Legends of Tomorrow: Meat: The Legends

"We already have a bite, so to speak."

The Legends deliver a pretty solid 'early in the season arc-establisher' episode.

We're not going to talk about Dominic Purcell.

Clearly something is going on with Dominic Purcell at the moment, based on his Instagram account. I'm not going to go anywhere near discussing it here, but for what it's worth, just knowing about it made me enjoy this episode less. And if you're not following the situation, do yourself a favor and wait until after all of season six has aired to google it. I doubt it will affect the show as broadcast in any way (at least for this season) but it does spoil a little of the fun.

That said, what's going on with the Waverider this week?

We continue to split screen-time between Ava and the team in one storyline and Sara and Gary in the other. They're connected by the narrative fig leaf that Sara has been abducted by aliens and so is on the other side of the universe, while Ava is trying to get Sara back by following up on all of the aliens that Sara accidentally released into the timestream last episode. This is.. OK. I guess. I like that Ava is clever enough to recognize that Sara must have been behind all the aliens being scattered through time, ergo tracking down the aliens scattered through time might lead her back to Sara. That's a solid connection and gives the main crew motivation to go seeking out all the time displaced aliens beyond just 'because that's kind of their job.'

On the other hand, the whole set up of 'lead character separated from the rest of the team for most of the season' is incredibly frustrating. I don't know if it's just because the exact same thing is happening over on Supergirl at the moment, or because we just suffered through half a season of 'lost Iris' on Flash, or because we just all remember how bad season eight of The X-Files was. Regardless, it's a frustrating trope. And yes, I get that in at least two of those cases it's almost certainly a COVID workaround to keep cast members as safe as possible. That doesn't make it less frustrating to watch.

Which is too bad, because most of what we have here is really good. Or would be if it wasn't for the thing that entirely spoils this episode. I refer of course to – the pre-season advertising.

What we have, as scripted, performed, and directed, is a slow and skillful series of reveals that starts with 'There is an alien somewhere in 1955 and we must find it before the pre-destined massacre happens.' Then proceeds to 'Alien has something to do with this hamburger stand,' and 'Alien appears to be attacking people to eat meat,' before finally going in for the big reveal that 'Alien is actually in the sauce everybody's eating which is making them crazy to eat as much meat as possible so that they get fat so that they'll make nice post-pupal stage snacks.'

Which is a really fun series of well scripted and well directed reveals, culminating in a genuinely clever 'Oh! That's what's going on' explanation.

None of which we got to enjoy, because literally all of the ads for Legends of Tomorrow for weeks now have been clips of this episode with people saying, 'The alien's in the burgers!', 'People are eating the alien, because it's in the burgers!', 'The special sauce is alien goo and is the explanation of the mystery that this episode spends two thirds of its run time building up to!', and in one notable clip, 'Don't bother watching this episode because we're going out of our way to completely ruin the part that actually tells a complete story so you'll really only get to be surprised by the Sara and Gary stuff which doesn't go anywhere or pay off in any way this week! Maybe instead see if The Golden Girls is playing on some other station! Who am I kidding, The Golden Girls is always playing on some other station!'

OK. At least two of those are an exaggeration. But not by much. And now we're all imagining Ava saying it anyway.

This is just infuriating, as you can tell by the fact that I'm ranting about it. Rachel Talalay's direction is absolutely perfect (which is no surprise, as her work pretty much always is. If you're not familiar with her work, think of the episode you liked best of any given genre show for the last ten years or so, go to IMDb, and you'll find that she directed it. Also Tank Girl.)

Sorry, I'm a bit of a Rachel Talalay stan. Did I use that term correctly?

Ahem. As is traditional in any new character's second story, Spooner gets to be the one who both figures out what's really going on and kills the giant not-at-all-Mothra alien of the week. The culminating moment when Ava hands over her laser gun and agrees to let Spooner kill the thing was a nice, understated resolution to this week's tension between them.  Ava is unwilling to accept that her plan to find Sara by tracking down the aliens and tracing them back to their point of origin is highly unlikely to work. And honestly, it's hard not to agree with Spooner on this one. Does Ava suspect that all the aliens are going to have been microchipped at the intergalactic PetSmart or something? But I get it – lost love, desperate to cling at any hope of finding her, reaching for straws, etc. etc. It makes sense for Ava to be acting like she is, just like it makes sense for Spooner to be arguing against it. The two actually make a really nice counterbalance with one another. I wonder, as they say, which side of the buffet Spooner prefers to dine from. Are they setting her up to be a romantic hurdle between Ava and Sara?

And speaking of Sara and Ava, I like that Ava is really struggling to acknowledge her sort-of engagement with Sara. That feels very real and human.

The other main plotline bubbling under the surface during the earth portions of the episode involves Behrad and Zari finding their balance as co-totem bearers. I like that they finally addressed how Behrad feels about his relationship with 'Dragon Girl' growing up, but not as much as I liked how adult they were with it. It bugged him, it affected how he responded to situations in his life where he got to experience being appreciated for his own merits, and it's just not that big a deal to him anymore. Like a mature adult, he understands it about himself, is able to talk about it without any real emotional toxicity, and doesn't particularly feel that way anymore. It's just a part of what made him who he is, nothing more. Certainly nothing that taints his relationship with Zari now. These two really feel like brother and sister at this point, and I'm kind of loving it.

That said, and as much as I like the ultimate result of them each having their own air totem now, showing Zari 1.0  literally just hanging out inside the totem like she was on I Dream of Jeannie was kind of stupid. I mean, we got to see Zari Tomaz again and that's never a bad thing, but still. Kind of stupid. I'm happy with the end result though. And while we're talking about this kind of thing, the alien/windshield wiper gag was also kind of stupid. I mean sure, I laughed out loud at it. And yes, it was a nice quick shorthand to re-establish what the season long plotline is. But seriously. Kind of stupid.

Which leaves us just Gary and Sara to talk about. OK, I showed my hand on this one a little earlier. Most of their conversation were background details about Gary's home planet and previous life as an alien, and I just can't be bothered to care about any of it. It looks like they're basically giving him Lorne's backstory, which just makes me miss Andy Hallett. Then we get a random dog wearing a bandana who lures them back to Amelia Earhart's bungalow, except she's either a robot, or hypnotized, or a super fast alien with tongue stingers, or something.  Whatever she is doesn't get explained because they just sort of run away from her and don't pursue the question and now Sara's got some kind of poisoned arm wound and they're surrounded by unexplained lights, the end.

Look, it's fine to introduce things and not explain them. That was literally the entire raison d'ĂȘtre for Lost. But you have to communicate to the viewer that it's on purpose. Some sort of the message has to include the codicil 'You're not supposed to understand this yet,' and I just didn't get that vibe from any of the Amelia Earhart shenanigans. Maybe I'm being too harsh. Let's circle back on it in a few episodes. I will say, I really loved when Sara took a moment to consider whether they could bring Amelia Earhart back to Earth and came down on the side of 'Sure. What the hell.' That was a cute moment.



Everybody remember where we parked:

The Waverider and most of the crew went to San Bernardino, 1955 for a little alien hunting/eating. This episode inspired me to look up the history of San Bernardino as it relates to the fast food industry, and it's pretty interesting.  The episode itself references outdoing those 'brothers' a couple of times which turns out to be a pair of brothers with the last name 'McDonald' who owned a successful barbeque restaurant in town. I personally knew nothing about the history of the McDonalds chain beyond it having something to do with a guy named Ray Kroc. It turns out that it's a pretty interesting story. Thanks, episode.

Meanwhile, Sara and Gary land on a planet about which all we know is that it's not Gary's home planet of Plineax 19. We're told that they've crashed on the planet of whoever it was that hired Gary and his ex-fiancé to go out and bring back the fiercest creatures in the universe, which explains why Gary picked Sara over Ava. We don't have any idea who that person might be. Was it the thing pretending to be Amelia Earhart? Whoever was carrying the lights at the end? The dog? I'm sure we'll find out.

'What's even happening to me this week?'


Bits and Pieces:

-- Not a lot of Mick this week. His stealing a cop car would have been funny, if everything about Mick didn't make me sad right now.

-- Exactly what's in that neotropic herbal supplement Zari is hocking if it's strong enough to knock out meat-crazed zombies?

-- Gideon is having a super sassy morning. Not only does she make the joke about getting a 'bite,' she also illustrates the massacre in the city with a very graphic splash of viscera on the screen.

-- Contrary to what he says, Nate's shorts are not nearly short enough.

-- I like the whole buildup to the 'Secret origin of Big Belly Burger,' but is it weird that a young, female, woman of color employee in 1955 has the power to hire the Legends to work there on the spot and just take over the business after the alien attack? Power to her and all, but that seemed unlikely given the time period.

-- They've fixed Behrad's characterization issues from last week, I was pleased to see. Must have just been a case of 'season opener broadness.'

-- It was a little weird, structurally, that they didn't tell Spooner right away last episode that there was nothing in her brain to remove, nor did they make a big deal about telling her in this episode. It felt like just a 'Oh, we ran out of time to mention it in the last script and you kind of need to know it for this one' moment, which is a little sloppy.

-- Why did she choose the name Spooner? Was she a huge heroin enthusiast or something?

-- Definitely got a leading plot thread regarding Spooner's mom's disappearance. Who wants to bet we see her before the end of the season?

-- So far I'd describe Spooner as a 'Half Mick Rory, half Zari Tomaz' hybrid. I'm not hating it.

-- No Astra this week. Isn't she a regular now?

-- I love that John's only concession to wearing period clothing was swapping his shirt and tie for a polo.

'This is as 'disguise-y as I get.'

Quotes:

Ava: "Mm. No, I would have gone with ‘Suburban Slaughter.’"
Nate: "Save it for the podcast."
Ava: "This is good news."
Spooner: "Y’all are dark."

Sara: "Three moons. Three moons. Yeah, I can get behind that. But a dog, that’s weird."

John: (In a cheesy southern (American) accent) "Any gruesome eviscerations?"

Behrad: "Let’s go meet the meat!"
Zari: "How did I get here."

Spooner: "You sure? Because I never saw a man so mad for meat, and I grew up along our nation’s storied buffet belt."

Spooner: "So, you just rattle off this hooey and magic happens?"

Bert: "Well, people don’t eat burgers and fries to live longer."

Spooner: "What does that look like to you?"
John: "I don’t know, Mr. Beeman’s midlife crisis?"

Nate: "Well, it looks like doomsday is finally here, and it’s ordered the burger."

Sigh.


I would have really loved this episode, if the marketing department hadn't decided to completely ruin it. But it feels churlish to punish the episode itself for that.

Four out of five bandana wearing space dogs.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.

8 comments:

Mikey Heinrich said...

Sorry for not getting this up earlier in the week. Quite honestly, the whole Purcell thing has had me so bummed out that the thought of re-watching this to take notes on it made me sad.

I'm working very hard on letting go of that.

Billie Doux said...

This might have been my least favorite episode ever. Sadly, I kept comparing it to "Doublemeat Palace" and finding it lacking. And what on earth was happening with Amelia Earhart? It made no sense whatsoever.

Mikey Heinrich said...

That is a low bar to not clear

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the tweets but I suppose they might be as bad as some of Adam Baldwin's. Way to ruin Jayne for me, dude.
Also there's the allegations against Noel Clarke, Mickey from Doctor Who and John Barrowman. Barrowman's apology felt hollow, "tomfoolery" is not what you did man. If you haven't seen all this maybe wait until you can take it. I am sad that all my heroes are assholes. Sorry, I know there's good people too.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I've been thinking a lot about the Adam Baldwin comparison too

Josie Kafka said...

This episode did not work for me at all. It lacked the usual punchiness of a Legends episode, some of the line-readings were just weird...the whole thing felt totally off.

Mikey, I think your observation about splitting the lead character from the team is really astute. It also made me think about how perhaps that's part of the problem: should Legends really be a show with a "lead" character?

Don't get me wrong: I adore Caity Lotz and what she's done with Sarah Lance. But Legends shouldn't be "Sarah Lance & The Groovy Legends." Too much focus on Sarah might be why some of the other characters are turning into caricatures.

Robin said...

Just watched this episode tonight!

I generally dug it, but I get what people are getting in that it hangs together a bit crooked. Solid character beats, a lot left insufficiently explored or explained, etc. I see they finally got the rights cleared to the Godzilla roar, two seasons later.

I'm also in a similar boat with regards to Dominic Purcell. I have stronger negative feelings towards Baldwin (effing Gamergate, man...), but it's all the lower third of the barrel. Still, if for all his toxicity, Purcell's net contributions to the show end up being storylines about (a) a macho criminal finding his passion as a romance novelist, and (b) a deadbeat father making amends with a teenage daughter, then kudos to the writers for pulling something nice out of the character despite the actor.

RandallJosephSmith said...

I liked the episode for the most part. The Amelia Earhart thing was weird. Also weird is Sara assuming that because she saw what looked to be a dog outside meant she could breath the atmosphere. If it was in fact a dog and she knew it then it’s safe to assume that. But they’re on an alien planet and they Sara has seen shapeshifters before. How could she not have considered if the dog was an alien in disguise? Her assumption could have easily gotten her killed. I’m torn about Zari. At first I really loved it, and part of me still does, because I thought her second departure last season was it for that version of the character. Her appearance here indicates she could continue to show up for short spells from time to time, and maybe find a way to re-enter the real world. But another review for this episode brought to my attention that if she could hear Zari 2.0 and Behrad arguing then it’s logical to assume she can here anyone near the totem all the time. She has to constantly hear the friends she can never see, and probably doesn’t get much peace and quiet. But I guess it could be worse. I hope she gets out of that situation ASAP though.