Legends of Tomorrow: I Am Legends

"This whole day has been wrong, so why stop now."

Wow.

I did not see that coming.

Right up front, you should know that I haven't seen any of the film versions of I Am Legend, nor have I read the book. So if there's any deeper connection than 'Whee! Zombies!' I'm unaware of it. Feel free to fill me in in the comments.

OK, this more or less goes without saying, but if you haven't watched this episode yet, go do that now before reading any further. As is traditional, here's a picture from Nick Zano's Instagram feed to block a little space before we continue.



Welcome back. Let's talk about what just happened. Legends of Tomorrow just took embracing your theme to the next level, that's what happened.

J.R.R. Tolkien coined (or possibly just popularized, I'm not certain) the term 'Eucatastrophe' in reference to the events of Lord of the Rings. Generally speaking, it's the opposite of catastrophe; a sudden unexpected turn of events in which everything turns for the better.

He was making a broader point about hope, as well as possibly justifying a couple of, shall we say, 'suspiciously well timed' plot denouements, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and focus on the 'hope' part. Giving in to despair, he was arguing, is not merely an error but is in fact a sin. Because it is an assumption on your part that you know more than God does about how things are going to turn out. Therefore, when defeat appears to be absolutely certain – say, for example, the literal Fates are against you – it's still wrong to give up.

I should note, I'm almost certain that I'm badly paraphrasing someone from one of the Lord of the Rings DVD Extended edition appendices here, but in that there are about 35 hours of the things I'm not able to go back and check right now. Thanks to whichever elderly British man said it.

Legends of Tomorrow takes this theme and runs with it further than I would ever have expected this week, and it was bold and fantastic. Astra learns that even if her Mother gets brought back to life, she's still going to have to go through the pain of losing her some day, so why bother. And so Astra gives up hope. My first reaction to this was 'Really? That honestly hadn't occurred to you before?' but hey – she has been in Hell since she was around six, so who knows how developed her concept of 'Death' really is.

Sara, as a counterpoint, spends the entire episode knowing for a fact that she's going to die when they get to their destination, and she carries on anyway. The genius thing about the way they handled this counter-argument to Astra's despair is that we don't even know we're watching it until it reaches the end of its journey and she reveals that she's been quietly encouraging Ava to take on her own authority so that she can lead the team after Sara's gone. And that's why her deliberately hiding her vision from Ava until the end didn't bother me the way that the exact same behavior bothered me back in 'Ship Broken.' Because it was being done for a deliberate purpose to serve the theme of the story.

Also serving the theme, we have Zombies, a literal walking metaphor for the inevitability of death claiming you. It made sense that Atropos could do that, incidentally, as she's got the say so over how long your life span is. I would have liked a little clarification as to whether everyone in the UK had become a zombie, or if they'd all crawled out of graves startlingly quickly, or what, but it wasn't a real issue. The tweak on Zombie lore that they weren't interested in Constantine because his soul is damned to Hell is a little bit odd, as I can't imagine why a zombie would care about that, but again it served a vital plot function of Zari literally accepting death as part of the escape plan and trusting to fate (non-anthropomorphic).

And if your theme is that it's important to carry on and keep trying even when you know for a fact that you're doomed to failure, typically you run into the issue that the audience knows perfectly well that you're going to beat the countdown clock, have that eucatastrophe, and our heroes will unexpectedly prevail. Which is why you probably heard my jaw hit the floor from three counties away when they actually had the brass to just embrace the theme and let the 'doomed to failure' part happen. In this case by not only having the clock run out, but also witnessing the entire team but Charlie brutally killed by zombies.

Yes, they clearly have a giant MacGuffin machine waiting on the ship to fix it all, but that's still a lot braver and darker than most shows are willing to go, and I love that they didn't weasel out of it. Astra and Gary's deaths were particularly shocking and brutal. And dammit, they made Gary actually likeable and a little bit human through his empathy with Astra before brutally killing him. If they'd done it while he was screwing around with the rabbit I would have cheered, but coming on the heels of 'They made you watch your Mom die? Are you OK?' wasn't playing fair.

I love when theme and structure work together, and they nailed that here. I could have watched the scene where they sat around a table in the pub, knowing they're probably about to die, and just enjoying each other's company for as long as they were able to for hours. God bless Charlie for making Constantine get real with his feelings.



Everybody remember where we parked:

The bulk of the team discovers immediately that Astra has disabled the portal to sorority row, and now the front door properly connects to wherever in Northern England Constantine's house is. I don't remember if they've ever specifically said. They appear to be in 2020, and there's no reason to think they aren't. That was actually a really clever use of the plot convention of using Constantine's house's interior as their sorority house.

Gary and The Fates meanwhile tread a lot of water on the Waverider which is just hanging out in the temporal zone. They had to do a bit of gymnastics to stall the Fates from just straight up winning in the first couple of minutes of the episode, but it mostly worked. It's the most useful Gary's felt in a long time, at least. And any chance to see Amy Pemberton actually on screen is always worth the effort.



Bits and Pieces:

-- I get that thematically he had to be part of the slaughter, and that the steel effect costs money, but isn't Nate, generally speaking, kind of zombie-proof? I mean, he doesn't have a time limit for how long he can... ahem... stay hard... Oh God, I'm so sorry about that.

-- Zari and Constantine spent the episode replaying every Rom-Com made in the 80s, and it was delightful. It's interesting how not interested the show seems to be in having Nate be a jealous third wheel there. Are they saving it up, or are they just being mature adults about the whole situation? I'm hoping the latter.

-- Matt Ryan had a very nice new haircut. Pretty much the same but a little shorter. Charlie appears to have changed her hair slightly again. I suppose if you're a shape shifter you just do that. Let's call it the 'Tonks Effect.'

-- I enjoyed the line about Mick not knowing which side of the road to drive on. I assume that was a cover for them driving on the correct side of the road for where filming was going on.

-- I would bet that the bus jokes were a lot funnier if you live in England and have experience of the bus system. Just a guess.

-- We should all refer to the Fates as a 'Cabal of Mystical Seamstresses' from now on.

-- I don't know why this bothers me, and I expect I'm the only one, but again – they are not Immortal for a day. Immortal, by definition, has no time limit. They are invulnerable for a day. Although they can be amusingly injured.

-- It's also a little weird that the zombies can sense that the Legends are immortal and know enough to wait out the clock. And can tell when the clock is going to run out.

-- Similar to Nate, do we know if Charlie can shapeshift into something non-bitable? Like, a big ball of aluminum foil that would just make the zombies' teeth feel all weird?

-- Astra's claim that the sadness of her Mother dying would make all the other good memories meaningless reminded me of my favorite thing that Steven Moffat ever wrote, as delivered by Matt Smith: 'Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.'

Nate just looks right in that hat.

Quotes:

Mick: "So what... now you’re just blind?"

Sara: "You know what? We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna go to London. Because WE are immortal superheroes!"
Zari: "Except for me."
Sara: "Except for Zari."

Lachesis: "Now. Tell me about these prunes."

Gideon: "Well, I could explain, but it wouldn’t matter one bit."
Now there’s a statement of authorial intent.

Gary: "We make an amazing team. We should have our own spinoff."

John: "Well, back in the day, Old man Joe called me about a demon possessed ’75 Fiat. It was a right messy exorcism on a right crappy car."

Zari: "Yep. I’m fine. Just filing this away for future therapy."


There were a lot of flashbacks for me to 'Fellowship of the Spear' in this one, and it looks like next episode is this season's 'Doomworld.'

I can't wait to see where this all goes.

Four and a half out of five free form Jazz sessions. Which, like Sara and Ava, I don't like.

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.

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Mikey, terrific review. You made me laugh out loud at least three times. My favorite bit was the big ball of aluminum foil. :)

I read the book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson when I was a kid, and never forgot it. (I was precocious kid that read everything on my parents' bookshelves before I was eleven.) If you're at all interested, there's a plot synopsis of the book and information about the movies that were made from it on the mighty wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Legend_(novel)

percysowner said...

I too wondered about Nick and how long he could steel up.Especially since they showed the zombies gnawing fruitlessly when they attacked them at the bus. I was also a little confused that the zombies would suddenly decide John was worth attacking. I don't think they actually showed either of them dying, so they could have survived. Mick, Zari, Sara and Ava would be toast however.

I agree about them not being immortal for a day, but I suspect the writers know people know the word immortal and figured immortal for a day would go over better than invulnerable. But then, many years ago I watched Highlander where the Immortals called themselves Immortals and the went around killing each other. I kid of wanted to give Duncan a dictionary, recite the number of friends and enemies that had been killed and point out that no, Immortal isn't it. However calling yourself the really resilient does not have the cachet of "Immortal", so there's that.

Like Billie, I too read I Am Legend many years ago. It is one of my favorite books. It's pretty short and worth a read if you have the time. Not a lot of relation to this episode, but a good book. General consensus is that they have never made a movie that was true to the book.

Billie Doux said...

percysowner, I loved that "really resilient." LOL. And you're right, they've never made a good movie out of I Am Legend.