After a series of standalone episodes sending the heroes through time to take care of anachronisms, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow starts to delve deeper into this season’s overarching storyline with “Return Of The Mack,” which features the resurrection of an old foe as the show prepares to introduce its new Big Bad. Mallus is coming, and Rip Hunter needs the Legends’ help to stop him before he becomes an unbeatable threat. There are fun moments in this week’s episode, but it’s weighed down by the need to set up a larger plot, suggesting that this show is at its best when it’s telling one-off tales about the team fixing the problems they started rather than facing off against yet another entity that puts the entire timeline at risk.
The episode’s title is a reference to the hit 1996 song by Mark Morrison, but it also makes me think about “Mack The Knife” from The Threepenny Opera, which is set in the same Victorian era of this episode and explores the lives of shady characters. Victorian horror calls to mind Sweeney Todd, and having Victor Garber doing double duty as both Martin Stein and Martin’s great-great-grandfather feels like a shoutout to Garber originating the role of the young sailor Anthony in the Sweeney Todd musical. Henry Stein is an actor luring victims for a mad scientist, who drains their blood to feed the corpse of Damien Darhk as part of an occult resurrection ritual.
The Legends think they’re hunting a time-travelling vampire, but they’ve stumbled into a much more dangerous situation with higher stakes given the heroes’ past relationship with Darhk. Ray’s fear of Mallus has completely taken over him, and the bureaucracy of the Time Bureau forces Rip to approach the Legends because they’ll work much faster. Unfortunately, Rip wants Damien Darhk be resurrected so that Mallus will come to this time period, giving the Legends the opportunity to wipe him out. Sara has no interest in letting this happen, but Rip won’t let her stand in his way. He betrays the Legends and locks them in the Waverider while he goes after Darhk, and this decision comes back to bite him in the ass at the end of the episode when Sara reports him to the Time Bureau for being an untrustworthy weasel.
Madame Eleanor is a servant of Mallus, and the casting announcement for the character reveals that she’s Damien Darhk’s daughter, which isn’t made explicit in this episode but adds a personal motivation for her involvement in Mallus’ plan. As Eleanor, Courtney Fox is doing a less intimidating, more CW version of Eva Green’s Penny Dreadful character, and while she’s totally competent in the role, Eleanor is the standard witchy type at this point. She channels the spirit of Zari’s brother to prove her spooky power, and Zari’s guilt over the loss of her family compels her to break rank and return to Eleanor when the rest of the team is incapacitated by Rip’s betrayal. The connection between Zari and Amaya’s totem is back in play in this episode, and it’s being used to create a bond between the two characters. Hopefully that friendship will be developed more thoroughly in later episodes, because magic jewelry isn’t the most compelling reason to bring two characters together.
This episode goes for a more serious tone than most of what we’ve seen this season, but it does find room for some sillier moments, like the big fight sequence set to “Return Of The Mack,” complete with moves timed to the music. The use of the song is very Guardians Of The Galaxy here, and I appreciate the levity of this scene in the context of the rest of the story, which largely traffics in doom and gloom. Eleanor channels the voice of Mallus during this fight, giving us our first impression of John Noble’s performance as the villain. It was announced earlier today that Noble is voicing Mallus, which either means the character will be CGI or he’ll be a disembodied voice for a while, but given Noble’s ability to project menace with his voice, it’s a great casting choice.
In the midst of all this action, Jax and Ray are trying to figure out how to break Firestorm apart, but they really should just tell Martin about their plot instead of working behind his back. Martin has expertise that could help them do this a lot faster, and if they went to him first, he wouldn’t be all pissed off when he found out they were operating in secret. Martin’s anger is a very reasonable reaction given the danger of splitting a living nuclear reactor, but Martin can’t argue with Jax’s motivation for wanting to dissolve their union. Jax’s decision isn’t just a reaction to what he saw when Martin held his grandson; it’s a reaction to what he’s constantly feeling through his psychic bond with Martin, which lets him know exactly how much Martin longs to be with his family. Martin doesn’t want Jax to feel that burden, and he’s committed to splitting Firestorm, bringing us one step closer to Victor Garber’s departure from this series.
- There’s a very cool moment in the big fight when Rip stops time and works his way through the frozen bodies. That moment could have lasted even longer.
- Nate singing “Return Of The Mack” is very creepy and I never want to hear it again.
- A Weekend At Bernie’s plot using the corpse of Damien Darhk actually sounds like a lot of fun.
- Are we to assume that Eleanor was the hooded woman who resurrected Kuasa?
- “Last time I got laid, afterwards Grey said to me, ‘Well done, Jefferson.’”
- “It’s 9AM and I’m not craving grapefruit!”
- “Mecca’s that way. I was just looking for my earring.”