Since this appears to be Go For Broke week here on Argh Craft, it’s a good time to go back to Legends of Tomorrow because in its new insane season, the writers have been consistently saying, “What the hell, let’s do THIS” and just hitting the show out of the SF/comic book show park. This show was once consistently rated the worst of the Arrowverse–Arrow, The Flash, Legends, and this year Supergirl–and now it’s more often than not rated the best. That is entirely due to the writers room stocking a lot of good weed or just deciding that if it feels good, they should write it. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with Dumb TV. If they bring back Snart, this will be my favorite show. Oh, hell, it’s my favorite show now, but bring back Snart anyway.
Where was I? Right. The pleasures of watching a show (or reading a story) where the writer says, “What the hell, why not?” They are many.
Let’s start with 2-9 “Legends of the Lost Art.”
(We’re skipping episodes seven and eight, but they were immense fun: seven was “Invasion,” the Flash, Arrow, Legends crossover, and eight was “The Chicago Way” with Eliot Ness and Al Capone, all being used by the Legion of Doom, which is Eobard Thawne and his two henchmen, Damian Dahrk and Malcolm Merlin. Good Times.)
As you may remember from my rantings from Season One, two of the worst things about this show were Rip Hunter, Worst Team Leader Ever, and Vandal Savage, Worst Antagonist Ever. (There were also the Hawks, but they’re gone, so enough about them.) Savage is also gone forever, killed three times, but not forgotten in this episode, and Rip’s been missing all season, so that was lovely, but in this episode Rip’s back.
See, Rip knew he had the Spear of Destiny in his underwear drawer and the only way to keep it safe from the Legion of Doom was to hide it and then wipe his memory so he was no longer Rip Hunter.
Let us take a moment to look at the genius of that bit of writing. You have a character who is just an annoying putz, despite the charm of its actor. So you wipe the putz’s memory, and give the actor a role to play that he is going to grab onto with both hands and run like hell with. After loathing Rip Hunter in every appearance he made in spite of being a fan of Arthur Darvill, the actor who played him, I watched him come back in this episode and he’s marvelous. Of course he doesn’t know he’s Rip Hunter. He thinks he’s an American movie director named Phil in 1967. Oh, and he also has a prop guy named George to whom he gave the Spear of Destiny because since his memory was wiped, he doesn’t know what it is. (It’s the spear that pierced Christ’s side during the crucifixion and now it can rewrite reality. Just go with it, okay?) This lack of forward thinking would be annoying–Rip Hunter, Worst Team Leader Ever–except it’s completely in character and Rip’s pretty much gone. Phil, however, is all over the place, funny as hell, the best thing I’ve seen Arthur Darvill do since Doctor Who. Honestly, watching this episode is worth it just to see Darvill nail an American accent and then freak out repeatedly as he’s attacked by otherworldly beings while trying to shoot a movie about a group of time travelers who are threatened by a mustachioed villain who’s really bad. Or as Phil says, “I can’t seem to get Peter to bring any menace to the part . . . . A film is only as good as its villain, and I have an antagonist who is as threatening as a weiner dog.” Then Dahrk and Merlyn show up and are snide and Phil says, “You see, this is what I’m talking about. These guys are good.” If they hung any bigger lampshade on last season’s problem, it’d be a chandelier. Then the cops show up and arrest Phil/Rip, who starts to scream. I LOVE PHIL.
So far, it’s just fun. But then it gets interesting because Ray and Nate start to get dumber. And it turns out that the reason that Ray became a genius scientist was that he saw Star Wars and it changed his life. And Nate became a historian because he saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and it changed his life. And that prop guy name George? That was George Lucas who was so terrified by the laser fire in the kidnapping attempt that he left film school and never made those movies. So now they not only have to save Phil/Rip, they have to talk George Lucas back into film school or Ray and Nate will be goobers and no good to the team. Also, George thought the Spear of Destiny was just junk, so he put it in the trash. Which leads to a scene of three guys and a cranky, pro-active girl in a trash compactor.
There’s a subplot of Mick forcing Stein to be a psychoanalyst/brain surgeon to get rid of his visions of Snart, also fun–Sara, seeing Stein poised with a scapel over Mick’s bald head: “What are you doing?” Stein: “Brain Surgery.” Sara: Shrugs and goes to save Phil–although whether Snart is a hallucination or something more real is still up for consideration. But the real fun here is the writers pretty much ripping up the last season and saying “Hey, it’s a whole new story,” and the Legion trying to outsmart Merlyn and Dahrk, who are not only lethal but also masters of snark. Even five seconds of the two of them just standing in an elevator is good entertainment. Sara is a badass leader, the team works together well while bitching at each other, the antagonists are awesome, and all of it is absolutely, wonderfully ridiculous. The scene where they find George Lucas in a parking lot and Nate jabs a finger at him and says, “Stay in school!” is just one of dozens of great moments. Amaya saying, “You’re our only hope,” is good, too. And then there’s Sara saying, “Oh, great. George Lucas has the Spear of Destiny.” And it all ends with a great reversal. The writers are just on fire.
Which bring us to, “The Legion of Doom.”
This season, the voiceovers at the beginning rotate among the Legend team members. Except for this episode. For this episode Damian Dahrk takes over the voiceover, which is a appropriate because the Legion of Doom takes over the episode. If this season has a protagonist team that’s fully bonded, it also has a three-man antagonist who are at each other’s throats, arguing about how best to get information out of the newly kidnapped Phil (Arthur Darvill continues to be brilliant). Merlyn and Dahrk are particularly wonderful together, sniping at each other like buddy cops. Why are they together? Because they all want to change their realities: Merlyn would like his arm back, Darhk would like not to die in 2016 at the hands of the Green Arrow, and Thawne . . . actually nobody knows what Thawne’s up to, so that’s what this episode is all about. Merlyn asks why Thawne disappears so often and Thawne takes it badly, grabbing him by the throat and asking why he should leave him alive. “Because you need me,” Merlyn says, uncowed. “In the League of Assassins, they called me the Magician.” Darhk rolls his eyes. Really, I’d watch the Merlyn and Darhk show just to see these two play off each other: John Barrowman and Neil McDonough are veteran actors who make it look easy and who obviously are having the best time ever with the writing in this story. So many great moments, but possibly the best line is Thawne explaining why they’re going to beat the Legends: “Because they’re idiots.”
The Legends are pretty much sidelined in the episode, which is okay because the Legion is great, bickering among themselves, terrorizing Phil, and finally discovering why Thawne’s so uptight all the time, ending with another major reversal as they mess with Rip’s brain to give him back his memories plus a side order of villainy so that he goes back in time and kills George Washington. Well, you had to be there.
Bottom Line: I’ve never seen a show this insanely willing to say, “What the hell,” and just go for it, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
How I’d Fix This:
I would not touch a thing.
What I Learned From This:
Once you have a clear protagonist and a clear antagonist, in this case, two teams, and you’ve established wonderfully individual characters within those two groups, you can pretty much swing as wide as you want. The characters will keep people reading even as reality goes spiraling out of control. As long as the internal consistency of the story and its characters is stable, you can do anything. Like give George Lucas the Spear of Destiny in a trash compactor.
Now all they have to do is bring back Snart . . .