This Legends of Tomorrow episode review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 17
Nearly everything about this week’s episode of Legends of Tomorrowwas great. All the head fakes, the snide episode title, the fact that plot payoffs came in swarms. The only thing was a let down, the place where the episode fell apart, was actually a multiple season cast member. Amaya is just not very good.
This episode is headfakes on headfakes on headfakes, plot-wise. We start out with the team splitting in two: Nate and Wally head to 1992 Zambesi to stop Amaya from changing the past, while the rest of the team goes to Occidental College in 1979 to stop Gorilla Grodd from killing a college-aged Barack Obama, in what might be my favorite sentence that I’ve ever typed on the internet. That takes all of 5 minutes for the Legends to stop. But meanwhile, Damien Darhk has come to the realization that Mallus reemerging would kill Nora, so rather than “go help Grodd,” as he tells Mallus he’s doing, he heads to the Legends to make a deal and team up.
Their plan is to convince Nora to join them on the Waverider, trap her in some kind of spell circle given to the team by Constantine, and then get Mallus out with the totems, all of which the team now controls. To do that, they want to get Nora to think Mallus ordered that, and they notice that Mallus’s voice bears a striking similarity to…John Noble’s, who actually voices Mallus on the show. On a lesser show, this would be them getting exceedingly cute, but on Legendsit’s just a Monday.
Noble is mostly a head fake, too, though. Ray goes back to 1999 New Zealand, gets “John Noble” to read a couple of lines that “Peter Jackson” rewrote for Lord of the Rings, then uses his suits speakers and his shrinking ability to get inside Nora’s ear and play back the recording. Their plan works, and Nora ends up trapped on the Waverider. However, Darhk realizes there that she’s all the way gone, and the team comes to the conclusion that the only way to defeat Mallus is to let him emerge then take him out with their totems. That means letting Amaya save her village in Zambesi and change the timestream.
We actually get some really great character moments between Darhk and Sara, and looking at this episode with a little perspective, it’s astoundingly successful that this show was able to take Damien Darhk, who was a turd on Arrow, and actually make me care about him, his family, and his heartbreak at losing his daughter. They’ve done a wonderful job of developing him, and developing Sara as mirrors of each other. It’s too bad they lost their way so hard on Amaya.
This season has focused on the totem bearers, both as a plot device and as an excuse to give them character development, and that’s largely worked. Zari has been an incredible addition to the team. She’s a joy on screen, and she’s full of personality and jokes. And it’s really been Sara’s show since the season started and she was officially the team leader. But Amaya seems to be a brick wall for the writers and for the cast. Maisie Richardson-Sellers this season seems like she has one gear and one gear only: overserious bordering on bored.
It’s hard to believe that one season separates us from Nate and Amaya being the best superhero couple on TV, to now where they’re an anchor dragging down any scene they’re featured in.
Ultimately, I don’t think the problem is on the actors (though I will say this: old Amaya’s Zambesi accent seems to place her somewhere in central Indiana? It’s not very good). We saw Richardson-Sellers and Nick Zano light up the screen last season. I think the bigger issue is that the writers have backed themselves into a corner with the show’s concept. They’ve set up rules about what they can and can’t do with time travel – no changing the past, but you can change the future, but selfishness is always punished. But they’ve violated those rules all the time: Zari left Helen of Troy on Themiscyra; Zari and Ava’s past is everyone else’s future; and this whole show is basically Nate’s dream job. With Amaya, it seems like the show is trying to have it both ways: she needs to end up with Nate for her story to pay off, but if she does it breaks history. She needs to save her village to actually be a hero, and her village’s destruction comes in her future, but it has to happen or Mallus escapes. She needs to have a good time and be entertaining to watch again, but the weight of her failure and her destiny keeps dragging everything around her down.
We end this week’s episode with Darhk tricked by a vision from the Death Totem into releasing Grodd to destroy Zambesi. Grodd is nominally successful, defeating Amaya’s daughter in maybe the worst looking fight and effects scene on the show in a while, but he is eventually defeated by the Legends, saving the village and freeing Mallus. Mallus, by the way, is just a big generic looking demon.
It’s worth remembering that last season’s last three episodes basically functioned as one long one, so it may not be fair to judge this one without seeing next week’s. But if next week’s isn’t a direct continuation (and a LOT better), this season of Legends of Tomorrowis ending on a down note.
DC UNIVERSE TIME BUBBLES
– Line of the night: anything with Obama. Seriously. Sara’s “The rest of us? We’re on Obamacare” was great. “Make America Grodd Again” was SUPER on the nose but also who cares I love it. Sara telling Obama to hang onto his birth certificate was beautiful. And Obama telling Grodd “We’ve got to have some common ground,”…somebody on the writing staff has Opinions on Obama’s relationship with congress, I bet.
– After Mick’s “I want to get back to Lord of the Rings,”Ava’s “You can read?” was so quick I had to rewind twice to make sure I caught it. Great work.
– Speaking of Ava, the revelation last week that she’s a clone got like, 2 scenes this week. One where Rip revealed that this Ava is the twelfth version he’s picked up, and one where she angsts about being a clone and walks off on Sara after Sara drops the L-bomb on her. I suspect we get more of this next week.
– David Sobolov has been Grodd’s voice since The Flash, but I’m not sure if he was back here. Nothing on IMDB about it yet, though, so let me know in the comments if my keen ear for voice acting was right.
– You know what I DON’T have a keen ear for? Predictions. Turns out Mallus is nobody. That’s a huge let down.
– The Zambezi River is a real thing. It runs from Angola to the Indian Ocean in Mozambique, and it’s the river wh ere you can find Victoria Falls. It’s reasonable to assume that, in a map of the fictional DC Universe, the village Zambesi in the country Zambesi might be in the same general vicinity of the Zambezi River. Based off of climate maps I furiously googled during a commercial break or two, nowhere on the Zambezi River has enough altitude for people to be what most humans would consider “cold.” So why are Nate and Wally dressed like they’re doing yard work in late fall Vancouver? Why can we see their breath? I don’t ask for a ton, but I would like a little effort.
– John Noble to fake PA Ray Palmer: “Tell Peter Jackson no more chickens. I ate 4 this morning.” Denethor gnawing through a chicken and a tomato is probably the most vivid scene I remember from those movies. I love John Noble but if I never watch him eat again I will be very okay.
– Bearing in mind my predictions are always wrong: I bet Nate dies next week. Amaya doesn’t remember him, but for her to walk away and leave him on the ship because they can’t figure out a cheat for the time travel is half-assed for a show that cares this little about the repercussions of time travel. So I think he dies and she makes herself forget because she’s too heartbroken, and not out of some sense of BS duty.
– I never noticed this before, but the Time Bureau’s time travel apparatus very strongly resembles the Doors that the Authority used in Wildstorm comics (and now that the Justice League is using in Metal.More on this soon).
– More evidence for my “Nate’s gonna die” theory: He refers to himself as “a man of steel.” Obviously he will be killed by a Warner copyright lawyer.
– Probably because he called himself a Man of Steel then admitted to blazing during Planet Earth in the next breath.
– NEXT WEEK: We head back to the wild west for Jonah Hex, Constantine, and I think the crew takes a big swing at redeeming Amaya the only way they can: by dressing her as Vigilante from JLU.