If we’ve learned one thing about the Legends Of Tomorrow writers’ room over the last several years, it’s that said room is filled with film geeks. If we’ve learned two things, it’s that said geeks enjoy giving a big ol’ thumbs down to capitalism.
In other words, “There Will Be Brood” was probably inevitable.
LoT is really feeling its Paul Thomas Anderson fantasy in this episode — and let’s pause for just a moment and thank the universe for giving us a CW show that gives us babies being born through a nose one week and a tragic PTA-inspired episode the next. That’s not to say that “There Will Be Brood” is 100-percent tragic, but by post-season-one Legends standards, it’s practically a dirge*. That it’s grim should come as no surprise. Things have to get rough before the finale; previous penultimate episodes have hinged on Mallus claiming Nora, the gang getting spear-of-destinied into Doomworld and stuck on TV, and, uh, NeRay.
But even compared to those installments, this one’s dark — but how else could this show ever say goodbye to John Constantine?
Not everyone gets a happy ending, and anyway, John Constantine isn’t the type. Folks can quibble with the buildup to “There Will Be Brood” — particularly when it comes to the ins and outs of Bishop’s “plan,” the big Fountain-of-Imperium reveals, and the effectiveness of all of the John vs. John stuff** — but there’s no denying that Constantine’s end was never likely to be one of gumdrops and rainbows. That John got to see Astra living her life out of hell, that he got to fall in love (again) and make friends — that’s his happy ending. And as any romance reader could tell you, sometimes happy endings aren’t happily-ever-afters. Sometimes they’re happy-for-nows.
No, what’s startling about “There Will Be Brood” isn’t that John Constantine dies of addiction/is murdered by Bishop (it’s both, and good on Legends for allowing that to be complicated). It’s that, in spite of the aforementioned hand-waving, this episode, from credited writers Ray Utarnachitt and Marcelena Campos Mayhorn, successfully links together some of this season’s most disparate storylines while retreading familiar territory that nevertheless feels fresh. What’s Spooner’s deal? Fountain of Imperium. What’s Bishop’s plan? Fountain of Imperium. What’s John’s undoing? Fountain of Imperium. Mick and Kayla’s brood? Okay, no fountain there, but given the ties to Bishop, it still works.
Bishop’s manipulation of Blood-Magic-John leads to most of the Legends being stranded at John’s place, while Bishop, Blood-John, and unwitting stowaways Spooner and Astra head to early 20th century Texas to find the fountain. It’s Odessa, Texas, to be precise, which is Spooner’s hometown, and as it turns out, that’s no coincidence. It seems that Spooner was abducted by aliens from earlier in the timeline, as she and Astra learn when they encounter Spooner’s mother Gloria (Alexandra Castillo) and Kid-Spooner (Dominique Lucky Martell). When John meets Kid-Spooner, he sees in a flash what’s about to happen: Some evil oil types, determined to take Gloria’s land, kill her, and when Kid- Spooner flees, she’s “abducted” by the fountain.
Oh, and by the way, the fountain is actually an alien entity — a mushroom, to be precise. Also, all mushrooms are aliens. (Very Doctor Who, that.)
What’s marvelous about that twist is that when you read the sentence “Spooner gets abducted by a mushroom that’s actually an alien,” it sounds ridiculous in typically Legends fashion, a true why-the-fuck-not moment. But it’s not. It’s moving and lovely, almost making it possible to forget that the show is just casually slipping in the fact that the fountain is a) an alien being that b) protects Earth from malevolent space invaders and c) is Bishop’s ultimate target because he d) wants to do a hard reboot on the planet, which humans seem determined to destroy.
That it works at all is a testament to the episode’s primary cast: Matt Ryan, Lisseth Chavez, Olivia Swann, Castillo, and Raffi Barsoumian, and particularly those first two. Ryan’s unsettlingly flat yet familiar take on Blood-John is incredibly effective; until the final moments, it’s as if the John we know died last week. Chavez, given some real material to play, doesn’t disappoint, giving Spooner more depth and complexity than she’s been allowed to thus far. (She is also aided by the writers’ decision to double down on the Astra/Spooner friendship, which pays off here big-time.
John’s poisoning (and subsequent tear-jerking farewell) and Spooner’s impassioned, grief-fueled defense of her mother give the episode most of its emotional heft, but it’s bolstered by the rest of the team’s efforts to save the Rory-Kayla brood; cheers to everyone, writers and cast alike, for not playing the wee lil’ eggs for laughs. Once-reluctant dad Mick braves Bishop’s explosives to retrieve one last egg, ultimately putting him face to face with the flames that have so shaped his life. That’s... probably not great.
Neither is the fact that we’re about to lose Legends again, at least for a bit; after next week’s finale, the show is off until it returns for season seven in October. When it comes back, Matt Ryan will be in tow, but unless something truly wild happens next week, we’ve reached the end of the road for a nasty piece of work, and for a marriage of actor and character that’s as good as any I can think of. He’s like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington or Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl —an actor playing the perfect role and obviously relishing every moment, one “special appearance” at a time.
* — Also, PTA can be really fucking funny.
** — Quibbles aside, the actual John vs. John fight at the end of the last episode was masterful, and Matt Ryan has been absolutely crushing it.
- For timeline reasons.
- No one, no one, can convince me that the decision to make the fountain a mushroom was not inspired by Phantom Thread.
- Psst, Legends: do Phantom Thread next. P
- So... no vampire-lawyer, huh? Surprised and a wee bit bummed, both by her failure to materialize and by the lack of non-painting Crowley.
- Does Nate use his extremely helpful superpower in this episode? Did you see that mushroom? No way they have the budget for Nate to steel up.
- Episode MVP: Lisseth Chavez and Matt Ryan, come on down.
- Why the fuck not?: Kayla-luring via social media.
- Line-reading of the week: “I don’t have a driver’s license.”
- Episode title ranking: 1. Stressed Western. 2. Bored On Board Onboard. 3. This Is Gus. 4. There Will Be Brood. 5. Meat: The Legends. 6. Ground Control To Sara Lance. 7. Back To The Finale: Pt. ii. 8. Bishop’s Gambit 9. Bay Of Squids. 10. Silence Of The Sonograms. 11. The Satanist’s Apprentice. 12. The Ex-Factor. 13. The Final Frame 14. Bad Blood.