Legends of Tomorrow: Freaks and Greeks

"But please, don’t call us heroes. Call us Deltas!"

The Legends go back to college. And spin their wheels a little bit. But they are, at least, amusing wheels.

I've spent perhaps more time than is emotionally responsible this last week trying to figure out why exactly last week's episode made me so angry. It was fun. It zipped along. It made me laugh a few times. What more do I want out of television?

What I eventually came away with was that it made me angry precisely because it was a perfectly enjoyable hour of television that zipped along and had a few laughs. And it achieved that by embracing all the lazy tropes and plot devices that this show has always so successfully avoided in the past. So we had a paper thin cheesy justification for the setup, and characters keeping secrets in uncharacteristic ways just to draw out the plot, and... well, you can read my review again if you need it rehashed.

The point is, they took all the lazy, easy, stupid ways to make an enjoyable hour of television, and I'm afraid that someone, somewhere, is going to look at the fact that they made an entertaining episode by being super lazy with the details and think, 'Oh, hey. We don't have to work as hard as we have been. This will do just as well and it's so much less effort.' I'm afraid that the show will just start asking, 'will this do?'

So, how does this segue into this weeks adventure?

'Freaks and Greeks' is a hybrid of a couple of different boilerplate set-ups, all of which we've seen Legends do well in the past. Primarily it's a 'We have to do the task to get the thing!' episode. The thing in this case being the plot device chalice that will allow the Legends to use the Loom of Fate and bring their loved ones back. The task in this case being 'Become a valid sorority to enter the chug contest to win the aforementioned chalice.' Previous examples of this boilerplate include 'Amazing Grace' and 'Moonshot,' both of which I have a lot of fondness for.

The other standard Legends boilerplate at play is 'New member of the team has difficulty fitting in until the team is presented with a problem specifically designed to be solved by new person's skill set.' In this case the new member is Astra, and the skill set is 'Don't play by the rules.' Previous examples of this storyline include 'A Head of Her Time' and 'Tagumo Attacks.'

Those are both perfectly fine bones to build an episode around, so why am I left wondering after four viewings how I feel about it?

I think ultimately the answer can be expressed in one specific scene. Dion/Dionysus has told them that they have to play by the Greek system rules to legitimately win the cup if they want it. So Sara gathers the women to figure out how to become a valid sorority by the time of the chug contest that night so that they can compete. Ava starts to point out that just the paperwork alone would never be done in that amount of time, but she trails off and just lets the point go, so they go off, form a sorority, get three new members who all manage to move in to the house, prepare for a big party, be disappointed that no one comes to their big party, and then sabotage Dion's party so that everyone come to their party instead in the time it takes Lita to take a walking tour of the campus.

And I think that scene is really the key. It's the show itself talking to the audience through Ava and essentially saying, 'Yup, there are a million logistic reasons why this is ridiculous and would never work. We're going to ignore them and carry on with the plot, because we'd rather have a fun plotline than logical adherence to university policy timelines. You're either on board or you're not, bro.' This is an episode where Sara saves the day by winning at beer pong. You're going to either meet that sort of thing on its own terms or accept that it isn't for you.

And I totally respect that. They're using their own aesthetic logic for how fast things can happen, but it's obviously a deliberate choice, not just lazy screenwriting. If this hadn't come directly off of an episode that left me so gun-shy about the show's commitment to its own quality, I would have rolled with it without question.

So, I'm sorry, 'Freaks and Greeks.' I was judging you by your predecessor's flaws, and that's not fair.

That said, I do have a couple of criticisms:

- Portraying Frat Bros and Sorority Princesses as vapid and self involved is low hanging fruit. I would have liked a little more complexity and depth for them to be shown as actual people. Of course, Dionysus had that power to make everyone live in a state of ecstasy, so it just about flies.

- The Legends are all clearly in their thirties, which the episode sometimes acknowledged and sometimes ignored. For example, Charlie and Astra at the sorority pledge tea. How did no one ask what the hell they were doing there?

I was worried that the episode was saying 'Will this do,' when the message was 'Are you on board for this?' And I'm OK with the second question.



Everybody remember where we parked:

This week the Waverider hung out at the campus of Hudson University in 2020. They even managed to tie the main plotline into Lita doing a college visit, which meant that Mick felt like he was participating with the team for the first time in ages. Although if you go back and look, his time with his teammates is still fairly limited. Lita bridges the gap and hangs out with the rest of the team which makes it less noticeable.

Nate apparently went to the nearby Brixton University. I have no idea if those are real schools.



Bits and Pieces:

-- When flame impinges of a container of pressurized liquid, eventually the container will reach a fail point and will do something called a BLEVE. (Pronounced Bleh-vee). It stands for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. Now you have that information in your head.

-- For the love of God, will the show ever bother to remember that Nate had severe hemophilia before joining the team? That wacky ladder prat fall would absolutely have killed him. Of course, he was relating the story in flashback, maybe he was just making it up for the sake of a good story.

-- Having Dionysus just show up as a college bro felt very Xena: Warrior Princess to me. I kind of wish they'd tied the chalice to an Encore who just wanted to hang out and party at college.

-- Dion's fraternity was Sigma Psi Phi. Psi Phi. Get it? Get it??

-- I suspect it's not a coincidence that the sorority name of Delta Chi Sigma looks like the word 'AXE.'

-- I really liked that Dion didn't hold a grudge at the end and was cool about the whole thing. Although that did kind of point out that they could have avoided the whole problem by just talking to him in the first place and explaining that they only needed the loom for like three things and then they were going to break it again.

-- Astra's first draft plan was to kill all the Thetas with a carbon monoxide leak. Yikes.

-- I still don't know that I'm down with Astra joining the team when all this is done, although that definitely seems to be where they're going. Other than being a former demon, she doesn't really have a power set. But then, I always loved Anya. What do you all think?

-- I love, love, love, that Zari passed on drinking at the end because it was Haram. I was unfamiliar with the term and had to look it up and now I understand a little more about the Muslim faith, which is cool. Also, I like that they occasionally sprinkle in those moments of Zari being observant in her religious practices. It makes her feel more three dimensional.

-- How great was it that Sara was teaching the new pledges how to throw knives?

-- There's a nice little sub-theme here about outsiders finding their place to fit in to mirror Astra's situation, but it gets buried a little deep in the mix.

-- Minor point, but drinking from the cup wouldn't give you immortality for the day, it would give you invulnerability for the day. You know, by definition.

-- The internet is amusingly split on whether the title of this episode is 'Freaks and Greeks', or 'Freaks and Geeks.'  I think it's pretty clear they intended 'Greeks.'

This dress was amazing.
Quotes:

Sara: "I mean, I’m already a blind, time travelling paragon who can see the future, so… "

Sylvia: "I’m only here as a performance. Notice my empty teacup, a commentary on the emptiness of this charade."

Sara: "Mmmm. The refreshing sound of failure."

Nate: "How cool was that?"
Lita: "Do you have a man crush?"
Nate: "No. It’s unrequited."

Gideon: "Inez Martin. Was voted out of pep squad for being too enthusiastic."

Astra: "Wait… what is a snart?"
Zari: "Oh, it’s when you sneeze and..."
Sara: "Yeah. Let’s not."

Astra: "I am done trying to figure this out with you people. I should have done this my way from the start. So I am taking that chalice by force."
Charlie: "Look, even if you try, that won’t work. You can’t defy a god."
Zari: "And there is no way you’re using the loom on your own."
Inez: "Being a grownup sounds weird."



A fun enough little character piece that's really just killing time until the big finale, but it has its charms if you're willing to suspend just a little more disbelief than you might otherwise be inclined to do.

Three out of five kegs.

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.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Nice review as always, Mikey. I was cringing through Nate falling, too, saying, umm, hemophilia? Were the writers paying attention? I don't like Astra because she seems to have one attitude and one expression; I'm willing to give her a chance for Constantine's sake, but she's so not Anya. And as you mentioned, Mikey, because we apparently think alike :) why on earth didn't Charlie simply sit down with Dion and explain the whole thing? No need to create a sorority or play beer pong. Episode over.

So I guess this one didn't work that well for me.

Robin said...

Yeah, I thought this episode was decidedly average, but out of a pretty stellar-so-far season, I guess that's more forgivable? I think your review is spot-on, there's a lot of missing internal consistency, and that certainly bothers me, but I can't deny that there was some fun stuff. I'm enjoying, quite a lot, Mick and Lita's growing father-daughter relationship. I think it's genuinely affecting.

Fun Easter egg -- in addition to looking like "AXE," "Delta Chi Sigma" is also Greek for "DCS," as in "DC's Legends of Tomorrow."

Josie Kafka said...

I really disliked this episode for a completely petty reason: I don't like wacky fraternity/sorority hijinks.

And Nate, poor Nate, made it worse with his desire to be one of the boys again. It was pathetic to see him trying to relive his college years.

(I keep thinking of your astute observation from a few reviews ago, Mikey, where you pointed out that Nate has lost his two best friends in quick succession. They could have linked his desire to return to his youthful indiscretions to that grief here, which would at least provide some excuse, but it's like they forgot his grief as easily as they forgot his former hemophilia.)

And poor Lita! Her college visit was completely hijacked by a bizarre focus on frats and sororities, even though she obviously felt out of place in that environment. I hope this episode doesn't turn her off of college forever. At least she got to bond with her dad; Mick's little shoulder-pat at the end of the episode was charming.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Billie, I think we're going to have to accept that everyone involved in the show has forgotten about Nate's hemophilia. Maybe we should just start telling ourselves that it got un-happened in Crisis. :(

Astra is definitely not Anya, but I like what you said about giving her a chance for John's sake, and on the shallow but positive list, she looks absolutely stunning in just about everything. How great was that medium taupe asymmetrical sheath number she was wearing for the party? I think there are probably three women on the planet who could pull off that dress.

Robin - Thank you so much, you've put your finger on the thing I couldn't quite see - another reason these last two have been a little frustrating is precisely because the rest of the season has been really, really great. There's the positive implication that I've needed to find!

I cannot BELIEVE I missed the DCS right there in the sign.

Josie - That is such a great idea and would have improved the episode so much, if they'd just tied Nate's sudden regression to bro-status to his loss of Ray and Behrad.

Mick and Lita do have great chemistry. That's been the saving grace of their weirdly split off plotline this season, hasn't it :)

Anonymous said...

John has dated King Shark in a cartoon. I would kinda like to see Legends go there..but fx would be too costly. Oh I like John and Zari fine.
What the ep? Dull except for daddy Mick and Lita's excellent college trip.