It’s a season of darkness. The wind howls, whipping cold across your cheeks. (This is coming to you from the midwest, just go with me.) Eyes sting, fingers burn, and even the white snow grows gray. The sun shines faintly, and then is gone before dinner, leaving you huddled against the chill with only the terrible, terrible news for company. Then suddenly, a beam cuts through the darkness, like a rainbow beacon from a murderous unicorn that shoots hallucinogenic glitter. They bring warmth and color and sound and very dumb, very wonderful jokes. They are the now-famous Legends, and they have, thank god, returned.
That’s a hyperbolic opening, but what of it? This writer means every word.
Like every Arrowverse show this week, the daffy fifth season premiere of DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow has a shadow in its heart. Unlike its compatriots, it’s a shadow of several parts: the death of Oliver Queen and the toll it takes on Sara (Caity Lotz); the dual knowledge possessed by Sara as well as Ray (Brandon Routh) and Mick (Dominick Purcell) of this reality as well as another, in which infinite earths were destroyed, among many other eventful occurrences; and a third, fainter shadow—a sense that something’s not quite right, that something’s missing, or perhaps someone is missing. And on top of all that, there’s also the fact that they’re each dealing with their newfound fame in ways that range from “basically pretending it’s not happening and hoping it stops while getting progressively angrier” to “Japanese whisky commercials,” none of which is particularly healthy. Oh, and they also have to stop the government from impounding the Waverider, which is also running into trouble because Gideon’s got a very significant bug. It’s a lot.
That doesn’t mean that Legends isn’t gonna Legend. Of course it will. “Meet The Legends” adopts the well-worn make-a-documentary trope (a hard format to pull off) and plops it unapologetically into the midst of the madness, and of course, hijinks ensue. But every good episode of this show (and this is a good, good episode of this show) has something going on underneath and amidst the madness. In this case, that thing is Caity Lotz being an absolute powerhouse, which, when you include the Crisis finale, means she’s done two of her best-ever episodes back to back while chaos swirls all around. This is an episode in which Behrad Tomaz (Shayan Sobhian), who you’ll remember as Zari’s formerly dead brother, uses his totem to fan away a room full of pot smoke and Nate (Nick Zano) demonstrates the power of fame by asking a random dude for his hat, and yet when it comes right down to it, there’s a lot of emotional firepower as well. Sara’s in mourning, and the response of the rest of the Legends becomes even more distressing when you remember that Sara’s Crisis storyline involved realizing that everyone (except her mom, who the Arrowverse pretends doesn’t exist) that knew her well from her pre-Waverider days is dead, and the Legends are her new family.
And then they fail so, so big. They screw things up, and at least at first, it is not even sort of for the better. But they get it together, as they always do, because they’re a family. And also because Gideon keeps spitting out seemingly random but not actually random words (“Captain Cat,” “Marion Ravenwood,” etc.) and Astra’s down there in hell sending up villagains/evildo-overs/encores, and they still need money, and Rasputin’s undead, and things are very bad, and a documentary crew is capturing the whole thing.
And the documentary part actually pays dividends. (TV history is littered with bad in-universe documentary episodes, though there are a few good ones, too. ) Director Kevin Mock, who also helmed “Hey, World!” and “Beebo The God Of War,” among other Legends episodes, gets really playful with his camerawork: the Atom-cam, the cracked screens on a few of the crew’s cameras, Nate and Mona’s shared insistence on screentime, lots of awkward quick takes to the camera and handheld zooms, and of course, that dip-into-a-kiss that then captures Ava fainting and Sara giving a thumbs up to the camera. A great, incredibly fun shot.
But as is the case with every show from time to time, there is some housekeeping to be done, and some is handled less gracefully than others. It’s minor stuff, and most of it’s welcome, even if it’s also a little clumsy. I’ll mourn Mick’s career as Rebecca Silver even as I recognize how neatly it works as an excuse for a quick exit for Mona (and Ramona Young, who’s billed here as a special guest star.) Good move? Yes, for sure. Rushed, though, and a little convenient. It’s incredibly reassuring that Zari’s presence looms so large, even when she’s absent (“And she’s stuffing her face with doughnuts”), though the broken Gideon trying to tell them all what’s gone wrong one random word at a time works better than Nate’s Rasputin hypnosis. (The Leia message at the end though—that’s great.) And after that genuinely wrenching scene when Sara kind of snaps, the mid-fight make-up feels a little easy. Not that such a scene couldn’t make a huge difference, but something about it just feels a little hollow.
Yet I say again: Who cares? This is maybe the most purely fun show on TV. This review hasn’t even addressed Constantine taking a demon out for a pint, not considering the fact that the child said demon is possessing won’t make it through the door of the adult establishment, nor has it gotten into the many, many blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes in the hour. (“Ryan Reynolds to star in live-action Detective Beebo.”) It would be can’t-miss territory even if it weren’t consistently, if sometimes subtly, emotionally rich stuff. Now that the housekeeping’s done—exits, entrances, a new status quo, financial stability, no more fame, and a source of anomalies for the season—we can get down to the pure joy that is Legends’ brand of gleeful nonsense. Yes, it’s a lot of fun, and it can make a winter night seem a lot more colorful and warm and weird—but it’s also, plain and simple, one of the best shows on TV.
- Welcome back to Legends coverage! I have been looking forward to this since, well, the fourth season finale. Y’all are my favorite comments section. Speaking of, before anyone gets salty about the letter grade, a reminder that a) they’re meaningless and b) my general rule is to grade based on the show, not TV overall. A B+ for Last Man Standing is very different than a B+ for Legends. An A for Legends is very different than an A for Mad Men. So this is a wonderful episode I really enjoyed with a couple little tiny things that bugged. B+, but know that my heart always says A.
- Episode MVP: Caity Motherfuckin’ Lotz. But everyone was great. Jess Macallan probably takes second.
- Nate made Ray a welcome home sign!
- Great fight scenes, some of which seem designed to underline how many of her own stunts Caity Lotz does. Between the Crisis finale and this, it feels a lot like someone somewhere wanted to make clear how amazing she is.
- Why the fuck not?: So many options. But come on, Ray Palmer did Thanus, and then they storied Rasputin’s remains in six condiment jars, and then John Constantine drank jar #2 so that he could apparate to hell.
- Line-reading of the week: Ray’s “And sometimes you have to take some people outm I guess,” although Ava’s sympathy card is a close second.
- Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: Another tie: “Shouldn’t have done the crossover” with the whole movie Q&A.
- Season five episode title ranking: 1. Meet The Legends. A boring list now, but just you wait.
- Trust me: Call this number.
Screenshot: The CW
- Here’s this week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form. Pretty obvious but it works!