This Legends of Tomorrow review contains spoilers.
Legends of Tomorrow Season 5 Episode 4
“Slay Anything” proves fairly conclusively that Legends is my favorite show on television. It proves it not by any one element that propels it to greatness, but because so much of the episode was thoroughly mediocre to bad. And yet, even with an episode that wasn’t very good, there’s still so much in it that is rewarding and earned and earnest that I would rather watch this episode again than almost anything else on television. That’s a true testament to how good it is.
“Slay Anything” is Legends of Tomorrow’s slasher movie episode. It starts out with Freddy Myers (we’ll come back to this) getting the chair at Iron Heights, for being a serial killer. Ava identifies him as the Prom Night Slasher, and we find out that he’s back on Earth and coming for his 15th high school class reunion in 2004 to finish the job. The team goes there, discovers Freddy and his telekinetic powers, and after Ray and Nate get locked outside the school, they jump in the Waverider to go back to 1989 and try and stop him from becoming a serial killer in the first place. At the same time, Constantine and Gary are back at his Mysterious House (I’m fairly sure it’s the House of Mysteries, but I don’t believe it’s confirmed as that so we’ll be coy for a bit), looking for a way to solve his Astra problem, and also to get drunk alone and hide from his Astra problem. They find Charlie there, posing as him and doing much sex to many people.
This premise isn’t any more derivative than anything else they’ve done on Legends, but for some reason the execution bothered me a little bit. First of all, this episode hammered home how far from superheroics it’s drifted. I was a tiny bit annoyed at how Mick carries around his flamethrower in a school reunion, but Nate can’t metal up and rip off a door, or Ray can’t shrink through a door jamb. By the end, I think I had reconciled with the idea that this isn’t really a superhero show anymore – it’s a workplace comedy with superheroes in it. But it was a little jarring to have to grapple with that while the show was going on in the background. Secondly, it felt like the episode’s twist was obvious to anyone who had ever watched a slasher movie, and that the writers knew it was obvious, but it never really did anything clever with that knowledge. Many of the best episodes of Legends will subvert your expectations or understanding of the show or the genre they’re parodying. Here they just rolled with it. The serial killer is actually Freddy’s mom, who doesn’t want him to leave, and she dies the night he’s executed of a heart attack. That’s how she’s back, with extra powers.
Also, appropos of nothing, while I knew they were doing Halloween from the moment the episode started, they could have found a better name for the kid. “Freddy Myers” spiraled me into a 10 minute Superior Foes of Spider-Man rabbit hole, as that is the name of Spider-Man’s superior roommate, Boomerang.
But at the same time, the episode’s strong points were the show’s strong points. This cast is still having a blast. Tala Ashe is doing an incredible job of playing the same Zari we’ve grown to love over the last few seasons, buried under a few layers of circumstance and working her way free. This episode belongs almost entirely to Jes Macallan and Courtney Ford, though, and in the end, it’s those two who do most of the work keeping the episode fun. Macallan’s Ava shows off a deep fangirl side – she has, we discover, podcast where she goes deep on serial killers and ranks them (and Nate’s bit where he tells Gideon to order a mattress using the promo code from Ava’s show is no shit my favorite joke of the season so far). She’s deeply versed in serial killer lore and tropes, and her excitement at her and Sara being “FINAL GIRLS!!!” was outstanding. Also, the fight choreography between “Freddy,” Ava and Sara is superb, some of the best Legends has ever done. And the editing of that final fight sequence, cutting back and forth between Zari, Behrad and the kids in 1989 fighting off Freddy’s mom; and the fight in 2004 between Ava, Sara and Freddy’s telekinetic mom; is similarly superb.
Courtney Ford’s return was a very pleasant surprise, and it was even better that Fairy Godmother Norah Dahrk got an arc in the episode. She’s off giving every kid a pony, but when she travels with Nate and Ray to 1989, she ends up becoming Freddy’s fairy godmother and running an actual Cinderella routine on his prom, heading off multiple attempts at turning him into Carrie. In the course of doing this, she discovers her value as a mentor to the kids wishing through her. It’s actually very subtle (always a pleasant surprise on this show, praise Beebo) – she talks about how her powers make her drawn to the kids with the biggest need. That group will likely self-select to kids whose backgrounds are troubled, which allows her to use her own traumatic upbringing as a model for how these kids can grow through their own trauma.
And therein lies the true value of Legends. Even when an episode is mediocre, when the plot is thin and the references overdone, the acting and the writing of the characters are so thoughtful and comfortable with the why of everyone that it’s still a fun episode, worth watching.