Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 2 Review: Freakshow

A little wariness and a little historical context make for a mixed episode of Legends of Tomorrow.

This Legends of Tomorrow review contains spoilers.

Legends of Tomorrow Season 3 Episode 2

I’m…not sure how I feel about the new status quo on Legends of Tomorrow.The show has generally leaned into the humor and absurdity of the fringes of a superhero universe – it’s one of the things that made it maybe the strongest superhero show on television. But the shift from last season’s desperate, frantic sprint to save the universe from permanent alterations at the hands of three psychopaths that led to broken rules and more broken timelines, to this year’s “gang of lovable screw ups” has been pretty jarring.

“Freakshow” was a little bit of a mess of an episode, one that helped crystalize my concerns. It was a product of multiple factors, but the biggest one was that the show stopped having fun alongside the characters and started, a little bit, having fun at their expense. 

The heart of the episode is spent on Amaya’s return from 1942 Zambesi, brought back by Sara to deal with a sabretooth tiger being shown in PT Barnum’s freakshow in 1870s Wisconsin. We find out why and how she ghosted Nate – she saw news about her granddaughter, Mari, fighting crime in Detroit and realized she needed to go back. And we find out that her powers are on the fritz, turning her into a killer every time she accesses them. This is fine, and fairly typical Legendsstuff.

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The plot engine of the episode, though, is Nate, Ray and Jax being dipshits. The team spends a lot of time lampshading the fact that the Time Bureau thinks they’re screw ups, so naturally, those three spend the entire episode proving the Bureau right. Nate, depressed that Amaya’s back, goes on a bender at the freak bar in town and reveals his metal skin to Barnum. Jax and Ray get captured and forced into a harness to pose as conjoined twins while Barnum tries to force Nate to metal up. Amaya is eventually captured, and to escape she uses the amulet and freaks out, nearly killing Barnum.

The plot was fine – in fact, there was a part of the episode that felt like Legendsgrabbing another genre and making it their own, like they’ve done with Westerns and horror before. This one was a vaudeville bit: Garber is awesome as the exaggerated clown he poses as to infiltrate the freakshow, and even though the joke is at their expense a little, Jax and Ray are pretty funny as the conjoined twins.

Ultimately, this episode was actually fairly in line with early episodes last season, which I also didn’t really care for. It was a little tonal confusion, with a lot of place setting and a hint of adjusting to a new status quo. While this episode wasn’t great, the show has earned more than enough goodwill for me to move past it and be excited for the next one.

DC UNIVERSE TIME BUBBLES

– This episode is where we see the line from the trailer, Stein’s “I refuse to set foot on the Titanic. Whoever built that ship should be shot.” Victor Garber built the Titanic in his role as Thomas Andrews in James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster movie. He co-starred there with Billy Zane, this week’s villain. That is, disappointingly enough, the only blatant Titanic joke in the entire episode.

– I can’t believe they put B’wana Beast on television and not only got away with it, but made it work. The Beast was Barnum’s topless loinclothed guy in the freak show. In the comics, he’s a rich kid who crashes flying over Zambesi who drinks an elixir that gives him super strength and superhuman senses. Also he gets a helmet that lets him merge any two animals into a chimera. He does that a lot in Grant Morrison’s run on Animal Man, and I have a theory. Give me a second.

– Barnum tells Nate to “become the man of steel,” then mugs and says “that’s pretty catchy.” Then he mugs again and says “AIN’T I A STINKER?” I’m being harsh but…

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– Pretty sure Sara sent Stein and Mick out after the tiger. They ended up as a clown version of Firestorm. NO WORRIES.

– By the way, I don’t know about you, but I spent the entire Sara/Sharp fight exasperatedly yelling “stop dancing around it and kiss already” at the tv. This is the most obviously telegraphed relationship I’ve seen on TV in years.

– Not sure what Mallus’s henchperson is chanting when she summons that water elemental in the stinger scene, but the water elemental turns out to be Kuasa. If you don’t recognize her, don’t sweat it: she’s the sister of Mari McCabe, the present-day Vixen, who died in season 2 of the Vixenanimated series on CW Seed.

– In my original notes, I wrote “Water elemental? B’wana Beast? Vixen’s powers malfunctioning? Are they going to do The Red?” The Red is the “morphogenic” field that connects all living animal life and links everyone with animal powers. It’s another Morrison concept that’s often paired with “The Green,” which connects all plant life and plant heroes like Poison Ivy or Swamp Thing.

– Not a day with one of these shows goes by that I’m not ASTOUNDED that we’re living through a TV superhero renaissance led by Gypsy, Vixen, Steel, Martian Manhunter and Vibe, the core of Justice League Detroit.

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Rating:

2.5 out of 5