Legends of Tomorrow: The Getaway

"My friends and I here are time travelers, we’ve kidnapped Nixon and we’re headed to Disneyworld."

The Legends serve up a giant sugary treat to help us get down a couple of awkward bitter pills. They don't need to get to Disneyworld, we're on an emotional rollercoaster already.

See what I did there?

There is a philosophy of screen-writing that, if at all possible, having the protagonist confront their emotional problem should be the solution to solving whatever their plot-related problem might be. See, for example, Craig Owens defusing a spaceship by declaring his unspoken love, or more subtly, Willow's lies finally being brought to light curing the Scooby Gang's amnesia.

It's easy to see this as being formulaic, but really it's just a matter of solid storytelling and remembering to give your narrative an emotional core. With the caveat that if it's done too awkwardly it's a one way ticket to schmaltz-town. See, for example, Craig Owen blowing up Cybermen with the power of father-love.

So, when I observe that this episode of Legends of Tomorrow is a textbook example of solid comedy overlaid onto a situation wherein one character is avoiding dealing with the emotional consequences of recent events, only to pivot to heartbreaking pain and reconciliations as the characters learn to honestly deal with their emotions, that's not a criticism. Doing that kind of thing well is a real skill, and they pull it off here quite well. Again, "Tabula Rasa" is a great example of the all-comedy to suddenly-way-too-real-drama pivot. It's done badly much more often than it's done well, so what we have here is well worth praising.

It helps enormously that the jokes in the jokey parts are pretty much all laugh-out-loud funny. The swallowable bug that makes you tell only the truth is 100% uncut phlebotinum, but it's grade-A phlebotinum, and it leads to Mick Rory confessing his desire to grow out his hair like Fabio, so let's all agree to cherish it forever. The phlebotinum-iness of it is made even more easy to take due to the fact that it's only used to cause Sara to blurt out those hurtful truths to Mona, which drives Mona away from the team. The painful truths that Sara has to confront to fix the situation, in which she both confesses how much she's hurt by the loss of Ava and how much she's failed Mona by not being there for her are all completely coming from herself and her own heart, which gives them genuine emotion and validity far beyond 'magic made me say it' plot contrivances.

The takeaway here, future screenwriters, is that you can only use the phlebotinum for the jokes. The genuine emotional responses have to be just that – genuine. I promise that that's the last time I will use the term phlebotinum in this review.

But we have to also acknowledge something about this episode. All the jokes and the post-breakup heartache and teambuilding are at least partially on display here to help us to get past the one, big, awkward, clunky plot correction that this episode needed to make happen.

This was the episode that needed to make Hank Heywood not the villain of the season anymore.

It will be interesting, later on, to find out exactly when and to what extent the plans for the season changed, but it seems abundantly clear that change they did. The Hank of the first half of the season was an unmitigated bastard, with the occasional moment of charm. He was being built up to be the face of the 'government turns monsters into evil monster soldiers' plotline. At least, it seems reasonably clear that that was what was happening to the monsters. That wasn't a spoiler, just my assumption about what Hank was doing with the monsters when he had them tortured. However, at some point they appear to have decided that Hank needed to be redeemed, and so we do a lot of back-paddling here in a short space of time to justify Hank suddenly deciding to let the Legends go when he finally had them dead to rights in order to make things right with his son.

Now, that's a fair story to tell, and I think they would have pulled it off easily if that's where they'd been intending to go all along. But here, in this episode, it feels very much like a retcon/course correction, and I just didn't buy it. Having the demon Neron in Dez' body kill Hank immediately after his redemption, and setting up things so that Nate thinks Nora killed him, thereby setting up a Nate/Hank rift, just felt contrived to me. I'm sorry about that, because the rest of this episode was fantastic, but there it is.

Still, we shouldn't complain too much over one awkward bit of plot housekeeping. It was great to see all the Legends together, more or less, and a road trip in an RV was just what they needed.

Aim for the horsies!  Wait... .wrong show...

So what have we learned today?

We've learned to stop asking questions, since nobody seems to care about causality anymore. The Legends can watch Nixon's 'incorrect' version of the 'Not A Crook' speech from a future vantage point, then go back to change it so it doesn't happen. But then Mona becoming a were-kaupe in the middle of a restaurant goes totally unnoticed by history, not to mention the theft of an RV and a patrol car.

I don't know, I think maybe I should just enjoy having a show with time travel in it that doesn't get too concerned about temporal physics. As the MST3K them song so eloquently stated, 'If you're wondering where he eats or sleeps, or other science facts/ Then repeat to yourself, "it's just a show, I should really just relax."'

Sound advice.

Everybody remember where we parked.

Nixon's famous 'I am not a crook' quote was from a televised Q & A that was, in fact, at Disneyworld on November 17, 1973. The Legends pick Nixon up pre-emptively in Washington D.C. a few days before that, but apparently Nixon's truth telling was already an observed problem by the White House staff. We hope that after the events shown they got around to going back for Charlie. The running joke of realizing that they'd forgotten her was very, very funny. I'd forgotten her too, the first time it came up.

The Time Bureau still appears to be in 2018, although they didn't directly say so. Zari once again appears to be a conduit between the 2018 Bureau and wherever in time the Legends are at the time. It's just a show. I should really just relax.

Abrupt redemption arcs can be quite painful.

Quotes:

Mick: "What? No Redford? No Sundance. No indie film. No artful nudity. We gotta fix this!"

Gary: "I’ve always wanted to untangle a conspiracy. I’ll need a bulletin board… index cards… I already have yarn, I’ve been getting into crochet."
Zari: "Yeah? Me too."
Gary: "We should start a club."
Zari: "We’ll talk."

Mona: "Grrr."

Agent: "Here that? The truth. Something is very wrong with the President."

Hank: "Siri… Alexa… Gideon! Fire up the ship!"

John: "A bit on the nose, no?"
Sara: "We left subtle back in Mexico."

Mona: "You know, I’ve never been in a car that’s a room before."

John: "Not to bother you, but we’ve lost the ship, drugged the President, and I’m stuck in the back with her."

Sara: "Maybe it’s best if we all just don’t talk."

Sara: "Maybe that’s what family is – the family you don’t mind being annoyed by."



Bits and pieces:

-- The group truth telling scene was comedy gold.

-- It looks like they're definitely setting up Zari and Nate as a couple. Sigh. Oh well, I'll learn to live with it.

-- We finally get a Ray and Mick pairing on their own mission, and we barely get to see any of it. That was disappointing.

-- No Ava this week. I wonder if that was for the plot convenience of Hank being in charge, or if Jes Macallan had another commitment. It was probably the right choice to take her completely off the board while we process things with Sara.

-- Several clever plot details this week. Zari's solution to communicating with the RV and Nate's plan for getting Hank's password were both nicely done.

-- This was the first time they've found a way to use Charlie's powers that didn't make her feel too powerful to be part of the team.

-- Whoever's idea it was for all of them to have changed into t-shirts that read,  'Barnes family vacation – Our family is a trip!' should be given anything they ask for, immediately.

-- John's little 'not really a speech' to Sara was a nice bit of dialogue writing.

-- Having a were-kaupe on the team who retains their personality and reason and who can transform on command kind of works.

-- Despite the way she was set up for being blamed for Hank's death being a little contrived, I like the way they got Nora back onto the board here. I hope they don't go the obvious route with Nate wanting revenge.

-- Did they ever give even a handwave explanation for why Zari is working at the Bureau and not on the Waverider now? I mean, from the Bureau's perspective. I get from Zari's point of view why she's there.

So much funny. So much emotional honestly. Just a little bit of clunky plot mechanics.

Three out of four forbidden red toilet buttons.

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:

percysowner said...

The writers gave a couple of interviews this week where they talked about changing Hank from the Big Bad. The exact timetable wasn't stated, but basically once they got to know the actor, they liked him and then they felt he was bringing an underlying humanity to the character, so they decided to change course. They did say the original idea was for Nate to be "seduced" by his father and turned against the team. The plan changed to having Nate impact his father and make HIM want to change.

I think the Bureau believes that Zari is there because she and Nate are an item. I'm not 100% sure they will get Nate and Zari together. They may just not want to have Nate alone at the Bureau and no other character fits. I mean, Ray would bounce like a puppy dog all over the place and make goo goo eyes at Nora and nobody else would be believable as wanting to be close to Nate. I mean Charlie maybe, but having a magical creature hanging around the Bureau that is kidnapping magical creatures is not a good move.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I have to accept that a lot of my problem with Hank comes from his character just pushing a few of my buttons. I don't see any underlying humanity in anything he's done this year. It's all been about Hank only caring about Hank.

Again, I admit that at least part of this is likely just a my-personal-baggage issue.

I'm pretty sure that part of the plan was to have the Nora situation create a Nate/Ray rift, which would have prevented Ray from being Nate's bureau buddy. I wish they hadn't had to force it in so abruptly here.

You know, it occurs to me how odd it is that this is a superhero show where almost no one ever uses their powers or code names and it almost never matters or seems strange that they don't