DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 3 Episode 13
“No Country for Old Dads”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow explores the dysfunctional father/daughter relationship between Damien and Nora Darhk as the team work to rescue Ray.
This show could be described as the “silly one” in the context of the other CW DC Superhero TV shows; not to be confused with The Flash which is currently best described as the “stupid one”. Episodes like this -and in fairness most of the others- show audiences that silly doesn’t have to equal stupid and a more light hearted tone doesn’t make something entirely disposable.
Character relationships are one of this show’s main strengths be it the compelling Sara/Ava romance, the Ray/Nate friendship or the complex interpersonal team dynamic that changes and evolves in fascinating ways. This episode is all about exploring the villain relationship, specifically between Damien Darhk and his daughter Nora.
We’ve seen them work together in various episodes across the season so far but we’ve never had a sense of what their dynamic is really like. “Daddy Darhkest” depicts Nora as a little girl grieving the death of her father and this episode shows the reality of what happens after they reunite.
To put it bluntly; Damien Darhk is hard work. He’s a complete narcissist meaning that he is both unwilling and unable to see beyond himself which hurts his relationship with Nora because her attempts to prove herself feel completely futile since her father never seems to be that impressed. The early scenes show him as entirely self centred and treating her more like a sidekick than anything else.
Nora’s point of view is an interesting one. Strip away the magic, time travel and any associated weirdness then you get the story of a daughter who let her father send her down a path she didn’t want to go down in order to please him. That path was being the conduit for a Demon and she pleased her father by resurrecting him but the basics of the situation are very relatable. Nora sacrificed everything that she wanted for in her own life to support her father’s goals and now she has major cause to regret it. This episode promotes the idea that Damien really doesn’t care about her and sees her as nothing more than a means to an end which definitely would be hurtful to someone who has devoted their life to the happiness of someone else.
The most perverse thing is that she puts up with it and still really wants to prove herself to him. Her offer to travel back in time to protect Dr. Vogal (Adrian Hough) from Damien Darhk’s past self clearly shows that determination to live up to that impossible standard and a lot of naivety on Nora’s part. She mistakenly thinks that succeeding in a mission on her own will change his opinion in some way and intends to prove herself right by taking on that challenge. Damien is initially far from impressed but allows her the chance.
It’s interesting that this show is about time travel because the theme of this relationship seems to be that Nora is doomed to repeat the same steps to prove herself to Damien because she refuses to learn from past experience. I get the sense that this has happened before and the end result was the same which is frustrating for Nora and tragic for the audience who see Damien’s inability to change.
Their relationship is a really complex one. The previous episode more than proves that Damien does care about her and in many ways his own ego won’t let him realise the harmful effect his behaviour has on his daughter. It’s a classic case of a father not properly listening to his daughter and having that damage the relationship. He does appear to cop to this in this episode though it’s only when he assumes that she has failed him that he starts to notice how capable he is. When she fails to return on schedule he takes it upon himself to travel back in time to check up on her.
Nora sees this as a lack of confidence in her as it looks like he’s checking up on her and in a lot of ways his appearance ruins a plan that appeared to be working. Damien does start to notice how resourceful she is through how she has managed a changing situation though it’s possible that she’s proven this time and time again with him swiftly forgetting all about it. Once again it’s a complex relationship that appears to be repairing itself in this episode but seems to go round in circles instead.
Amusingly Damien Darhk’s past self is the one to capture her which makes the metaphor of him battling his own narcissism completely literal. His past self is the personification of everything that Damien needs to overcome even if he has no desire to. No attempt is made to characterise the past version of him as anything more than a cold, dispassionate assassin. I suspect this is deliberate as it allows Damien to see his less appealing qualities in the flesh and battle against them to become a better person.
Ultimately he defeats his younger self and seems to reaffirm his commitment to being a good father though there are different ways to read this. The final scene between Nora and Damien throws doubt on the idea that he has become a better father. On one hand he says the things that Nora wants to hear by acknowledging that he sent her down a path she may not have chosen for his own selfish reasons and seems sincere enough doing so but there’s something fishy about the scene itself.
Using a hot chocolate as a peace offering with that cleverly linking back to Nora’s lost innocence as shown in “Daddy Darhkest” comes across as insidious given the strong implication that Damien uses this to poison her. He immediately goes back to calling her “Nora doll” once her pain stops suggesting that he hasn’t changed at all as he called her that when he was at his most neglectful. I’m unsure where this will go as Damien seems to genuinely care about her but has no problem using her judging by his implied actions here. I suspect there will be a turning point in the form of a loyalty based decision on Nora’s part and and in the meantime I’m fascinated in seeing this relationship continue to play out.
Ray is along for the ride because it is believed that Dr. Vogal will respond well to having a peer to talk to. Ray’s scientific background creates an opportunity for them to strike up a rapport and bond as scientist which could make it easier to give up his secrets. This doesn’t happen because there’s too much insanity surrounding this possibility. This definitely feels like a missed opportunity as the episode could have made something of that connection.
Broadly speaking Ray doesn’t do very much in this episode. He’s in it a lot but his contribution is minimal. I did like how he folded into the Damien/Nora dynamic matching their style of banter as he fears for his life and he has a lot of chemistry with Nora which isn’t unexpected given that Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford are married in real life. The episode makes good use of this dynamic by weighting the drama on Nora but dropping plenty of hints that Ray is a positive influence on her. There isn’t much movement on the potential bond that began in “Daddy Darhkest” but Ray does get through to her in some cases by simply being nice to her. I get the impression that even though Nora tries to act evil she actually finds him somewhat endearing. Considering Ray’s brief exchange with Nate suggesting he has a romantic interest in her it’s clear that this will continue to develop. Bizarrely it is Ray’s influence that ultimately helps her connect to Amaya’s totem even though that will undoubtedly have negative consequences.
Ray does have the opportunity to gain some agency within the episode when he frees himself and goes about saving Dr. Vogal. Ultimately he succeeds in getting a hold of the formula for Cold Fusion and returning it to the Waverider after having a powerful emotional moment with Dr. Vogal before his death. It’s the usual sermon about the importance of family but Adrian Hough delivers it with such heartfelt sincerity that it feels like something more. Ray’s clear understanding of what he’s getting at reinforces the notion that the Legends team has become a family as does the warm welcome he receives complete with a reminder that he needs to do the dishes
Dr. Vogal is largely an object that fuels the plot rather than being largely involved in it to any large extent. He does feed into the family theme as his main desire is to get back to his wife and daughter after sacrificing his own opportunity to cross the border to make sure that they were able to. In many ways he’s the opposite of Damien Darhk as he makes sacrifices to protect his family where Damien sacrifices his family to protect him. Once again the episode does very little with this despite the potential to have Damien and Dr. Vogal contrasted as father figures.
With such a strong focus on Ray, Nora and Damien the other characters took something of a back seat though still contributed meaningfully to the episode. Some time was devoted to Sara and Ava’s relationship without drawing too much attention to it. Zari awkwardly seeing them in the kitchen after Ava spent the night was comedic and there’s a real sense of comfort between them. I already have issues with the secret that Ava is apparently hiding because these things often lead to tiresome angst.
Wally and Rip appear on the Waverider to officially induct Wally into the team. He already fits into the team dynamic and it was amusing to see him casually annoy Mick as well as put his foot in his mouth around Amaya. His conversation with Sara where she encourages him to stick around showed good leadership skills from Sara as she doesn’t beg him to stay, instead trusting him to make the best choice for him. Having a Speedster on the team will certainly make things easier for them as their power level has significantly increased as a group.
Rip’s return is pretty much business as usual though his guilt over his actions being responsible for the death of so many agents are addressed. He doesn’t regret it as such because it did wake everyone up to the real threat but living with people dying under his command certainly isn’t easy. Rip so far occupies a background role on the team and works well as part of the overall ensemble. It looks like he’ll go back to intermittently appearing as part of the Time Bureau after the change in leadership to Ava after the original director was savagely killed by Grodd.
Amaya does further meditation to get back to the Spirit Plane and finds it corrupted by the weakening of the prison holding Mallus. Instead of resembling Zambesi it now looks like a dying forest. Amaya’s grandmother’s spirit is still working to protect it but the corruption of Amaya’s totem when Nora connects to it makes that impossible. It is now known that the more the timeline is corrupted the stronger Mallus gets and the weaker the prison holding him becomes. This suggests that his freedom is imminent.
Some consideration has to be given to the visual style of this episode. It was very distinctive with a lot of really cool flourishes such as the way the phone conversation between the two Damien Darhk’s was shot, the zoom through the hole in the door when past Damien Darhk tried to kill Dr. Vogal and the fast paced nature of the action sequences. The general scope of the historical setting was very moody and cinematic so all in all a really impressive visual production.
An excellent episode that delivers a fascinating exploration of the father/daughter dynamic between Damien and Nora Darhk. It’s a complex relationship that seems to be in an endless cycle of Nora failing to prove herself and Damien convincing himself that his approach to parenting can change. In simple terms this is the story of a daughter sent down a path she had no interest in and Damien continues to manipulate her for his own selfish reasons. Their final scene is nicely ambiguous though implies that Damien poisons his own daughter to keep her on side. Nora’s interactions with Ray work really well and the characters have great chemistry which should come as no surprise considering the actors are married in real life. Ray is a positive influence on her and helps her gain the self confidence necessary to connect to Amaya’s totem.
Wally’s induction into the Legends works really well as a comedic subplot as he manages to annoy each of them in different ways before Sara offers him the choice of what to do next. Wally works so well on this team and I look forward to seeing more. Ava and Sara’s relationship is done well and the pair already seem comfortable with one another though I have issues with the secret Ava is keeping considering how these things usually go. Amaya taking a trip onto the Spirit Plane and finding that it’s corrupted by the continued efforts to free Mallus. It moves the plot forward and further connects Amaya to her heritage by showing the spirit of her grandmother failing to hold it back any longer. Mallus is coming and soon.
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