Legends of Tomorrow: The Eggplant, The Witch & The Wardrobe

“Mikey! Mikey, Stop!”

Legends continues to ramp up the action as it moves into the final phases of its too short fourth season, and on the way makes the most important statement about relationships that's ever been uttered on genre television.

Have I mentioned how much I love this show?

One of the most consistently impressive things about the way Legends of Tomorrow tells its stories is the way that they're able to take what should be standard, if not cliched, plot set-ups and somehow turn them into something unexpectedly fantastic. Last year, Zari's turn at reliving Groundhog Day gave us the amazing 'Here I Go Again.' This week we get that thing that genre shows love to do wherein one character physically enters another character's mind in order to 'save' them from whatever has caused them to fall unresponsive, and therein finds a world built almost entirely of visual metaphors that help them work through a bit of character development before we get back to the season's larger plot.

So, yes. It's essentially Sara Lance as Willow Rosenberg in 'Weight of the World.' With the small difference that Ava, our Buffy-surrogate in the set-up, is actually able and willing to have a profoundly frank and adult discussion with her inside the, for lack of a better term, 'dreamscape.'

And really, I know that this gets mentioned in these pages a lot, but that's the greatest strength that Legends of Tomorrow has; the way that all of the characters are allowed to behave like rational and emotionally available adults, despite also being time traveling superheroes. It's sure as hell that none of us saw that coming, back in the Vandal Savage days.

Case in point, look at the way that they completely skated past the obvious 'everyone but Ray blames Nora for Hank's death' plotline here. That was obviously what we were being set up for back at the end of 'The Getaway,' and yet within the first couple of scenes this week we have the Legends find out that Nora is on the Waverider, she says 'I swear I didn't kill Hank,' and Constantine essentially responds, 'Yeah, we totally already figured that out. It was actually fairly obvious, and just the tiniest amount of follow-up on our part established what was really going on. We're totes good, Nora.' And everyone immediately gets on the same page on the issue, because they're all behaving like reasonable adults. That is huge. That just doesn't happen on television.

Even Nate only needs to take the smallest of moments questioning whether or not Nora is guilty before he processes what he's being told and accepts it, and that's the one instance in which they could have legitimately gotten away with a character responding in a destructive way because he was responding emotionally to his father's loss. But they didn't go there, and it cannot be overstated what a positive and refreshing example that is to see.

It's particularly clever of them, because of the way that they pulled the rug out from under us at least twice this week regarding the heavily foreshadowed Nate/Ray schism that we were all bracing ourselves for. Nate finds out that Ray has been harboring the woman he thinks killed his dad, and he responds by listening to what his friend is telling him, accepting what he's being told, and reaffirms their friendship. A little later on we see him accidentally punch Ray in what we assume is going to be the beginning of their 'Civil War' style breakup, only to immediately get ahold of himself, apologize, and embrace his friend. An apology that Ray accepts without hesitation, I might add, because Nate's actions were both completely understandable under the circumstances and immediately apologized for.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the world's greatest ever example of positive male friendship. I'm starting to believe that if we can just get enough people to watch this show, we might actually find a way to counter toxic masculinity. Wouldn't that be nice?

All of which is a roundabout way for me to get to the point that I've been growing to realize that it's really the character relationships that make this show. Witness, for example, the curious level of kindness that Constantine shows to Gary when he wants to hold vigil for Ava. Gary, by rights, should be pure dorky comic relief. Constantine, as a character type, exists almost solely to deflate that kind of comic relief character. And yet when push comes to shove, John goes to Gary's D&D nights. John cares about Gary. That's a nice detail. Similarly, it's notable the way that Mick is willing to help out Zari in something as trivial as crafting sexy text messages to Nate. Mick of even two years ago would absolutely not have been doing that.

Which brings me back to my initial point as regards that important statement about relationships. After a truly enjoyable series of sequences in the 'evil purgatory Ikea,' Ava and Sara have some incredibly frank and direct talk about their relationship. And during that talk, they're both so amazingly emotionally available to one another and so willing to be vulnerable with one another. I honestly cannot think of a healthier relationship on television, ever. Not in the sense that they don't have problems, because they clearly do, but in the way that they're willing to acknowledge them, and admit when they're in the wrong. It's messy, and it's real, and I love every second of it. And just when I think it can't get any better, Ava says;

"Let’s be honest, neither of us needs anybody. But you are who I want."

Yes. That. A million times, that. Can we amplify that message about a billion times, until it drowns out all the rom-com 'I need you to complete me' bullshit? Because that would be wonderful.

Be more like Nate and Ray, people.
So what have we learned today?

To stop including this section in the reviews, because trying to condense a logically consistent universal rulebook of how timeline changes work in this fictional universe is absolutely nothing compared to what we should be learning from the character relationships. Also, clearly no one involved in the show is worrying about it.

Everybody remember where we parked.

This week the Waverider pretty much stayed where it was in Washington D.C., 2019. At least, it logically must have been since Zari could send texts to that year, and Ray bounced back and forth between the ship and the Time Bureau.

Sara, meanwhile, went to actual literal purgatory to rescue Ava's soul. Purgatory, in this case, being an obvious Ikea knock-off called 'Megastor,' complete with umlaut.


Quotes:

Ray: "Hey Sara! Great news. Hank was killed by a demon!"
Nora: "'Great' was not the word he was looking for."

Ray: "She’s not a liability. She’s a survivor."

Sara: "You two are with me. (To Zari) Woman the ship."

Gary: "Conspiracies, embezzling, paper trails. I feel like Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich."

Nate: "If this is my dad’s mistress I’m gonna jump out a window."

Sara: "Ava, if you check out, you die."
Ava: "Well that’s kinda on the nose, isn’t it?"

Charlie: "Being honest, wind powers– just not that scary."
Mick: "Yeah, you’re like a magical hair dryer."

Nate: "Yeah, hi. We’re looking for Mr. Uh… Mr… T."

Zari: "I don’t even know why I’m talking to you two about it. You don’t even date humans."
Mick: "Love’s love."

Nora: "I know how hard it is to watch someone you love become a demon."
John: "Yeah, well too bad there aren’t any Beebos around to hug it to death."

Mick: "Here. Use words. It’s erotic, but vulnerable."


Bits and pieces:

-- Yes, I realize that they were actually in purgatory, where her soul was currently stuck, but all the semiotic rules at play here clearly were working on the understanding of 'dreamscape.'

-- So apparently Neron wanted Ava's body to host somebody called Tabitha, I assume she's his demon girlfriend.

-- The trope of the bad guy having a favorite whistle-tune so that we can identify what body he's jumped into later is super clich├ęd and tired. I still didn't see it coming that he'd end up in Ray though.

-- You should absolutely never pay less than $800 for a mattress. Under any circumstances.

-- It's not clear what actually happened to Nora in that ritual. Are she and Ray going to end up as Tabitha and Neron? I'd be down for that.

-- Absolutely nothing about Hank's magical creature zoo makes sense, and he certainly wouldn't have needed a demon's help to set it up. I hate everything about that plotline, with the exception of Mikey T, who is awesome.

-- Zari, Charlie and Mona giggling about texting boys shouldn't have been charming, but was completely 100% adorable.

-- Dirty secret time, I adore assembling flatpack furniture. Honestly, it's my favorite thing in the whole world. I'm not kidding.

-- The effect of aging and de-aging as they sat on the mattress was really nicely done. A very clean low tech solution which worked well.

-- I'm actually really surprised at how quickly Mona has begun feeling like a natural part of the team.

A really good episode with a lot of really positive things to say about adult relationships, both romantic and otherwise. I just wish it hadn't involved the stupid magical creatures zoo plot, because it's stupid and muddies the waters as to what Neron actually wants to accomplish.

Three out of four flatpack dressers.

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:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Des is alive, but poor John. Zari/Nate feels forced.
Ava and Sara-aww. I liked that. Great review.
mazephoenix

Robin said...

"You want fire? I gotta guy that does fire, I mean, fuhgeddaboutit..."

Mikey T is my favorite part about that entire storyline, also. A construction guy that will happily accept a nine-year-old's crayon drawing as guidance for a major government contract is okay in my book, as well as possibly a candidate for Honorary Legend.