Legends of Tomorrow: The Good, the Bad and the Cuddly

"Worst orgy ever!"

Legends of Tomorrow finishes an overall great season strong, with a finale that's chock full of cheer-out-loud moments and heartwarming emotional closure.

So why does it also feel vaguely unsatisfying?

Let's be clear up front – this was a fun episode and a great finale. Despite some issues that we'll go into in a moment, we shouldn't lose sight of that. Indeed, after my first viewing I was grinning from ear to ear, and only over the course of the next several hours was I willing to admit to myself that there was something about it that didn't leave me completely satisfied.

There's a fairly standard structure for the second half of two-part finales. The first half ends with a climactic reveal of what appears to be the beginning of the big fight, which serves as a teaser. Then the beginning of the second half opens by finding a way to pause the big fight for a bit while the episode deals with some much less expensive character scenes which provide the emotional closure for whatever that season's plotlines have been, then we return to the big fight for the last act. Outside of pacing and structural concerns this is mostly down to budgeting. You need to have a big cliffhanger for the penultimate episode, but there's no way the budget's going to stretch to an entire final episode worth of big fight.

Legends' justification for pausing the fight came through the noble sacrifice of Rip Hunter, and here's the first thing that really, really worked in the episode. Rip's character has been sort of hanging around the periphery ever since Sara took over as Captain, and while the Time Bureau that he created ultimately turned out to be a positive storytelling asset, it's been becoming clearer and clearer that the show didn't really have any use for him anymore. It was nice that the show chose to remember that his wife and child were the whole reason for all of his actions in the series, and used that to justify his self sacrifice. The flashbacks were well chosen, and it just felt fundamentally right that his final conversation was with Sara. Goodbye Arthur Darvill. You probably should have been written out about a season ago, but you'll still be missed. And you look much better without the beard, while we're talking.

And while we're talking about the positives, let's also applaud how the show handled Amaya's exit. It's rare for a show to write out a character at exactly the right time, but they pulled it off in this case. They've been telegraphing pretty clearly all season that she was on the way out in the finale, but it was exactly the right time for it to happen. Her story arc reached its natural conclusion without being stretched out past the point when anybody cared about it, which is such an easy trap for a show to fall into when they have a character or actor that everyone likes. It pains me to say it, but the cautionary tale here is Anya on Buffy. Imagine how much more moving her death would have been at the end of season six as part of that season's resolution, and imagine how tiresome watching another entire season of Legends dither on about Amaya's 'destiny to return to 1942' would have been. Well done show, and well done Maisie Richardson-Sellers. The farewell scene between her and Nate was easily the realest their relationship has ever been. It was basically a coin toss as to whether we'd lose Nate as well, but I'm looking forward to seeing what post-Amaya Nate's character looks like. Particularly as so much of his characterization has been about his relationship with her.

Which leads us to Beebo.

Let's be honest. Ever since they revealed the name of this episode, we've all sort of expected that Beebo was going to be a big part of the solution somehow. And yet I was still surprised when the Legends combined their totem-essences and gigantic Beebo emerged from the building. Absolutely brilliant. Completely bat-crap crazy, and absolutely brilliant. Beebo's matrix stance and Neo hand gesture made me happier than any other three seconds of television, ever, and everything about that final fight was pure, unfettered, awesome. 'Primeval,' via Ghostbusters, with just a dash of 'Snakedance.'  It was a well structured approach for them to first try using their totem powers at the same time, and then learn that they had to use them together, which is a nice distinction for the show to make.  It was also a nice character arc for Sara that she went from believing she needed to give the totems to other, more worthy people to believing in herself and her team via some very pleasant cameos from this season's guest cast who reminded her that she has in fact helped a lot of people.

So, if I loved all of that, and there are easily another dozen moments I could add to them that were just as good, why am I not satisfied?

It took a little time and reflection, but it comes down to two things, at least one of which could have had such an easy fix. First, the whole foundational incident of the season was that they broke time and had to fix all the anachronisms they created. That was a great starting point and led to a lot of good stuff, but then they ended the season by essentially saying, 'Eh, Hell with it. Ava's team can take care of all that.' After an entire season of struggling against a problem, just shrugging it off and saying you don't care about it anymore because you fixed a different bigger problem is sloppy storytelling.  Which could have been avoided if they'd simply directly linked Mallus' initial opportunity for escaping to them having broken time. Then they could have resolved all the anachronisms via some plot device as the midseason finale and still had the caveat that because the anachronisms had existed Mallus could still get free if too many more were created because time was still so weak from the trauma. Then they would already long ago have cleared up what is instead a gigantic, irritating, dangling plot thread, and I could have properly enjoyed the sunbathing in Aruba.

The second thing that left me unsatisfied we'll discuss in...

So what did we learn today?

We were told, very clearly and in relatively straightforward terms, that that one last anachronism would finally be too much for Time (capital T) and the temporal zone would disintegrate.  We were also told that it was that disintegration that would free Mallus. This was all well and good and established a nice ticking clock for the finale.

Then they created the last anachronism and time didn't disintegrate, but Mallus was free anyway. That's just a massive cop-out, and it really irritated me. Sure, we had Romans and Vikings and Pirates (oh my!), but the implication was that they were all there together because Mallus had brought them as an army, not because time had hit the puree setting.  And no one on either side seemed to either notice or care. You'd think all the additional damage to the timeline would have at least gotten a mention while they're tanning and not caring about all the other time damage they caused.

One temporal trick that actually was nicely handled – when the Legends went to hide in Salvation it was because Mallus wasn't supposed to be able to see them there and so wouldn't be able to find them. And then Mallus immediately found them and sent his followers. Initially this seemed like just a bit of plot stalling, but then we find out that Ray had taken Darhk back along their plotline which caused Damien to be taken over by Mallus in Nora's place. And Damien already knew that they were hiding in Salvation, so of course Damien as possessed by Mallus knew where they were. That's pretty neat, causally speaking.


Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider started out in Zambesi, 1992. Unfortunately the time drive was blown up there, but don't get too worked up about it, we have a spare. And apparently one's all you need, as the spare was in the jumpship, then got moved and installed in the Waverider proper, then had its power rerouted back to the jumpship so that Ray could still use the Waverider independently.

From there the Waverider went to hide in Salvation, ND, 1874, from whence Ray took the Jumpship back to Zambesi 1992, but just a skoche earlier than they left, so that he could interfere in events he was already a part of in exactly the same stupid way they did at the end of last season. Thankfully it all worked out this time. Then Ray and Nora popped back to North Dakota in 1874 in time to watch but not be part of the big fight. Then Nate took the jumpship back to Zambesi, 1942 to return Amaya to her proper place and time, after which they all took the Waverider to Aruba, 2018. Man, they really get around the timeline these days.


Quotes:

Sara: "You and Amaya were born to wield the totems and the rest of us are just..."
Mick: "Losers. That's why Rip picked us. Snart. The Professor. Those stupid Hawk, flying chicken people."

Nate: "Ray punched me in the face with his giant banana hands and took off with Damien Darhk."

Nate: "They beat him with the Care Bear stare!"

Mick: "If the code is 113, it's off to the bridge for you and me."
Nate: "You memorized Ray's song?"
Mick: "Well he sings it often enough."

Mick: "Don't worry. If you turn into a witch bitch I'll kill you."
Sara: "Thank you."
Mick: "You're welcome."

Mick: "Seriously, are we making a baby?"

Darhk: "Because I love you and I couldn't watch you become a monster. Like me."

Jax: "I know you're not gonna take that, Beebo!"

Nate: "Don't turn around. Don't turn around. Don't turn around."

Gary: "The wig's too much, right?"
Zari: "No. It's very... presidential."

Bits and Pieces:

-- So apparently all the coincidences meeting family members were just coincidences in the scripts and pointing it out was just lampshade hanging. That's disappointing. The little 'the universe was showing us there are no coincidences and everything's possible' moment didn't make it any better.

-- Let's take a moment to talk about how much I love everything that's going on with Wally's hair. I'm not 100% sure what they're going for with it, but I'm loving everything about it. Particularly in the final scene. Wally is so much better here than he was on The Flash.

-- Ray seems to have bonded with the water totem between episodes, and then leaves it for Wally to use and Wally also has no problem bonding with it. Water totem's a tramp.

-- We know Rip is really gone this time because Gideon called him 'Rip' instead of 'Captain Hunter,' which was sweet.

-- It says a lot about the team dynamic that Sara clearly knew Ray was going to do something stupid and let him do it anyway.

-- We can only assume that Damien put himself back inside his magic force field again after their escape from the first fight, which is polite of him.

-- I don't think Vikings could ride horses, could they? I might be wrong.

-- Speaking of the Vikings, Leif Erikson's sister actually had her own name, in the show at least. It's Freydis Eriksdottir. Everyone else got their own name, but she kept getting referred to as Leif's sister, which seemed a little sexist. I suppose they were just worried that we wouldn't remember who she was, but still.

-- I liked that Zari listens to death metal to concentrate. At least I think it was death metal, I'm not actually well versed in the nuances.

-- Other than the facial mutilation, Jonah Hex is pretty cute. That is not a sentence you type every day.

-- Gary is doing John Constantine cosplay. Fair enough, I've done so myself. I do wonder what John thinks about it though.

-- Ray let Nora escape, which is sweet but was probably a bad idea. Time will tell.

-- I love where they left Ava and Sara's relationship.

-- Everybody seemed suspiciously fully clothed when sunbathing in Aruba.  Seriously, they can put Tala Ashe in a bikini, but Dominic Purcell doesn't take his shirt off?  I call bullshit, people.

A great ending to a mostly great season, despite the many complaints I've made above. Really looking forward to next season and seeing how John Constantine and Ava work into the regular lineup. Meet me back here in the fall to find out!

Three out of four Voltrons.

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:

Patryk said...

Let's hope you are right, but signs point to Amaya not being written out. Both in-universe (Nate did not erase her memeory) and out.

I loved the detail that Mallus was just a mondegreen and his name was Malice. :D

Anonymous said...

I know this is the Legends review but i couldn't disagree more with your assessment of Anya on Buffy..What hurt her story is that her death was lame not the timing. She had several fantastic episodes in season 7 and had a fair amount of growth over the season.

When the Legends began arguing over Mallus/Malice/Mulusc name i knew he wasn't going to be taken seriously so i expected the ending we got.

Amaya or the actress at least will be back next season. I wouldn't mind seeing Nora Darhk again either..Far more interesting than Damien who to be fair finished the season strong.

''Are we making a baby'' That scene was hilarious as was whatever it was they created...Something icky from he fly 2.

Sara had her comedic and ''i just cant' chops on this whoe episode.

Billie Doux said...

I was really happy with this finale. The creation of the giant Beebo and its Matrix-esque fight with Mallus made me laugh and laugh -- it was just so perfectly set-up with the earlier Beebo/Viking episode and so incredibly ridiculous that it worked. And of course Damien sacrificed himself for Nora.

It was lovely to see Jax again, and of course, yay for new cast members Constantine and Ava. See you next fall, Legends. Terrific review, Mikey. :)