This Legends of Tomorrow article contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 7 Episode 8
“Paranoid Android,” Legends of Tomorrow’s return from the midseason break, plays like two episodes that are pretty deftly woven together. The first episode is the one the cast and crew put their hearts into: it’s a parody of ‘80s action movies that is a blast to watch, and sure seemed like a riot to act in. The second episode is where their heads were: a really effective horror story. Unfortunately (I think), the payoff isn’t quite as good as the build up.
When we last saw the Legends, Bishop was sacrificing himself so the team could escape the evil Waverider’s forces, who were revealed to be robot copies of the crew. This episode picked up at the end of the last episode, only from the robots’ points of view: murderous assasin Sara Lance, prosthetic-armed meathead Citizen Steel, murderous Beavis and Butthead Spooner and Behrad, evil scientist Ava, hissing goth Astra, and slightly gothier hacker Zari.
There’s a scene in The Birdcage where Nathan Lane, pretending to be straight, tries to walk like John Wayne, and Williams says to him after he waddles back to the restaurant table, “It’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that before.” That’s exactly how I felt watching this episode. I think every single ‘80s action movie was about the bad guys.
The parody here is pretty note perfect. The robot team’s mission is to put the Chernobyl toothpaste from a couple of episode ago back into the tube: the human Legends (well, and Gary) issued an evacuation order around Chernobyl, saving millions of lives. The robot Legends are charged with convincing those millions of people to go back to their homes and die slowly of radiation poisoning. And they mostly do it with glee.
The problem with how note perfect the parody is is that, like the source material, that perfect note is the only one they hit. Spooner, Behrad, and Nate are hardcore morons, and they don’t let up for the entire runtime of the show. Astra’s entire output is just one long, sneering hiss, and Ava chews so much scenery that I hope Jes Macallan has good dental coverage. The saving grace here is that everyone involved seems to be having a great time, so it’s hard to get that worked up over it.
The second part of the episode is really good. I’m not thrilled with the ending, and I’m having a tough time separating how I think it should have ended from how well executed the actual ending was. I think I’m being a little tougher on the ending than I normally would because of it, so maybe take my criticism here with a grain of salt, but it feels like the choice of how to end it didn’t quite pay off the tension that built up to it.
Sara starts to figure out that something’s off, and she enlists Zari to help her. The whole investigation seems to point towards Ava being the one doing the manipulating, until Zari manages to hack into one of their replacement CPU units and see the video of Gideon coming online in the Waverider. At that point, Sara runs off to tell the rest of the team how they could be free, while Zari heads to delete Gideon’s program.
My thing is, right there? I was expecting Gideon to kill everyone.
It’s hard to explain how without being able to show you, so I will strongly encourage everyone to watch the episode even though I feel it’s the weakest of the season. But we know watching this that Gideon can see everything on the ship (besides Bishop’s evac toilet from a couple of episodes back). So the whole investigation feels like Gideon stringing Sara and Zari along, only to pull an “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Sara” moment and zap the whole crew to death.
Instead, Gideon co-opts robo Zari with the promise of more power, and Sara gets replaced/reeducated, Invasion of the Body Snatchers style. It’s still surprisingly effective – even with my lingering sense of disappointment, I was pretty creeped out by Sara’s final scene. But I can’t help but think of what might have been.
So the end result is the weakest episode of the season, which would be the strongest episode of the season on nearly any other CW DC TV show. But even with that, I have a feeling this one is going to stick with me for a long time. And it’s not just because of Nate’s fake John Cena arms. They were amazing though.