Legends of Tomorrow: Tagumo Attacks!!!

Zari: "Were you…?"
Mick: "Yes. I was watching porn."
Zari: "On a typewriter?"

Legends pulls back its focus a bit and delivers three episodes for the price of one.

And it could not have been more fun.

There are times when it's important to have a focused story structure, where every element works together to tell the same story and there's no narrative fat on the bone. Then there are times for an episode to just say screw it and see how many unrelated plotline plates it can keep spinning over the course of 42 minutes. "Tagumo Attacks!!!" would fall in the latter category.

Now, the first obvious response to the previous paragraph is, 'Wow, that's a lot of metaphors mangled together.' and to be fair, yes. Yes it is. But the second obvious response to the previous paragraph is, 'Hey, aren't you the guy who consistently bitches about lack of narrative focus in episodes where the plotlines have no structural or thematic link to one another?' to which I say nothing and stare blankly at you until we all feel awkward, because it's a completely valid point.

The thing is, there really is no invalid structure for storytelling, there's only structures that are executed well or executed badly. And I realize that I'm as guilty as anyone of glossing over that distinction. In my defense, having an episode of television with multiple unrelated plotlines is more often than not a sign of sloppy work when the story was broken, but that doesn't mean that it can't be done intentionally, or that it can't be done well.

This episode does it both intentionally and well.

So, what we have here is really three plotlines that we jump back and forth between. Arguably four plotlines, depending on how much you tie the Nate and Ava Thanksgiving plot with the Gary and Mona monster escape plot. Personally I would say that they're two separate plots that dovetail into one another in the third act, but we're splitting hairs there. We tend to get one or two of these each year on Legends, I suspect largely because of the reduced number of episodes that they get each season necessitating some concatenation of plotlines. For example, this week we get a largely offhand justification for finding Nora as quickly and efficiently as possible early on so that we can get to the 'saving Constantine' plotline that we're more interested in. I would bet that if Legends had a full 22 episode run, 'Finding Nory' would have been an entire episode of its own. They'd probably have even called it that and set it in Australia. And now I really want to see that episode.



But we don't have an episode to spare for that, and so we leap directly into curing Constantine from whatever his magical 'life force battery drain' is, integrating Mona into the Time Bureau by demonstrating how phenomenally competent and level headed she is in a monster related crisis, and teaching Charlie to respect Sara's authority as a captain by putting them in a situation where it's undeniable how amazing a captain Sara is.

That's the sneakily clever thing about how this episode is set up. Each storyline has at least one very specific task it has to accomplish for the characters' journey this season. For all the other good stuff in the Tagumo plotline, and there's a lot of it, it exists to integrate Charlie into the team, and it accomplishes the task without you even noticing that they're doing it. Similarly, they make us think that the Constantine plotline is about curing him and explaining what his magical malady is, but really it's 100% about bringing Nora into the team by setting her up to first be Willow circa Buffy season 7, and then have her make a hard turn into Faith circa Angel season 1. I'm not sure that I completely bought the idea that using the Waverider's power source as a substitute for human life force made any sense, but it really didn't matter since actually curing John was never really the point of that plotline.

And in the middle of all of the ridiculous fun, they smuggle what for my money is the best part of this episode. That's the frankly beautiful and haunting exploration of how creativity can be used to process inexpressible tragedy. Ishiro's quote about coming to terms with the aftermath of Hiroshima is one of the most hauntingly lovely pieces of dialog that I've heard in a very long time. It will be quoted below. And we hear it almost immediately before Eccentrica Gallumbits fights a giant squid in a scale model of Tokyo. And it all works and it all hangs together because the pacing is handled so well that we're going to be willing to go along with them for anything.

What have we learned today?

Nothing. We learned nothing today. It would have been nice to get a mention at the Heywood household as to whether Tagumo's attack on Tokyo was part of established history at that moment, but not a peep.



Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider went to Tokyo, 1951, where Zari, Charlie, Sara, and Mick handled the local monster problem. Ray presumably took either the jump ship or a time courier to a renaissance festival in DC circa 2018. Thanksgiving isn't really the right time of year for such a thing, but maybe the time factor was fudged a little in Ray's journey and that didn't happen at the same time as Nate and Ava's Thanksgiving adventure.

Ava, Nate, Gary and Mona meanwhile celebrated Thanksgiving 2018 without benefit of time travel, outside of the interesting revelation that the Time Bureau is totally down with using time couriers to go back a couple of hours and make Thanksgiving dinner on time.

Quotes:

Ava: "At least your family are real people. Mine are actors."

Nate: "There’s my Uncle Rich. Don’t mention Obama."

Ishiro: "Every night before this journal came to me, I’d close my eyes and be back in the ruins of Hiroshima, choking on ash, wondering where all the people went. Not realizing they were all around me. In my hair. On my clothes. In my lungs."

Gary: "I am so F……ired."

Nate: "Hey Buddy, you ok?"
Gary: "This is the worst Thanksgiving ever."

Mona: "Oh my God. Is that a Kaupe?"

Zari: "You have writers block."
Mick: "No, I dropped a deuce this morning."

Mick: "Meet Garima. Queen of Thanzanon."




Bits and Pieces:

-- I love everything about how they handled Mona here. I was worried that she'd be Damsel-in-distressed, but across the board she had plenty of agency of her own, instantly understood the situation and how to deal with it, and saved the day by delivering the correct food. Bonus points for how respectfully she spoke to the Chupacabra regarding sriracha sauce. Now there's a sentence I wasn't expecting to write today.

-- Gary bringing in the Baba Yaga felt very Angel season five to me.

-- Gary ordering enough food for the both of them and knowing that Mona was a vegetarian was kind of endearing.

-- Tala Ashe's hair was absolutely gorgeous in 1951 Tokyo. Then it was like it usually is back on the Waverider, then it was gorgeous again when they went back to Tokyo. Ditto Sara and Charlie. Which made me wonder for the first time, who does their hair for away missions? Does Gideon have a spa service? That level of hairdressing is neither easy nor quick.

-- Ray's saving Nora at the Renn Fest was a nice little nod to his established love of chivalry. Nice subtle callback.

-- I feel like they're leaning in too hard on the 'Zari doesn't like Charlie' vibe. I know she clocked her a good one and locked her up in the cell, but even so it feels out of character for Zari. I hope they either explore why that is or dial it back.

-- Caity Lotz spent a lot of time doing wire work this week. It looked uncomfortable, but the director made sure that the shots showed that it was really her doing it, which is nice.

-- Somebody involved with this episode really loves Kaiju films, because a lot of this was an open love letter to the genre. Particularly the way Ishiro describes the filming technique for the model shot is exactly how the episode is currently filming the model shot.

-- Constantine mentioned someone named 'Dez' and we got a quick image of a man we might assume to be him. According to the Hellblazer wiki, "Dez Ridley was an old friend of Constantine's that had suffered a great deal of racial abuse because he was black. After John clashed with neo-Nazi Charlie Patterson, Dez was kidnapped and beaten to death." No idea if that's the Dez that John mentioned or if the plotline from the comics has any relation to what's going on with John, but I'm officially intrigued.

-- I think at least one joke toward the end of the episode was a reference to the film Paul.

-- We got a last minute reveal that apparently Hank Heywood is planning to form The Initiative. That's not going to end well. And I was just starting to like him, despite the Biff Tannon 'make like a tree' reference.

A fun episode, if slightly less focused than I usually prefer. I think they have all of the shoes set up for falling when Nate finally finds out about Charlie. Let's get to that, please.

Three out of four boobs.

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.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I enjoyed this one a lot, much more than the camp episode last week which really didn't work well for me. I particularly liked Ishiro and how he expressed his horrible experience through art, Mick's reveal as a writer and his creation saving the day. I even liked Gary and Mona and the escapees, and Ray and Nora.

And yeah. What's with the gorgeous hair? Who is doing it? Even last week, we had Sara's incredible braids. It's not easy to create braids like that.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Omg, weren't those braids amazing!? Honestly, Caity Lotz was born to wear period hairstyles. Is it too much to hope that they'll reveal it's been Mick doing their hair all this time? I'd pay good money to see that episode.