This Legends of Tomorrow review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 4 Episode 16
The degree of difficulty on this season of Legends of Tomorrow has been enormous. It’s always been the black sheep or the class clown of the Arrowverse, pushed off to the side while The Flash and Arrow and to a lesser extent Supergirl did the serious drama and superhero work, first as a misfit team up show, then as an increasingly absurdist meta-farce. But sometimes that class clown veneer hides a sensitive, passionate soul that loves too deeply. Other times, that class clown veneer is hiding a minotaur and an ogre doing a James Taylor duet to Tinkerbell Commander Steel back to life.
Legends was never a show to use metaphor to do heavy lifting. It was never going to have a dragon choose to destroy the symbol of its master’s demise rather than the person who killed her because MESSAGE! This was always the kind of show that would have a dragon cast off the shackles of its oppressive polyjuice transmogrification by going viral doing a little dance for a 9 year old girl. Ever since the show veered off into straight comedy, the writers and actors and directors have embraced every on-the-nose aspect of superhero storytelling, hung a giant flashing vaguely profane lampshade on it and shouted “LOOK AT HOW RIDICULOUS THIS IS” at the audience, laughing along with them.
Even the problems with the show’s main conceit are just played for absurdity. John and Fairy Godmother Nora start the episode in hell, trying to break Ray’s soul out, while the still-alive crew is figuring out a way to build Heyworld and show everyone that the magical creatures are actually good. In order to build Heyworld in time, they decide that they need to break into the uncrackable vault in the Time Bureau and steal the book that Mick was using to write Garima and kaiju to life in back at the start of the seaon. As they finish outlining the problem, Mick walks in and growls “already did it” as he tosses the book to Ava. That is, and please remember this is meant as a complement, extremely stupid. On a different show, that would be lazy writing. On a different show that was still good, that would be a meta knock on the concept of deus ex machina. On Legends of Tomorrow, they probably just needed to shave off some time between hilarious nonsense setpieces and said “eeh, nobody’ll miss this.”
They’re right! Legends wins on its turbocharged charm, its constant, unbridled glee, not because of intricate plotting or delicate, nuanced characters. It is so good that it manages to be utterly predictable and shocking at the same time. It knows its characters, makes them behave in clear and consistent ways, and still manages to use its own world to drop a surprise in that draws an audible laugh. As Constantine and Nora approached the room in hell where Ray was being held, I paused playback and wrote down “They’re playing it up to sound like Ray’s being tortured real bad in there, but if they’re being true to Ray’s character and the show’s history, he’s actually best friends with his torturer right now.” Unpause, and what do we see behind the door?
The Atom and Vandal Savage playing Jenga.
He’s not even menacing anymore. He just really likes hanging out with Ray. He’s even kinda sensitive now that he’s had some time to hang out with his new buddy.
There is one pretty enormous plot point that processes through this episode that isn’t played for laughs. Zari’s pet dragon and the world’s possible acceptance of some very weird shit leads to a large change in the future, preventing Zari’s dystopia from coming to pass. And unless she’s outside the timestream on the Waverider when that timeline solidifies, she’ll change and no longer be with Nate. So naturally, when Nate lets Constantine kill him so Ray can go back into his own body, Zari heads to Earth to help drum up the crowd for the James Taylor singalong. She gets a nice moment with Nate before she suddenly turns into her now not-dead brother, having averted his death at the hands of Argus by actually building a better world.
It’s almost to the point where the plot has ceased to be important. As I was driving to work this morning, wallowing in my own leftover fury from a much more nonsensical finale, I tried to refocus by going through what Legends had left to do in its final episode of the season. I got to “Get Ray, John and Nora out of hell and make people okay with monsters,” looked out the window for a second, and then put a podcast on. I’m not watching this show for any reason other than it’s charm and glee and the utter joy that is evident from everyone I can see working on it.
But if they don’t bring back Tala Ashe I’m gonna be pretty pissed.
– As you may be aware, next year’s big Arrowverse crossover event is the most unlikely television adapation of all time: Crisis on Infinite Earths. And as the most ambitious television crossover of all time (and I say this as someone who waited 16 episodes for Agents of SHIELD. to get good AND THEN WAITED ANOTHER 45 wakka wakka), the CW and the affiliated shows have been pushing it earlier and heavier than any crossover before it. Flash, Arrow and Supergirl all had major teases dropped for the crossover at the end of their episodes, and I, dear reader, was READY FOR IT. So begins our regular coverage of the lead ins, references and allusions to CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS!!!
– The Monitor showed up in the crowd during the Legends’ dance number, glaring ominously at the team’s failing attempt at inspiring the crowd of Frederick, Maryland.
– Later, the show cut back to the Monitor glaring less ominously at the dragon attack, eating popcorn.
– That’s it. See you in 2020 for Legends of Tomorrow season 5.