This will not be the first time Doctor Who has been referenced in these recaps, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Links and comparisons between the two became inevitable and unavoidable the second The CW handed Arthur Darvill that long trenchcoat. This is a time travel show with goofy origins and a monster/mystery-of-the-week format; similarities to and echoes of the Who-universe aren’t exactly in short supply. But in “The Fungus Amongus,” the Whovian strands in the Legends DNA assert themselves most assiduously—for better and for worse. Mostly the former.
That’s not to say that this isn’t every inch a Legends finale. It is, most assuredly. Chaos abounds! There’s a somehow joyful period in which everyone waits for almost certain death! It’s got all the ingredients for a classic Legends finale: a threat looms with the fate of the entire planet/timeline at stake, it all comes down to a fight with a particularly absurd twist, someone says goodbye (two someones, in this case), and we end on a cliffhanger that sets up the new season. All those boxes are checked.
But at the same time, “The Fungus Amongus” also checks several (blue police) boxes on the list of Doctor Who classics. A powerful alien entity/guardian with an unexpected kindly streak saves all of humanity because... love, even though humans are terrible, check. Having to outsmart a nefarious villain by doing stuff that seems dumb (we’ll call that “pushing the great big threatening button”), check. Adorable aliens that lead to terrifying deaths, check. And of course, “just this once, everybody lives.”
When I pulled up that clip for this review, I wasn’t looking for the nanogenes. I just wanted to drop a link. And it’s not as though Doctor Who owns the concept of magical pretty firefly-looking floaties, nor is this the only time we’ve seen pretty magic floaties in this show.
In short, the finale of the most Whovian season of Legends to date is reminiscent of a handful of episodes from the “NuWho” era. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that the shows share a genre; maybe it’s sometimes deliberate and sometimes just me forging connections where none exist. And for the most part, those similarities are all great.
Legends has an incredible knack for making things that might otherwise come off as saccharine somehow both sincere and ridiculous at once. This is a quality that Legends and Who share, but the latter is far more likely to tip over into the realm of unearned sentiment*. Legends avoids that pitfall by dialing up the absurdity. So season three ends with the Legends joining together to become a being of pure light and love, and that’s cheesy as hell, but the being of pure light and love also screams “BEEBO WANT CUDDLES” while kicking the shit out of a time-demon. That’s mostly what happens here—Sara and Behrad eating the weird John mushroom so that they can commune with him, for example.
That knack plays no small role in the show’s creative success, but “The Fungus Amongus” serves as a nice reminder that when it chooses to play things straight (heh, or not), it’s capable of reaching equally high heights. Which brings us back to the little flower boy.
This goofy-ass show earns its big emotional beats because even though it rarely takes itself seriously, it always takes the characters seriously. When Ray and Nora got impromptu-on-a-tight-schedule married, the ticking clock element was a lot less apocalyptic, but that celebration, too, was tied to death (John thinking he was about to die and advising Ray to “carpe his diem.”)
But it was also tied to the complex, evolving relationships within this family. Gary is the little flower boy, because he told Ray Palmer he wanted to be the little flower boy and Ray Palmer would never forget such a thing. Nate walks Ray down the aisle, because this show cherishes the bonds of friendship and the incredible intimacy that can be formed between two time-bros who just happen to love each other very much. The season that surrounds the wedding is pur chaos, but for a few minutes, Legends stops Legendsing, puts the train abomination aside, and bathes its heroes and its audience in warmth, love, and light.
It’s only fair that the Lance/Sharpe nuptials receive the same time and care. That they’re all (less Sara) likely to die in short order? That just makes it a proper Arrowverse wedding. It doesn’t cancel out all that loveliness.
I will always be your champion, your lover. I will always be your family, and I will listen to you even when the words are hard to hear, and I will let you in every when I’m afraid. And I will support you. I will fight for you. And above all, Ava Sharpe, I will love you.
But wait, there’s more:
My life before you was a perfect fabrication, and then you came into my world and everything just became a whirlwind. You brought chaos into my tidy, predictable existence, and you pretty much brought me to life. So I vow to you to live this life together. Co-captains forever, baby. I love you so, so, much, Sara Lance.
The chaos queen wrote her vows very carefully, weighing each word and promise. (“I will always be your family” means even more than usual when it’s being said to a woman still coping with the realization that the childhood she remembers is a fiction.) Director Sharpe, she of the many binders, wings hers, and she does so with Gary’s support. Then she asks Ray’s little flower boy to walk her down the aisle.
It’s gorgeous. It’s sincere. It’s one-hundred percent earned. And it’s the thing that saves the world—not just the love between Ava and Sara, but the love that this group of weirdos has for each other. “We are all connected,” stoned Sara opines (one of the best line readings in the history of this or any show, ever), and just like when they became Beebo, that connection changes everything. Their real superpower is the friends they made along the way—literally**.
Unfortunately, credited writers Keto Shimizu and James Eagan don’t manage the same feat, but given how little we’ve seen of Mick and Kayla, they come surprisingly close. Had the season devoted more time to that pairing, Kayla’s gradual thawing might have more impact, but as it stands, the handling of Mick’s exit is far more rushed than it should be. His evolution as a father is a marvelous arc, and as an end of that story, “The Fungus Amongus” is just about perfect. But not enough work went into the Mick/Kayla relationship to make their love connection compelling.
With one exception, pretty much everything else is great. There’s no “Thong Song” blaring, but the idea of everyone using everyone else’s powers because Spooner zaps them with fountain-juice is amazing. Worth it for Ava’s steel arm all by itself. Spooner’s storyline with her mother continues to be great—hope we see more of that dynamic next season. Zari is furious, and Tala Ashe deserves all the credit in the world for making this Zari’s grief assert itself so differently from Flannel Zari’s grief. And Bishop’s death — a very Who kind of death — is disgusting and perfect.
But, as much as I love a good “everybody lives” storyline, it’s not always a successful approach. And here’s where the not-so-great Who similarity comes into play: These grandly happy endings only resonate when they don’t happen all the time. I’d love to know the reason for John’s last-minute resurrection, a bizarre development that somehow managed to tip the inexplicably yet definitely comprehensible Fountain stuff back over the line of incomprehensibility. Matt Ryan and Ashe are both terrific in that scene, but it feels like someone slipped in a scene when the writers’ room wasn’t looking because they didn’t want Johnny C to die. Maybe it’ll improve on rewatch, but on first viewing, it knocked the whole episode down a letter grade. (Also, grades don’t matter.)
Still, the most interesting Doctor Who comparison arises after the flipping Waverider appears in the sky to blow up the version of the Waverider the Legends are flying. Are we headed for an Exile on Earth season, with an unusable TARDIS and a bunch of familar resources now taken away? I hope so—after this season, the Space Girl, her wifey, and their time-idiots could use a little distance from the rest of the galaxy.
* — Don’t come for me about this, I am a diehard Whovian but that doesn’t prevent me from acknowledging that it’s a show that loves its cheese a little too much sometimes.
** — The team is also grouped in a circle around Ava and Sara like a fairy ring of mushrooms, or like the cap of a mushroom surrounding the stem of a mushroom. Mushrooms!
- Honestly offended on Ray Palmer’s behalf that they didn’t call upon him when they needed a scientist. Yeah yeah pre-villain Bishop, and it was fun to see Raffi Barsoumian play with a different dynamic/hairstyle, but RAY PALMER.
- Speaking of Ray Palmer - Ava, you should know as well as anyone that you can absolutely pull off a dream wedding in hours because we all watched you and the rest of the Legends do that for Ray and Nora.
- Lovely sendoff scenes for both John Constantine and Mick Rory.
- I absolutely do not want the BBC to poach Keto Shimizu and make her the new Doctor Who showrunner, but... I also absolutely want that.
- Sara being immediately ready to chop Behrad’s arm off? That’s our co-captain
- Does Nate use his extremely helpful superpower in this episode? He did, albeit briefly. And then so did Ava! But just her arm! Which is both funny and thrifty!
- Episode MVP: It would be insane to give this to anyone but the wifeys, but Lisseth Chavez is once again excellent here.
- Why the fuck not?: “Hello! I’m alive! I’m... I’m... dying.” Forehead thunk.
- Line-reading of the
weekseason: “We are all connected!”
- Episode title ranking: 1. Stressed Western. 2. Bored On Board Onboard. 3. This Is Gus. 4. There Will Be Brood. 5. The Fungus Amongus. 6. Meat: The Legends. 7. Ground Control To Sara Lance. 8. Back To The Finale: Pt. ii. 9. Bishop’s Gambit 10. Bay Of Squids. 11. Silence Of The Sonograms. 12. The Satanist’s Apprentice. 13. The Ex-Factor. 14. The Final Frame 15. Bad Blood.
- One last note: This is my last season (for now, at least) as your trusty Legends recapper. A change in my work situation means I have to step back from TV Club duties. Thank you so much for reading and commenting over the years; it has been an absolute pleasure. I will still be tweeting furiously about Legends (and other things), so please come say hi and tell me all about which Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song any given episode should be when the show comes back in October. And I’ll for sure be reading next season’s recaps, so look for me in the comments, trying to get you all out of the greys. Until then, just assume I’m hanging out in the totem with Flannel Zari.