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

Legends of Tomorrow: A Woman's Place is in the War Effort

"Hey. Wasn’t there a person on that toilet?"

Legends of Tomorrow reaches its mid-season finale in an episode that's both a lot of fun and also has a lot on its mind.

We open, as is traditional, with a moment of pedantry. The official title of this one is 'A Woman's Place is in the War Effort!' ending with an exclamation point. However, the exclamation point is also used in coding, and so trying to include it in the title makes crazy things happen. This is the second time this season that Legends has given us this problem, after earlier including actual coding language in the title of the Gideon episode and causing widespread chaos through the internet whenever anyone tried to talk about it. Come on, writers' room, learn a little coding language. Think of the reviewers.

I think that a lot of your personal reaction to this episode is going to be guided by whether or not you've ever personally been affected by discrimination. As in, directly to your face, in person, discrimination. Because how understanding you are about Astra's attack on Mr. Staples is going to be contingent on that. Personally, I give her credit for not doing it much, much earlier. I wouldn't have lasted as long.

So, the Legends' post-1925 wanderings continue, now with 100% more Bishop on the team. Well, in the same space as the team. I was briefly worried that they were actually going to allow him to join the team properly, Behrad even basically said so. But then the ending... Well, we'll get to that.

Beyond its seemingly casual trappings, this is an impressively disciplined script. Witness, for example, the way that early on the team uses their magic door key on one of the outdoor women's latrines. At first this looks like an amusing sight gag, but in reality it's setting up the fairly important plot point that the women don't have indoor bathrooms to use. And that's just one example from this one in which the script is using the same scene or sequence to do several things simultaneously. That's sort of fundamental for good screenwriting, and it's astonishing how often it doesn't happen.

Our heroes are no 0/2 when it comes to making a trip in Gwyn's time cage without breaking it along the way. Arriving in the midst of WWII, the immediate problem that they face is the repair of the toilet related damage. To do that they need to replace 28 iterations of a specific part, so it's a good thing they just happened to crash next to an aircraft manufacturing facility which is currently desperate for women to employ making planes for the war effort. That's pretty convenient, but the broken ship is clearly just an excuse to get them into the factory where the story they're actually interested in telling can take place, so it works just fine.

And let's go ahead and admit it; the story that they're telling is basically the movie 9 to 5, plot beat for plot beat. They even have identical resolutions in which the jerk boss gets free, but before he can take revenge an even higher up boss shows up to say how much they like all the changes, and so our heroes get away with everything. But again, the plot beats from 9 to 5 are really just there as an excuse to explore the theme that they want to explore, so it works just fine. Also, as a gay man who grew up in the 1980s, I'm actually required by law to be a huge fan of the film 9 to 5. I'm hearing the theme song in my head at this very moment. And now you are too. The theme that they want to talk about, in a nutshell, is this: What's the 'correct' way to fight back against discrimination?

Now, this is far from being a simple issue, and the episode did a particularly good job representing the two opposing views as having valid points, and neither of them being intrinsically 'wrong.' Putting it terribly simply, and I'm going to speak from the perspective of the gay community on this one, as that's the viewpoint I feel qualified to speak about, you have two beliefs about this. The first kind of goes hand in hand with our discussion of 'Respectability Politics' back in 'This is Gus.'

People fighting against discrimination who come at it from this direction believe that the key is to avoid rocking the boat at all costs. The earliest protests for gay rights had very specific rules for their attendees as to how they needed to dress and appear. Women were required to wear skirts. Men wore dress shirts and ties. Nothing could be allowed to undercut the message of 'we are just like you, and are deserving of equal treatment.' The end goal of equality was always hand in hand with the message 'don't do anything that might shock the folks in the suburbs, because we need them to support us.'

From this standpoint, you make small, slow gains over time while tolerating the discrimination for the time being.

The other point of view is to be as shocking and in your face with your protests as you can possibly be. Stand up. Be heard. Be mad as hell. Let them know that you are not going to take it anymore. The main goal of this type of resistance is to energize the rest of your co-oppressed. This is where the energy for protest movements comes from. Because those same early protests for LGBT rights? Not a lot of people marching, and pretty easy for anyone who isn't already on board to ignore.

So, basically the woman who IMDb only identifies as 'Female Worker' (which is a little disappointing) and Astra, respectively. And admirably, the show demonstrates that neither of them are wrong. When Astra pushes 'too far,' most of the white women quit, putting everybody's job at risk. Without Astra pushing too far, nothing would have changed. They're making some very nuanced observations about the catch 22 in which discriminated groups have to live, and they're doing it in an episode which stops everything just to let Ava recreate the I Love Lucy chocolate conveyor belt sketch. What other show is going to give you that combination?

Also admirable about the script: the way the B-plot about Nate learning the Persian custom of ta'arof, which I knew nothing about and really appreciated being educated on, bounces off the main plot-line through Behrad and Astra's interactions. Astra is absolutely right that Behrad uses his devotion to ta'arof as a vehicle to avoid conflict. I'm still not 100% sure if I'm sold on Astra and Behrad as a couple – which is what it feels like they're building up to – but they do bring out something interesting in one another. Behrad's previous team romance was with Charlie, so clearly Behrad has a thing for strong women with just a hint of evil. That actually feels really right for his character.

Bishop, meanwhile, has become the subject of Nate's ta'arof training. As a guest he must be made to feel welcome at all costs, and he's just the worst guest ever. That's some rich territory for comedy, and the jokes here mostly work well. Then, of course, we find out that he isn't a jerk so much as he's kind of thoughtless and it never occurred to him to tell the rest of the group that he was quietly building a ridiculous helmet that will allow Gideon to steer Gwyn's timeship. It probably says something that I didn't hate Bishop in this episode, even though he was being a self centered jerk. I even felt sad when they shot him at the end. What's happened to me?



Everybody remember where we parked:

This week we found our heroes in 1943, outside of Seattle. It's interesting that in these last couple of episodes they haven't told us that with an on screen caption upon arrival. In both cases the plot required them (and the viewers) to not know where they were initially. Is that all it is, or is this a conscious choice to reflect that in Gwyn's time machine they have less information available? I'm pretty sure Boeing is in the Seattle area, aren't they? That's probably the reason for the choice of location.



Quotes:

Bishop: "There is a soon to be bad Bishop, who’s actually a replacement, robot, clone of me, but I’m the good Bishop."
Ava: "So which Bishop blew up the Waverider?"
Bishop: "Well, that was me."

Spooner: "Oh no. Evil Virus Gideon."
Gideon: "That seems a bit harsh. How about misunderstood Gideon who’s just trying to keep the timeline intact?"

Sara: "You know, he’s kind of giving me like a creepy John Travolta vibe."

Nate: "I love you too, here are some complex carbohydrates."
#RelationshipGoals

Astra: "You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches and call it progress. It’s torture."
Female Worker: "What good is change if it doesn’t last?"

Astra: "A good guest can make a good host."

Eleanor Roosevelt: "Aren’t we lucky ladies, to have such strong intelligent men in our lives?"

Gwyn: "You dropped a toilet. On my time machine! I don’t have to talk to you."



Bits and Pieces:

-- Where did all the food in the mansion come from? Just a couple episodes ago we were complaining about only having whiskey in there. And a donut maker? Really?

-- They're really leaning into the Rosie the Riveter imagery. Too much? Probably not, but we were definitely heading toward critical mass.

-- I like how they openly acknowledged that we've never bothered to establish any kind of rules for inside the totem and it just doesn't matter.

-- How nice is it that an American man moves in with a Persian woman and the expectation on all sides is him learning to live according to her customs, and not the other way around?

-- Of course Spooner can weld.

-- Injection molding would not allow them to make that part.

-- We've reached the mid-season villain pivot. With the first half's mystery villain revealed to be a combo of Bishop and Evil Gideon, we get an eleventh hour reveal here that Evil Gideon has created evil robot duplicates of the Legends themselves. That has to be a ton of fun for the cast. I suppose there won't be one of Gwyn, as that Gideon wouldn't know about him, would she?

-- Zari's comment that manners and etiquette are largely a performance in which you're both performer and audience is an interesting observation. She's right, and I'd never thought about it that way.

-- Incidentally, my understanding is that the appropriate thing to do upon complimenting something that someone else owns in Persian culture is to immediately follow it by saying 'Mashallah,' which means something along the lines of 'so God has willed it,' which releases your host from the obligation to give you the item you complimented, as we see Zari do with her phone here. I am neither Muslim, nor Persian, so please correct me if I have that wrong.

-- Gary and Gwyn are kind of fun together.

-- It was cute that only Zari recognizes that Gwyn looks like John. That's been a fun gag for a couple episodes. They need to drop it now, though.



This was a lot of fun, and made a great mid season finale. I've been loving season seven, and can't wait for their return mid-January.

Four and a half out of five outdoor latrines.

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.

4 comments:

  1. Loved this episode. As you said, Mikey, it was very obviously a tribute to 9 to 5, a movie I've always loved, but I think the racism and restroom bit was also a tribute to the wonderful movie Hidden Figures. I also really enjoyed Behrad's plotline; it felt like the perfect addition to the empowering women plot.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can't believe I didn't think to mention Hidden Figures.

    If anyone hasn't ever seen the I Love Lucy chocolate conveyor belt scene, you can find it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkQ58I53mjk

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Legends writers' room is second to none when it comes to pivoting characters and plotlines on the fly, which is all the more impressive given the lag time between filming and airing. It doesn't always work, but I'd say that element has been crucial to Legends' success. I was genuinely impressed by the Bishop character arc, some really skillful salvage work happened there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "You don’t stick a knife in a man’s back nine inches, and then pull it out six inches and call it progress. It’s torture."

    I want to cross-stitch this.

    ReplyDelete

We love comments! We actively monitor, and feed mean, nasty comments to our cats. It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.