Legends of Tomorrow: Swan Thong

"What do you think they would want? More choices, or a lifetime of peace?"

Everybody say it with me together – this should have been two episodes.

Man, what a great two-parter this should have been. It makes me wonder again why the series order was reduced from sixteen last year to fifteen this year. Reasonable money is probably on the added cost of the Crisis crossover. If only we'd seen the global pandemic and collapse of society coming to take out the last couple episodes of everybody else's seasons, maybe things could have been different.

And well. 'Wish in one hand...', as they say.

This is probably a relevant starting point to talk about this episode, as so much of it is about the struggle between accepting safe predestined outcomes and being allowed to make your own choices and live with the possible negative consequences of them. Or, to put it a more scholarly way, is the price of free will worth the cost of tragedy? Would you be willing to wipe the Beatles White Album from existence if it would bring Sharon Tate back to life?

These are some seriously deep waters, and seeing as how the entirety of human scholarship hasn't yet managed to comprehensively solve them, it shouldn't come as any surprise that an hour of time traveling superheroes don't really settle the matter once and for all either. What is surprising, however, is how willing they were to acknowledge the complexity of the question.

To take an example, when Charlie makes the point that if they suddenly remove Fate and restore free will to everyone on Earth, there will be panic, chaos, and widespread loss of life, she's not wrong. And the show doesn't try to convince us she is. It just lets that huge, messy, uncomfortable truth sit there for a bit.

At what point are you comfortable causing the loss of human life in order to restore the chaos of free will? Are you willing to let 100 people die? 1000? 1,000,000? And on the other hand, how many people need to live in total subjugation in order to prevent the deaths of a small percentage? Are a million lives worth the end of all free will and progress for the human race? Are 100? Is one?

We're coming dangerously close to me using this as an excuse to go on for way too long about Utilitarianism versus Categorical Imperative again, and nobody wants that, but it's worth taking a second to appreciate that they didn't try to gloss over the difficulty of the question. And those sorts of discussions almost never feature a cameo by Sisqo.

Yo, Yo, Yo, Cisqo here to talk to you about Deontology!

Appreciation for the theme duly acknowledged, this is definitely two episodes welded together. Part one we have the Legends set loose in the world as the Fates have remade it. Interesting detail there, the Fates didn't retroactively change history a la the Monks from Doctor Who. They merely had everyone wake up one morning with the world like this, remembering how it used to be. And then set about convincing them how much pain free will causes. Again, not an untrue argument on its face. Once the Legends see how the world is, they go to the Fates temple, and with reasonably little fuss destroy the loom and kill Atropos, a.k.a. the fate nobody really cared about. End part one.

Now, if that had been the entire part one, we might have had time for a couple explanations. Such as, how exactly does Astra's memory of her mother destroy the loom? How exactly did the loom envelop Atropos and kill her? Why did the Legends completely forget about Mick and leave him behind without anyone even mentioning it?

All of those things feel like they have aesthetically reasonable answers, but we aren't given any time to explore them. They just are. Sara's powers being 'part of Atropos' kind of explains how she can usurp Atropos' powers and kill her, but we're really left to do a lot of head cannon work here before the Waverider makes its jump a few months into the future. Just imagine how great a cliffhanger it would have been if they spent the episode destroying Atropos and the Loom, jumped those months forward, and found that nothing seems to have changed. That would have been great, and wouldn't have left that whole first section feeling so rushed and unexplained.

As for the second half, I loved a lot about it. The hall of bad ideas was a wonderful idea, and I immediately started to come up with a list of things that should be in there. Twitter, just for starters. The concept of the Legends having their final climactic battle against Encores using flowbees and shake-weights is something no other show could pull off. And the fact that Nate spent the battle just dancing to the 'Thong Song' while waiving cans of Red Bull was a delight. Then, just as the fun is winding down, Charlie shows up to complete her character arc, bringing with her a convenient hoard of Encore killing weapons. And again, not to keep harping on it, the reveal that Gideon had been suborned into being a fake 'loom' so that Lachesis could hold onto control would have been a killer second act curtain pull in a 'part two'.

A word about Charlie's character arc. I don't really follow behind the scenes stuff, so I had no idea that Maisie Richardson-Sellers was actually leaving the series. But in hindsight, I think they crafted a really nice, complete character arc for her. She started as a punk to whom rebelling meant cutting off ties from everyone, particularly family. Then she found a family who accepted her for who she was. Then this new self actualization was tested by her being brought back under the control of her original family who did everything they could to break her and bring her back under their control. Which they succeeded in doing for a time. Charlie is truly broken for most of this episode. But then a reconnection with her found family brings her to the realization that the only real way to move past the abuse your family has given you in the past is to find a way to forgive them – not for their sake, but for your own – and move forward without them.

That's actually a super tight character arc, and it was really well paced across our two seasons with Charlie. I'll really miss her.



Everybody remember where we parked:

This week we were in 2020, and then a few months later in 2020. It would appear that everyone remembers about being controlled by the Fates and willingly gave control of their lives over to a watch app for a few months after that. There was no re-writing of history, and no memory wipe as far as I could see. It's probably a good thing the other shows had wrapped by now. I can't imagine how they would manage to either acknowledge or ignore this.

'Well, our plot function is done, so we're leaving!' - almost actual quote.

Bits and Pieces:

-- It was wonderful how adult everybody was about Zari Tomaz and Zari Terazi being fundamentally different people, and that everyone was clear that one was sleeping with Nate and the other with Constantine, and there wasn't any jealousy weirdness about it. It would have been so easy to get easy drama by having Nate jealous of Zari 2 and Constantine, but he was a stand up, emotionally available adult about it the whole way through. God, I love that about this show.

-- I really loved seeing Zari 1 again for awhile, although I get why they let her go in favor of exploring the new version more. I read an interview where the showrunners acknowledged that it was only the effects costs and additional technical time required to do composite shots that kept them from keeping both Zaris around. The costume change time for Tala Ashe alone would probably have been a nightmare.

-- They're leaning heavy into the 'Wonder Twins' thing with Zari and Behrad. Well, we know Gleek exists in this universe, maybe he'll join the crew. I wouldn't hate that.

-- I would have lost a ton of money betting on Behrad not being around after this season. I'm happy to have been wrong.

-- Astra got the ending I was hoping for Gary. That was a nice out for her. Not sure about her punk hair, though.

-- Nate, however, totally pulled off the guyliner look at the end.

-- And as long as we're being shallow, Charlie's shoes in the opening where she's walking across the courtyard were simply stunning.

-- Also shallow, I can't really see how it was necessary for Nate to have his shirt off in order to steel up and be a superconductor, but thank you, show.

-- Astra's guilt over allowing herself to abandon memories of her mother in order to survive with a new mother figure was very, very well handled.

-- I still don't want her on the Team as a regular, but damn, Mick and Lita have just wonderful chemistry together. And Lita was the perfect choice for 'speech giver who brings Charlie around.'

-- I really, really hope that Sara's abduction doesn't mean that we aren't going to see Caity Lotz for ages and ages after the new season starts. I lived through season eight of The X-Files once already. Please don't put me through that again.

-- Having Courtney Ford there as Marie Antoinette felt a little like rubbing salt in a wound, given how her and Brandon Routh's exit went down. Also, still not really fair to the real Marie Antoinette.


Quotes:

Worshiper: "Why? Are they tired from the crossover?"
Atropos: (sternly) "What is a crossover?"

Lachesis: "Ambitious villains are the product of the chaos you birthed."

Zari: "Sara, I’ve got eyes on Charlie Fate, and Hippie Mom Fate. No sign of psycho Fate."

Ava: "Uh, what are the chances that everyone’s watches got a weird update in the last four months?"
John: "I’d say one in a monkey’s ass, love."

Ava: "First up – The Hall of Bad ideas."
Nate: "Ray has that suit."

Ava: "Is it weird that I’m offended that we’re only number two?"

Gary: "Two words. Octopus’ Garden."
Charlie: "Gary... No."

Lita: "You gotta get over yourself. So 49% of life is crappy? Fine. 51% isn’t. And that’s the 2% worth fighting for."
Charlie: "And how can you be so sure."
Lita: "Because I am that 2%."

Nate: "Now I get to remember the woman I love forever. No regrets."


And so that's a wrap on another season of Legends. All told, this was an above par season with a lot of great stuff. Next season, space aliens! See... natural lead in to introduce Gleek...

The first part I'd give a three, and the second a four and a half, so lets average it out and say...

Four out of five heartbreaking farewells.

See y'all next season.

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:

Anonymous said...

Wish Zari 2 was the one who had to leave, gonna miss Zari 1 so bad!!!

Billie Doux said...

Anonymous, I agree. I want Zari 1, not Zari 2. I guess I'll just have to keep telling myself that deep down inside, they're the same woman.

I'm also glad that Behrad made it. Maybe his death simply became too predictable, and they don't do predictable. And I'll also miss Charlie, although it's arguable that her character arc is pretty much wound up, pun intended -- as you said, Mikey.

Billie Doux said...

And Mikey, congratulations on reviewing another season of Legends. You're doing a terrific job. Never leave us!

Mikey Heinrich said...

I would saw off my own leg before I left you, Billie :)

And for the record, I would rather have zari 1 as well. But as long as we have tala ashe I'm good :)

Josie Kafka said...

I also miss Zari 1.0, but I'm really happy Behrad is sticking around.

The showrunners did a podcast with the actor who plays Gary ("Before Tomorrow") and said that they had to cut 16 minutes from this episode after filming. I'm curious about those 16 minutes.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Interesting. I wonder if they fleshed out that first half.

You know, with all the other shows cutting the last couple episodes and them having that extra footage, you'd think they could have done a special 90 minute long season finale just to make things up a little.

I know, TV doesn't really work that way. But I can dream :)

I'm finding comfort in the thought that Zari 1.0 is always right there in the totem. They could easily find a way to visit her if they wanted to. The totem doesn't allow texting, but maybe it allows conjugal visits?