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Legends of Tomorrow: Silence of the Sonograms

"It’s this or me. You can’t have both."

I didn't just hate this episode. I wanted it taken behind the garage and beaten with a sock full of doorknobs.

I honestly don't even know where to start. The characterization of several of the main characters is so off that I wondered for a bit if the writers had ever seen an episode of the show. The plotting is incredibly sloppy. Plot twists solely for the sake of themselves come and go for not reason whatsoever and the pacing is deplorable.

So let's start with the positives, for the sake of my blood pressure, if nothing else.

P1 (Positive #1) – Nick Zano and Caity Lotz have crazy-good buddy chemistry, and I would cheerfully have watched an entire episode of the two of them kicking back and MST3K-ing prisoner interrogations.

P2 – Astra was a real standout in this. She's consistently next level as far as being task oriented and direct, and it really works for her in a very different way that being task oriented works (usually) for Ava. Something's weird with John since he allegedly drank from the fountain of imperium, how can we find out what's going on? Boom, Spooner was with him, let's go ask her now. Oh no, Spooner's memory has a gap. Boom, on it. Memory spell. And she was even sympathetically apologetic to Spooner about the necessity of having yet more interference done to her brain. At every turn Astra is straight to the point, getting shit done.

P3 – Astra, Zari 2.0 and Spooner make a really charming sub team together. For the first time they felt like unquestioned Legends to me and not 'the new kids.'

P4 – A positive of the episode, despite the fact that it made watching this so, so much worse for me: At least one of the screenwriters clearly has loved someone with addiction issues, because this was word for word exactly how they respond when caught and given ultimatums. Flash of anger, tear-filled apologies, promises made entirely of lies. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Well, that's the positives out of the way.

Let's start the 'problems' list with the main culprit. Bishop.

It's not that Bishop sucks as a character, although he does. It's not that they never bothered to give him anything remotely resembling a coherent backstory, masterplan, or character brief, although that certainly doesn't help. It's not that every single time he's appeared they've thrown story coherence into a chipper shredder to the extent that he spends about 50% of his time actively undermining his stated goals of the other 50% just because no one can ever be bothered to craft a disciplined storyline around him.

No, none of those things are what really make me hate Bishop as much as I do.

It's that the show clearly thinks that he's likeable. A loveable rogue. An early-Buffy Spike who sure does horrible things, but isn't he just so cool? Don't you love him? Don't you think he's awesome and fun with his preening and pretentious lapses into Spanish when giving Gideon instructions? Don't his lapses into baby talk or song just make you think he's just beyond amazing? Don't you just want to immediately run out to a microbrewery with him so you can spend the night listening to him tell you how awesome he is?

No. No to all of that. Bishop is a poisonous, seeping sewage pipe imbedded in the clean soil of this season, polluting everything around him. Large chunks of this season have been great. They're the parts where Bishop is neither seen nor mentioned.

What exactly is Bishop's plan in this one? First he says he wants to join the team, which we as viewers know can't really be true, so that's a fair enough place to start, but then he's there to get in Ava's head, but not for any particular reason. Then he's there to know Sara's passwords and escape the cell, taking over control of Gideon in the process. Fine. Not particularly believable for a couple reasons we'll get to in a moment, but fine. But then he's there to get to the infirmary to steal the babies. Nope, he's just helpfully delivering them. But then he stopped to fight with Sara to pretentious funk music, so apparently he wasn't super pressed for time to get to that. But nope, it was all an elaborate ruse to get an earpiece communicator out of Mick so he can reach out to John Constantine for help with a future evil plan to be determined, which is apparently the only way to reach John, who Bishop knows is having a drinking problem because he saw the ladies talking from the other side of a window. Every single thing about Bishop's plotline is just so sloppy and poorly told. It would be a struggle even if it was happening to a character I liked.

To be fair, I don't think they mentioned John in Bishop's earshot, but I just couldn't bear to go back and check.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, how do I know that the show doesn't want me to hate him this much? Why do I think the show secretly likes him and assumes I do as well? Well, the fact that Sara actually apologizes to him toward the end and that everything about him is staged and shot like a villain redemption arc is a bit of a hint. But the big clue is the basic structure of the first couple acts. They set Bishop up in the Hannibal Lector role in what is explicitly stated in the episode's title as a Lector/Starling riff. Because they understand that we like Hannibal Lector and assume that's the role we want Bishop in.

Nate goes out of his way to state how great Bishop's 'look' is, and Astra agrees with him. Barf. They ham-fistedly ram in moments for Bishop to be 'perceptive' in a bargain-basement Lector way. He notices that Ava's wearing the engagement ring. He pulls the knowledge that John is having trouble out of literally nowhere. We're invited to read his wedding advice to Ava precisely as Hannibal's style of advice to Starling. 'Darn it, I know you're evil incarnate but your insightful window into my personal issues is just so compelling that I can't help but be drawn to you!' Oh, you got me, show. Your magical announcement out of nowhere that Ava was struggling with wedding planning has convinced me that Bishop is a psychological game-playing genius. How could I ever have thought he was a half-assed, thrown together assemblage of hipster stereotypes? Take me now.

And what about Ava? The Lector/Starling dynamic only works if your Starling is in the game with him. Now, Ava getting super enthusiastic about interviewing a psychopath is totally in character. Sadly, it's the last moment we see her character in this episode, because we need to manufacture out of nowhere her self doubt about planning the wedding, feeling like she has family, and her ability to love.

Well thank God, show, that you didn't just pull all that out of your ass for the sake of creating fake bullshit drama for Ava.

Ava's turnaround to suddenly sobbing at Bishop's resonating loneliness and feelings of not having family come up out of nowhere in literally fifteen seconds of screen time. Switch flipped. Boom. Sara, you don't understand my complex and valid feelings that have never existed before this scene. This is not the Ava that said, back in 'The Eggplant, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,' 'Let’s be honest, neither of us needs anybody. But you are who I want.' That Ava understood perfectly well that she does have Family. They're called the Legends of Tomorrow, and she's been perfectly comfortable on both that point and her ability to love Sara until right this moment.

And it's a minor point, but on the same theme, where in God's name does Ava pull the information at the end that Bishop was secretly trying to find which of the Legends is the weakest link so he can try to corrupt them? It's almost as if that's one of several moments in the script where the writers needed to convey a bit of new information to us and so they just had one of the characters magically 'know' it and say it at the required time. That's not lazy scripting at all.

Last point, as this is already getting too long, you know what's not contained in your DNA? The following:

-Your computer login passwords.
-Your security override codes.
-Your conception of language that would lead you to choose certain override codes or passwords.
-Your memory.
-Your combat skills which you have studied and practiced (note the mirror in Bishop's fighting style with Sara, clearly indicating that they were saying, 'See! He knows all her moves now! Because DNA!)
-Many, many other things that appear to have transferred to Bishop under the handwave of 'Because he's 6% Sara Lance now!'

Although, to be fair, it was a nice detail that the show remembered that he was 6% short on his upload and made a plot point of it. I'll give them that.

Everybody remember where we parked:

We're still parked on the grounds of John's stately manor in 2021. The walking distance from the ship to the house is in direct proportion to how much plot needs to happen before people return.


Quotes:

Sara: "Keep an eye on him. If he tries to escape, shoot him in the face."

Zari: "John’s lying to me. Again."
Astra: "Huh. Glad he’s feeling like his old self."

Zari: "Could you whip up some kind of truth serum or whatever?"
Astra: "Yeah. It’s called scotch."

Zari: "That’s Bishop, huh? That turtleneck is doing him no favors."

Ava: "See, that’s the thing about appetizers. I don’t see why people have to eat before they eat."

Astra: "Where the hell are you going?"
Zari: "Oh, I’m just going to break up with my lying dumpster fire of a boyfriend."


Bits and Pieces:

-- All the stuff with evil duplicate John could have worked if they'd ever bothered to clarify what was actually happening. Was the evil John physically there, or just a hallucination? Were they two halves of his psyche fighting for control of the host body? Both the dialogue and the direction are playing it both ways, and it's all very muddy as a result. Not clarifying what exactly is happening up front can work fine. I'm thinking of the Angel episode 'Orpheus' in which something very similar happened. But in that one they did eventually clarify their terms as to what was going on and that didn't happen here.

-- Of course Bishop has a 'fun' anecdote about going to Ibiza. Of course he does.

-- Lou Reed's Transformer is indeed a fantastic and important album. It deserves better than to be referenced by Bishop.

-- After the cliffhanger of finding Mick unconscious in an unknown state last time, we return to him to find... that he just stands up and everyone forgets about it. Thank God. We wouldn't want to pay off or even acknowledge that tension.

-- We've all just accepted that new-clone Sara is just interchangeable with the original Sara who died and are at no point going to deal with the metaphysical implications of that, is that the current plan, show? Yes, I thought so.

-- I go back and forth as to whether the show needed to have reminded us that Sara has healing powers now before they get used later on. I mean, not really, but they're pretty new and it wouldn't have hurt to throw in a reminder. It would have slot in with no problem during the mention that Sara is a clone now from Nate.

-- Another way we know the episode wants us to like Bishop – he takes the cheap shot at vegan cakes. See, he makes fun of vegans, clearly he's a likable everyman.

-- Addicts do indeed lean heavily on 'Are we okay?' during that post binge period where they're afraid of possibly actually facing consequences for destroying the lives of everyone around them. Again, whichever of the credited writers has the first hand knowledge that was clearly brought to that plot thread, I feel you, man. And I'm sorry you went through that.

-- The real winner this week is Behrad, who through a well timed trip to visit the folks successfully dodged having to be involved with any of this. Next runner up is Nate, who gets away mostly unscathed by virtue of not getting particularly involved in any of it.

-- Well, Mick's had the babies now in an extraordinarily no muss no fuss delivery that amounted to him blowing his nose for around 90 seconds. Well, good thing we hadn't built up the imminent delivery as a looming significant plot point then.

I hate this. Almost all of it. It's telling a story not worth telling, and it's telling that story very, very badly.

Ah well. At least Astra had a good week.

Two out of five snot babies specifically to Astra for having to rise above this crap. Negative twelve to the episode itself.

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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes this was awful. Too much of Bishop. I take it back, Vandal Savage was better than this.
We(audiences in general) like Lecter cause he's evil contained in the service of good. He's helping Clarice for his own reasons but it's still help. Comes with a price though.
Oh Bishop is not early Spike or Lecter, he's dull and overblown. Ugh.
Astra was great though.

Josie Kafka said...

[Astra]'s consistently next level as far as being task oriented and direct, and it really works for her in a very different way that being task oriented works (usually) for Ava.

Yes! I always forget that we actually know very little of the specific details of how Astra spent her time in Hell aside from hanging out with one of the Fates. But the way she manages things here on Earth tells me she was probably pretty great at running nightclubs filled with immoral demons.

I really, really, really want to like Bishop, since the actor is married to Tala Ashe in real life, and I really like Tala Ashe. But he is the worst kind of hipster. And also evil!

The Ava thing was so confusing to me. I really thought maybe the Lou Reed song activated latent programming within her, or something, because the idea that she lacks emotion is wrong. (So wrong!) And her doubt did come out of nowhere. (Nowhere!)

Hipsters ruin everything.

Also, and this is sort of me getting on a very random and very high horse, but: I hate the magic-addiction-metaphor thing, because addiction is a disease, but being a powerhungry dickwad is a personality style. So it winds up portraying addiction in a flawed way, but also really skirts around the moral issue of John doing bad shit by giving him the whole "oh, addiction is hard!" easy out.

He's making bad choices that victimize people because he wants power. That is different, in substance even if not in effect, than making bad choices that victimize people because he's wrapped up in substance abuse.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I didn't know he was Tala Ashe's husband. They make a cute couple.

This is a good opportunity to mention that I don't hold Raffi Barsoumian, the actor in question, responsible for any of the problems with Bishop. I've been meaning to make that clear for a few reviews now. The problems with Bishop are pretty comprehensive, but his performance is blameless.

Also, so much hotter with short hair/no manbun. The beard I could go either way on.

Thanks you for making that point about addiction v. lust for power. I'm way to close to that one to be able to speak about it that eloquently and you're absolutely right.