Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Legends of Tomorrow: Back to the Finale, Part II

"I really hate clones."

Legends of Tomorrow continues to struggle in what was clearly at some point intended to be the mid-season finale.

Sigh.

OK. Let's get into this.

There was a lot of good stuff in this one. I feel like it's important to start with that, because I'm pretty sure that we're going to get less flattering as the review goes on and I don't want to just ignore the stuff that was good.

The reveal of exactly how we were tricked into thinking that Sara had survived being poisoned by Amelia Earhart was very well handled. The language of visual images as used in television for the purpose of storytelling was manipulated very effectively to point us in the wrong direction, which is a sophisticated trick and deserves to be recognized as good storytelling, even if the story that it's telling us isn't particularly satisfying. Having a character's vision go blurry, followed by their vision coming back into focus in a different location is a TV storytelling standard, and easily conveys the concept of 'character we know has been thrown into an unknown circumstance. In the same way that the establishing shot of, for example, the exterior of The Golden Girls' home can segue directly to Blanche sitting in the living room and we just understand that the living room we're seeing is inside the house we just saw from the outside, and therefore the characters are safe and home.

By revealing after the fact that the Sara whose vision went blurry and the Sara whose vision cleared up later were not in fact the same person was a good example of using the viewers' assumptions about what we're seeing against us. If it wasn't for the fact that the thing they're revealing is so profoundly irritating, it would be a lot easier to appreciate the craft with which they're revealing it.

One of the comments on my review of the previous episode mentioned that Bishop was possibly a worse villain that Vandal Savage back in season one. While I take the general point, I do think that Bishop is preferable in one specific area. Specifically, the fact that his jumping from clone body to clone body means that we've gotten to see Caity Lotz literally beat him to death several times now, and I will never get tired of watching that.

No, the real problem that is ruining this season for me is that they appear to be trying to have their cake and eat it too regarding the question of 'is new clone me still the same person as previous non-clone me'? They continually play the Ava clones as severely limited for laughs, even mentioning that Sara picked 'the right one,' which definitely implies that they're all separate entities. But then they have Bishop shoot his wounded body in the head and step right out of the cloning machine to finish his sentence, as if his soul had jumped neatly to the next body, no big whoop. So, which is it, show?

Disappointingly, Sara seems to be leaning into the same camp as Bishop, only worrying about the additional alien parts grafted onto her and not caring much about her dead original body. If she'd been able to finish cloning a 'clean' (meaning 100% human) version of herself she was prepared to just send that back to Ava on Earth and live out the rest of her days on planet Manbun. Way to casually abandon the idea of the inviolability of the Soul, Sara.

So, if her Ava died she'd be just fine popping back over to AvaMart and picking up a new one? No, of course she wouldn't be. And we as the audience would never accept it. They've spent way too much time verifying the uniqueness of 'our Ava' and her very specific soul. They're trying to have it both ways, and I suspect more and more strongly that it's entirely because someone thought it would be 'neat' to give Sara alien based superpowers and this is how they decided to do it.

But again, Sara with healing powers is pretty neat. It has legs as a story arc. They just had to completely undermine one of the core concepts of the entire show to get it done, but that's cool. Whatever.

Ahem. Let's dial that bitchy meter back to about a four.

The 'Sara with alien in her' concept actually is one leg of what could have been a really interesting triptych seeded through the episode. Sara in the time period of last year's finale is worried that she has darkness inside her that will eventually surface and hurt Ava, and that's why she's dragging her feet on proposing. Sara from the current point in the show's timeline is worried that she has alien DNA inside her that will eventually surface and hurt Ava, and that's why she's dragging her feet on going back to Earth as she currently is. Spooner, in an unexpected moment of actually having character details, is worried that she has some manner of alien darkness inside her that will eventually surface and cause her to hurt her new friends. Those are some really interesting parallels that they could have done a lot with, but they got buried so far down in the final mix that it's easy to not even notice them.

Look, I really want to like Spooner. The brief moments where they remember she's Latina and from Texas, and how a person with that background might look at the world, have been fun. Few and far between, but fun. Slipping effortlessly into Spanish in Cuba, getting way too excited about shooting big guns, those moments have shown a spark of something. But for the most part she's just kind of been there for the season without ever really getting introduced. Which is why this episode should absolutely have been Spooner getting sent in to rescue Sara on her own. She was the only one who hadn't been there the first time around, it's an easy sell for having her go in alone being the safest option for protecting the timeline. Plus it would have allowed most of the episode to be as great as the scene where Spooner accidentally meets Sara in the bar and they really connect. A lot of that scene as it stands is mostly an excuse to recite as many 'official notes off of Spooner's pre-drafted character description' as they can fit in, but the two of them really spark together. And Spooner's smile when she realizes and says, 'Damn, you really are that cool' clearly show that she has the chops to be one of the best members of the crew ever if they could only bother to give her something to do.

Much like Zari was given  'Here I go Again' as an audition piece to sell her character to the viewers, this one should have gone to Spooner.

Which is a good moment to pivot to talking about Kayla. It's worth noting that – as I mentioned last week – they accidentally made Kayla three times as believable a character as Spooner over the space of about an episode and a half. She has great chemistry with Mick that feels completely unforced. She's simultaneously capable of both going to search for him when he doesn't get back in time and also using him as a canary in a coal mine to check if the atmosphere is still poisonous, and neither of those feel like a contradiction. You totally get why she's doing what she's doing at any given time despite that fact that the script has given her almost nothing to build on. Huge props to Aliyah O'Brien, because about 80% of the credit for the success of her character is owed directly to her performance. I really hope that we haven't seen the last of her. It kind of feels like the show hasn't yet noticed what a winning addition she is to the show.

So, I started all this by saying that it seemed an awful lot like this was intended to be the mid-season finale back before the scheduling department decided that there wasn't going to be one, and I think that accounts for a lot of the things that feel rushed here. Bishop's 'upload myself into all the computers everywhere' scheme comes out of absolutely nowhere and exists as a justification for why Sara couldn't make a completely human clone of herself to send back to Ava. But as my current favorite expression says, 'That's a weird hill for you to die on, but at least you're dead.'

They wanted to get Sara back to Ava to end on the proposal, and by God they got to that moment. Fortunately, everything about Sara and Ava's relationship works so wonderfully that the proposal completely worked. For just that moment we're so happy to see them happy that all questions about cloning and the immutability of self can go screw themselves. Which is probably what they were going for at that moment.

My personal guess for the rest of the season? We're going to watch the team starting to notice with increasing discomfort that something is 'off' about Sara. Were I a betting man, I'd wager that new-clone Sara is going to keep her clone-ness under wraps for a while, and that eventually we're going to end up back on planet Manbun, because as much as I'd like to believe otherwise, I can't imagine we're done having to see Bishop. And please, please let us not have seen the last of Kayla.


Everybody remember where we parked:

This week we split time between Planet Manbun and the site of last season's finale, which if memory serves was 1977, month undisclosed. We get a brief appearance of Nate from a divergent future timeline coming back to warn them against going through with their exploding mannequin plan. Yes, that's exactly the sort of thing that caused time to break for literally an entire season of the show, but it's good policy to never care more about the internal logic than the show does, and the show very clearly could not care less.

Future Nate has amusingly picked up the then deceased John Constantine's coat and many of his mannerisms. Zari's response to the rest of the team? 'Just let it happen.' So, nothing to unpack there.

It's worth noting and applauding that the Ava from last season's finale realizes what's going on within seconds of seeing two Zari and John's, immediately tracks them down, gives them a solid talking to about being reckless with the timeline, and resigns herself to getting blind drunk so that she doesn't remember the incident. That's leadership, people.

All of her timeline warnings are things they absolutely should have already known themselves, for what that's worth.


Quotes:

Nate: "Ok. Well. If you need anything… I guess you can ask Gideon. But I’m here for you too."

Mick: "You owe me."
Kayla: "For the sex?"
Mick: "I saved your life."
Kayla: "This for that. Such a human way of thinking."

Spooner: "There were perks to my old life. You know, like never getting attacked by alien Amelia Earhart. Never getting turned into a fork."
Astra: "That was one time."

John: "There is a twenty minute window where we’ll be out of the picture, so to speak."
Zari: "More like a generous ten."
John: "Fifteen."
Zari: "Eight."

Ava: "All of you, back to your timelines. I am not even kidding, that is an order."

Mick: "I see Sara. My oldest friend."


Bits and pieces:

-- I love how cloning tubes always feature tasteful opaque bits to protect the newly forming clone's modesty. Of course, that implies that you have to have both a boy cloning tube and a girl cloning tube.

-- Nick Zano is 43 years old. They are stretching the effectiveness of makeup to its breaking point to make him look like he's still in his 20s. It was only more noticeable here when they were back in punk mode.

-- It was nice to see the Legends actually caring about one another again. Mick and Sara's reunion was just lovely.

-- It was a little odd that Mick and Kayla were both fully clothed literally seconds after having what appeared to be enthusiastic sex. But then I remembered that they established that Mick Rory had those extensive burns all over his body and they'll go to literally any length to avoid his removing any clothing and forcing them to do the makeup.

-- Yet another inconsistency in Bishop's story. He says he picked Sara to be kidnapped to be the basis of his clone army. And that he learned of her from Rebecca Silver's books. Except as far as we know Sara has never even been a mention in Mick's books and Gary flat out said earlier that he was sent to choose the fiercest warrior and he chose Sara. It's almost like the writers are now just randomly retconning things and assuming we won't notice.

-- I really liked the cute insert shot of Charlie playing with her band. I haven't checked, but I assumed that's footage from last year's finale.

-- Speaking of, having the team actually refer to these events as 'the finale' felt a little meta-cute for my taste.


I feel like we're all kind of down on this show at the moment – mostly for well deserved reasons. But Josie mentioned in a comment on the last review that these episodes will probably all fare much better when it's possible to binge them all together, and I fully suspect that that will prove to be true.

Two out of five exploding mannequins.

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.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Definitely better, but still not satisfying. Since they still didn't really explain the soul thing, I kept hoping that the Legends trying time interference would work so that Sara wouldn't freaking die. I also wonder if we're going to be circling back to that later in the season.

And I was also thinking it would be logical if Spooner was the one to save the day. Sadly, no.

Anonymous said...

Lovley review. By mr Manbun, won't miss you. I guess it's our Sara even if she's a clone.
I hope the planet of Avas rescue Kayla. They seem useful.
Spooner and Sara can bond over being part alien.

Josie Kafka said...

I got mentioned in a review! I'm famous!

(Well, internet famous.)

I really love how you call it Planet Manbun, because somehow that defamiliarizes the word "manbun" for me to make it look truly alien.

TJ said...

Legends used to be my favourite DC show...now I don't know.

I suddenly feel that all the actors are bad. Are they tired? Or is it just bad writing?

I don't know...but I feel I am slowly losing this show...:-(

Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

I'm curious if this new Sara has the same soul (and likewise Bishop has as well) if there are never 2 versions alive at the same time? He definitely seemed to make a distinction between him and Sara, and the Avas. Though most (all?) of the Avas seemed to have slight tweaks made so that they had different skillsets. Is there only ever one "nurse Ava" alive at the same time? Is the cloning process different with the Avas so that they somehow all have individual souls, but Sara's (and Bishop's, though he does seem rather soulless) soul finds its way back to her newest body? What would have happened to Sara 2.0 if she'd finished printing her new self?

I'm quite curious if the writers are going to come back to this at all, or if it will all be about the alien side of Sara. Because it does seem awfully convenient that the one person who would be able to see if Sara's soul was truly the same just lost his magic.