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Legends of Tomorrow: There Will be Brood

"Things feel decidedly not in hand right now."

I didn't hate it as much as the last one, but I'm just so tired of all of this.

The most telling thing about this episode is that they kill John Constantine at the end, and I could not have cared less. That's a bad sign.

In a way, the problems with this one are generally the same as the last. The plotting is just so, so lazy. At the start of the episode, all of the Legends walk into John's house and announce that they've figured out what happened last week, recount it just to bring the audience up to speed, and move on from there. How do they know all about Bishop using Mick's earpiece to tempt John into turning evil? They just do. No reason. The plot requires they know it so somebody just says it to bring us all up to speed.

Bishop's plan and motivations continue to be either nonsensical or completely absent, as his whole deal last week was about identifying which Legend was the weakest (in theory) to corrupt them into helping him, except that entire exercise was pointless since now Bishop's whole plan involves finding the Fountain of Imperium, a task that literally no one but John would have been remotely interested in or helpful for so why go through any of that when just knocking on John's front door would have done just fine. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't have John's address in advance, it's established pretty early that the Waverider spent all last episode literally parked on John's lawn and we're shown definitively that he knew the codes to escape thanks to the stupidest and most poorly thought out plot twist ever presented as if it wasn't lazy bullshit. So why not just walk next door.

But I'm just rehashing last week's pain again. I apologize.

So this week we pick up with John and Bishop, working together. And by working together I mean John has the map, John strips away the magic to decode it, John figures out how to activate the Imperium, and John makes that happen. Bishop does... let me check my list... points to an icon on the map and says that could tell us something, and preps a potion to make John read as 'Not-evil,' which is a double cross anyway, for reasons that they'll entirely pull out of Bishop's ass in the last few minutes along with a complete new back story for what the Imperium is that might, conceivably, be interesting if they'd shown us the information dramatically instead of Bishop whipping it out at the very last moment as as 'New Character Motivation for Bishop number 4,308.'

So, John didn't actually need, ask for, or receive any help from Bishop in return for his big betrayal. That's a great use of screen time.

Oh, and now the Fountain of Imperium is a giant alien space mushroom buried in the Earth and is here to protect us from alien invasions, because that didn't just come out of nowhere and directly contradict the fact that the kid in Spain drank from the fountain and got his healing powers. And sure, maybe there's some kind of mistranslation issue going on there, but it was only a couple of episodes ago. You'd think it might have merited the show at least noticing that it was directly contradicting previous stuff and made a handwave to it. But no, that's the only thing you do when you give half a shit about the internal logistic consistency of your show, and we are obviously way past that.

And we're given conclusive proof that 'mushrooms are aliens, really,' via Bishop making one mention that mushrooms aren't like anything else on Earth. Oh. OK. I totally buy that because it's not complete bullshit, except oh wait, yes it is. Kind of a lot of life on Earth falls under the same category as molds and fungus. It's sort of one of the biggies. If you're going to try to justify yet another ill-planned plot reveal without devoting any screen time to it and letting it come from the mouth of the most profoundly irritating character of all time, could you at least, maybe, you know, NOT have it based on something so profoundly inaccurate that it destroys what little good will I had left for the show.

OK, maybe I do hate this one as much as last week.

No, that's not fair. Because, as is traditional, the stuff that has nothing to do with Bishop is mostly really great, and the stuff that isn't great at least had a lot of interesting potential. The bulk of the Legends, trapped with ship or time couriers, have to find a way to contact Kayla as she's the only other sentient being they know who has a time/space vessel. OK. I'm down with that. They do have to have Nate lampshade it a little bit that if they bothered to keep time couriers on their persons this wouldn't be a problem, but it's a fun and creative enough solution that I'm totally down for it.

So Gary's solution to create a fake 'Daddy/Spawn' picture of Mick and post it on Space-Facebook, tagging Kayla, is pretty fun. Particularly the side comment about how Kayla pretends she's never on Space Facebook, but really is all the time, which describes about half the people I know. Kayla's arrival and Mick's subsequent confession of love to her is both goofy in a good way and endearing, and is probably the most I've liked Mick all season. It doesn't hurt that he's once again actually interacting with the rest of the team. If Mick did indeed die in that explosion at the end, saving the last of his eggs, this was probably a good way to do it. It's been a rough season to be a Dominic Purcell fan, and this is probably the best way for us to let him go from our collective affections.

But the thing that really redeems this episode, at least the parts Bishop isn't a part of which are beyond redemption, is Spooner and Astra's plotline. The revelation that Spooner's Mom has been in 1925, Texas this whole time and that it was Spooner who was taken by aliens and returned to Earth 2021 was both a great story twist and really well told. We're carefully seeded the information with a level of discipline that the show never seems to even consider giving to Bishop's plotline. First it's the mystery of how Spooner's mother got here, then gradually it twists to the reveal that it's Spooner, not her mom, who isn't in her time-zone. I like that a lot. I'm not entirely sure that the temporal logistics of little Esperanza being beamed away by the friendly space mushroom so that she can later meet the Legends and end up back here full circle entirely track – how would John Constantine read a memory from older Spooner that now never happened to her, just for starters – but I just don't care. It's emotionally satisfying, and that's enough for me.

And speaking of emotionally satisfying, Astra again takes home the MVP award for this one. How on Earth has she become this emotionally healthy and available to her friend without it feeling like forced character development? Because she absolutely has. Astra and Spooner are absolutely, unquestionably my new Nate/Ray. When Spooner says 'take care of me,' and Astra responds, 'Always,' it's a triumph of scripting, reflecting both the text and characterization in different ways, and it made me happy inside.

I should add, I've never seen the movie There Will be Blood. I mention it because the character of Doc probably reads differently if you know the source material. As it is, they give one half-hearted attempt in the dialogue to imply that Doc is after the Fountain of Imperium by Gloria saying that Doc wants the fountain of oil below her house, but by and large they never even really pretend that Doc is going to be relevant to anything, nor do they devote any serious time to that plotline beyond the fact that it needs to exist to explain Spooner's backstory.

It's not a deal breaker, but it does feel like a bit of wasted screen-time. It's entirely possible that if you know the movie, it reads differently.

So, we end with the – possible – death of three Legends. Spooner, who we all know is under no real threat of death and will pull through in the finale, Mick who – thanks to offscreen drama – I'm ready to just cut loose and move on from, and John Constantine – a character that I genuinely love – who appears to have been absorbed into the Earth without a word of apology to the woman he claims to love who is, you know, standing right there, and instead just muttering on about himself. And all I could think was, I'm totally willing to have this be his death if we can just never hear about the fucking Bishop plotline again. Glad to see him go. And I hate feeling that way about John Constantine.

One more episode to go for this season. And honestly, I'm just ready for this season to be done. Much like this episode, there was some really great stuff, but the bad stuff was so bad that I'm just so, so tired.

Everybody remember where we parked:


Most of the team remained stuck at John Constantine's place in 2021 until they were successful in tricking Kayla into Facebook stalking them and got a free ride to the rest of the team in...

Odessa Texas, 1925. Spooner's mom and young Esperanza seem to be living there quite happily until a mean oil tycoon sets his sights on their land. Future Spooner and Astra show up to help. They get there by hitching a lift with Bishop and John Constantine who are headed there because it's one of the past locations of the Fountain of Imperium.

Honestly, it should feel like too much of a coincidence that the Fountain and Spooner's mom are in the same place and time, except that the way the story is staged and played out it all has such a sense of pre-destination and a causal loop finally fulfilling its ultimate arc that it all just works.

Quotes:

Astra: "OK, so, maybe it’s best that kid-you doesn’t see you-you for... I don’t know… timeline reasons."

Mick: "The eggs might be fake, but my feelings for you are... real."

Astra: "Spooner. Remember, if Esperanza doesn’t go to the Fountain, then you never come back to save Gloria."
Spooner: "I’d rather protect her now so I can become the person my mom always hoped I’d be."
Gloria: "If she does that, then my little girl and I can stay together, yeah?"
Astra: "Yeah, you’ll stay together, but history will be completely changed. And you’ll never meet the Legends. Or help us save Sara. You’ll never become you, Spooner. Which means that... Which means we never become friends. And I really don’t wanna lose my friend."

Spooner: "Astra – Take care of me."
Astra: "Always."


Bits and Pieces:

-- There's an easy fix here that they hint at a couple of times and then abandon. If the Fountain's deal was established that it appeared in places to find one soul pure enough to 'drink' from it and then moved on, it would have fixed almost everything wrong with that plot. It would explain the fountain choosing the kid in Spain and then drying up. It would explain the Fountain's behavior in saving young Esperanza and transporting her to safety. It would have made a solid lead in to the reveal that the Fountain is here to save Earth from alien invasion. We knew it was abducting 'pure' children. Why? Ah, as part of a plan to set up protections on Earth against alien invasions. And most importantly, it would have reframed everything we see here as John being so selfish and desperate to regain magical power that he's deliberately robbing Spooner of her power, her past, and her personal safety to do it. That could have been incredibly rich story territory. But no, it wouldn't have allowed Bishop to 'groove' to science music, so screw good storytelling, I guess.

-- Bishop claims, in his final reveal to dying John Constantine, that he wants to destroy the Imperium so that aliens can destroy Earth because he's pissed that he tried to save Earth twice and humans got in the way so now he wants it all burned down. Except, he didn't do anything of the kind. He says he tried to stop some kind of climate catastrophe in some vague backstory involving starting a cloning company in a world which we saw for ourselves was just fine, and then later paid to have a lot of aliens kidnapped so he could crossbreed a few of them, got bored with that and just focused on being a creepy stalker dick to Sara, then failed to finish cloning himself. That's not 'people being ungrateful that you tried to save the Earth,' that's a fifth year art student whining about how not enough people came to and appreciated their 'happening.' God, I hate Bishop.

-- It was good how quickly Zari understood that they were being stalled in John's house.

-- I suppose John just made himself invisible so that he and the Legends didn't see one another in passing as they swapped location in the beginning. It would have been nice if the point had been addressed, though.

-- I enjoyed that Astra transfigured Spooner into a fork again. Not sure what the significance was of Astra becoming a snow globe. I was expecting at least a joke about being dizzy.

-- The shot of little Esperanza picking flowers and humming to herself while John Constantine approached was lifted right out of many Frankenstein adaptations. Was that deliberate to get us to think of him as a monster?

-- Speaking of, what was the point – from John's perspective – of his wasting time with Esperanza and family at all? He already had a workable plan with Bishop regarding the Fountain. It was a happy accident that he learned anything important from her at all.

-- I feel like we're supposed to get some hint as to what Spooner's powers are going to be going forward based on what she did to Doc and co. after receiving mushroom mojo, but I'm not entirely clear. The ability to force emotional states on others, perhaps?

-- It occurs to me that Nate hasn't had much of anything to do all season.


Three out of five oil tycoons to Spooner's plotline and everyone involved in it. Two to the Legends adventures with Space Facebook. Minus six for everything else. What would that make it, around a half a point out of five?

Please season, just end.

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.

9 comments:

percysowner said...

I do agree that this is the weakest season of Legends in a long time, certainly only season 1 comes close. My gut feeling is they show got hit by a trifecta of issues.

1) COVID shooting affected it a great deal. It's an ensemble show where the characters had to be shot not that close to each other due to COVID restrictions.

2) I think they have been working around whatever the hell Dominic Purcell has been going through and that threw them off as they had to juggle his dissatisfaction. Rory has been off from the main action for a few seasons, perhaps they have been forced to work around him for a while now, and it just came to a head this season.

3) HBO MAX announced they are going to do a Constantine series. I think they looked around and made the call that Constantine couldn't be in Legends and then have a different "new" Constantine on HBO Max. So John had to go.

I also wonder if there aren't budgetary issues going on. It seems to me that the regulars haven't been in all episodes. They go off and come back either at the end of an episode in the last few minutes or come back at the beginning of the next episode. It just feels like they have been juggling everyone's schedule all season.

Billie Doux said...

I liked Spooner's and Astra's plotline, a lot. And Dominic Purcell -- his plotline has been so bizarre and his RL issues have been so bizarre that I'm rather hoping this is the end of Mick Rory, too. I'm sorry to admit that I'm not at all invested in Constantine, although I like Matt Ryan.

Anonymous said...

Better but still too much Bishop. I hated seeing John and Mick and Spooner die. I hope someone makes it.
Lovely stuff with Astra and Spooner.
Very strange season. Loving the reviews, they are almost all that kesps me watching now.
And Astra, the MVP of the season.

Samantha M. Quinn said...

This was the first time I've actually liked Astra, and I realized that I've also come to like Spooner quite a bit too. Her story made this episode for me, logic not withstanding. I wonder if they are writing her out though, having her stay with her mother?

I haven't been fond of Constantine for a long time, and this whole addiction plot feels like an excuse to write him out. It has been out of character for the person he's grown into and honestly I'm kind of glad he's 'gone'. Glad we're keeping the actor though.

I guess Mick will be healing for a good chunk of next season to write him out a bit, and I wish they would kill off Bishop once and for all. He's just so annoying.

Anonymous said...

The narrative shortcuts and plot holes have always been part of Legends they were just better at dressing them up with 'fun' and 'crazy' so even if it didn't make since you were having a good old time. At this point maybe your just less forgiving because of the whole Mick drama before the season started and the terrible Villain of Bishop.

Its obvious Covid was also an issue.

Josie Kafka said...

I also found Constantine's death overwhelming. Part of it may be that I know what the actor's plans are for next season (how spoilery are we allowed to be here on casting?), but also...

"Real" Constantine died, I guess, earlier on, when he went over to the Dark Side. We basically watched Dark Constantine die with a soupcon of real Constantine. I would have been more sad, I think, if Constantine had been himself for this entire span of episodes, perhaps trying to do the right thing and dying nevertheless.

Oh, well.

I think the Fountain is a network, so to me it made sense that it could be in Spain and in Texas, just like leylines.

The shot of little Esperanza picking flowers and humming to herself while John Constantine approached was lifted right out of many Frankenstein adaptations.

I hadn't thought of this until I read what you posted about it, but the idea of a young girl picking flowers and encountering a monster is also present in many Greek and Roman versions of the Persephone myth. And, of course, Little Red Riding Hood (which we can read as a Persephone multiform if we are so inclined). (I am so inclined.)

Mikey Heinrich said...

Percysowner - I was aware of the first two points, this is the first I've heard of the new HBO Max Constantine series, that explains a heck of a lot.

I suspect the characters appearing and disappearing is more a factor of COVID than budget. I can't imagine that all the regulars don't get paid a set amount every episode whether they appear or not, I do kind of wonder why Behrad was absent these last two episodes though.

Billie - I'm really looking forward to seeing what Matt Ryan's character is next season. It'll be fun to see him do something new. And good on the show if they were told to get rid of Constantine and found a way to still keep Matt Ryan around.

Anon. - Thank you so much, that means a lot to me. :)

Samantha - I've actually had time to watch the finale now and so I can't speak to a lot of that without spoilers, but yeah, isn't it great how they've grown Astra into her own character and not just an appendage of John Constantine's story? She and Spooner really make one another's characters work.

Anon 2 - Fair point, but I do think the narrative shortcuts have been more egregious than previous years. And that if the formula that makes your show work is that you get away with narrative shortcuts and plot-holes by maintaining a higher than usual level of fun and charm, then that makes failing to deliver the fun and charm a worse sin than it would otherwise be.

Of course you're also perfectly correct that the other stuff makes me less inclined to forgive flaws than I otherwise might be.

It occurs to me while thinking about your comment that this is the first time since Vandal Savage that they've had a villain who didn't come with an already understood backstory/purpose. Season two was villains we'd already met in other shows and understood, Season three was a time demon, and we pretty much just 'get' the basic premise of what a demon is and wants. Same for the demon of season four. Season five was the Greek fates, and again we're all basically up on the broad strokes of what they're about.

Maybe they've gotten so used to not having to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to villain motivation and backstory that they imply didn't think to put a lot of effort into it when creating a new villain for this season out of whole cloth. That makes me feel a little more forgiving, actually.

Josie - The fountain being a network cleans up that point for me nicely actually. Thanks, I hadn't thought of it like that.

I would totally buy and read any book you care to write about aspects of the Persephone Multiform, because I've never thought about it and you make it sound fascinating.

percysowner said...

@Mikey Heinrich I haven't heard anything about salary structure for Legends, but a few years ago, I covered news on Supernatural and found out there are 2 types of "regulars" on TV series. The 2 categories are the "guaranteed to be paid to appear in every episode" regular, then there is a second category, "recurring regular", they are guaranteed to be paid for at least 8 or more episodes, but not every episode and are expected to be available when needed. Misha Collins was under that kind of contract and I'm pretty sure that was why Mark Sheppard left, he was asked to go from being a regular regular to a recurring regular. At the time Sheppard said the show wanted him to be available for every episode but not guarantee he would be paid for them all.

Possibly Shayan Sobhian's contract was for recurring regular so they wrote him out so they didn't have to pay him.

Mikey Heinrich said...

That's super interesting. It would certainly explain random gaps AND be a solid way to add some extra COVID protections while saving some money.

Plus you could totally spin it to the actors union as 'Sorry, no choice, we gotta protect from COVID by limiting characters per episode.'

Yeah, I have no trouble at all believing that that was what was going one.

Thanks for sharing that!