This Legends of Tomorrow review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 5 Episode 2
Well that was incredible.
I stopped being defensive about how much I love Legends of Tomorrow sometime towards the end of the second season. A little before the show stopped being defensive about how much fun it was, now that I think about it. And once that happened, it settled into a nice rhythm of having stupid amounts of fun on screen (and off, probably – a big part of the appeal), moving whatever ridiculous plot the season set up along, and getting us into its characters’ heads and making us love them. There would be the occasional turd, but it would always rebound quickly. The show thrived on parallel tracks: gleefully throwing the craziest plot shit it could at us, and digging down deep into intensely lovable misfits.
But I don’t think they’ve ever put together an episode like this. “Meet the Legends” might be the best hour of television Legends of Tomorrow has ever done.
We left off last season with Astrid, Constantine’s big failure, taking over hell from Neron and cutting loose the worst of the worst demons. The Legends saved the world from Neron’s attempted takeover in an incredibly public way, and they came out of it famous, but possibly broke because of some…issues…with their federal funding. Ava’s solution is to try and reclaim their government funding by letting a documentary crew onto the Waverider. Sara goes off to “the crossover” and comes back a mess, and a timequake rumbles, pointing the crew (and their documentary tails) to 1917 Russia and Rasputin’s return from the dead. Meanwhile, Constantine stays in 2020 NYC to track down the real story on the overarching plot of the season. The team is a mess without her running point, so everybody goes off and tries to solve the Rasputin problem three different ways and fails catastrophically, leaving the film crew behind and turning Rasputin into a real housemage or something. When Sara gets a call from Constantine, she pulls it together and heads off to finish the job without killing Rasputin, who as a recent returnee from hell, can’t be killed until they fix something down there.
The plot is as simple and straightforward as any other episode of the show, but the execution is magnificent. The first 25 minutes or so are funnier than any episode to come before it. It kicks off with a recap of “Legends Mania” – all of the fame and adoration coming the team’s way after their big win – and it has some incredible stuff in there, like chibi Steel or Ava and Sara at a basketball game with Obama and Jill Biden. Zari’s brother, Behrad (who replaced her on the Waverider after her universe-saving paradox subbed him onto the team and out of nonexistence) spends a lot of time baking out the ship, and Mona is “Rebecca Silver” (Mick’s bodice-ripping alter ego)’s agent, wolfing out while negotiating in a metaphor that is so incredibly on the nose that this show couldn’t have avoided using it, and also couldn’t have failed to use it well.
A lot of this is standard Legends comedy, but they scatter in a couple of really sharp lines and absurd sitcom scenarios and pick up the pace A LOT, like to Rick & Morty levels, for much of the first half of the episode. Ava asking Gideon “time sex tourism?” in response to a timequake is not a joke that season 2 Legends would have even tried, nevermind squeezing it into a dense, quick scene. John Constantine doesn’t get him and his demon friend (who’s possessing a 13 year old boy) thrown out of a strip club in season 4 (by the way, do yourselves a favor and call the number on Constantine’s business card…you’ll thank us later).
And the episode is a fun, smart send up of reality TV that only succeeds the way it does if the folks making it understand both the reality and documentary formats, what makes them work and fail, and then sets out to intentionally break the format for fun.
Then the show pivoted to some excellent character work. One of the best things about reading superhero comics, something the Arrowverse does exceptionally well, is use the shared universe to make everything feel bigger, and I’ve never seen a show translate that vibe from page to screen better than Legends of Tomorrow. This episode’s heart was crucial to its success, and also made it feel like the first comic issue after a big summer event book, where the main characters processing the event lets the reader get a lot of character time.
White Canary gets the development this time. Caity Lotz does some of her best work of the show, coming off of the death of Ollie and the rest of the batshit miscellanea she’s now carrying with her from “the crossover.” She’s her usual Sara – constantly skating on the edge of exasperated and losing control of the situation, but also still reliable and a deceptively good leader – but there’s a good amount of sadness and loneliness in her in this episode. I took some pretty furious notes through the opening, rewinding a couple of times to make sure I caught all the jokes, but when the focus turned from everyone reacting to Sara’s Crisis scars to Sara working through them, I completely drifted away from my note taking because I was pretty captivated by the screen. I had mostly moved to just smiling at how good the episode was.
Until the part where Ray reverted to normal size from inside Rasputin’s esophagus, at which point I laugh/coughed so loud that I woke my wife and a dog up. I knew it was coming about 10 seconds before it actually happened, just enough time to get my hands over my mouth and whisper “holy shit no way,” and then all of a sudden the documentary director is covered in Russian viscera and I’m about to roll off of my couch laughing. And no sooner can I write down “wow they’re really going to leave several jars of Rasputin lying around the Waverider? That’ll end well” than Constantine barges through the ship and pounds a jar of Czar to head back into Hell to figure out how to fix this.
I’m amazed at Legends hit rate. Even the bad episodes are a ton of fun, but the good ones are some of the best on television, and this post-Crisis kickoff to season five is Legends’ best yet.