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Legends of Tomorrow: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist

"Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our destination. Welcome to New York City!"

The Legends wrap up their adventures in 1925 with perfect timing. Admirably done.

It's fitting that this episode features Thomas Edison, because there's a definite feeling of precision-crafted clockwork in the script. I don't actually know if Edison was particularly associated with clockwork, but I'm not going to google it to find out because if he wasn't it will ruin a lovely metaphor. To quote Douglas Adams, I'd rather be happy than right, any day.

So, the Legends have concluded their quest to find Dr. Davies and escape 1925. I have to say, this feels like exactly the right length for their time in 1925. It had a much larger scope than we usually get, but didn't drag on too long and outstay its welcome. Added to that, stripping away all of the Legends' usual gadgets and tricks really benefitted the show to no end.

But I'm repeating praise from earlier episodes. Let's talk about this one.

There are a number of goals that this episode is trying to accomplish, and it pretty much succeeds at all of them by letting them mesh together so seamlessly. First off, on a purely plot mechanics level, they need to get to New York, find the man that laid the groundwork for time travel, and use his knowledge to get back... to the future! Intertwined with that we have their secondary goal of introducing the new team member, Dr. Gwyn Davies. And aside from a few minutes in the cold open to get some food and remind us that the team are still wanted bank robbers, they pretty much get right to brass tacks about both of them.

I already sort of love Dr. Gwyn Davies. Admittedly, at least part of this is because he's still Matt Ryan, and so I'm hardwired to respond positively. But they made so many good choices when designing the character that it's not all just residual Constantine-love. I don't know why, with the last name Davies, that it never occurred to me that he might be Welsh. That was a fun surprise. Matt Ryan is also Welsh, so I strongly suspect that what we're hearing is more or less his natural accent, which has to be a pleasant change for him. I actually half expected him to have an American accent, which we've seen Matt Ryan do to adorable effect in the past. Ah well, I'm sure it will crop up again at some point for a gag in the future.

But if I had to identify the one character trait that really endeared Gwyn Davies to me, there's no question which one that is. Davies, on the surface level, is a bit of an 'obsessed scientist who's scruffy and sleeps in his lab' stereotype. But then they give him a mild-to-medium anxiety disorder, and he's suddenly so much more human. It's at least partly how they portray his anxiety attacks. Sure, he has one after Sara puts a knife to his throat, because who wouldn't. But the first one we see is triggered far more realistically. Sara dumps a ton of work on his desk, and tells him he has to get it done in one night. That's real. That's humanizing. As someone with an anxiety disorder more or less on par with what we see Dr. Davies experience, it put me squarely on his side.

The pacing and timing in this episode is exceptionally well handled. They had to, somehow, get Astra, Spooner, and Gideon to New York at the exact same moment that Sara, Nate, and Zari start up the time machine for a breakneck race against time, will they get there at the last second to prevent disaster moment. On the way they manage to tell an incredibly sweet story of Astra giving her friend hope in the form of a fake magic rock, take a huge step forward in Nate and Zari 1.0's relationship, and fill in a lot of the gaps as to what exactly is going on vis-à-vis the robot J. Edgar Hoover and the evil alternate Waverider.

That's a lot of territory to navigate, and yet it never felt like any particular plot thread got too little screen time. The only real complaint that I can think of is that they could have trimmed the first car out of Spooner and Astra's trip without losing anything important.

No, wait, I can think of two flaws. Neither are major, but for the sake of not becoming a fawning toady, they're worth mentioning. The first is that it's not made at all clear whether the main group of Legends is saved by Astra's lightning spell, or by Gideon getting to them in time. They sort of say it was the former in the final wrap up scenes, but it would be nice to have it clearer. Second, due to the way the reveal of whether or not they'd been in time was structured we were robbed of getting to see the moment when Gideon explains to that part of the team that she's human now, and that feels like a real loss.

So, we now know that whoever is behind the destruction of 'our' Waverider is also tidying up history behind the Legends, thoughtfully replacing any important historical figures that the Legends might get killed with handy robot duplicates who will presumably live out the rest of those figures' lives. Also, whoever is doing it really wants the Legends dead. That's theoretically really interesting, and I would normally be super invested in mulling over the implications, but I'm very much afraid that it's pretty obviously going to turn out to be fucking Bishop again, and I just can't even. He isn't even in this episode, and yet still manages to damage it again for me.

So, our crew has climbed into Dr. Davies' time machine, and have headed off to what is absolutely, certainly not Tahiti in 2021. If you watched the trailer for the next episode, they went ahead and just flat out revealed where they are. 'Spoiled' would be too strong a term to use in this case, so I'll save it for next week's return of a major character from last season, who was also featured heavily in the trailer.

I did love the effect they went with to show the time machine taking off. It occurs to me that after this much TV and film about time travel, finding new ways to depict it visually has to be difficult. Goodbye, 1925. You were nothing but a net positive for both the team and the show.


Quotes:

Zari: "I even put up a mirror to show him his tech. He accused me of subversion."

Gideon: "Isn’t luck just an interpretation of random occurrences? How can a spell generate that?"
Astra: "How can a spell generate anything?"

Zari: "Did you and Gary hook up? I won’t be mad. I will be confused."

Spooner: "The clutch is slipping."
Astra: "I have no idea what that means, but I assume that it’s bad."

Zari: "You know, I don’t know why I keep un-muting you."

Zari: "Ray. He looks like Ray."
Nate: "My Ray?"

Behrad: "Save some for me. Just kidding, I don’t drink. We also have an infinite amount."

Ava: "It’s OK. I love Bourbon Sunsets on our nonexistent porch."


Bits and Pieces:

-- Should we take both the name Davies and his being Welsh as nods to Russell T. Davies, or am I reading too much into it?

-- Sara's plotline about having erased Ava from time and being desperate to get her back was a nice way to set up that Davies was also desperate to use time travel to save someone. But honestly, Sara, maybe check who the person he wants to save is first before agreeing to anything. You know that's going to come back to bite her.

-- Dr. Davies was probably exactly the right level of surprised, but not bothered by the revelation that Sara had married a woman. Sadly, that's probably not realistic.

-- Cannonball Baker was a real person, and was the inspiration for both the real life Cannonball Run races and the Burt Reynolds movie of the same name. I did not know that.

-- I'm not sure how I feel about the running joke regarding Davies looking like former members of the team. It was a little self indulgent. But it did allow Nate to respond to a mention of Ray with 'My Ray?' and that was just about the most endearing thing ever, so I'll allow it.

-- A long overdue shout out to Giacomo Baessato, not only for having such an awesome name, but also for his portrayal of the Hoover-bot. Honestly, every week they ask something even more ridiculous from his performance and he's been nailing it at every point. Apparently he's one of those actors who's been in at least two episodes of every show you've ever enjoyed but you've just never noticed him.

-- I was worried a bit in the beginning of this one that Gary was developing feelings for Zari and was going to get jealous, but it turns out he's just over-helping to try to get Nate to get more serious about his relationship.

-- Wait, so there are lots of other people in the totem for Zari 1.0 to have bonded with and not want to leave? I hope this isn't leading up to Nate leaving the show to go be with her. It's just so nice to have the original Zari back for a bit, regardless of how much I've come to like Zari 2.0.

-- It seems a little odd that one bank robbery for just over $90 would have kept the Bullet Blondes as front page news-worthy for this long.

-- They did a nice job laying out that Davies had 'laid the groundwork' of time travel as a way of saying, 'So it's not going to change the timeline when he disappears with us at the end of the episode.'

-- Excellent detail in the way Gideon effortlessly switches to Spanish when Spooner does. I like the way they're balancing 'being in a human body' with 'still has all of her knowledge and resources' with Gideon. And then she goes and clocks a car thief with a rock and I love her even more.

-- Could an angry boss in 1925 really have had you not only fired but also committed to a mental institution? Sadly, if he was rich enough I suspect the answer is yes.


This is just a gem of an episode. Well paced, tightly plotted, executed nearly flawlessly. If this was a car, it would be, um, a really well running one. I'm sorry, I don't know enough about cars to finish that metaphor.

Ironically, for a show about time travel, the only thing that really spoils this one for me in any significant way is foreknowledge of who we're seeing next week.

Four and a half out of five magic rocks.

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:

guerra55 said...

"Dr. Davies was probably exactly the right level of surprised, but not bothered by the revelation that Sara had married a woman. Sadly, that's probably not realistic."
I think it was implied in this scene that he was Gay.

percysowner said...

It was established way back when that all the former totem bearers are in the totem, so that didn't surprise me. I don't know if they are setting up Nate leaving the show, or ending the relationship with OG Zari.

I would have liked to see Gideon reveal she was human, but I have an easier time believing the New York gang would accept that. They have seen Gideon before and OG Zari interacted with her in Here We Go Again, so I buy them recognizing her right off the bat.

I'm looking forward to where this story goes.

What Was Mikey Thinking? said...

Guerra - I completely missed that, but you're right. It definitely reads that that's what they were implying. Very cool, if that's where they're going. They were pretty coy regarding the 'person' he wants to rescue. I bet you're right.

Percysowner - I guess, I just never read it quite that literally before. But it does totally make sense. And you're right, the NYC crew would absolutely not have been phased by the reveal of Gideon after everything they've been through.

Mikey Heinrich said...

I only just now realized that I'd accidentally left that previous comment from the What Was Mikey Thinking account, which struck me as very funny, for some reason

Trousers said...

My wife was in school with Matt Ryan, and says that the accent is a bit exaggerated compared to his real one.

To me it sounded a bit North Walian for a Swansea boy, but I'm originally English so what do I know.

As for the Russell T Davies connection, it's probably not the case. Davies is the second most common name in Wales, after Jones. One in every 28 people in Wales is a Davies

Mikey Heinrich said...

Hey there trousers! I think you'd mentioned that once before admit Matt Ryan. Thats so cool. I'm totally going to turn to you as my Matt Ryan resource :)

I'm from the American Midwest, I'm ahead of the curve by being able to identify Welsh. I suppose it's like trying to explain the difference between Minnesota Iron range pronunciations and Wisconsin. Which I'm assured that no one else in the world can tell apart, even though they sounds totally different to me.

I think hoping for the Russell t connection was just wishful thinking.

Thanks for the info on both fronts!

Anonymous said...

Bit late to the party. Great review!

I absolutely loved this episode! It was so much fun!

I wish they had spent a longer time in 1925, but that's only because I liked this arc so much.

I also already really like Dr. Gwyn Davies for the reasons you mentioned, but I also like that he's so different from Constantine. I loved Constantine, but it's nice to get a completely new character. I was hoping/thinking he might be Welsh because I knew the character shared the same last name as a Welsh soccer player, Ben Davies, so I remained hopeful. However, this being a US/Canadian/however you want to call it show, I wouldn't have been too surprised if he'd had an American accent. Thankfully, we got Welsh!

I agree it would've been nice to see the rest of the team's reaction to seeing Gideon's human form. I also agree with other commenters that the team wouldn't've been surprised with all that they've seen. However, even then, there'd still be the question/reaction of "How'd you get your human body?", which would've been nice to see.

I agree that I would also normally be very curious as to who or what was behind the rogue Waverider, but I also unfortunately think Bishop will be behind it. Thankfully, despite the knowledge of his reappearance coming sometime, that didn't effect my enjoyment of this episode. I think of him as the annoying itch that can't be scratched or the annoying buzzing of a mosquito in my ear, but thankfully, could ignore that for this fun episode.

This is exactly why I never watch trailers: I'm too much of a spoiler phobe. I really appreciate you not spoiling it, so thank you very much.

To add onto what Guerra55 said, I noticed during that scene when he grips his necklace, it said Thomas on it. I couldn't make out any of the other words. I realize this may have been something that said Thomas Edison on it and be work related and won't end up meaning anything. I am curious as to who he lost. I'll take the half glass full approach and believe that the person he wants to save is good, but you're probably right that learning who that person is first might be best.

I was thinking the same thing about Giacomo Baessato; he really has played so many different iterations of Hoover, and it's been amazing!

I also really hope they're not planning on writing out Nate. I'd be happy for the characters because they both deserve happy endings, but I'd miss him terribly, and I've lost so many favorite characters that I don't want to lose anymore! I hope that if they do decide to write out Nate (which I hope doesn't happen), we at least will get to keep Nick Zano as a different character.

I had assumed that the Legends had robbed other banks, just off screen, but now that I think about it, they may not have had time, so shrugs, who knows.

I totally missed the connection that because Davies "died" in both versions of the timeline that it wouldn't change history. Nice catch!

Wow, that ended up way longer than I'd intended; I guess I had more things to say than I realized. Anyway, thanks for wrting such a great review!

Josie Kafka said...

Cannonball Baker was a real person, and was the inspiration for both the real life Cannonball Run races and the Burt Reynolds movie of the same name. I did not know that.

Although I was vaguely aware that there was a movie called Cannonball Run, I never knew what it referred to until Covid, when I read an article about how the lack of interstate traffic meant people were setting new, very impressive Cannonball Run records.

As someone who loves driving on lonely interstates, that news made me happy for a few hours in the dark days of lockdown! Also, now whenever anyone mentions Cannonball Runs, I will think of Covid. For the rest of my life.

More relevant comment: I'm really enjoying this season of Legends so much. And Matt Ryan as a scientist sadboy in a waistcoat is right up my alley.