This Legends of Tomorrow episode review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 5 Episode 14
Legends of Tomorrow has a tendency to overdo it. On everything. The jokes, the melodrama, the amount of show they try and cram into each episode. “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV,” the penultimate episode of the show’s phenomenal fifth season, is maybe the most jammed episode they’ve ever done, but it’s also absolutely perfect. This might be the best episode the Legends team has ever done.
We left last week with everyone dying, and Charlie reuniting with her Fate sisters to cut a deal. This week, we get the results of that deal. Mona is working in Atropos’ ministry, responsible for rewriting history to remove any reference to rebellion or free will in a 1984-esque dystopia and spending her free time watching the Fates’ streaming service/indoctrination network, while Gary wears a sandwich board outside her office and shouts about the world not being right.
Zari, Nate and a resurrected Behrad are cast members on Friends in Mona’s streaming service; Constantine, Astra and her mother are all on a Downton Abbey ripoff; and Sara and Ava (and later Mick) are FINALLY showing us what Spock/Kirk shippers have been shouting into AO3 for decades on not-Star Trek.
Zari is the first to snap out of it, when her totem projects the consciousness of Zari classic into her character on the show. She then starts poking around the set of the show, while Behrad and Nate continue with their wacky sitcom hijinx, until Zari opens a door nobody had ever opened before onto static, and then Constantine’s House of Mystery, or Highcastle Abbey, as it’s now known.
Eventually, the two Persian royals and their footman convince Constantine to send them to Sara, where the whole crew end up as Gromulans in a confrontation with Sara and Ava’s Waverider. Once they link up, they’re captured by Mr. Parker and taken to his Cul-De-Sac, where their minds are rewritten so they remember who they are.
Charlie tries to stop it and reveals that this was her deal with her sisters – she could save the Legends, but she would have to rewrite reality in their favor and they’d be trapped on television. But they all still manage to break out of their respective shows, and the episode ends with the team reunited in an empty TV studio.
That’s a short summary, but there are a LOT of extra layers. First, the surface stuff – the writers and cast just crush the shows they’re homaging. Nate leans HEAVILY into his Joey Tribbiani archetype on Ultimate Buds, bragging about landing an audition as Robin Hood on a new show called Arrow. The Downton references are absolutely hilarious – Astra is a mash-up of all the sisters, while Constantine gets to be Mr. Carson (extremely stuffy and a little bit racist) and Thomas, only instead of being in the closet about his sexuality, he’s in the closet about magic.
As for Star Trek, Caity Lotz is clearly having the time of her life doing her Shatner impression, and I’m still gobsmacked that they used Mick to basically summarize AND parody The Wrath of Khan in 15 seconds – Sara and Ava were put in a no-win situation where they seemed forced to go on in the show, so they decided to not win and die in the show to see if they’d be saved.
Gary and Mona are the framing device and the plot propulsion for the episode. They end up at Clotho Studios, they do many of the rewrites of the algorithm programming the shows’ scripts, and they’re the source of the show’s best and most clever moment.
The Zari/Behrad situation had been increasingly hard to see a satisfactory end to. Insta-Zari was great, and Tala Ashe has been the unquestionable MVP of this season, but someone was also going to end up disappointed at the end of this season. Either Behrad would stay dead, or flannel Zari wouldn’t return, or Insta-Zari would be overwritten. So how does the show deal with that? They have TV writers change the script on camera. That’s brilliant, “I can see you!” from Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, adapted for TV by a room full of California stoners.
The show even manages to craft a successful emotional payoff to the season-long Astra/Constantine story. Everyone gets returned to their shows after a SUPER dark song from Mr. Parker about repression. Astra gets to see her mom (the lady of the house) again, but she’s waiting for Constantine to pull her away so they can go save the world. But it doesn’t happen. Matt Ryan sells the hell out of his speech about why he’s not going to fight it, and how he’d stay a butler for the rest of eternity to give her what she deserves.
On any other show, half of this would be too on the nose to succeed, and the other half would have been moved to another episode while the showrunner said “Jesus, slow down people.” Not Legends. At one point about halfway through the episode, a commercial for The Waltons came on, and for the first five seconds of it, I thought it was a new show the Legends had jumped into and got really excited. The fact that I didn’t end up disappointed after it turned out to not be true just shows how good the rest of the episode was – even my ridiculously high expectations are exceeded week in and week out by Legends of Tomorrow.