwwww.

--  I think this was the third week in a row that they brought up all the coincidences with them meeting themselves lately. I know they're setting it up for payoff later in the season, but it's starting to feel like lampshade hanging.

--  We see Zari and Jax wagering chore duties again when they're betting on the video. I like to think that that's a deliberate homage to the Firefly episode 'Shindig,' written by the incomparable Jane Espenson.

--  Speaking of Zari, I liked that her point of view regarding changing history was simultaneously clearly wrong and clearly justifiable. Just because her choice of actions would possibly damage the big picture of history doesn't make her argument invalid.

--  Also, if you do the math, Zari is probably being born sometime around this year, i.e. 2017. I'm basing this on her being picked up in 2042 and the apparent age of the character. In the real world, Tala Ashe is 33, but Zari definitely reads a little younger.

--  Are we to infer that the ship replicated both the Beebo Ray was flying around in and the one Jax gave to Lily? Always assuming they aren't one and the same that is. Because they could make an absolute killing in 1992 if they can crank those things out. I was there for Tickle-Me Elmo – those scenes were not exaggerated.

--  Puppet Martin Stein. Oh my sweet tingly Jesus, puppet Martin Stein. Everything about that sequence was magical, most notably the way it turned on a dime from lighthearted comedy to heartbreakingly serious, mirroring the structure of the entire episode.

A good sendoff for the mid-season finale that mostly worked.

Three out of four therapy puppets.

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.


Anonymous said...

This show just gets more and more preposterous....and its fantastic...Laughed uncontrollably throughout.
When Snart pulled out the Stein puppet i lost it...
That Angel episode is still one of my favorite episodes of anything ever.
Sara's brief but hilarious imitation of Beebo was worth the entire episode...''BABA BEEBO LOVE U''
Jax and Zari were playing Mortal Kombat and if you look closely Jax is actually using the character Jax from the game.
Looks like the Darhks made a deal with the devil...I can see a scenario where Darhk helps the Legends..He would do anything for his daughter as established on Arrow.

enlerp said...

This week the Waverider took us to North America, 1000 A.D. Although they seemed to refer to Finland later on in a way that confused me. Did I miss something, or was I perhaps kicked in the head by a mule.

They probably meant Vinland:

Mikey Heinrich said...

Bless you. I was completely confused by that!

Plus, now I've learned something I didn't know before which is awesome.

You guys are the best.

mazephoenix said...

Snart playing therapist was great. I didn't like them playing Mick's drinking problem for laughs either.
I shall miss Jax.
Ava and Sara are very cute. Hilarious episode.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I'm guessing Jax is gone in exactly the same way Sayid left Lost after the 9th episode of the 1st season.

At least I hope that's the case

Patryk said...

That was the voice of John Noble as Mallus! I wonder if he will have a human form and we'll see more of Walter Bishop. :) And the breach in Mallus' dimension reminded me of Supernatural and the apocalypse world.