After a long, cold December where nothing of note happened at all, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow is finally back and all’s right with the world! (At least during its 8/7c time slot.) Wait a tick—Nate’s more jacked than usual, Sara’s smoldering gaze doesn’t go all squishy at the first sight of Ava, Gary’s gone full-Necrian, Astra’s working a maroon dye job that can be spotted from orbit… what the H is going on here?
That’s right, those unreasonably violent robo-Legends doppelgangers from last year’s cliffhanger are back, and this time… they’re running this piece. Armed to the teeth, jaws clenched so hard it would make Kirk Douglas flinch, and ready to undo all the good our beloved Legends have done to the timeline this past season, Robo-Sara Lance leads her hard-assed brigade towards glory. (Note: The “Robo-” prefix is getting abused like you wouldn’t believe this week, just forewarning you.)
Naturally, the only glory these time-hopping marauders want to see is “Destiny Restored,” a rallying cry they share with each other every time they reset one of our O.G. Legends’ benevolent changes to the timeline. Sometimes that means sacrificing a lot of people to achieve their goals. Most times it means sacrificing even more than that. Which brings us to this week’s midseason premiere, where these Robo-Legends are put to the test rectifying the Real Legends’ biggest change to the timeline yet. Of course that means destroying all the lives saved during the averted Chernobyl crisis a couple episodes back.
Only things are not all the way kosher in Robo-Legends land. Robo-Sara may be captain of the rogue Waverider but Mean Gideon is still the ship’s central AI, privy to all sorts of temporal secrets and strategies that would leave the Robo-Legends adrift were she to suffer a shut-down. That means Mean Gideon is calling the shots and she has Dr. Ava Sharpe to make sure her plans go off without a hitch. This chafes Robo-Sara’s programming something awful. Strife is building, and soon something’s gotta give. (Robo-Sara and -Ava exchange such angry glances but you can still totally tell that the only thing they wanna do is smooch. There are still absolutes in this universe!)
That’s the sinister premise of “Paranoid Android”, a shifty-eyed hour away from our beloved Legends that explores the power structures at play within the mysterious Rogue Waverider that destroyed the “real” Waverider last season and establishes exactly what kind of adversaries our flesh-and-blood Legends will be up against for the duration of this seventh season. It’s a wild and refreshingly comic book-y turn of events, filled with intrigue and betrayals and a surprisingly grim, Serling-esque twist at the end that’s meant to elicit a chill and succeeds in doing so.
The eponymous androids of the episode, of course, are the Robo-Legends, only don’t tell them that: Mean Gideon has the lot believing that they’re the human (or alien, or demonic) time-saving heroes and the Legends we’ve grown old with over the years are the robotic phonies hellbent on destroying the 20th century. It’s a carefully calibrated lie—these robots bleed, feel pain, and are programmed with the entire life histories of the Legends themselves—but it’s a lie that Mean Gideon and Dr. Sharpe are having difficulty keeping under wraps.
Hence the paranoia, which is suffered most by Robo-Sara after Robo-Zari and Robo-Astra make a miraculous recovery after being, erm, shot to death in their Bishop-slaughtering raid last episode. (How Robo-Spooner and Robo-Behrad compete for Most Vengeful is one of the better recurring gags of the episode.) “They were lucky,” Dr. Sharpe tells Robo-Sara in her lab, while not-so artfully trying to obscure a gigantic computer chip with the name “Zari” printed on it in big, black letters.
Robo-Sara begins to pick up on Dr. Sharpe’s uneasiness over her inquiries, and Mean Gideon’s default line whenever she questions any given mission (“time is like concrete”) is wearing thin. Later, Dr. Sharpe gives Robo-Spooner and Robo-Behrad “Destiny Restoration Devices” to use in their no-kill operation at Chernobyl but Robo-Sara soon discovers that the energy weapons are designed to irradiate its targets, killing them just as dead as the impending nuclear fallout. Why would she lie?
Making matters worse: Mean Gideon’s mission for the Robo-Legends involves threatening the children of General Kalashnik (Ego Mikitas), the (fictional) presiding authority over the Chernobyl facility who is then coerced into conducting a “fake news broadcast” to lure the surviving citizens of Pripyat back to their homes just in time for the nuclear power plant to go critical. Sure, mayhem is all well and good when it comes to saving the timeline, but threatening to kill kids? Robo-Sara doesn’t like that one bit. (Another constant in the universe: Sara Lance is a bonafide hero, no matter her programming.)
The Chernobyl mission is a success for the Robo-Legends, a strangely shocking story beat that is horrifying to ponder but is also Legends Of Tomorrow’s all-business strategy to cement Mean Gideon as the ultimate foe of the series. (It’s working.) Their victory is assured, but Robo- or otherwise these are still Legends we’re dealing with here; Robo-Sara ends up catching a bullet in her shoulder thanks to Greg’s insatiable lust for human flesh, which means she gets to spend some time in surgery deep in the confines of Dr. Sharpe’s mysterious laboratory.
Caity Lotz is ever the MVP of Legends Of Tomorrow, but this season she’s taken a backseat so that newer cast members can have their chance to shine. It’s wonderful that Legends is the type of show that shares the spotlight, but it’s just as wonderful to see Lotz get a chance to flex her formidable dramatic chops once again. “Paranoid Android” is filled with expert close-ups of Lotz evaluating an ever-changing situation with her crystal blue eyes, tossing baleful glances at Dr. Sharpe and kicking serious ass all over the timeline decked out in her Legendary White Canary uniform. When Dr. Sharpe operates on Robo-Sara, the camera is fixed on her reactions so when the revelation that she is not really a human being comes it hits that much harder. (As for the other Robo-Legends, they take the news in stride, presumably because of episode time-constraints.)
Robo-Sara’s epiphany comes late in the episode, but it’s incredibly effective. She confides in Robo-Zari and they attempt to turn the tables on Mean Gideon, but in the meantime there’s still the matter of her next mission, which is to eradicate the mission’s sole remaining anachronism: A Soviet physicist named Dr. Irina Petrov (Stefanie von Pfetten), who has more to offer humanity than what Mean Gideon lets on. There’s a rescue. Some subterfuge. And then comes betrayal, and it hits like a megaton bomb.
Mean Gideon has reprogrammed Robo-Zari once again, and the Robo-Legends are maniacs anyway. So it is Robo-Sara, not Mean Gidoeon, who is going to need some fixing. The next time we see her, she’s supposed to be coming to Dr. Petrov’s rescue. Instead she kills Petrov in a fashion that makes her murderous crew roar with delight. With the good doctor’s blood running down her cheeks, Robo-Sara is once again a part of this deadly mission. Her destiny, restored.
- Episode’s MVP: As established in the recap, it’s Sara. Caity Lotz, may you captain the Waverider for seven more seasons at least.
- Robo-Spooner and Robo-Behrad’s stiff-lipped competition with each other might have hit its greatest peak when they tried to out-lift their Destiny Restoration Devices.
- Robo-Sara; “Time is like cement.” General Kalashnik: “In what way? That it is hard and heavy, or that you cannot stretch it?” Ahahaha… yeah. Legends!
- Robo-Steel: “20 bucks says captain takes the target out with her thigh-strangling move.” Robo-Astra: “Oh, I love that move.”
- Robo-Zari calles Mean Gildeon “Gidget,” which rules.
- What makes Robo-Zari buy into Mean Gideon’s rhetoric? Turns out it’s just a bit of solid, provable reasoning: “Every time the Legends try to fix history, they screw it up even worse.” Hard to argue against that.
- Look, I don’t know if this week’s version of Citizen Steel was supposed to be making fun of James Gunn’s upcoming Peacemaker series for HBO Max, but Nate’s doing a weird Brad-Pitt-in-Inglorious Basterds thing with his jaw and he beats people up to a hard rock soundtrack (Airbourne’s “Born To Kill”). Plus, the episode’s stinger is a hilarious G.I. Joe-esque PSA about bullying where the kids he’s supposed to be helping mock him and compare him to John Cena. “And That’s… Stuff You Should Know!”
- Welcome back, group! What did you think of “Paranoid Android”? Do you think it’s one of the season’s best episodes, as I clearly do? How did you like Nate’s new gun show? Can we keep Robo-Spooner? Let’s go nuts in the comments below.