Legends of Tomorrow: Hey, World!

"Yeah, this innocent moment where kids aren’t afraid? It’s resonating with people."

I'm not crying. You're crying.

Apologies, this is a long one. I had a lot to process.

So, that was season four of Legends of Tomorrow, that was.

I've been wrestling with how I feel about this one for a few days longer than I wanted to due to an internet outage, and I'm still not entirely sure, outside of the fact that it absolutely made me cry at least twice.

I think, ultimately, the season four finale felt much less focused and more sprawling that last year's 'The Good, The Bad, and The Cuddly.'  That's not necessarily a bad thing. 'I'm not sure where they're going with this' is one of the holy grails as far as audience responses go, but only if you're also communicating the impression that you, the showrunner, do.

It might be useful to compare this year's finale with last year's in terms of one specific aspect. Specifically, how they both used the various plot coupons from the earlier episodes of the season as plot elements in the season's resolution. In season three, the main 'phlebotinums' of the season were the six totems, and of course Beebo. The season was structured around introducing those seven items, and then showing us how they could be combined correctly to resolve the season's villain. And it involved a giant stuffed animal on demon ninja fight, which was awesome.

The fact that it was the combination of those earlier plot coupons that resolved the issue made that resolution feel nicely focused and the natural ending for the season. And further, because they had the solid structural underpinning they also could also bring back Helen of Troy, and Blackbeard, and a random Viking or two for a fun callback. They had already demonstrated that the callback references to previous episodes were there for a justifiable purpose, which meant that they could throw a few frivolous ones in without hurting anything.

This season's callbacks felt much less structured and integral to the final resolution, and so they felt a little more gratuitous.

This kind of dovetails into the real problem this episode has, and it's one that you might have heard me mention before. Sing along in the back if you know the words; This should have been three episodes.

Because what the show was clearly interested in getting to was the big final showdown between the abstract power of fear and the abstract power of love. Which is great, and once they got there was fabulous. I swear I'll get around to saying positive things in a minute or two. Everything after Nate creates the circus using the book from 'Tagumo Attacks!!!' is paced perfectly. The eventual sacrifices were both foreshadowed to the exact right degree and were staggered with precision, the onset of Zari's tragedy coming right where it should at the moment we'd begun to exhale after Nate's resurrection. However, that good pacing comes in at about halfway through the episode's runtime, prior to which we'd been sprinting flat out to get all of the pieces in place for the final confrontation as quickly as we possibly can.

So, in the space of the first few minutes we go from Neron wanting to rule Hell as his motive to Neron wanting to collect fear, which kind of undercuts the clever terms of service reveal last week, but whatever. Then he apparently overthrows the Triumvirate anyway during the commercial break, as John speaks of it to Astra as a fait accompli. Then he doesn't want the fear itself, per se, but wants to use it to open a gateway to Hell so that they can come here for him to rule.

That feels like three solid end of episode reveals that we could have been wowed by over the course of three individual episodes. Because the evolution of his plan doesn't not make sense, if you follow me, it just evolves way, way too quickly to track well, and clearly only matters to get that final pit opening scene in the circus properly set up.

And hey, on that note, one of those three episodes could have been the 'Mick stealing the book of Brigid back from the Time Bureau' story that we were robbed of here. Honestly, they literally cut from Ava saying 'That will be super hard to steal' to Mick walking in holding the book saying, 'No, I totes already stole it, lets move on with the plotline.' That's just profoundly lazy plotting, and I get that it wasn't their fault, and that they didn't have any choice because the reduced episode count was never going to allow time for 'Mick-sion Impossible,' but it jars badly in context. And damn it, I totally just gave them the perfect episode title for it. I demand that they film it and include it as a DVD extra.

It honestly feels like they zipped through the first half of plot mechanics at least partially because they wanted to invest a lot of time setting up season five and it came at the expense of the season four wrap up. I specifically refer to the whole thing with the soul token/coin thing. As the episode was unfolding it felt like they were spending a lot of screen time setting up the mechanics of Hell's soul exchange which could have been time better spent telling the story at hand. At the conclusion, of course, we get the reveal of Astra and her menagerie of stolen coins, setting her and them up as the villains of next season. Which is, to be fair, a cool premise. Notice that we only saw a handful of the names on those coins, which means they can still turn out to be just about anyone. Dare I hope that the name Damien Darhk turns out to be on one of them?

Okay. We've danced around it long enough. Let's talk about Zari. First off, a big acknowledgement of how wrong I was in my review of the last episode where I mentioned that they were probably never going to get around to addressing the whole future dystopia thing. No, turns out that they were going to use its resolution as one of the foundations of season five. I should have had more faith. Second, a big shout out to percysowner, who opined in the comments thread last week that perhaps Zari would imprint on the dragon and that would undo the future dystopia. If you're reading this, percysowner, I publicly acknowledge that you read that situation much better than I did.

I genuinely thought they were killing off both Zari and Nate, I honestly did. I clocked the Nate/Constantine swap exactly when the show wanted me to, which was a satisfying and heartbreaking payoff to the Neron situation. It worked because Nate sacrificing himself and John telling Nate about the deal so that he would make the choice to do so is just so entirely on brand for both of them.

Also on brand; Zari leaving the safety of the ship to be with Nate when he died. Their final embrace before she faded away was a truly heartbreaking moment. I totally take back my earlier misgivings about their relationship. Similarly touching, Nate's farewell conversation with Hank in the rafters. I'm on record as not being a huge fan of Hank, but setting that aside, the callback to his James Taylor moment was well judged here, and I'm happy for Nate that he got that little bit of closure. Oh, and that he gets to still be alive.

So, Zari is out there somewhere living her life never having met the Legends, and in her place we have her brother Berhad, which explains why they went to such extraordinary lengths to get rid of the necklace earlier and turn it into a manly fitbit of power.

One parting thought on this change, as heartbreaking as it feels right now. Zari as we know her has left the show, but Tala Ashe has not. Apparently the Zari they find next season is going to be very different. And let's not forget that we're only a few months away from Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which all of reality is going to be put through a meat grinder and reformed on the other side. I have to believe we haven't seen the last of Zari.

Caity Lotz' impression of Melissa Benoist - Hysterical, and just a little bit mean.

Everybody remember where we parked.

This week we were all about Washington D.C in 2019 and Hell. Assuming that those are in fact two different places.

Insert drum snare.

Quotes:

Ogre: "Ha ha! Ogre wins again!"
Mick: "Cheating bastard!"

Calibraxis: "Who the hell are you?"
Nora: "Really? The dress doesn’t sell it?"

Nate: "I would have said ‘Zari, Zari, you smell like calamari’. … Bullying is bad."

Astra: "Nice sparkles."
Nora: "Nice shoulderpads."

Ne-Ray: "We will make Earth Hell again."
Subtle, show.

Mona: "Stay calm, they smell fear."
Gary: "What if fear is my natural scent?"

Mick: "Give it back when you’re done. Buck and Garima’s sexual odyssey is far from over."

Zari: "Guys, I feel like that would have worked a little bit better with the real trinity."
Sara: "Yeah, well, I asked and they said hard pass."
Nate: "We should have done the crossover."

Vandal Savage: "Oh, I love those groovy guys."



Bits and Pieces:

-- It's a little hard to believe that all the magical creatures are down with behaving themselves now. Mike the Spike inside the puppet Stein was a serial killer, after all.

-- Also, is it just me or did the Legends just let all of the magical creatures just sort of wander off between the show and the dragon battle? Are we just not worried about them anymore?

-- It makes sense idiomatically in the US, but John Constantine wouldn't have phrased Nora using her fairy powers to get into the demon vault as 'poofing her way in.' That would mean something very different in the UK, and kind of implies that she'd somehow be getting into the vault through the magic of gay sex. Which is magical, sure, but not in a way that would be helpful in this situation. I don't know, maybe he was just going for an oblique 'fairy' joke.

-- It was fun seeing Vandal Savage and Ray bonding over Jenga, but again I kind of wonder if that wouldn't have been time better spent elsewhere.

-- It was a bad idea to bait and switch people into coming to Heyworld thinking it would be all about superheroes. I wish they'd handled that a little better.

-- Why did Mithra the dragon, who sadly never got to know the name Wixstable, turn back into a baby after eating Tabitha?

-- Nora and Gary now have the same kind of power symbiosis that Jax and Stein had, when you think about it.

-- I like them, I enjoy Wolfie, and I've enjoyed most of their plotlines this year, but it wouldn't break my heart if Mona and Gary had transferred to the Cleveland branch before the beginning of next season. We just have too many people. That's one of the reasons I believed they'd killed Nate.

-- We're all on the same page that only Mick, Sara, and Ray are non-negotiable members of the team, right? Like, I'd miss Nate, but I'd get over it.

-- How famous is Ray Palmer, exactly? Last year he was obscure enough to be working at Upswipes, and now he's working senate sub-committee hearings.

-- Lovely little cameo by The Monitor, just chilling back and eating popcorn at Heyworld.  That's a little less momentous than his other finale appearances, but it was a nice reminder that the Crisis is looming.  Also, it was funny.

Magical creatures?  Oh, I'm sure they'll be fine.
A big, sprawling season finale with lots of good bits and a little less focus and time to breath than it could have used. That kind of sums up season four as a whole, actually.

Three out of four James Taylor sing-a-longs.

And that brings us to the end of another Legends season. It's been a blast as always, see you all in the fall, when I hopefully will not have two other shows also running at the same time that the Waverider takes off.

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.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Mikey, fabulous job carrying three shows at once! Not an easy thing to do and you've been doing it well.

We're on the same page, that only Mick, Sara and Ray are non-negotiable. :) I thought Brandon Routh did an excellent job as Neron the villain. And I really enjoyed the Vandal Savage moment. I also thought they did a good job integrating Courtney Ford into the cast. And in fact, liked a lot of this finale, it was set up really well, and Zari's fadeout really got to me.

But I just couldn't get past the Tinker Bell James Taylor moment. Did they have to do that?

percysowner said...

First, thanks for the shout out!

Mithra didn't grow up on his own, it was the (former) Fairy Godmother's spell that made him a big dragon, just like she forced Charlie into becoming first the Senator and then the monster from Tagumo Attacks. Once the FFG was dead, the spell ended and Mithra went back to being his own age. He will probably be HUGE when we see him again.

I can't explain why the monsters didn't just mass escape during the dragon fight, but maybe Nate put a compulsion for them to stay in part of his dreaming up HeyWorld? Or they figure it's better than being sent back to prison? I'm just handwaving here.

I know they really did need one more episode to explore getting where they got, but I LOVED the Vandal Savage cameo. I laughed the whole time. It's just such a Legends thing to do.

Yeah, Sara, Mick and Ray are indispensable crew members. I too could do without Mona and Gary, but they have made Gary a necessary part of Nora's powers and I don't see him freeing her any time soon, so I think he'll stick around. They also seem to love Mona a lot more than I do. The souls from Hell make me think Constantine is going to be back, and since I like him I'm fine with that. I've been reading all the interviews and no one has stated whether Berhad is going to be on the Wave Ride next season. It could get crowded. My quick guess is Berhad dies and the Totem is inherited by Zari, but who knows.

LOT is still one of my favorite shows. They have managed to keep it delightful on a shoestring budget and with few episodes, so I'm hoping for another good to great season. Since they didn't announce it was the last season and since the ratings are pretty much on par with the rest of the DC shows (minus Flash) I think we will get a season six as well.

I'm looking forward to your reviews next year.

Anonymous said...

I looked at the coins and the names I saw were: Genghis Khan, Lizzie Borden, Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy. Hmm..not sure if Jack the Ripper was there, but maybe. Are the legends going to chase serial killers? Is this Criminal minds? Nah.
Sara, Mick and ray are my core legends too. Charlie can stay. I hope Zari comes back. Since time travel is involved I assume she will.
Great review as ever.
mazephoenix

CoramDeo said...

*completes furious binge-watch of the season on Netflix*

Loved this season. You're right, Mikey, that all these characters now act like rational, mature adults. That really is something we don't see on TV often, and I would never in a billion years have pegged Legends as a show to do that back when it started. Heck, I was still a reluctant fan only a year ago.