Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Daddy Darhkest returns in an excellent, if bittersweet, Legends Of Tomorrow

Caity Lotz, Neal McDonough
Caity Lotz, Neal McDonough
Photo: Michael Courtney (The CW)

Gary gets to be the little flower-boy, after all.

That might seem like a minor detail—and it is. Most likely, the fact that Gary, no longer a train abomination, gets to toss flower petals at a wedding will matter very little to Legends Of Tomorrow in the long-term. It is, however, a little piece of what makes this show wonderful in microcosm. In the last episode, a dying Constantine urged “Raymondo” to “carpe his diem” and propose to former evil dark sorceress Nora Darhk, and Gary, who loves a good ‘ship, effusively asks if he can be the little flower boy. Ray, a gentle soul himself, says that’s sweet, but weird, and because Constantine is dying, it’s all a little sad and that’s the end of it. Correction: On a much lesser show, that’s the end of it. But the little details matter to Legends Of Tomorrow, and in an episode that number among the show’s best, they make time to show us Gary, sprinkling those flower petals with all the love in his heart. The show remembers because Ray Palmer would remember. So Gary gets to be the flower-boy, and all is right with the world.


That’s a key part of what makes Legends Of Tomorrow special. Yes, it’s daffy and weird, and yes, those why-the-fuck-not moments are irresistible, but the series wouldn’t resonate the way it does if the writers and the cast weren’t so committed to the characters. So here, friends, is a story centered on a familiar trope, if not one we see in superhero fiction all that often: the ruined dinner party. It is silly and funny and weird, and there are puppets and hell-swords and that train abomination. All that is true. But bubbling up from below, like the magic potion hidden inside the chocolate mousse, is a bunch of subtle, emotionally rich stuff. A long character arc coming in for a smooth, sweet landing. Separate storylines that weave together beautifully, connected by theme and motif. Little moments that reveal growth and change dropped casually into nearly every scene. And a tragic ending for a great TV villain who, thanks to this batshit crazy show, received one of the best character rehabs of recent memory.

But Damien Darhk (the great Neal McDonough) isn’t the only dad in this episode, and since we’ll obviously be spending the majority of this recap on several Darhk-related storylines, let’s spare a moment for Papa Heat Wave. The revelation that Mick Rory has a daughter, Lita (Mina Sundwall), may have been something viewers guessed at after Mick’s reunion hookup with Ali (Lisa Marie DiGiacinto), but the odds anyone predicted he’d discover her existence when confronting a Rebecca Silver troll are much lower. That’s hilarious, but there’s some potion bubbling beneath the surface there, too. Zari 2.0 says that beneath every troll is just a fan looking for attention, and it turns out that in a very different way, she was exactly right. Another girl finding ways to deal with a childhood without a father. Another father fearing that his flaws and mistakes will doom his daughter in some way. It’s brief and funny but it all ties into the main event in that perfect Legends way, and boy, is it even nice to see Dominic Purcell get some cool stuff to play. (And Tala Ashe continues to make Zari 2.0 a delight.)

The real action, however, is happening over in Constantine’s house (as much of this season has so far). Ray, carpe-ing his diem, recruits his TimeBros to help plan an epic date night at Constantine’s place, but Norah, expecting just pizza, shows up in jeans and an extremely cool fairy-godmother-blue leather jacket, Pippa (her charge from last week) in tow. But as we know from that amazing, Gary-centric cold open, something is wrong in the past, and then that wrong thing shows up at the door. I have to admit, much as I longed for the return of Damien Darhk, onetime misused Arrow villain and current arguable best bad of the Arrowverse*, I didn’t think it would actually happen. His ending was so perfect that a return seemed implausible, because how could it ever be topped?

This is how. The wrecked dinner party should be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched... well, almost any sitcom, but many movies as well. Beetlejuice. The Birdcage. The list goes on. Parties like these go wrong for lots of reasons, but the need to impress someone—a parent, a boss, a neighbor—usually fuels the disaster in some way. This is a classic example, done in high Legends style, in that the person trying to impress is hoping to make her life seem much darker and more evil than it actually is. The fact that there’s a ticking clock makes it all the more complicated; the ring in the mousse caps it all.

But none of that would matter so much were it not for the many threads that connect the people at that story and the ways in which they’re tugged. These stories reflect each other and intersect in fascinating ways. Sara’s desire to kill Damien Darhk isn’t just her trying to do her job, it’s fueled by a desire for revenge as well. (He did murder her sister, after all.) Nora’s need to have this night go smoothly springs directly from her father’s final act of sacrifice back in the Beebo days, just as her love for godmothering ties back to that very dark (darhk) childhood. Nora invokes book club with Ava. Ava reacts strongly to Sara hiding things from her; Sara only considers taking the job because Ava wanted to settle down. (Also, her dad’s magically alive again?) Ray and Darhk have their own history, as do Darhk and Constantine (albeit indirectly). There are many, many layers, and even if it doesn’t bring them all to the forefront, Legends Of Tomorrow remembers and respects every single one.


The big magic here is the one-two punch of solving everything on Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac, an affectionate tribute to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, followed by that silent, beautiful wedding, and the writing and direction of both are tremendous, expertly balancing the bizarre with the poignant (again I cite Gary the flower-boy). But it’s the episode’s final moments, in which Caity Lotz and Neal McDonough face off once more, this time without swords, that really pushes this episode into the top tier of Legends episodes. A moment of understanding, but no handshake. Civility, acknowledgment, but not forgiveness. And then a bit of misdirection: the sword disappears, but not for long, and Damien Darhk says goodbye with a blade to the gut—one that, like the wound he gave Laurel Lance, proves fatal, but which also sees him simply disappear. Not to hell, not to some other misadventure. Simply an end. A dark one.

He checks on his Nora doll, gives Ray some parting advice (and a very threatening stare), says his own kind of goodbye and is gone. What a marvelous, tragic, perfect ending, even better than his first. And what a terrific final episode for the Darhk family. It seems that next week we’ll have to say goodbye to two of this show’s best characters, and this episode is a great one for them too, but it’s a terrific one for a once lackluster villain turned unforgettable complex character, funny and strange and sad and dangerous. Bravo to all involved.


Stray observations

  • Y’all, if I tried to include every good quote from this episode the review would be 1700 words long. Just know that basically every line is perfect, especially when one of the Darhks is saying it.
  • ETA: I’m not sure what happened with publishing here. I could blame Kinja but also maybe it was human error? I have no idea so we’ll go with Kinja. 
  • Episode MVP: Strong effort all around, and Routh and Ford were excellent as always. Still, it’s for sure Neal McDonough.
  • Why the fuck not?: Seems foolish to pick just one, but it’s gotta be Gary the Train Abomination, no?
  • Line-reading of the week: “Dad, I am not a child, you can’t just kill my friends anymore!”
  • Line-sounding of the week: those noises McDonough made when Damien tried to speak without wearing the Safe Space Sombrero.
  • Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: Mr. Parker popping a beer because it’s five o’clock somewhere; Beebo cleanup is a close second.
  • Season five episode title ranking: 6. Miss Me, Kiss Me, Love Me 5. Meet The Legends. 4. A Head Of Her Time. 3. Mr. Parker’s Cul-De-Sac. 1 (tie). Slay Anything and Mortal Khanbat.
  • This week’s Legends in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form. LOVE IS PATIENT LOVE IS KIND

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!