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Legends of Tomorrow: Too Legit to Quit

"The Legends. They'll break time before they break his heart."

Oh, Legends. You just broke my heart.

As is traditional at this point in the season, we've reached the episode where I say, 'This was clearly intended to be two separate episodes that got combined together because they didn't have a long enough season run time.'

So. This was clearly intended to be two separate episodes that got combined together, etc., etc., etc.

That said, welcome to The Last Temptation of Gideon, in which Gideon plays both Jesus and Satan. And Satan wins.

This is actually a clearer example than usual of the 'multiple episodes mashed together' phenomenon, which Legends tends to do at least once a season thanks to their shorter episode count. The first half is the Legends v. Evil Gideon, as they attempt to destroy the ship while she attempts to tempt them into retirement by showing them desirable futures for themselves if they do. You can easily see how that would have played out with the big cliffhanger ending in which the Legends give in and agree, ostensibly for the sake of protecting the timeline, but clearly in at least half of the cases because they're justifying giving in to the temptation of the futures that they've been shown.

Then we pick up the next episode with them having a party to celebrate retirement, during which Ava and Zari discover that Gwyn's future is without Alan and their determination to prevent that slowly unraveling the retirement truce. Ultimately ending in the same way, with Gwyn angry at the substitution of fake-Alan and Evil-Gideon managing at last to separate human Gideon from her last link with the Legends, and by proxy 'irrational sentimentality,' Gary.

That would have been a solid two-parter, and would have really benefited the second part in particular. Because it's in that one that the seams start to show a bit. Consider, for example, how perfunctory Zari and Ava's plan to rescue Alan is, only to have even that undercut by Gideon suddenly showing up with him and saving them the trouble. I'm not saying that it doesn't work as shown here, because it certainly works just fine for what it is, but the entire setup could have yielded so much more if they'd had time for it. Alan's death, we're told later, is a fixed point. Which means that Gideon could conceivably have followed them to the battle, discovered this, and as a result that could lead to Zari and Ava's viewing her as their 'enemy' in the situation when really she's trying to save their lives. There's a lot of drama to be had there.

But now I'm re-writing the episode instead of reviewing it, so let's just say that what we get here, particularly the second half, works as it is, but shows several points of unrealized potential. The degree to which that damages your experience of watching the episode as it exists depends largely on how prone you are to think, 'Ooo, interesting. I wish we'd heard more about that!' while watching.

There's another example of how this would work better as two episodes that's worth mentioning: The curious incident of the power charger in the night. There's an entire act of the episode dedicated to building up the drama of Spooner risking her life to Die Hard her way into the cargo bay to charge the time courier that Nate, kind of conveniently, has on him. They do a great job with this section, slowly ratcheting up the tension. And they pay it off expertly, with the charger tipping Gideon(s) off and nearly getting Spooner killed. Great sequence all around. Everything about the peril of that moment was done perfectly, and Astra threatening to kill everyone if that's what it took to save Spooner is a fantastic character beat.

Then in the second half we find out there was a charger in the easily accessible bathroom all along. Whoopsie. Spooner almost died for nothing.

I should be clear, I don't hate that or think it's a bad moment. I think it's a gag that you can do in the next episode. We've treated the need to get to that specific charger as a life or death incident. Waiting for the following episode to have the 'We can never tell Spoons about this' gag works because it's lampshading an internal inconsistency between episodes, and generally speaking we don't get too worked up about that sort of thing. Doing it in the same episode risks making the audience feel like you're kind of crapping on Spooner's near-death experience after she almost died trying to save them all.

Again, I don't think that was their intention at all, I think the charging of the time courier was an important part of story 1: Can the Legends blow up the ship and flee before Evil Gideon tempts them into retirement?, and was a very unimportant detail for story 2: Ava and Zari attempt to rescue Alan. 'Can they get the time courier to flee before the explosion' matters in a way that 'Yeah, but how do Zari and Ava get to WWI?' just doesn't. And the scripting treated it appropriately in each case. It's just that the two cases were too close to one another to not feel strange.

So yes, this is A Tale of Two Tales, basically. An action adventure for three commercial breaks, and then a character drama for the remainder. They both work. They even more or less work together. I just wish we'd had another episode to spare so that they could both breathe.

One thing I definitely want to give the show credit for is how nuanced the various 'perfect futures' were for the team. The obvious scripting choice would have been for them all to be happy, to underline that the Legends are being tempted to give up their hero-ing. But here they give a lot of shading that I really appreciated. Spooner's future is fundamentally sound, she does get to be with her mother, after all. But she also loses all of her friends, and that's heartbreaking. Gwyn's future, alone with the majestic sheep, couldn't be sadder. And then we get to Zari's, which was the most interesting choice.

The future that Zari sees is the one that she would presumably have chosen for herself before all that pesky character growth she's experienced. Sidebar: Has it really already been three years with Zari 2.0? Holy cow, how time flies. Anyway, back to my point. The future of being 'Influencer of the Decade,' which once would have been a huge achievement for her, now makes her feels shallow and empty. Because she's spent the last few years learning through Zari 1.0 just how much more heroic she's capable of being, and the thought of regressing from that is breaking her heart. That's a nicely observed character development for her. And it dovetails beautifully into her decision to help Ava rescue Alan, so well done all around.

One thing that is a positive for the episode, and really worked well toward the payoff of 'our' Gideon being won over to the dark side, but that I didn't enjoy at all. The structure of this kind of immediately made 'our' Gideon and Gary antagonists to the rest of the team. Which makes sense, and works well for the story that they're telling, but made me sadder than I can express. It does make perfect sense that Gary would follow Gideon above all others. To misquote one of television's preeminent werewolves, as Gideon goes, so goes his nation.


Everybody remember where we parked:

We finally left Sarajevo, 1914, and spent the rest of the episode in the temporal zone. Sometimes a little more literally than the characters would have liked.



Quotes:

Evil Gideon: "What a surprise. A Legends plan that didn’t work."

Evil Gideon: "Protocol 276 only applies when the Gideon system is in danger. Wait... who’s the woman in the med bay?"
Astra: "You."
Evil Gideon: "Dammit."

Nate: "Legends don’t retire."
Behrad: "Except for Ray. And Nora. And Amaya. And Jax. And Wally."
Gary: "And Mona."
Astra: "Charlie."
Spooner: "And Mick."
Sara: "Oh, and don’t forget the hawk people."
Nate: "OK, Legends don’t retire in bulk."

Spooner: "Oh good, one fart and I’m sucked out into the temporal zone."

Evil Gideon: "So... I am prohibited from flushing the tiny one out of the airlock?"

Ava: "We are chaotic."
Astra: "But chaotic good!"

Ava: "Who knew robots used hair dryers?"
Zari: "Did you see the lift in Robo-Nate’s hair? You can’t 3-D print that."


Bits and Pieces:

-- I'm not remotely concerned about Gary's welfare, for the record. Not because I don't care about him, but because he's an alien, so there's zero problem writing around how the temporal zone wouldn't kill him. Didn't Ray or Nate survive being thrown out into it once upon a time?

-- That said, I'm genuinely impressed at how skillfully they seeded Evil Gideon's disposal of Gary earlier in the season when we saw her do the same thing to Robot Ava. Nicely done. Making being thrown out of the airlock such an object of peril for Spooner earlier in the episode was also a nice bit of plot structure.

-- Also well seeded in this one, the duplication of the peanuts leading us to the duplication of the keys later on was well handled. They really should have saved one extra bag of peanuts to re-duplicate later though.  Never eat your seed grain, people.

-- I neither hated nor loved the '8 Eastern, 7 Central' gag. It was a little too self aware for my personal taste, but your tastes may vary. I certainly don't begrudge it them.

-- Thank you, episode, for not dwelling on Gideon's fate after being stabbed and dragging out whether or not she was going to be all right. Also, very clever conceit for why Evil Gideon couldn't just kill the rest of the Legends.

-- I was irrationally bothered by the way Spooner entered the air duct backwards and turned around once inside. Come on, Spoons, just crawl in the right way to begin with.

-- Matt Ryan really is amazing. The pain in his eyes every time he spoke to 'Alan' after figuring out what was really going on was so well done.

-- I get what they were going for, and it was a nice soundtrack to the 'montage of future reveals,' but Behrad's song was WAY too maudlin for the opening theme of a kids' show. Jesus.

-- This week it's Gideon who plays the 'Let's just skip fighting and actually talk about this' card. That's come up a lot this season, and I don't think it can ever come up too often.

-- The saddest I've ever been watching a movie was The Muppets Take Manhattan, during the 'Saying Goodbye' song montage. Large parts of this episode felt a lot like that. Particularly Astra's 'What's the point of finding friends if you're going to leave one another' moment. Seriously, that song just wrecks me.

-- It felt odd that the Legends signed contracts saying they'd retire. Is that going to be a plot point next week?

-- Gary's line to Gideon about how she makes food taste better was just about the sweetest expression of love that I've ever heard. Where does one find that?



There's so much good stuff here that my main complaint is that they didn't have enough airtime for more, so I guess that's not a terrible place for an episode of television to land. I'm super excited to see where this goes in the (hopefully) season finale. Bring on World War One. Again.

Four out of five tubes of audible lipstick. Whatever that might be.

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. Totally not worried about Gary. Kayla survived being thrown out an airlock in the Temporal Zone just fine last season. They are the same species, so Gary should be able to brush it off too.

    I would never have guessed that I would fall for a Gideon/Gary romance, but boy have they sold me. It keeps me worried about how they pilot the Waverider without putting our Gideon back as only a computer, because that would break Gary's and my heart.

    Just a note, Closed Captioning spells Alan as Alun, which makes sense since they are Welsh and that's how the Welsh spell it.

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  2. PHEW, that WAS prompt! (For the record, Mikey, I for one as a reader have never begrudged you the time it takes to put these insights together.)

    "Sometimes a little more literally than the characters would have liked" made me cackle.

    I'm also not worried about Gary's fate, but I will remark that the temporal zone itself isn't the problem so much as the landing. Back in S2's Shogun, Ray and Nate entered Feudal Japan via the sky, and it was only by virtue of their suit/powers that they survived impact with the ground. (This is why I also haven't been waiting for Time Mistress Ava to reappear.)

    Totally unrelated, sparing a word here for Gideon's Parisian look. They made her look absolutely glamorous (not difficult), and the dark lipstick struck me as a "maybe she'll turn evil" touch.

    I thought Alun's poetry was lovely, and that using it as an ID test was brilliant.

    What did you think about Avalance's daughter?

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  3. Percysowner - who would have ever thought three seasons ago that they'd make Gary and Gideon with this well as a couple??? Very cool about the spelling of Alun. I had no idea there was a Welsh spelling. Thanks for letting me know. Now I'm debating going back and correcting the spelling. I'd totally forgotten Kayla fell out into the zone last session. But then I've blocked a lot of last season :)

    Robin - thank you, I appreciate that :) you're point about the landing being more of a problem than the fall is spot on, I wasn't thinking of it that way. Shogun, that was the one. It was before I took over reviewing these, so my memory of it isn't as good.

    Yeah, I don't think Amy Louise Pemberton could look unglamorous if she tried, but that lipstick was a particularly good choice.

    I loved that they remembered and referenced Sara's thing about summer camps combined with Ava's life of lists and documentation. Plus the kid was adorable.

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  4. The thing with the futures was indeed nuanced. I expected to be touched, though, and that didn't happen. It felt like an alternate universe version of a series finale.

    I'm sort of dreading the next episode.

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