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

Legends of Tomorrow: Bishop's Gambit

"Imagine what you could have done, if you used that knowledge for good, instead of this."

No. Just no.

But not the 'no' you probably think I'm talking about.

Quick story-time confessional before we begin. I watched this episode while it was being initially broadcast. This is something I'm usually not able to do, because I get up ridiculously early for work these days, so by 7:00 PM central time on Sunday nights I'm usually already in bed. Yes, I know, I am a rock star.

Last Sunday, however, I spent some quality time in the evening visiting with my good friend, Mr. Vodka Gimlet. This led to me staying up past my bedtime, which led to me deciding to watch Legends as it aired, which led to me watching Legends through what one might politely refer to as gimlet-vision. Or, alternately, as 'too drunk to really retain a lot of the details of the episode.' As a result, all I really remembered about the episode was that I hated Bishop (still), and that last shot, about which we'll talk shortly.

The end result being that I've spent this entire last week dragging my feet on re-watching it in order to review it, since the only things I clearly remembered were the things I hated.

The moral of the story of course is that you should never let your opinion of something be negatively affected by things you only half remember. And that it's a mistake to drink on school nights. Also, 'Buy American,' but that kind of got buried in the mix.

Oh, the things I hated about this one I definitely still hate, and we'll be going into some detail why they're terrible in just a moment. But there's good stuff going on here as well, in addition to some interesting slight of hand in the storytelling that I think might be indicative of where all this is heading. What I'm saying is, it's all right to acknowledge the skill of the stage magician, even if you spend his entire act wanting to punch him in the throat.

Let's start with the entry level irritating. The 'John has lost his magic powers' plotline. Despite the credit I gave them in my last review, we now find that no, they are indeed going full bore with the 'John's hiding from his team that he lost his magic powers! Wacky mishaps ensue!' storyline. Now, I've mentioned on more than a few occasions on here that one of the things I like best about this show is that they don't usually lower themselves to that kind of lazy bullshit trope. It's a cheap way to generate drama when you don't have the skill to generate it through actual storytelling, and I will never, ever not hate when they do it.

Particularly in this case because it both A: is actively putting the team in danger and the mission in jeopardy, and B: it makes no freaking sense, story-wise. The rest of the team was right there when Astra activated the singing spell that swept away all the magic. Sure, they weren't in on the details at the time, but it's not going to be hard to explain it to them given what they were there to see first hand. So he has all the incentive in the world to just be honest with them and absolutely no reason at all to hide the information. But no, we have to endure this bullshit 'hide the obvious secret from my team' cliché just because somebody in the writers room thought 'wouldn't it be super cute if Constantine had to cover up the fact that he'd lost his powers?' No. It's not cute. It's lazy bullshit. Just no.

Next up, we have the 'let's just throw that good idea away' category. Gideon being installed on an old cathode ray TV set is a really interesting idea. It's visually cool. It has a lot of story potential. It opens up a whole lot of interesting speculation about how AI would interact with the tech of the mid 20th century. I was fascinated by it the moment they threw in the old AOL dialup noises from 1997.  And then they brought the Waverider back to Earth so Gideon could just move back to exactly where she came from, because why would we want to pursue an interesting new paradigm.

Similarly, I was really looking forward to a stretch of the season in which the Legends figured out how to function from John's house. Once they had Gideon set up and found the first alien in history, I was all in on seeing how the new setup was going to work for them. Similarly, I was interested in spending time with Mick and Kayla together out on their own. (That one at least it looks like we're still going to get.) But again, one admittedly impressive tracking shot of John seeing everyone in his house and a bit of sanitarium cosplay later, we again just throw that idea away. See previous snarky remark about new paradigms. Just no.

Which segues into what I'm starting to realize is the underlying problem with this season so far.

The members of the Legends of Tomorrow have really degenerated into a bunch of oblivious, self centered dicks.

We saw it last episode when they just barged into Astra's place and immediately started demanding that she take care of all of their needs without even bothering to ask how she was. We see it even more clearly in this one, in that opening shot when they've all just made themselves at home, breaking other people's guitars, setting up random death traps in other people's houses without discussing it first, and not leaving them any tea. It's played for cutesy laughs throughout the episode as opposed to 'phenomenally thoughtless behavior.' I get the argument that I'm taking it too seriously, but just stop and think for a moment. Would they be acting like this if Stein was there? Or Ray? Hell, even Zari 1.0 would have by this point said something along the lines of, 'guys, this isn't cool.' With Sara gone, it's like the last portion of the team psyche that contained 'consideration for others' has been removed, and they're all suffering without it. And I'm not enjoying it. One last time, no.

It's actually an interesting study of how Nate's basic personality functions when he's being influenced by Behrad, as opposed to when influenced by Ray. He's still the same guy, but Behrad's 'just chill and respect the vibes' influence brings out a much more thoughtless version of Nate than Ray's 'be as good a person as Ray believes you are' influence did. If Ray was there, Nate would have at the very least apologized to John for breaking his guitar.

OK, let's get to the big last minute reveal. The whole deal with Bishop is revealed to be that when he dies he's already got a clone of himself just waiting in the lab to be activated, one clone after another. In this manner, he never has to die. Obviously this leads into a whole discussion about the existence of the soul, which Bishop is clearly way too big a hipster douchebag to ever have on his own, but in a way it's not a million miles away from the long standing Star Trek transporter discussion. Is creating an entirely new version of you still 'you'? Is the transporter just a big killing machine that makes good copies at the other end of the beam? Did 'Heaven Sent' confirm in its own weird way that the Doctor doesn't have a soul?

It's an interesting philosophical question that has no chance of being solved either in the real world, in this review, or on the show, but it's clear that the show intentionally wants us to be thinking about it. Because after setting up the issue as an interesting philosophical meditation concerning whether a new clone of Bishop is still Bishop, they go and rug pull us with the information that the Sara Lance we saw dying last episode wasn't cured by Bishop at all. When we see her wake up in her cell, she was in fact just a newly cloned copy, and the previous body of Sara Lance has been dead in the next room this whole time.

So, now the philosophical debate about the legitimacy of identity has suddenly become very personal, as they tend to do once somebody you care about is actually suffering consequences from it. Is this new Sara, 'Sara'? Will the series really just throw the old body away and carry on like nothing happened? And now we see why they went out of their way to include the AVA clones as Bishop's staff, because for several years now both we and the show have been resoundingly clear that no, you can't just get a new copy and say it's the same person. That's not how identity works. 'Our' Ava is special, and just getting a new one isn't an option. Ergo, new Sara is by that reasoning also not 'Sara' even though we've been tricked into thinking she is for an episode and a half or so. Or is she?

This is entering some interesting conceptual space, and I'm interested to see where it goes. As to the question of new clone Sara v. previous dead Sara, I'm not overly worried. I can't imagine that they aren't going to find a way to bring back the original model by the end of the season. If for no other reason than Sara Lance is a beloved character in the Arrowverse, and you don't just offhandedly kill off someone that beloved without making a big sweeps week (or season finale – see Zari 1.0) deal of it. So, despite the fact that the memory of the image of Sara's corpse kept me from re-watching this for nearly a week, for this part – yes.

Ava is excused from the accusation of being thoughtless. 
She has a lot going on.

Everybody remember where we parked:

We start off on the planet of Douchey Man-Buns. Time period and spatial location unknown. And I'm starting to seriously wonder if they're keeping the exact 'when' of that plotline deliberately vague for the sake of obfuscating something that's going to be big later on.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team is still hanging out at John's place in Northumberland, 2021. They make a brief sojourn to a mental institution in Hunter, NY 1956 to pick up a patient who's going by the name of Sara Lance and who's destined to massacre the staff – which to be fair is totally a Sara thing to do. But instead of hanging out in the time period as used to be standard procedure, they bring the patient in question back to Northumberland, 2021. She turns out to not be Sara, but the Amelia Earhart/alien hybrid. Which leads them to go to...

37 Locust St, Rye, NY, 1956 to pick up the Waverider, which Amelia stole from Mick and Kayla earlier in the episode. This they also bring back to John's house in 2021. Man, they really are the houseguests that just will not take a hint, aren't they.



Quotes:

Nate: "Speaking purely as a houseguest, is bringing a rampaging alien back to John's house something that we should run by him first?"
Ava: "No. Definitely not."

Nurse: "Welcome. Checking in your wife? Hysteria, or the blues?"

Spooner: "Why just splat them when you can find out their deepest fears and exploit them?"
Astra: "Ooo, Spooner. Now I’m impressed."
Nate: "That was dark."

Amelia: "You can never know what a person’s thinking. Even if you open up their brain."

Ava clone: "Sir? Ava troops from sector 23 have apprehended an intruder. His name’s Mick Rory? He seems to know Sara Lance. Apparently he’s very belligerent, and maybe intoxicated."

Sara: "I meant let’s get to know each other, not let’s kill each other’s friends."

The shade just doesn't quite work. I can't put my finger on why.

Bits and Pieces:

-- It's important to remember, Alien/Amelia (hereafter referred to as Amelian) 'confirmed' to the Legends that Sara was dead for a very important reason within the story and an equally important meta reason. In the story, Amelian reports that Sara is dead because she stung Sara with deadly poison before Sara ran out the door. That's the entirety of the information Amelian has about Sara. She knows nothing of clone shenanigans. On the meta side, we are shown the Legends receiving that news at that moment very specifically so that we are primed to not question Bishop's claim that what we see is Sara's dead body. Again, we clearly don't have a lot of the information we need to appreciate what's really happening.

-- That said, I'm assuming that that is really the dead body of the Sara Lance we've known all along. Time travel show with space magic, I'm not going to get too worried just yet.

-- Spooner can now speak to the alien in its own language. This is both useful as a storytelling tool, and worrying to her that she might end up like Amelian just when she's making such nice friends. Admirably, she's immediately open with Behrad about both what happened and her concerns regarding it. See John? That's how adults do it.

-- My weekly allowance of being shallow – that shade of blue didn't exactly work for Caity Lotz. It was all right. I mean, it is still Caity Lotz we're talking about. But it didn't rock the world the way outfits usually do when she's wearing them. On a similar note, I am not living for Zari's shade of yellow eyeshadow. I respect that she goes bold, but it wasn't landing.

-- It's curious and notable that Kayla feels significantly realer and more interesting as a person than Spooner does, despite barely appearing for more than an episode's worth of screen time and Spooner being around the entire year. It's one of those screenwriting ironies; the character they clearly spent a ton of time refining and thinking about feels very flat and presentational, while a character that's mostly there to serve a plot function and was probably never described more than 'Lady Mick, but an alien' comes across as a fascinating bundle of interesting idiosyncrasies. I like that.

-- That said, I really hope that the culmination of the Mick/Kayla story this season is that they head off into the universe to be the DC equivalent of Han and Chewie, but doing it on the reg. Assuming Han and Chewie do not do that, who am I to judge. Kayla is clearly Han in this scenario. With all the offscreen gross-ness of Dominic Purcell lately, I think giving the beloved character he plays a happily ever after is probably the best way to go.

-- I also would not hate it if Kayla stuck around and joined the team in Mick's place. She's a lot of fun. Gary didn't deserve her.

-- I completely loved Mick's moment of acknowledging that the human race in its entirety sucks beyond forgiveness, but Sara Lance does not. That was basically the epitaph for the relationship between the two of them and it was lovely.

-- There was a clever little bit of foreshadowing at the beginning when Kayla mentioned vis-à-vis Sara Lance that if the shield drops, she's probably already dead. Nicely scripted.

-- I absolutely despise Bishop's little 'Sing every couple of sentences' pretentious douchebaggery, but it was a nice touch that Sara used doing the exact same thing to lure him into trusting her. Have I mentioned that I really hate Bishop?


There was a lot of plot dynamic skill on display here, and I think it's important to acknowledge that, because it's handled better than a lot of screenwriters are capable of doing. That said, I hated so much of this episode that my admiration of the skill involved couldn't save it for me.

Two out of five intolerable houseguests.

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.

10 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Much agreement that this episode was genuinely terrible. Even that incredible blue dress Sara was wearing that I think she should wear permanently from now on didn't help.

As a long time Star Trek geek, I have discussed, ruminated upon, and in general freaked out about the transporter thing. There's a sci-fi author who has wrestled with the concept in interesting ways, and most recently has posited that the soul exists somewhere else in the ether, and if the body is exactly the same, the soul just kinda finds its way. An exact copy, or someone who went through the transporter, is going to pick up the same soul on the other side. But hey, I don't believe it. I think you're disassembled and whatever comes out the other side isn't you.

At any rate, I hate Bishop with a passion. The lack of oxygen thing went on too long. And I totally agree that the Legends treated Astra and John appallingly. Be a good house guest, people. Life is too short.

Anonymous said...

Not a good ep. Very good review, and yeah the Legends were terrible houseguests. And oh no John can't lie about losing his powers. So lame.
I hope "our" Sara returns, cause this sucks.

Anonymous said...

Didnt like this episode either...Almost forgave it when Bishop uncuffed Sara and she feigned to strangle him. Also Doc bot Ava had the most adorably cute/sad cry face when Bishop told her to leave the other Ava's behind.

This episode more than any highlighted the shows weakness in melodrama. The John storyline especially. Its a big trope but for John specifically its a good storyline when done well and really digging into John without his beloved magic.
Its the same way the show never really dug to deep into the fact that Sara spent alot of years as a real assassin. This show has played that for laughs mostly since the beginning. Im a fan of where they have taken it and her story but imagine Sara's past getting a real in depth look like Oliver did in season 5 of his show.

Josie Kafka said...

And I'm starting to seriously wonder if they're keeping the exact 'when' of that plotline deliberately vague for the sake of obfuscating something that's going to be big later on.

I think you are giving them more planning credit than they perhaps deserve this season.

I would love to be proved wrong!

(I'm sour on Legends right now, but I do think this season will be better once I re-binge it in a few months.)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but this might be the worst season since s 1. Vandal Savage was as bad as Bishop. s 1 had Snart whom I loved.
Loved Astras ep but that's it, and Spooner just isn't floating my boat.

Anonymous said...

I love your reviews and they are about the only thing keeping me invested in this season.

Mikey Heinrich said...

You have no idea how much I needed to hear that tonight. Thank you, and all my love.

Anonymous said...

Another anon wants to tell you your reviews are great. The show is failing me, and it used to be my happy place. Your reviews still make me smile. Thank you.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Awwww. Thank you so much. Honestly.

I feel the same as far as being let down by the show this season.

Working on my review for Back to the Finale right now. Hopefully I'll have it up before tonight's new one airs.

Mikey Heinrich said...

You know, when you think about it, 'Be as good a person as Ray believes that you are.' is not a terrible guideline to live your life by.