Legends of Tomorrow: The Virgin Gary

Sara: "Not to pressure you, but the entire fate of the sexual revolution is in the balance here."
John: "It is my favorite revolution."

Legends returns with a season premiere that neatly ties off the loose threads of last season and sets us up for a promising new direction. Clearly, someone at the CW read my review of last season's finale and took to heart my criticism that all the guys were fully clothed in Aruba while the ladies wore bikinis because we got not one but two shirtless male Legends this week.

Alas... One of them was Gary.

I really enjoyed this premiere. Not least because it directly addressed the couple of complaints that I had with last year's finale. Specifically, I really hated that after a whole season based on cleaning up all the anachronisms that they'd created the Legends basically said, 'Screw it, we're going to Aruba. The Time Bureau can clean all those up.' It was a great decision here to begin with the last-season-standard mashup of two different time periods, have the Legends fix it, and then throw a party to celebrate that that was the last of them. We got to see not only the inciting problem of last season finally and completely resolved, but our heroes resolving it. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally appreciated the tidiness of that closure.

So, now that the 'anachronisms' plot has been resolved, the episode is able to move on cleanly to what a premiere is supposed to do; setting up the season to come. So far, I really like the tack that the show appears to be taking regarding magic creatures as villains. The reveal of the unicorn at Woodstock was excellently handled – first we see its 'musk' in a puddle underneath the dead body in the tree without knowing what it is, then the unicorn itself in all of its prog-art glory, then the twist as it gores a hippie. All the aural and visual cues were really working to make the joke work, and someone involved in the production deserves a lot of credit for the work that clearly went into it.

I'm giving most of the credit to the director, Gregory Smith, in that the whole episode is full of nice little flourishes like the sliding screen montage of ingredient gathering later in the episode. Gregory Smith also directed last year's "Crisis on Earth-X" episode of Legends, which was also very well done. Hopefully they have him locked in to do lots more.

Speaking of the unicorn, excellent work in the final scene recreating an important image from John Constantine's past without over-stressing it. I really thought for a moment that Gary was going to lose an arm and get dragged to Hell. Not cool, Legends, tricking Gary into putting himself in mortal danger.



Structurally, the episode finds a lot of fun with the way it pairs off the Legends. Zari and Ray are a cute couple, all the more so for how completely non-romantic they are. They have a really nice brother-sister vibe, and I always enjoy the two of them together. Nate and Mick are a good pair, with Mick leading Nate off for a fun night of felony theft and Nate minimizing the potential damages by directing them to his parents house to do so. Speaking of Nate and Mick, I really enjoy the fact that Nate never objects to Mick calling him 'pretty'. It would be easy for the show to go with a gay panic joke there, and they never, ever do. I appreciate that.

Things that worked less well for me – the end scene with Zari, while well done, was so tonally different from everything else in the episode that it felt a little discordant. I get what they were doing and I completely agree with the point that they were making, but it felt like it was part of a different episode from the one we'd been watching. Also, it highlighted a problem that this episode seemed to be having with Zari. That is, if Zari is the age she appeared to be in 2018 (I put her at about five, but I'm a terrible judge of age) then why are there so many common references to today that she doesn't recognize? Surely she would have heard of hippies and the Beatles if she was already at the point of developing formative memories this year, wouldn't she? Not a huge deal, but it took me out of things a little.

Also, with no disrespect meant to Tom Wilson, once you've played Biff Tannen, you kind of become a default symbol for 'bullying jerk'. I hope that the show has a more interesting story to tell with Hank Heywood than what we've seen so far in this episode. For the moment I have enough faith in the writing staff to trust that they do. Oh, and on the subject, why on Earth would Hank's issue with Nate be that he didn't enlist in the military? Has the show forgotten that Nate's whole deal was that his severe hemophilia isolated him as a kid? There's no way the military would have taken him. Of course, it was Nate that said that that was Hank's problem with him, so that could be completely off-base.

And as long as we're tabling things in the 'we'll see how this turns out before getting too judge-y about it' category, I really don't like John Constantine trying to get Sara to break up with Ava. Mostly I really, really don't want them to be foreshadowing anything bad happening to Ava. Come on, show. The 'Kill Your Lesbians' trope needs to be a thing of the past. Do not embrace that path. Again, I should have enough faith in the writing staff to trust that they aren't going there and hope to be eating those words later in the season. It's entirely possible that the real point of that conversation was to begin the process of convincing Constantine that he'd be better off with the team.

So what did we learn today?

The reveal that Woodstock had turned into a massacre through dialog between Nate and his Dad was nicely handled. It told us a lot about who Nate's dad is, and what their relationship had been like, while simultaneously dropping the information that history had been changed. Accomplishing a few different things simultaneously is good scripting, and it was well done here. That said, it kind of brings us back to all of the old questions about how changes in time work now.

As far as we can tell, the Legends changed history back to its proper course by stopping the Woodstock Unicorn Massacre, and so everything is back to normal. Does this mean that we're back to season one's 'changes in history take time to solidify' rule? Or is it just an open field for changing and unchanging the timeline now? Was Nate protected from changes to his personal memory of how Woodstock was supposed to go by virtue of being a time traveler? Time will tell, I suppose.

Also, if magical demons were released when they freed Mallus, were they all freed at the point in time when that happened, or are they all timeless, or do the demons get to pick, or what? Hopefully we'll get a bit more info on that. So far all we know is that the magical escapees all politely waited until the new season picked back up before doing anything.



Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider went to February 7, 1964 to see the Beatles arrive in New York – excellent work transitioning the archive footage to show our heroes as part of the scene, by the way. We then took the ship to Washington D.C. for a start of the season party. After that things get a little fuzzy. Three different groups arrived independently at Woodstock by various means. It's implied that Ray and Zari took the jumpship and Sara took Gary's time courier, which implies that Nate and Mick took the Waverider. Didn't the Waverider only have one time engine after last year's finale? Apparently they've acquired a new one for the jump ship. Sara then jumps back to 2018 – presumably by time courier – to pick up John Constantine and then pop back to Woodstock again.

Does anyone else feel like we have too many methods of time travel to keep track of these days? Honestly, no wonder history is always a mess.

Quotes:

Sara: "We don't want to be fighting werewolves at the Alamo."
Nate: "Eh."
Ray: "Well, it would be good for our ratings."

Ava: "Dammit, who told Ava about the dragon?"

Nate: "Did Constantine get you to squeal?"
Gary: "I wish."

Mick: "I don't want your stinking medal."
Ava: "There's an open bar."
Mick: "Where?"

Mick: "Rory. Mick Rory. Of the Central City Rorys."

Nates's Mom: "You certainly can eat a lot of sandwiches, Mr. Rory. Where did you get those big muscles?"
Mick: "Prison."

Brony Bros
Nate: "Twilight Sparkle come to life."
Ray: "You're a Brony?"
Nate: "Dude, we're Brony bros."
Ray: "Mick, join the herd!"
Mick: "Get out of my way."

Nate: "Oh my God, is it..."
Zari: "Yep. Yep. Eating her heart."

Ray: "Maybe the Bureau will up our ratings? People do love the supernatural."
Fourteen seasons in, I'd say they do.

Ava: "Gary was very proud about losing a nipple."

Bits and Pieces:

-- The unicorn in the newsreel title card at the beginning was a nice touch.

-- That first conversation in the Waverider about ratings and changing up their plotlines might have been a little too meta for its own good. They get away with it by virtue of it being the premiere.

-- Exactly how much does Ava makes as head of the Time Bureau? An apartment like that in the D.C. area would not be cheap. For that matter, do the Legends get paid by the Bureau now? If not, why does the Bureau have any authority over them at all?

-- Ava and Sara are absolutely adorable together. I really appreciate that the show didn't drag out the plotline of Ava not knowing about Sara releasing the dragons, and that Ava was so understanding about it. A lesser show would have wrung that out for drama.

-- John Constantine mentioned the Rising Darkness! Dare I hope that they're going to pick up that hanging plot thread from his own series? Can Chas and Zed make an appearance now? Pretty please?

-- I wonder if Nate would have actually let Mick steal his parents' stuff. Probably, based on what we see here. Knowing Nate he was probably planning to return anything that was stolen as soon as Mick forgot about it.

-- The split screen montage of everyone arriving at Woodstock separately was fantastic. Gregory Smith, please come back and direct more.

-- Sara conveniently did not get any of the unicorn musk on her, almost as if the plot needed her to stay sober and do other things.

-- I really want to know how long Nick Zano and Dominic Purcell had to do wheelbarrow rides on the day of filming. Because those are one of those things that are a lot more tiring than you expect that they're going to be.

-- Zari's line about Wally taking time off to find himself exactly like he did last year was an amusing handwave to his leaving the show. Honestly, although I like both the actor and the character, speedsters are just too powerful to not upset the balance of the show. It's the same problem the show had with Firestorm.

-- No sign yet of either Nora or whatever character Maisie Richardson-Sellers is playing this year.

A solid start for what looks like a fun season that's going to head in a new direction. I'm in.

Three out of Four Hell-Bound Nipples.

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.

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I laughed all the way through this one, which probably means it was pretty good. There was something just so twisted in turning Woodstock into a massacre carried out by a unicorn.

And Mikey, I had the exact same thought about Zari not knowing who the Beatles were.

Mikey Heinrich said...

It seemed too self indulgent to put this in the body of the review, but I totally called the whole unicorn killer thing five years ago. I'm just sayin'. :)

http://the42ndvizsla.blogspot.com/2013/04/unicorns-adorable-or-terrifying.html

Nick said...

Well, to be fair, both Supernatural and Cabin in the Woods had evil unicorns in 2012, so they kinda preceeded you by a year. :D

Katarina Hjärpe said...

I work at a school, and at least here in Sweden, a lot of the kids definitely don't know who the Beatles are. I guess they will learn in music class eventually, but we don't know what Zari's education will be like. Maybe Beatles knowledge won't be on the curriculum once ARGUS takes over.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I really liked this one. It was very light-hearted, and while I didn't necessarily laugh, I was very amused. Although, I am kinda jumping into this show halfway, so I'm not as connected or invested into most of the characters yet, so some moments fell a bit flat to me. But hey, John is a regular now, and I'll watching anything that has him in it.

Is it bad that my first thought involving what had happening to him in the last five months was lung cancer? That's one of my favorite arcs of his from the comics, and I really want someone besides the movie with Keanu Reeves to adapt it. And it would explain why he's so set on pushing everyone away: don't get attached when you're going to be dead soon.

But anyways, very, very excited about the Rising Darkness mention. I really hope that the stuff that happened in his series slowly becomes more integrated into the Arrowverse as well.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Nick - Well sure, if you want to bring facts into things you can prove anything that's even remotely true :)

Katarina- I suppose you're right. It struck me as strange at the time, but I get your point.

Fangirl - That occurred to me too, but honestly I hope they stay well away from that plotline. For some reason the Dangerous Habits storyline is the always the go to plot when adapting Hellblazer, and I'd just as soon they visit the other stuff if they're going to take from the comics. The Family Man storyline would be a great one to see.

Anonymous said...

Well at least Gary is hopefully not a virgin anymore. I don't like the foreshadowing about Ava, let's not kill her.
Very nice first ep of the season. A killer unicorn at Woodstock what's not to like?
Was the shaman Jimi Hendrix?
mazephoenix

ladydmaj said...

Technically though, we did see Nora. She showed up as a vision of Ray's before he started macking on that tree.

And I think it's important to point out that Nate thought he was wheelbarrowing with his father, while Mick thought it was with his dead rat Axle.

And I also want to point out that there is no other show on television where the plot warrants stringing together words and phrases in such unexpected combinations as these. Trying to describe LOT plots to the uninitiated is a scream.

Glad to have another year of reviews with you at the helm!

Mikey Heinrich said...

Thanks Ladymaj, I'm happy to be here :)

I really want a wheelbarrow ride now. With Dominic Purcell, if possible.