The Arrowverse has its flaws, but they can be forgiven because it gave the world a live-action Gorilla Grodd. This gigantic telepathic gorilla is one of the great Flash rogues, and he makes his way onto DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow as an anachronism that has taken a major role in the Vietnam War, stopping the fighting between Vietnamese and American forces with his psychic abilities. This will eventually lead to World War III, but in the moment, it seems like Grodd is doing a good thing, even if he’s doing it by taking control of others’ minds.
Mick doesn’t get the spotlight very often, and “Welcome To The Jungle” shows how well Dominic Purcell can handle intense dramatic moments that demand more than his standard toughness. It also draws attention to how well he captures Mick’s gruff personality by putting him side-by-side with his father, and Evan Jones’ attempt to mimic Purcell’s vocal tone feels like a bad imitation when he’s supposed to be the template for who Mick becomes. Considering that Mick killed his father, there’s a lot of emotional baggage to be unpacked when he encounters his father, but this also establishes a pattern that connects the anachronisms directly to the Legends. Ray’s younger self met a baby Dominator, Martin’s ancestor was involved in the Damien Darhk resurrection, and now Mick encounters his father on their latest mission, suggesting that the anachronisms are somehow manifesting in locations and time periods that have deeper importance for the people who caused these anachronisms by breaking time.
The Mick storyline is all about how the atrocities of war leave a lasting impact on soldiers, and when they come back home, they struggle to cope with what they saw and did. Mick’s father was an abusive drunk, but this mission shows him the valiant side of the man who beat him. His father was a green beret, and he’s already been traumatized by the war at this point. He keeps a list of his dead friends on the back of a picture of Mick’s mother, and this is the first time Mick understand the horrors that influenced his father’s behavior afterward. He works with his father’s troop to attack Grodd’s base, but when dad goes too far and threatens the lives of innocent people, Mick steps in to prevent him from making a decision that will leave irreparable damage. Mick realizes that he can’t judge this version of his father for things he hasn’t done yet, and while Mick doesn’t go completely soft, he shows a more tender side in this episode that brings out a new aspect of Purcell’s acting ability.
Nate summarizes the trajectory of this episode well when he says they started in Predator and ended up in Apocalypse Now, and a thriller about a monster on the loose during the Vietnam War becomes something deeper as the Legends see the reality of this conflict. Of course, this is still a superhero show, so the conflict is significantly simplified compared to actual reality, but the script does solid work informing the characters’ individual stories through their time in Vietnam. Through her interactions with Grodd, Amaya realizes that she needs more empathy for Kuasa, and she can’t pass judgment on her granddaughter until she learns what her full story is. Zari’s heroism is reinforced in her interactions with the team’s Vietnamese guide, who is convinced that Grodd is the god that will save her people. Zari is there to tell this woman that the Vietnamese people don’t need a god, but a leader, and true piece will be achieved when individuals take the initiative.
I’m constantly impressed by how good Grodd looks on TV, and I am all for other episodes taking a budget cut if it means more resources can be allocated to making the telepathic gorilla believable and frightening. It’s hard to compete with Powers Boothe’s voice work for Grodd on Justice League Unlimited, but David Sobolov gives the character an intimidating, powerful voice that matches his hulking physique. Grodd is really scary, which makes the episode’s final scene partnering Grodd and Damien Darhk a suspenseful cliffhanger. The two of them together is already cause for alarm, but when you factor in new time travelling abilities for Grodd, it becomes particularly bad news for the Legends.
I watched “Welcome To The Jungle” immediately after seeing Justice League, and it really made me appreciate this show’s light, carefree spirit. Gorilla Grodd as the main villain already makes this episode pretty silly, but then there’s the addition of Isaac Newton, Galileo, and Marie Curie helping Martin Stein figure out how to break apart Firestorm. And Marie Curie just ate Jax’s leftover piece of his mom’s pecan pie. Newton ends up saving Martin’s life when Grodd takes over Sara Lance’s comatose body, and at the end of the episode, Newton is still just hanging around like it’s no big deal that the team pulled one of history’s greatest scientific minds out of the timestream. The dramatic moments of this episode are strengthened because of this tonal contrast, and this series has found a way to balance light and dark with much more charm and grace than DC’s big-screen superhero team.
- Having Sara in a coma for most of this episode is a misguided decision given how much this show relies on Caity Lotz’s charisma and attitude, but her return to the group at the end of the episode is adorable, especially when she gives Jax a kiss on the head. I love when this show emphasizes how these heroes have become family.
- Peter Hall’s Lyndon B. Johnson gives off some major Don Knotts vibes.
- After “Return Of The Mack,” I was disappointed that this episode didn’t have a fight scene set to Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle,” which is probably much more expensive.
- “If I die today because of a telepathic gorilla I’m going to be very upset.”
- “First lady pie is pretty good.”