Legends of Tomorrow: Egg MacGuffin

"I’m sorry that our first date got ruined by Nazis."

The Legends of Tomorrow episode title game is really on point this year.

Forgive me in advance if this is overexplaining, but I'm not entirely sure how well known the terms are and it's going to become relevant in a minute. If you already know the terminology better than I do, and I'm sure many of you do, I beg your indulgence.

A 'MacGuffin' is the term for a plot device that exists solely to provide motivation to the characters in a story. The example that's most often cited at this point is the titular Maltese falcon statue in The Maltese Falcon. This is a subtly different thing than 'phlebotinum,' which we discussed a few episodes back. Generally speaking, phlebotinum is a made up thing that facilitates the character's journey, for example, polyjuice potion. A MacGuffin is a made up thing that motivates the character to make the journey, for example the sorcerer's stone. Or philosopher's stone if you live in a country where the publisher wasn't afraid of accidentally teaching children the word 'philosopher.'

The real takeaway is that Legends of Tomorrow has now given me an excuse to explain both of those terms, and regularly allows me pretentiously discuss semiotics, and is therefore the best thing ever broadcast. But I digress.

The genius of this week's episode title is that the golden egg that Nate and Zari are looking for at the Adventurers Club is unequivocally a MacGuffin with no significance of its own beyond that (at least this week).  In fact, part of the plot of that storyline explicitly involves Nate and Zari questioning exactly that point, and they come to the conclusion that it is a MacGuffin that Sara planted just to give them an exciting first date. Which is clever because it isn't a MacGuffin within the story we're watching, but it absolutely is a MacGuffin from the outside perspective, and you know it might actually be possible to be too clever about these things. Whatever your personal tolerance for post-modern narrative gameplaying, I really enjoyed it.

Now, in the past I've complained a bit here and there about the fact that the Legends' reduced number of episodes in a season often makes them condense what could be two or three episodes worth of plot into one. I'm not sure if I've just gotten used to it or if they're getting better at it, but I've really begun to enjoy the fast, breezy clip at which these episodes move. Nate and Zari are really just doing an extended Raiders of the Lost Ark homage, and a nice zippy pace is essential for that kind of romantic adventure fiction. The Ark of the Covenant itself, while we're speaking, is another classic example of a MacGuffin. I'm certain that was not coincidental.

In any case, I think I'm pretty well sold on the Zari and Nate romance, and I think it's down to one particular moment in this episode. When they realize that Sara has set them up on a romantic mission, Zari offers to call it a night and return to the ship, and Nate says, 'Or we could see where this mission takes us.' What he's clearly really saying is, 'Hey, I'm open to exploring whatever this is going on between us if you are, but there's no pressure.' I don't seem to go a week without mentioning how refreshingly adult the characters on this show are.

In fact, part of why the aforementioned fast and breezy pace felt so appropriate this week all around is because the show has romance stories on its mind. We have Sara and Ava, thankfully post-argument, making an effort for one another in the little ways. We have Mick and Charlie at Romanticon, attempting to cash in on Mick's authorial alter ego, Rebecca Silver, without actually having to reveal himself to his fans. Which is so completely on brand for both of them that I loved every second of it. God bless Mick, both for actually caring about his fans and for being willing to admit the fact when pressed.

Then finally we have my current relationship on the show, Ray and Nate. I realize I went on a bit about this last week, but I just can't say enough about how great their friendship is. Thank you, whoever on the writing team made the decision that Ray would give up his soul to Neron in order to save Nate's life, as opposed to Nora's. Neron said he would make Ray kill someone he loved in order to break him, and the show went with Nate as that person. Is it possible to platonically 'ship a couple? Because I am totally team Palmwood.

That was an unfortunate first attempt at a couple name. Please leave alternate suggestions in the comments.

Which leads me to the painful part. There were a number of little clues as to what was coming for Gary, but I really only noticed them in hindsight. When Sara is discussing who the murderer could be in book club, she mentions that it must be the dogwalker because of his pent up frustration and being treated like a doormat. The shot transitions from her to the next scene halfway through the line, which means we're hearing her but looking at Gary. The subplot about Vincent the Adventurer's assistant is basically a mirror of Gary's position. And Gary is clearly crying in the bathroom – a thing that he had just told us he often did – when Ray calls him and he drops everything to go help.

Gary Green, on paper, should not work as a character. He should come across as a caricatured doofus, occasionally good for a comic relief moment. But Adam Tsekhman invests him with something undefinable and real, and he just fundamentally works as a tragic figure despite all the reasons that he shouldn't.

Also, whoever planned out that Gary's nipple returning from Hell would be the final temptation that makes him give in to Neron is a mad genius and should be our leader now.



Everybody remember where we parked:

The Waverider did some proper time travel for the first time in what feels like ages and took most of the team to the Adventurers Club, 1933, in order to retrieve that golden egg. Mick and Charlie, meanwhile, take the jump ship to Romanticon, 2019. Gary uses his time courier to flit between 2019 and the Waverider, and Neron and minion-Gary appear to lift Damien Darhk's old time travel stone from Constantine and use it to leave for destinations unknown.

Remember when time travel seemed like an exclusive and exotic thing?


Quotes:

Sara: "Honestly, with Neron gone, catching fugitives has never been easier. I thought it was gonna take all week."

Zari: "It was that awkward, huh?"
Sara: "Even the mummy thought it was awkward."

Nate: "Excuse me, my good man, could you point me to the nearest facilities? I have an urgent need to… uh... relieve my bowel."

Nate: "Wait. Trip wires. This is going to require one of us to squeeze through these trip wires, maneuvering our bodies in unexpected ways."
Zari: "Are you asking me to do that?"
Nate: "No, I’m asking you to hold my coat."

Ava: "Honestly, I usually just drink rose and let Mona go on and on."

Gary: "I may not be a master of the dark arts, but I am an intern of the dark arts."

Ava: "Were you guys about to hook up?"
Zari: "No. no, no, no, no."
Nate: "It was definitely on the table."



Bits and Pieces:

-- This show just doesn't do misunderstandings for dramatic effect. Nora immediately told John that Ray was possessed as soon as she woke up. Neron repeatedly goes out of his way to clarify that he's the one doing evil things, not Ray, even when it would really be in Neron's best interest to let the Legends think otherwise, thus driving them apart. That might be the thing I appreciate most about the writing.

-- It seemed odd at first that Mona didn't already know about Mick being Rebecca Silver, but on reflection it makes sense.

-- Loved the Garima cosplay at Romanticon.

-- How many books has Mick had time to write by this point? I mean, I suppose time travel would help with that, but I lost track of how many different titles they mentioned. I particularly liked Raw Hides.

-- Mick's final speech to the con about how all anybody really wants is to feel a connection was a lovely piece of writing, well performed. And a hell of a good underscoring to what was happening to Gary at that moment.

-- I get why they didn't do it, but it would have been smarter for Charlie to have shape shifted into a neutral third party to portray Rebecca. That said, I adored the Rita Skeeter vibe she had going on with her outfit.

-- Outside of the Rita Skeeter vibe, we also had phoenix feathers and a dragon egg. I'm sure there were a few other Harry Potter nods that I missed beside those. Anyone?

-- And speaking of the egg, it's a neat bit of long term plotting that what was just a MacGuffin this week is clearly set up at the end to be relevant to a different plotline later.

-- It's entirely in character for John Constantine to be rude and speak to Gary like that in a moment of stress, but the whole sequence of events felt sadder to me when I thought about the considerate way that he sheltered Gary's feelings last week.

-- I've noticed that they've gotten into the habit lately of consistently leaving someone on the Waverider to 'Quarterback' the mission. That's not only hugely useful for splitting up the characters and facilitating different schedules, it's also a really sound battle tactic.

-- Note added after the writing of this review. Apparently 'Egg MacGuffin' is the official name of this sort of thing as cited on tvtropes, and not an original pun coined by the writers here. Ah, well. Still a clever title for how it was used here.

I loved this episode from beginning to end.  How can we only have three more left?

Three and a half out of four, and the only reason it's not higher is I suspect I'm going to need a higher number to go to in the next few episodes.

Feel free to mention your favorite MacGuffin in the comments.

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...

You can totally ship platonic ships. Palmwood sounds good.
Wow poor Ray. And poor Gary.
Very busy but fun ep. Would have been better as at least two eps though.
Great review as ever.
mazephoenix

Billie Doux said...

I'm finally caught up and I enjoyed this one. I liked the Raiders tribute. Liked Mick owning Rebecca Silver at the Romanticon, and Ray giving up his body to save Nate. (Palmwood is probably the best portmanteau name, although I also like RayHey.) But I'm also feeling a bit disconnected from the show this season. I also don't care at all for Gary or Mona.