Legends of Tomorrow: Romeo v. Juliet: Dawn of Justness

"This totally sucks. But I love you too."

OK, I admit it. I cried.

There's a thing in writing known as a 'Message from Fred.' This is generally when the writer finds themselves unintentionally commenting on flaws in the storytelling within the story. Usually this is something along the lines of 'The door burst open just like a tired movie cliche.' What it typically means is that you know deep down that something about what you're writing has problems and your subconscious is doing its best to let the rest of your brain know about it.

This episode didn't contain messages from Fred so much as extended sequences wherein Fred pressed the pause button and calmly and reasonably laid out the underlying thought process as to why they were writing Ray off of the show.

As I tend to say in at least every other review of the show, that shouldn't have worked at all, and yet it did.

Mainly it worked because the argument they were making was actually well reasoned and perfectly legitimate. I'm still not at all happy to be losing Ray from the cast, but the argument that denying characters a definitive ending is actually doing them a disservice is both reasonable and valid. Anyone who's seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has to at least grudgingly acknowledge some truth there.

We get multiple conversations throughout the episode on the importance/difficulty of endings and change, the most conspicuous of which is Ray sitting down with Shakespeare to really beat to death the underlying metaphor. When you have characters exchanging lines like 'Endings are necessary for growth,' and 'If you truly love the characters, don't they deserve a great ending?' you've pretty much left subtlety behind.

So, as of the end of this episode, Ray is gone. And Nora as well, but this was really all about Ray. The show basically outlined why it felt the need to cut him from the show, clearly and articulately. You can either agree with their reasoning or not, I don't know that it's my place to tell you how to feel about it. But they at least explained their thought process and are embracing the change.

That all said, how did the episode itself work, behind-the-scene machinations aside? Really well, I thought. They made the right choice of firmly making this one about Ray saying goodbye to Nate, opening with that framed picture of them together and ending by explicitly tying their relationship to that of Romeo and Juliet.  And a side note, how wonderful was it that they explicitly cited Ray and Nate as Romeo and Juliet and allowed them to express their love for one another without even a hint of tedious 'no-homo' bullshit. That's honestly the thing I'll miss most with Ray gone; the one example I can think of on broadcast TV of two emotionally available straight men loving one another.

Right, before I get all misted up again, let's talk about the rest of the episode. The way they separated the team into the boys squad and the ladies squad is an old trick, but worked well here as they parlayed it into dueling bachelor/bachelorette parties. Similarly, having the guys sit around talking about their feelings while the gals party hard isn't a new joke, but I still laughed at it. Also, Charlie naturally pairing with the guys was wonderful. Plus it allowed them to pre-emptively lampshade the obvious complaint that everybody would be making about Shakespeare not using women as actors. 'Is that a man?' 'Does it matter?' Nicely played.

Structurally, we get a bit of a cliched start with the 'glamour girl monopolizes the bathroom' gag, but it was a perfectly serviceable way to ensure that everybody but Nate knew that Ray was leaving. They very nearly overplayed the running joke about other team members prompting Ray to tell Nate, but didn't quite. The bits we got to see of Shakespeare's great superhero epic were pretty funny, and I would totally watch the Avengers style mashup play William described, although I feel like Puck would be more of a Loki villain than a team member. I'm just saying.



Everybody remember where we parked:

The guys took time couriers to London, 1594. Dates on when Romeo and Juliet was written are a little vague, but it's generally thought to have been some time between 1594 and 1596. It was first published in quarto in 1597. Interestingly enough, Viola is from Twelfth Night, which wouldn't be written until 1601, Puck is from Midsummer Night's Dream which wasn't written until 1595, and Hamlet is from Hamlet, which wasn't written until at least 1599.

So what we've learned is that Shakespeare had Marvel level forward planning going on.

The ladies, meanwhile, held book club with glitter and strippers on the Waverider in whatever year the sexy fireman was from.

I know which party I'd rather be at.



Bits and Pieces:

-- Apparently the encores have all been dragged back to Hell for eternal torture, going by the disappearance of Marie Antoinette and the jars full of Rasputin. I'm genuinely disappointed by that. If nothing else it means that there really wasn't any point to having Marie played by Courtney Ford other than giving her something fun to do for a couple weeks.

-- The mysterious woman who appears to own Hell's pawn shop is again just credited as 'Coin Maker.' I'm calling it now, she's totally going to turn out to be one of the other two fates, right? She's apparently a sort of surrogate mother to Astra.

-- We all thought 'Dumbledore's Penseive' when we saw the big vision fountain, right?

-- So Charlie disguised all the pieces of the loom as rings, which is visually convenient, and now they're our plot coupons for the rest of the season. That feels disappointingly like the totems and the pieces of the spear of destiny. And hey look, another message from Fred, the show mentions that in the dialogue.

-- God bless them for holding on that final shot of Nate and Ray hugging and crying.

-- Where do we suppose Zari got that Pony?

-- My heart broke into a million pieces when Ray left the picture of he and Nate behind.

-- I don't know that I ever needed to see Mona again, but she does have an interesting amount of authority over Mick that nobody else really has. And her message that Mick has made other people's lives better was sweet.

-- It's a little weird that Sara wants the loom to solve their encore problem when we just found out the encores were all safely back in Hell. Isn't that problem solved?

-- Nate's plan to steal the ring was the most beautifully stupid thing I've ever seen. I can't imagine how much crew time was taken up just setting up the Elizabethan Mission: Impossible sight gag.

-- The look on Matt Ryan's face after Sara attempted a Cockney accent might be the single greatest visual this show has ever produced.

-- Matt Ryan and Tala Ashe clearly both have some serious Shakespearean chops. I would totally go see them in a production. Preferably of The Tempest, that one's my favorite.

-- It was weird that John wasn't at the final toast to Ray's memory.



Quotes:

Sara: "Nuh uh, You know the rules. No MacGuffin talk until after I finish my coffee."

Zari: "Good morning, good morning, good morning!"
Charlie: "Damn, she looks good."

Sara: "The thing about book club is, uh, we don’t really talk about books."
Mona: "Because book club is magic!"
Nora: "What she means is book club is a place where you can hang out with your friends and talk about your problems."
Mona: "And eat tiny crackers!"
Sara: "And drink."

Mona: "Shakespeare is writing superhero plays?"
Sexy Shirtless Fireman: "Oh, that’s gonna be a problem."

Charlie: "Um. Une question, le capitaine?"
Sara: "What?"
Charlie: "Are you sloshed?"
Nate: "Follow-up question, why is there glitter on your face?"

Nate: "Let’s go, sexy firefighter! Go on, git!"

This episode was a lot of fun, even if it did suffer from a couple instances of lazy plotting and a few messages from Fred that they should have heeded. It exists to say goodbye to Ray Palmer while explaining to us why we're saying goodbye to Ray Palmer, and that's just what it did.

Three and half out of five lost Shakespearean classics. Your mileage might vary if you're having problems with Ray leaving.

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.

6 comments:

percysowner said...

I will say that I have been pretty MEH on the Zari/Nate pairing. It's fine, but I'm not particularly feeling it. However, I did get quite a bit of chemistry between Zari and Constantine. They probably won't go that way, but for me they really sparked.

Josie Kafka said...

So, have we just encountered a Zari/Constantine ship? Because let me be the first to declare that I am, all of the sudden, shipping them hard.

I really enjoyed this episode, although the whole bit about Shakespeare not knowing how to end Romeo and Juliet drove me a bit crazy, since he was working from a fairly intense amount of source material.

Robin said...

I could absolutely watch Tala Ashe and Matt Ryan do Shakespeare all day. They both have a fair bit of experience, and it shows.

Personal headcanon: Sexy Shirtless Fireman is an ex-Time Bureau Agent who switched to stripping after the Bureau closed down, which is how he knows if your tachyon scrubber needs servicing. Ahem.

Ray Palmer tweeted out that Courtney Ford offered to be written off the show if it would allow him to stay. In case we weren't teary-eyed enough.

And, just for fun:

SONNET 5x07

But soft, what legends came to play last night
In London town fair did they grace our screen
To bid adieu to Raymond, sweet and bright
And sweet bride Nora (from our quarantine).

A wild farewell, well worth the time, mine eyes
Believe, with meta moments small and great
The bach'lorette, on her book club relies;
The Atom, on Time Bros, warlock, and Fate.

As last week gave Nora her center stage,
The spotlight shone on Ray and Nate this time
A love 'tween Man of Steel and Man of Rayge,
To break it apart may seem no small crime.

For never was a story of more woe
Than Ray and Nora's bitter, sweet sorrow.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Allow me to enthusiastically jump on board Team Zanstantine!

You're right, I had it down to just the Romeo and Juliet scene, but they did really spark personally, didn't they.

Josie - That exact same thing bugged the heck out of me as well

Robin - There's more of a connection between sexy firefighters and time travel than most people expect :)

And what a lovely sonnet. Really well done!

Mikey Heinrich said...

I can't believe I didn't think to mention this is the review, but I really liked that they gave Ray and Gideon a nice moment to say goodbye.

It must be strange being Amy Pemberton, after all, she's worked with Brandon since the very beginning just as much as Sara.

Billie Doux said...

I really enjoyed it. The bits of Shakespeare in Love, the wonderful Romeo and Juliet performance, the Book Club party. But I am most certainly not happy about losing Brandon Routh.

Loved your review, Mikey. But then again, I always love your reviews.