DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow knows that it’s kind of hacky to do a Groundhog Day-inspired time loop episode, but as Nate tells Zari, it all comes down to execution. And this episode is damn good. Writers Ray Utarnachitt and Morgan Faust turn Zari’s repetitive journey through the same catastrophic hour into a story that brings the entire team closer together, and the ensemble of this series has never felt tighter than it does this week. Zari is the newcomer who is still finding her place in the group, and her path to discovery reveals new aspects of her teammates while reinforcing the best things about others. But none of this is actually a time loop, and in a clever twist, it’s revealed that Zari has found herself in a trap of her own making thanks to the meddling Gideon.

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“Here I Go Again” begins with Zari greeting the team as they return from their latest mission, which had them travelling to 1975 to stop Napoleon Bonaparte from getting his hands on a copy of ABBA’s “Waterloo.” The disco costumes and mentions of a botched musical number are devilish teases of a mission that I really want to see, but it’s a wise move by the writers, who leave the details to the viewer’s imagination. Zari has been trying to get Gideon to run a simulation that would allow her to detect loopholes in time, but Sara isn’t having it and reminds Zari that they are supposed to be fixing anachronism, not hacking history. Zari leaves in a huff, but when she goes to repair the ship, she’s doused in green goo before the ship explodes, starting the hour-long time loop that Zari is stuck in for most of the episode.

Legends Of Tomorrow is already the lightest of the CW’s superhero shows, but this episode makes humor a top priority and is all the better for it. I was already on board in the first few minutes, but once Zari and Nate discovered Mick’s secret sci-fi romance novel, it became clear that this was going to be a special episode. Zari and Nate spend a lot of time together because he’s the first person who believes her when she explains her situation, so she keeps going back to him for help. He explains the plot of Groundhog Day for her the first time, which leads to one of the biggest laughs of the hour when she comes up to him the second time and says, “Hedgehog Day,” eliciting a confused response before Nate figures out what she really means.

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Tala Ashe does great work depicting Zari’s growing exasperation over the course of this episode, and the script reinforces Ashe’s value to the show’s ensemble as it cements Zari’s place on the team. Ashe gets a lot to do this week, and we see many different sides of her as a performer. There’s a lot of frustration and fear at the top of the episode, but she also shows off her silly side. When Nate suggests that Zari take this opportunity to enjoy herself without consequences, we get a fun montage that shows Zari trying on her teammate’s costumes, having a whipped cream binge with Nate, and learning how to play the violin. The joy dissipates after a while, though, and when she once again tells Nate about the situation, he asks her if she’s already done “the fun montage.” That awareness of time-loop narrative conventions adds a meta element to the comedy, and the writers lean into the Groundhog Day connections throughout.

Zari’s simulation plays a very important role in this episode, and Gideon puts Zari inside of her own program so that she can develop a bond with the rest of the team. Turns out that the green goo is a volatile substance that knocks Zari out after she’s exposed to it, and while she recovers in the MedBay, Gideon puts her subconscious inside the simulation. Gideon’s initial run of the program revealed that Zari can change the future if she works with the other Legends, but in order for that to happen, Gideon needs to manipulate Zari so that she doesn’t leave the team in anger because of Sara’s tough leadership. Hence the time loop, which uses Gideon’s knowledge of everyone on the team to guide Zari to this realization (with a little added Gary because it would be funny).

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I’m fascinated by the character of Gideon, who is as much a part of this team as anyone else. She’s an artificial intelligence, but one so advanced that she’s developed emotional attachments to the Waverider crew and is actively invested in seeing them succeed. She’s usually a disembodied voice, but on rare occasions actress Amy Pemberton shows up to give Gideon a human form, usually when other characters are in dire straits. She appeared in “Land Of The Lost” to help Rip Hunter overcome the Legion of Doom’s brainwashing, and she’s back in her body for the final act of “Here I Go Again” when she breaks down her plot for Zari.

Gideon’s plan is brilliant, and it proves to be beneficial for everyone on the team, not just Zari. Gideon brings everyone’s secrets into the light by exposing them to Zari, and upon learning this information, Zari feels compelled to share what she’s learned. To prove that she was in a weird time loop, she has Ray tell Sara about Constantine’s request to kill her if Mallus takes control of her body, which removes tension that would have only increased. Zari tells Sara that she needs to apply her fearless spirit to her relationship with Ava and ask her out, and she also gives Nate and Amaya words of encouragement as they rekindle their romance. Most importantly, Zari tells Mick that she supports his writing endeavors, and gives him a suggestion to sharpen the ending of his story. I really enjoy how Ashe has internalized Mick’s book, and when Zari talks to him about it, there’s a real sense of appreciation and respect for what he’s accomplished.

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Zari playing “Winter” from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons would have been the perfect conclusion for the episode, but instead the episode ends with a cliffhanger that has Rip Hunter recruiting Wally West in China’s Yunnan Province in the present day. Jane The Virgin’s most recent episode similarly had a dramatic cliffhanger undercut a stronger final moment, and I wish writers would recognize the value of an emotional ending that doesn’t feel the need to convince viewers to come back next week. I’m excited to see Wally join this series, but this should have been the cold open for the following episode rather than a cliffhanger that takes viewers out of the main action of the story. Sometimes the quiet moment is the right one to end on.

Stray observations

  • My first exposure to the time loop episode was Xena: Warrior Princess’s “Been There, Done That,” which I saw a decade before I finally watched Groundhog Day.
  • All of the disco looks are fun, but Ray definitely has the best one. The combination of that scarf, shirt, jacket, and platform shoes is hilarious, especially because Ray isn’t at all self-conscious about how he looks.
  • I love the moment when Zari overhears Amaya and Nate having sex. Some really great use of sound here with the metallic clank of Nate getting hard and the roar of Amaya tapping into a roaring feline spirit.
  • Based on Gary’s reaction to 4:20, Gideon has a soft spot for weed humor.
  • Next week we get a pirate extravaganza, which is probably why the last two episodes have been so low budget.
  • Dear Legends writers: Please give us a flashback to this episode’s off-screen musical number.
  • “Have you gotten into Nate’s psychedelic root stash?”
  • “Mick doing laundry. Now that’s suspicious.”
  • “Why would we flash each other after having sex?”
  • Nate: “She probably wants me to forget how awesome it was.” Zari: “Or how short.”
  • “My beer is in there!”
  • “Who knew you were such an evil genius. And a bit of a perv.”

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