There’s plenty to enjoy in “Bay Of Squids,” as there is in (almost) every episode of Legends Of Tomorrow. The people who make this show love to have a good time, and that’s as obvious here as ever; it’s the kind of episode that tempts one to pop a Gideon edible or two and simply enjoy the ride. But more unusually, there’s also a messiness that’s not a result of the wildness of the plot, nor the admittedly twisty lives of the characters. Instead, for the first time in some time, Legends finds itself struggling with tone, and for a show that can make a fight set to Sisqo’s “Thong Song” just a little bit moving, that’s quite a surprise. And while it’s not a terrible episode by any stretch of the imagination, the very best thing about it is the promises it makes about what’s to come. Could be worse. Could also be a lot better.
Hey, at least the episode has that in common with the mission on which it centers. And who doesn’t love a Dr. Strangelove tribute?
Constantine, Astra, Gary, and Sara are all off on their own adventures this week, and while the latter two would obviously be better off dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis than hanging out on a weirdo planet with the season’s big bad, Astra and John are probably better off sitting this one out. Behrad, too, probably wishes they’d forgotten him on the ship again. But it’s not because Mick is driving. It’s because it’s never quite clear what kind of story is being told. (Nate excepted—more on that in a minute).
The action takes place almost entirely during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, with the Legends split between Cuba (Spooner, Ava, Behrad, Mick) and the White House (Nate, Zari). The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the team has screwed things up for the not-better, accidentally stealing a nuclear warhead instead of the alien that’s crash-landed there. (Castro thinks the CIA has sent squid mutants to murder him, naturally.) From there, things get progressively worse, with Ava blaming the mishaps on Rory and essentially telling him to stick to what he’s good at (namely stealing stuff and shooting people), Nate and Zari coming face to face with a paranoid, war-hungry general and then confronting their own mortality, and Behrad singing a Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam song about the dream of peace. It’s a lot.
Except it’s also the episode in which everyone went to Harvard, a guy playing JFK wears some truly terrible false teeth, Behrad gets mistaken for Che Guevara because he puts on a little hat, Spooner talks about hippies and burnouts and shooting things because she’s super tough and loves the second amendment, and Nate literally intercepts the nuclear football after Zari makes a little tornado for it. Then the dangerous general dies when a warhead sans plutonium lands on him in the middle of the White House lawn. What?
Listen, if any show could find a balance between a) Zari and Nate holding hands while they prepare to die, b) Behrad a.k.a. Che Guevara’s cousin Jay Guevara getting blazed with Castro, and c) a terrified, frustrated Ava cutting open an alien while doing a bad Russian accent, it’s this one. But in this case, it seems like maybe no show could. Legends can blend its appreciation for the absurd and its commitment to character-driven storytelling with great elegance, and it often has. (Beebo was introduced in the episode where they mourn Stein! That’s amazing!) But it doesn’t work here. The Mick/Ava storyline makes perfect sense in relation to the rest of the season and as a continuation of their ongoing, evolving friendship, and it’s always nice when Mick has something to do. But it’s handled haphazardly, with some emotional beats arriving too quickly and others skipped altogether.
The bigger problem, however, is Behrad. Shayan Sobhian is incredibly watchable, and he’s especially invaluable when episodes have a more comic bent. (His sitcom acting in “The One Where We’re Trapped On TV” is next-level, honestly.) But Behrad’s story is all over the place here, and I’m not sure Sobhian’s expert timing and amiable presence helps much. What does this mission mean to Behrad, who makes a point of calling himself a pacifist? How does he react to, well, any of it? Is this a heartfelt (stoned) performance, or just something to do while high? It doesn’t seem like intentional ambiguity. Instead, it’s as though someone said, “whoa, we could make this guy look kinda like Che Guevara, also can we get rights to a Cat Stevens song?” and then they called it a day.
Thank god for Nick Zano. On the one hand, the nuclear football thing? Not as effective as the usual so-dumb-it’s-great Legends storylines, both because it’s telegraphed from so early on and because it’s just too long. On the other hand, anytime Zano gets to do The Rom-Com Look at someone, that’s an undeniably good thing. He’s great at it. I’m not sure his assertion that this Zari no longer reminds him of his Zari is earned, but it’s a lovely scene, and it’s so nice to see Nate have some history things to do.
Honestly, it’s hard to be too frustrated about any of that, though, because the episode ends on such a promising note. In two weeks, we’ll get the start of not one but two potentially top-tier Legends storylines: all the Legends have to move in with John (amazing), and Mick goes on a galaxy road trip with Kayla, who is basically real-life Garima, but who is also not to be trusted. If I, too, can use a sports analogy or two, I’d call this episode a bit of a fumble, but it seems to set the show up for a home run and also a buzzer-beater basket and also something soccer-related. It’s going to be good.
- Does Nate use his extremely helpful superpower in this episode? Yes! More here! Maybe, somehow, this is a bad weekly check-in?
- Dark Gideon watch: Nothing major, but she does sound generally pretty delighted about the prospect of imminent nuclear war—and are we meant to think she purposefully dropped them in Cuba in 1962 (or at minimum didn’t give them a heads up?)
- General Kilgore.
- Zari typing with her thumbs is a great detail.
- Oof, that Kennedy.
- Episode MVP: Nick Zano! See above!
- Why the fuck not?: Behrad’s whole deal. Like, all of it. I wish it worked better.
- Line-reading of the week: “Whatever you say, Steele.”
- Gideon, what’s the most meta moment?: “Girl, we don’t ask those questions.” A real crime-solving devil moment.
- Episode title ranking: 1. Meat: The Legends. 2. Ground Control To Sara Lance. 3. Bay Of Squids. 4.v The Ex-Factor.
- This week’s episode in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song form: I’m mostly retiring this category, because I kept wanting to repeat songs I’d already used, but I couldn’t pass this one up: