This DC’s Legends of Tomorrow episode review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 6 Episode 5
In retrospect, I feel a little bit dense for taking half the episode to figure out that “The Satanist’s Apprentice” was Legends of Tomorrow’s big and hotly anticipated Disney Princess episode. I even said (to an empty room) “huh. That title sounds a lot like Fantasia.” But then Constantine and Astra’s racist, pandemic-Graham-Norton looking neighbor rolled through and I was mad enough at him to forget until the moment I realized that Astra had turned Behrad into a candlestick. And at that point…well, other stuff had set in.
About 90% of “The Satanist’s Apprentice” is an all-time classic episode of Legends of Tomorrow. But what’s keeping it from getting there, for me, is that other 10%. Half of that 10% is pretty annoying, but not a deal breaker. But the other half of it is probably the first time that the show has truly violated the spirit of one of the comics characters that it’s based on, and that’s very frustrating in an otherwise awesome hour of television.
The episode starts with Astra getting more and more angry about John Constantine leaving her to her own devices, to figure out how to feed herself and connect with the outside world that she’s never been a part of (since she grew up as a queen of Hell). We get a montage of the frustrating mundanity of her life, running out of clothes (because the House of Mystery doesn’t have a washing machine – John just enchanted all of his clothes to never stay dirty), running out of money because she can’t get a job, running into bigots in the neighborhood. And John keeps flitting in and out of the house, heading out on missions with the team.
So Astra decides that, to get money, she’ll just pawn off all of the antiques in the house, since John won’t help her. That’s where she finds Aleister Crowley trapped in a talking painting in the attic. Crowley teaches her magic – enough for Astra, in a fit of pique, to switch him into John’s body later on, and then just enough to enchant an amulet that he inevitably uses to betray her. And in a burst of magic, he turns everyone animated, and the third quarter of the episode is just one long Disney movie joke.
It is predictably terrific. Astra eventually uses a song spell from her mother’s diary to force Crowley back into the picture and turn off all the magic in their immediate vicinity, but before that, the whole episode is full of little notes and references that this show doesn’t normally do. That seems to indicate some geeking out by the team making it. Here’s a brief and certainly inexhaustive list:
- Astra’s cartoon form is very Tiana from The Princess and the Frog.
- There is obviously a metric ton of Beauty and the Beast, particularly when Behrad, as a candlestick, uses his fire to torch the bad guy in the ass, a la Lumiere.
- At one point, Crowley in Constantine’s body turns into the Chernabog from the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of Fantasia.
- They just straight up plopped Oscar Isaac’s character from Ex Machina in as the season’s big bad. (I’m just kidding, Ex Machina was distributed by Universal. It’s not owned by Disney. Yet.)
Who is Bishop?
The annoying part of the episode was the introduction of this season’s villain, Bishop. The top knotted gentleman from the end of the last episode, who Sara discovered when she chased an Ava into another ship, turns out to be the geneticist who created all Avas, and he is the one with the master plan that launched this season of stories. He designed Avas to be his work force so he, the last living human in a world where mankind had wiped itself out at some point in the future, could make better humans and repopulate the species with stronger, faster, more adaptable creatures that were still baseline human.
So good news for Gary! He’s a person still. Bad news for Sara, though: Bishop has been eyeing her the whole time to train his new species, and teach them resiliency. And he programmed all Avas to have an affinity for her. That is a really troubling development for Sara and Ava’s relationship that would be much more of a big deal if I weren’t so annoyed by Bishop being not influenced by Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina, but something closer to a straight ripoff or artlessly executed parody of Isaac’s character.
Bishop just bops his way around the set, turning disco balls on and off for no discernible reason, casually dehumanizing the women who work for him. Honestly, this show usually does pastiche much better than this, and it’s a little bit frustrating that this is what we’re looking at for at least an extended period of this season.
The Constantine Problem
The last 5% was infuriating. Matt Ryan’s John Constantine has never been precisely faithful to the comics version, but it’s usually been pretty good. He’s a human disaster zone, a self destructive, greedy asshole with the tiniest thread of nobility in him that lets him usually end up in the right spot, even if he didn’t mean to land there.
But he’s also of a particular time, and has a particular political point of view, and if comics John Constantine heard television John Constantine telling someone, without a trace of sarcasm in his voice, to work hard and pull herself up by her bootstraps, comics Constantine would go back in time and prevent his own creation to stop it from ever happening again. It was probably a mistake of phrasing in an attempt to set up their parallel track at the end of the episode – Astra’s spell turning off all the magic also works on John, so they’re going to have to work together at obtaining magical power going forward. But it was still so jarring and infuriating that it took me out of what was otherwise a fantastic episode.