After a detour into more serious storytelling last week, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow returns to a sillier mode for an episode about Helen of Troy (Bar Paly) starting a bloody war between movie studios in 1937 Hollywood. There’s also a body swap plot with Jax and Martin that is a constant source of comedy, and this episode’s light touch makes for a fun jaunt through this glamorous time period. This breezy tone is immediately established in the first scene, which shows Helen walking through a studio lot and turning all the men around her into total klutzes as they discover her beauty. Humor is at the forefront of “Helen Hunt,” and even the show’s title sequence gets a playful makeover as it’s presented like the title card of a black-and-white film.
Legends Of Tomorrow could have challenged conventional ideals of beauty in its casting of Helen, but it instead goes for a blonde, thin, fair-skinned actress who fits a very familiar Hollywood mold. Helen’s effect over the men around her is played for laughs, but it actually draws attention to something very frightening and serious: the way women in Hollywood are treated by men who have no qualms about giving in to their baser instincts. For a while, I thought the show was going to reveal that Helen was a metahuman given how every man is immediately enchanted by her after one look, but there’s no indication that these reactions are due to anything other than plain old lust.
Helen is happy with her new status as a star in Hollywood given that she left behind a situation where soldiers were killing each other in her name, and she’s inspired by the women she sees when the Legends come to take her back to her original time period. Helen represents an antiquated view of women that is based solely for their appearance, but the other female characters in this episode show that women are so much more than just their looks. Sara, Amaya, and Zari are warriors and leaders, and they control their own destinies.
There’s also Hedy Lamarr, the stunning actress who is also a brilliant scientific mind. Lamarr’s patent for spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology in World War II would become the bedrock for today’s wireless technology, but when Helen derails Lamarr’s Hollywood career, she also prevents Lamarr’s inventions from coming to fruition. This puts the Waverider out of commission because it relies on Lamarr’s ideas to function, and Martin-as-Jax needs to get his boyhood crush back on screen so that the team isn’t stranded in 1937.
Martin and Jax’s body swap gives Victor Garber and Franz Drameh the chance to do something different with their performances, and Drameh’s imitation of Garber’s staccato, intense line delivery is responsible for the biggest laughs in this episode. Garber gets to be much more relaxed as Jax, but it’s not as delightful as seeing Drameh go over-the-top to match Garber’s heightened energy. The script by Keto Shimizu and Ubah Mohamed ignores the racism that would have been rampant in Hollywood during this time, allowing Martin-as-Jax to freely associate with Hedy Lamarr. She ends up being the person that undoes their body swap when she convinces them to merge into Firestorm, and while the science is total nonsense, it’s appropriate that Lamarr’s brain would ultimately be the thing that solves Martin and Jax’s problem.
Legends Of Tomorrow doing an episode about empowering women rather than objectifying them comes at an awkward time given that one of the show’s producers, Andrew Kreisberg, was suspended last Friday after multiple complaints of sexual harassment were brought against him. Zari is quick to deflect blame away from Helen when people talk about the effect she has on other men, and she wants everyone to recognize that women aren’t responsible for the awful things men do to get their attention. This is an important message for this current moment in Hollywood, but there needs to be major institutional changes that protect women from abuse while holding men accountable for their indiscretions.
Damien Darhk is this episode’s main villain, but we’ve already seen the Legends take him out, so his threats to destroy the team don’t carry much weight. The best thing about his presence in this episode is that it gives Sara the opportunity to have a swashbuckling swordfight, situating her as the kind of action hero you’d see in a ’30s adventure film. This connection is solidified when Sara swings across the screen on a rope like she’s Errol Flynn, and it draws attention to how far women have come since the days when they would’ve been relegated to the role of damsel in distress. There’s still plenty of progress to be made with regards to how women are treated in Hollywood, but giving them the opportunity to be strong, confident heroes is a step in the right direction.
It’s fitting that this episode would end by teasing the world’s most popular female superhero, and rather than taking Helen back to Troy, Zari returns to the time when Helen was last seen. This allows Helen to have a new start without disrupting the timeline, and the second phase of her life takes place on Themyscira, home of the Amazons. This is a big reveal that sets the stage for Wonder Woman in the Arrowverse, and while it’s possible that there are no plans to bring the character back to TV, the massive popularity of the Wonder Woman movie suggests that Warner Bros. would be wise to give the character as much spotlight as possible.
- Amaya learns that Kuasa is her granddaughter this week, which significantly complicates that relationship. Amaya clearly doesn’t want to fight her kin, but she also recognizes the danger Kuasa represents and the disgrace she brings to the totem and the Zambesi people.
- There’s a lazy joke about Ray getting his close-up from Cecil B. DeMille, but I do like the idea of Ray being courted for the pictures given that Brandon Routh’s superhero debut was on the big screen.
- Hedy Lamarr is introduced shoving food in her purse, a reference to the shoplifting scandals that plagued Lamarr later in life.
- Amaya looks like Little Orphan Annie when the women infiltrate Mr. Rothberg’s home.
- Next week’s episode has the team facing off against Gorilla Grodd during the Vietnam War. This show has fully embraced “anything goes” plotting, and no idea is too out there.
- Jax: “Look at my hands. They’re white.” Martin: “And mine appear to be African-American.” Jax: “You can just say black, gray.”
- Martin: “I don’t enjoy being inside you anymore than you enjoy being inside me.” (Jax laughs.)
- “Nasty in the past-y.”
- “I am something far more ruthless than a Hollywood agent. If that’s possible.”