Alternate reality episodes are among the most reliable and popular genre television standbys. The cast gets a chance to break out of their typical performance styles, the writers can indulge what-if scenarios, and everyone, audience included, is given a little space from whatever drama has been driving the narrative. When balanced correctly, alt-reality episodes are whimsical, engaging, and even insightful, helping characters uncover or explore new aspects of their personalities and relationships. For a recent example, look no further than The Flash’s charming musical episode, “Duet.” With the Legion of Doom’s successful use of the Spear of Destiny in “Fellowship Of The Spear,” the stage was set for a deliciously entertaining penultimate adventure. What would a reality shaped by Eobard Thawn, Damien Darhk, Malcolm Merlyn, Leonard Snart, and Mick Rory look like? It turns out, not that different than the reality they came from. The Legion, and Legends Of Tomorrow, shows their lack of imagination in “Doomworld,” wasting a massive opportunity and settling for a solid, but not particularly memorable entry in the show’s improved second season.
One of the best moves the series has made over its run is embracing camp and cheesiness, going broad and finding the fun that has been so sorely lacking in several of The CW’s other superhero properties. Legends Of Tomorrow is a rollicking adventure story, or at least that’s what it’s best at being, but while the script finds space for a number of quippy asides, the episode is bogged down with too much exposition and finale positioning. The scenes that work best are those that engage with the series’ history: the Legion’s snarky conversations, Ray’s tenure as a confused bro janitor, and Felicity’s brief cameo, among others. These moments play with the audience’s knowledge of the characters and encourage viewers to imagine the possibilities of this new world. Unfortunately, most of the alt-Legends are underwhelming. Caity Lotz brings a lot of relish to the cold Darhk enforcer Sara’s become, but this is nothing the audience hasn’t seen before. For his dramatic reimagining, Stein is cast as a brilliant scientist, albeit a terrorized one, and Nate as a socially awkward nerd. They could have literally been anything, but the Legion keeps them all pretty much in their wheelhouses, robbing the episode of the most enticing aspect of any alt-reality adventure, the opportunity to see completely new versions of each character. This is a particularly odd mistake for the show to make, given its successful reimagining of Rip not once, but twice this season.
Part of the trouble may well be the sheer number of characters “Doomworld” tries to service, with the Legends taking a backseat for much of the episode to the Legion of Doom. As they have been all season, the trio of Thawne, Darhk, and Merlyn are a blast, giving the episode a jolt of energy each time they reappear. Matt Letscher, Neal McDonough, and John Barrowman bring just the right balance of over the top villainy and self-aware cheek to their performances, plus it’s lovely to have Wentworth Miller back in the mix as the pre-reform Captain Cold. However, each scene with these characters is one we’re not getting of our supposed heroes, either developing their (ideally more entertaining) alt-identities or, once restored, implementing their plan to reacquire the spear.
There’s also precious little thought given to Mick’s journey. He’s very present, but never gets the opportunity to show the ways he’s changed over the series’ run. The return of Snart, particularly a pre-Legends Snart, gives the perfect opportunity to explore this. Yet instead of seeing Mick feel regret for his betrayal of the Legends, instead of him identifying his frustrations with Snart as a product of how working with the Legends has changed him (or how not having worked with the Legends has regressed Snart), Mick’s reasoning of being no one’s dog is the same explanation he would have given for a double-cross like this back early in his run on The Flash. Legends Of Tomorrow has always struggled to explain Mick’s place on the team. It’s one of those questions best left unaddressed—he’s there to fry Nazis and eat cupcakes with Ray. It works, as long as you don’t think about it too much. As soon as the writers decided to pivot the season on his loyalties and his position on the team, however, that unspoken contract between the series and its viewers was broken, and the writers needed to have an answer ready for why he still wants a spot aboard the Waverider. So far, nothing’s materialized, and the show is quickly running out of time to satisfactorily address this issue.
Another major problem to resolve is the massive disruption to the timeline Amaya’s death causes. This is a much less pressing concern, though, because unlike Snart’s sacrifice in “Destiny,” there’s very little sense that Amaya’s death here will stick. Not only did the season introduce Amaya’s known future into the narrative, Mari McCabe has been a nice addition to the Arrowverse as Amaya’s granddaughter (and another Vixen). The Legends are literally on a quest to rewrite history. It’s far likelier Amaya will be back than that both Vixens will be written out of all of the Arrowverse series. Beyond the shared universe calculations, Amaya has been so poorly developed and explored throughout the season that her death, even should it prove permanent, carries little weight. Snart’s sacrifice was the culmination of a season-long questioning of his character, loyalties, and priorities. Amaya’s death is a sneak attack intended to turn the plot and provide motivation in the finale. There’s no question which is more meaningful.
There is a lot to enjoy in “Doomworld,” from Nate’s mother’s mad sandwich skills to Snart’s Prison Break and Buffy The Vampire Slayer references. Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t come together the way that it could and by all rights should, settling for fleeting moments of whimsy and fun when it could have explored a bold and creative alternate reality fans would never have forgotten.
- The cutaways to Rip baking in the Waverider, while an entertaining nod to Doctor Who’s soufflé girl (intentional or not, I’ll take all the Who references I can get), not only distract from the rest of the narrative, they don’t make any particular sense. They don’t fit what we know about Rip and they require the Legion to have overlooked Rip entirely or to have decided to let him keep his memories. That being said, some of those cakes were pretty sweet.
- One of the more frustratingly inconsistent characters across the Arrowverse shows is Malcolm Merlyn, who’s a great fit here and works terrifically as a villain in a suit, but who has more than worn out his welcome on Arrow. Here’s hoping the Arrow writers can capture the zeal Barrowman brings to Merlyn’s villainy on Legends the next time he pops up in Star City.
- Speaking of zeal in villainy, Thawne solved global warming but didn’t un-elect a certain hotel-owning, golf-loving president? Ugh. Of course.
- Ray as a bro janitor is fun. Jax as a tough guy doesn’t work at all, regardless of how fabulous Franz Drameh looks in that suit.
- Nate’s Mick impression is pretty terrific, but the lines of the episode undoubtedly go to the Legion, both Merlyn’s, “For what it’s worth, I thought it was a very good bad guy monologue” and Thawne’s, “Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to know that Merlyn was right?”