DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 3 Episode 5
“Return of the Mack”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow starts to build the main threat of the season when the team find themselves in the midst of a Vampire hunt.
The opening of this episode suggested that it might be another fun romp. The foggy London backdrop, riffs on Sherlock Holmes and the intrigue caused by the suspected presence of a Vampire suggested an adventure that would be atmospheric and fun. Don’t get me wrong; it is definitely those things but also so much more than that.
Rip Hunter’s return fills up the main thrust of the story with his attempt to work with the Legends once again because the Time Bureau are ill equipped for the kind of mission he has planned. He has been chasing after a mysterious omniscient and omnipresent figure called Mallus through time and has concluded that he exists everywhere with a desire to recruit people throughout the course of history to his cause. Since there is no real evidence of Mallus’ existence it’s down to Rip to do some research and prove that the threat is real.
Sara seems reluctant to trust him after his betrayal earlier this season but backs down when he offers to get the Time Bureau off their back. This makes them temporarily partners and no time is wasted reminding us how much fun that can be. The mission to rescue Nate reminds us how well Rip and Sara bounce off one another and Arthur Darvill is on top form as a seemingly apologetic but duplicitous Rip Hunter.
Unfortunately for Mick there are no Vampires in sight; the plan instead revolving around draining the blood of random men to facilitate the resurrection of none other than Damien Darhk. This is the post death by Oliver Queen version of the character rather than the time displaced younger version last season. Damien Darhk being featured in an episode is always going to get my attention because he is simply one of the finest villains this universe has and somehow he hasn’t managed to wear out his welcome quite yet. I can’t see him being content as a henchman for Mallus so there’s already potential conflict there.
His resurrection is nicely handled from the occult style ritual to him dramatically rising from the coffin like apparatus to tear his way through the attacking Time Bureau agents. Having his effortless massacre happen to the tune of “Return of the Mack” is darkly hilarious and fits perfectly with the ever changing off the wall tone this show handles so easily.
Mallus so far amounts to nothing more than a mysterious disembodied voice. John Noble provides that voice so gravitas is immediately given to Mallus which is necessary for him to make an impression since he hasn’t done anything yet and everything we know comes from Rip’s fear based descriptions.
The potential for Darhk’s resurrection is a massive piece of friction between Rip and Sara. Rip wants to let the ceremony take place because it’s his best chance of luring Mallus out in the open but Sara wants to leave him dead. This leads to him accusing her of letting her emotions cloud her judgement which is countered by the very valid point that she didn’t let her feelings get in the way when she let Darhk return to his own time period even though that would result in the death of her sister. After that statement Sara’s objectivity isn’t in doubt and it will be well known to the viewer that Damien Darhk is simply too dangerous to be allowed to return.
Rip pretends to pander to Sara’s way of thinking before activating another hidden back door in Gideon’s programming to take the Legends out of commission while he carries out his plan. At least Sara asks Gideon how many hidden programs Rip has programmed into her though I would think the team would have looked into this before now especially with them being on the run from an organisation that he created.
The disagreement between Rip and Sara comes to a head when she turns him into the Time Bureau who aren’t best pleased with him after his horribly botched plan. Rip insists that there are positives to the failure such as the information that was learned about Mallus and his forces. Strangely Rip dismisses the loss of agents as being part of the choice they made rather than feeling any actual remorse for his part in their deaths. It’s cold and very much unlike Rip unless he’s attempting to push aside his guilt until Mallus is defeated though there’s no real indication that this was the case.
Sara turning him into Agent Sharp was a really surprising turn of events as despite their current differences I feel that she was at least loyal to him to some degree. This was probably the case until his betrayal which proved to her that he couldn’t be trusted so she has no real reason to shelter him any longer. Turning him in also has the added benefit of allowing her team to roam free which removes the repetitive plotting of the Time Bureau turning up as a secondary antagonist. Sharp points out that they have bigger problem so agree to leave the team alone for now. It’s a powerful moment as it’s clear Sara regrets her decision to a point but also sees that it’s necessary proving that she is able to make the tough calls as Captain despite her personal feelings. Rip makes sure to remind her of the importance of stopping Mallus before he’s carted off showing his commitment to his mission.
The Victorian London parts of the episode were also really effective. I really enjoyed seeing the team chase after a horse drawn cart because it looked likely that Nate had been captured and was being transported on the back of it. It’s another thing to add to the list of memorable sequences this show has pulled off.
It’s a shame that the Vampire hunt essentially went nowhere especially given the time devoted to Mick’s excitement at the prospect of killing a Vampire. The running gag of him reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula throughout the episode was great and it would have been good to see this pay off in some way. I don’t think introducing a Vampire would have been too outlandish considering two of the characters have magic totems and a newly resurrected villain is bursting with magical abilities.
Eleanor Darhk (Courtney Ford) makes for a really entertaining antagonist. She proves to be really manipulative and skilled at making people feel sympathy for her before projecting an over the top villainous persona. Ford easily transitions between the two and the way she preys on Zari’s feelings of loss to get her hands on her totem worked really well. Her surname isn’t mentioned in this episode suggesting that Damien Darhk is still to learn that his grown up daughter was responsible for resurrecting him so it will be interesting to see how their dynamic plays out.
Unfortunately Victor Garber’s stint as Martin’s villainous Great Grandfather ends up feeling perfunctory. It was entertaining to see Victor Garber almost literally play a moustache twirling villain but the episode didn’t do enough with the character to make him feel worthwhile.
Picking up from last week Ray is still working to help Jax break apart Firestorm so that Martin can return home to be with his family. The way this plays out is painful with Ray and Jax sneaking around trying to keep their plan hidden from Martin who keeps almost rumbling them. It feels like a bad comedy skit and there is no justifiable reason given for why Jax and Ray would keep this a secret. By the end of the episode Martin even agrees to help them but only if his leaving won’t result in Firestorm being lost to the team as that power will surely be needed as the threat grows stronger.
Amaya and Zari’s connection is explored somewhat through conversations that Amaya has with her. There’s a recurring statement about Amaya walking into Zari’s room without knocking that seems to be going somewhere but doesn’t. Their conversations are really interesting and resonate because there’s a mystery to their connection that Amaya is eager to solve. Zari feels no real connection to her totem at first because she feels that it belongs to her brother and that she doesn’t deserve it. Amaya’s main role is to remind her that the totem is her birthright and the sooner she accepts that the stronger the connection will be.
This comes into play when Eleanor uses Zari’s insecurities against her by pretending to channel her brother to say all of the things that Zari is most afraid of hearing. It’s clearly a jarring experience for her but she regains that composure when she accepts her birthright and the totem returns to her. It’s a solid arc that gives insight into Zari’s deep seated insecurities and the fact that she has never really had an opportunity to mourn her brother.
She also becomes the latest to learn that it’s dangerous to change the timeline. Zari sees a time machine and with it an opportunity to travel back to before her family were killed and save them. Sara says no and uses the death of Laurel as an example of how serious she is about that but Zari remains unconvinced. I’m also not convinced by this as the future Zari is from is too close to the present day timeline that the other shows take place for it to be the future that they are all building to. It’s far too bleak and makes everything that happens on both Arrow and The Flash from here on out somewhat pointless. I suspect Zari’s future will be prevented by the end of the season and she will be faced with the prospect of everything she ever knew no longer existing.
A well put together episode that manages to set up the threat of the season in really interesting ways. Using the conflict between Sara and Rip Hunter as a springboard for this is a really good idea as it delivers the engaging team up that reminds us how well they work together before taking that away with his betrayal. The debate they have about what to do about the resurrection of Damien Darhk shows how objective Sara is as a Captain and her turning Rip over to the Time Bureau proves that she isn’t joking about making the tough calls. Having Damien Darhk return is always going to be a win for me and the episode handles this wonderfully with a darkly hilarious off the wall action sequence celebrating his resurrection.
Eleanor so far makes for an engaging presence. Courtney Ford expertly juggles the feigned innocence routine with the maniacal villain and her ability to manipulate Zari using her fears against her shows how formidable she can be. Sadly the same can’t be said for Victor Garber as Stein’s ancestor as the episode never quite finds a use for him. Zari has a solid arc leading to the acceptance of her birthright and ending up on the same page as Amaya when it comes to figuring out their connection through their totems. The discussion about changing the future is well worn but reaffirms Sara’s commitment to preserving the timeline even though I’m positive Zari’s timeline can never come to pass as it renders everything happening in the other shows pointless. Ray and Jax’s attempts to break up Firestorm are the most frustrating part of the episode as they have no reason to keep it hidden from Martin which makes this plot feel like it’s doing little more than killing time.
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