DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 5 Episode 5
“A Head of Her Time”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow sends the team to a party in Revolutionary France as John confronts uncomfortable personal truths.
This season’s main plot very much revolves around John Constantine and his history. At the moment it feels like he’s in another show that’s running parallel to the exploits of the main Legends team though I’m sure this is a temporary measure to set things in motion before John works with them again. John’s plot follows on from the previous episode with him going back to his old house and dealing with the angry ghost of Astra’s mother, Natalie (Alice Hunter).
Natalie is less than pleased with John for something that he did years ago and refuses to let him deny the truth. In essence this plot is about forcing John to face a truth that he won’t admit to himself. His innate stubbornness means that he would rather be tormented by an angry ghost than face up to the reality of his feelings. She brings back some memories that are difficult for John to watch as he is forced to look at a younger and less knowledgable version of himself plus there’s a questionable mohawk that has to be seen to be truly believed. John’s connection to Astra is far deeper than originally thought as he was in love with her mother at one point and made choices motivated by his love for her that arguably led to Astra being damned.
There’s a whole exchange about giving up magic and running away to start a new life together. John had become so addicted to having command of that much power that he couldn’t see living a life without it so refuses which drives a wedge between him and Natalie. Sometime after that other things happened including Natalie dying and being brought back to life by John which is then nullified when Astra is damned to Hell. The information in this plot comes think and fast to the point that it’s really difficult to keep up with it. Eventually it starts to feel like exposition. Matt Ryan’s performance carries it nicely but even with that there’s still too much being thrown at the audience to properly digest. John’s relationship with Natalie is complex and deserves to be allowed to be though there must have been a way to release the details in more digestible chunks to allow the weight of each piece of information to be fully appreciated.
All of this turns out to be a test to prove that John wants to save Astra for her own sake rather than his own ego. Natalie wants to save her daughter but needs to know that John isn’t looking to do that for selfish reasons. Once she’s satisfied that his heart is in the right place she tells him about something called the Loom of Fate. The details aren’t elaborated on but my guess is that it can be used to alter people’s fates which means it can be used to prevent Astra from being sent to Hell. Of course, time travel could also accomplish that but the inconsistency in how the rules are applied means that there’s no real answer for why it can’t be. The Loom of Fate is something that terrifies Charlie. At some point in the past she found it, dismantled it and hid the pieces of it across the Multiverse so that they could never be found. She did this to escape her own fate which remains undisclosed but she is definitely running from something and is terrified of her past catching up with her. Since everyone believes the Multiverse has been destroyed it will make retrieving the pieces difficult though time travel could help with that if the team travel back to before Charlie scattered the pieces. It depends on what the time travel rules are that week but it’s a possibility.
An extra complication is added when Astra makes a deal to have John’s lung cancer accelerated to the point that it will kill him. Astra does this because she feels that her hold on power in Hell is diminishing. She is starting to lose the confidence of others because her resurrection plan isn’t going well so she has to do something drastic to keep what she has gained. This leads her to accelerate John’s lung cancer to the point that it kills him instantly. She blames him for everything that has ever went wrong in her life both in and out of Hell so she reacts by causing the most pain possible in an effort to settle the score. John keels over in a really brutal display of an illness tearing him apart all at once. It’s difficult to watch and a really effective ending though I suspect it will result in John being stuck in Hell for a few episodes giving him greater access to Astra and allowing him to encourage her redemption. Up until this point the material involving Astra has been fairly repetitive with little focus on the sort of threat she might represent so taking this opportunity to develop the connection she has with John by having him in the same place she is may be a good thing. Adding extra texture through knowledge of John’s relationship with her mother creates a strong foundation to build on. Outside of the fun capering that the show does so well there’s a real opportunity to create something memorable with the John/Astra connection so I’m interested to see how this develops.
Speaking of fun capering, this episode has a particularly good example of that. As I’ve repeatedly said it’d be so easy to make this show a disposable romp week on week where the characters are involved with certain antics taking place at a particular time in history with no real depth or weight to them. What sets this show apart is how those antics further the characters, their relationships to one another and their personal arcs. Ava’s arc this season has been about adjusting to life as a Legend and not having the Time Bureau to focus on any more. It’s basically a search for purpose and finding a way to fit into the way her life is now. Her biggest test comes in this episode when Sara leaves to attend to some personal business and leaves Ava in charge of the ship. This means that Ava has to run point on a mission and find a way to use the team effectively. Given their tendency to misbehave it’s not an easy leadership task and Ava’s already feeling insecure about her ability to adjust to life as a Legend so it’s a real challenge for her to take on. Sara has such casual confidence in her which could mean she has faith in Ava’s ability to handle it though it could equally be a sign that she’s failed to notice the difficulties that Ava is having at this time. If the latter it could be an interesting hurdle for the couple to cross.
The mission involves heading to Revolutionary France in order to stop Marie Antionette from causing death by decadence for all the attendees of a lavish party. Amusingly Marie Antoinette is played by Courtney Ford and her resemblance to Nora is blatantly referenced without actually going anywhere. I’m not sure if this is leading to some sort of plot point involving lookalikes throughout the timeline or if it was just an opportunity for Courtney Ford to have some fun in a different role before leaving the show. It works well enough with Courtney Ford’s performance being appropriately over the story being told.
This mission is a learning experience for Ava and the first outing for the new version of Zari. She proves invaluable in this situation as her knowledge of how the world of the rich and famous works. The rules are the same regardless of the time period so Zari is able to navigate this with ease. This includes being able to easily talk herself into the party, finding a way to get close to their target and coming up with a way to get her to leave. It’s all really well put together and the perfect way to use the alternate Zari that has been created. It makes this alteration feel like an organic development for the character rather than a distraction to be resolved quickly. This situation couldn’t have been dealt with if Zari’s previous personality was still around. Tala Ashe continues to impress with her ability to create a distinct character from the previous version of Zari while still allowing shades of who she was to come through. It’s really fun to watch and plays into this particular mission perfectly.
Another thing that works really well is the way Zari and Ava bounce off one another. Both are looking for purpose in their own way as they are new to being a Legend so are looking to find a way to prove themselves. Zari’s skills prove invaluable here and Ava’s ability to make proper use of them compliment that nicely. By the end of the episode I really believed that this shared experience had forged a friendship between them that is different from any other relationship on the show. They are two personalities that wouldn’t normally get along but they have managed to find common ground in the midst of all this lunacy which makes for a meaningful connection.
The mission also provides an opportunity to comment on celebrity culture and how this relates to what Zari is dealing with. She is able to navigate Marie Antoinette’s party with ease because she has experienced so many similar events to the point that they all bleed together and offer her no real comfort. This culminates in her own event that is the very definition of fleeting popularity as she learns that her perfume causes people to permanently lose their sense of smell. Something that isn’t entirely her fault will end up destroying her life in the years to come. This further confirms to her what she already knew about being famous and encourages her to reflect on what it means for her. When faced with the prospect of losing all of her followers she has to ask herself what she would have when they’re gone and is forced to conclude that she won’t really have anything as she doesn’t have any real friends. It’s the classic “popular person feels lonely” character beat but it’s played so well because Zari has spent so long trying to deny this fact about herself. Realising that is an important step forward in her personal growth and understanding that she was wrong to put everyone in dangers just to maintain her own popularity further adds to her mind being opened to reality.
Her perfume launch party is a great representation of how lonely Zari is in true Legends tradition. Her boyfriend, DJ S’More Money (Ryan Bell) is utterly hilarious while also being a meaningful example of how empty Zari’s life is. She has a boyfriend that hides his face from the public as a marketing gimmick and is due to be engaged to him because it will reflect well on them in the public eye. Nothing about this is what Zari wants from her life though it’s easy to see why she would feel that she has nothing else so fully commits to it. Her brief stint with the Legends has shown her that her life could have purpose and it’s something she definitely wants to explore.
An encounter with a doughnut brings back more memories of the previous timeline. I’m hopeful that Zari will become a composite of the two versions of herself as the new version is too good and too well developed to be lost entirely. It’d be a lot of fun to see a version of Zari that is tech savvy and obsessed with looking good. If there’s any way to combine these traits then I’m confident this show will find a way to do it. It would be a shame if all of this development is to disappear in favour of the previous version of the character but I’m confident that this won’t happen and the person Zari becomes will combine the two versions.
The mission also provided further amusing antics such as the headless body of Marie Antoinette chasing Ray and Mick around with Mick’s flame gun after Ray insisted they don’t harm the body. It was definitely amusing and gave these characters something to do though I wish there had been a way to fold them into the story in a more meaningful way. At times many of the characters are given busy work that doesn’t help them develop. Ray is leaving the show soon so in particular the time left with him should be better used. I did like seeing him become excited by Ava’s binders and continuing to study them after the meeting was over but there’s not a lot of substance for him in this episode. Even his declaration of love to Nora is immediately sidelined so that we can laugh at Mick not understanding that he’s catching feelings. I have no idea what the writers plan to do with this or if an exit for Dominic Purcell is starting to be set up. It wouldn’t be outwith the norm to have Mick involved in something random though in this case it was a bit distracting even if it was amusing.
A strong episode that moves the main season plot forward in a meaningful way while providing more fun antics that develop characters wonderfully. John being forced to face the truth about his past when being haunted by Astra’s mother works really well for the most part though there is a lot of information to digest in a short period of time. This leaves it feeling somewhat rushed even if the point does come across by the end. John’s relationship with Natalie creates a lot of potential for a meaningful connection between him and Astra now that he’s in a position to interact with her more. This should hopefully get Astra out of the rut of having repetitive scenes.
The mission involving a trip to Revolutionary France is both fun and meaningful. Ava having her first experience of leading the team is a great opportunity to explore her insecurities and difficulties adjusting to her new role. Zari compliments her perfectly by being able to navigate the celebrity party scene effortlessly. Ava has to adapt to the situation and find a way to make use of the skills at her disposal while Zari starts to find a sense of purpose with the Legends. By the end of the episode it’s believable that Zari and Ava have become friends and using the mission as a springboard to explore how lonely Zari is as a popular celebrity with no real friends. It’s an important step forward for her and it plays out brilliantly. The mission also provides an opportunity for other amusing antics though there’s a real lack of depth to Ray’s contribution to the episode with his declaration of love for Nora sidelined by encouraging us to laugh at Mick.
- setting the stage for a meaningful John/Astra connection
- Matt Ryan’s performance as John confronts his past
- further exploration of Ava’s anxiety and desire for belonging
- the mission offering the perfect opportunity for the new Zari to meaningfully contribute
- using the mission to explore Zari’s loneliness and offer commentary on celebrity culture
- the believable Ava/Zari friendship
- a lot of information in John’s plot being thrown at the audience with little time to properly digest it
- minimal development for Ray and Mick in favour of more hilarious antics
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