DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 7 Episode 7
“A Woman’s Place Is in the War Effort!”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow takes the team to 1945 where they combat racism, sexism and a tight manufacturing deadline.
I’ve discussed in my reviews of other Arrowverse shows that working within the established formula is arguably necessary to retain the audience because many watch the show due to the familiarity that comes with the core setup. Arrow did a great job changing the status quo just enough for things to feel different while the basic structure remained intact. Legends is doing something similar this season with the team stuck in various time periods but still engaging in the type of wacky adventures that viewers -certainly this one- love. They don’t have the Waverider which forms the basis for an ongoing arc but they are still getting involved in situations that surround them. Even the extended stay in 1925 was familiar enough for the change to not feel seismic. It’s a clever trick that makes the show feel fresh without radically altering it.
This episode takes the team to 1945 after Bishop’s toilet based intervention interferes with the time machine and breaks it again. Just like the previous episode and the one before that, the Legends have to source local parts to fix it. As with those previous two episodes it’s an incidental problem that feeds into what the episode is actually about. In this case the main plot is about equality and progress filtered through the perspective of Astra with the other characters feeding into it where appropriate.
World War II is identified as one of the major turning points in the march towards equality for women as it was proven they could do jobs just as well as men could. It was instrumental in sustaining the war effort and accomplished the task of opening doors as well as minds. Progress wasn’t instant and is still ongoing but it was a step forward. Social commentary isn’t always this shows strong suit; a criticism that could be lobbied against any show in the Arrowverse but most of the attempts to make a particular point come across as sincere. The cast of Legends is undeniably diverse so there’s plenty of natural opportunity for the characters to comment on and be affected by any given social issue native to a particular time period.
Astra’s perspective is delightfully unique as she is still learning about the world around her. Being raised in Hell made her cultivate a cynical to the point of fatalist attitude about the state of Humanity. She regards the Human race as a whole with contempt as she was routinely confronted with the very worst of them. A big arc for her has been recognising that kindness does exist and it is possible for things as well as people to get better when enough work is put in. She still falls back on her cynical viewpoint but she is slowly waking up to the idea that the Human race isn’t as bad as her experience would suggest.
None of that growth does her much good here as she is routinely faced with roadblocks confirming the worst of her assumptions. Staples (Jason Gray-Stanford) is the embodiment of everything she could possibly hate about her surroundings. He has absolute power over the factory, doesn’t value women, doesn’t value “coloureds” and actively maintains the segregation because of his own biases. There’s nothing deep or interesting about him but as a physical manifestation of everything wrong with the current situation the point is well made. He spends most of the episode paralysed so it’s easy to see why no effort to inject any sort of depth into him was made.
Astra experiences first hand how difficult this time period was for women, and particularly women of colour. She learns early on that “coloureds” are assigned to janitorial work only because the factory floor isn’t for them. No reason is given as it’s an accepted fact that everyone involved deals with. Being from a better future Astra is incredulous and isn’t shy about expressing it where Spooner is willing to accept it in favour of not drawing attention to themselves. Having Spooner’s more tempered attitude is necessary because it gives Astra something to react to and a sympathetic yet contrary voice to offer her a different outlook. Spooner sees it as tolerable because they don’t expect to be there for long and the subtext is that there’s no need to feel guilty because things will gradually get better for those stuck in this situation. It’s not enough to calm Astra but it does acknowledge that there are other ways of looking at it.
Perspective is important when delivering social commentary as it is always going to be delivered through either a singular point of view or a small collection of them. This episode focuses more on Astra though the other characters do feed into it. Astra’s emotional state prompts her to act out and paralyse Staples which provides her an opportunity to sneakily take over his role and reshape the factory in a more inclusive way. She starts by converting the bathroom so that the women don’t have to go far to use the facilities and quickly ramps up to include breaks, snacks and various other quality of life improvements. Her efforts quickly increase efficiency significantly and create a more engaged workforce. It isn’t explicitly detailed but this definitely highlights that a more engaged workforce is a more productive workforce. Astra’s well-being driven approach to running the factory makes things run more smoothly because those who work there feel valued and feel that their work actually makes a difference rather than simply being important to sustain the war effort. it’s a radical shift in attitude for those that work there and it pays off through greater output. All employers should take note!
All of the success goes to Astra’s head and she decides to push for an integrated workplace which pushes all of the white workers to quit in protest. This was an interesting development as it adds complexity to the overall equality conversation. Desiring equality for yourself doesn’t necessarily equate to being intolerant of the inequality in others. The white female workers in this factory are racist because it was a disturbingly normal attitude at the time so vote with their feet when privilege is extended in a direction they feel to be undeserving of it. It’s a sad reality but good to see addressed as it widens the issue.
This prompts some compelling advice to be given to Astra around the pace of progress. She is told that glacial progress is still progress and that things take time to change. It’s less than ideal but it’s also the reality that has to be internalised. It gives Astra an alternate perspective on trying to force change at a pace beyond what people are ready for while adding further texture to the issues being explored. Astra’s confident zero tolerance attitude is commendable but it also highlights a lack of understanding over how hard fought equality has been over time.
Astra listens to that advice and elects to ignore it; she instead issues a challenge to complete the plane on time despite the odds being stacked against that possibility. She pledges to do everything she can to ensure the workers are appropriately cared for in exchange for the work being completed on time. It doesn’t quite work out as intended and a motivational speech needs to be thrown into the mix but Astra does prove the point that sticking to her guns and pushing hard for change and being herself was the right thing for her to do. In fairness she takes some unconventional steps to achieve it such as bringing in Eleanor Roosevelt (Christine Wiles) to observe how effective an integrated workforce is therefore inspiring her to petition Congress to make that the norm. This brings about that change two years early marking yet another change to the timeline much to the detriment of the team who are attacked by robot duplicates of themselves manufactured by Evil Gideon.
Tangentially connected to Astra’s development is Behrad going out of his way to be accommodating. This comes into play when he and Zari 2.0 teach Nate Persian customs to make him a good host. This will prove necessary to charm one of Zari 1.0’s ancestors when he takes up residence in the totem. Bishop proves to be a very trying presence who makes constant demands and pushes the limits of Behrad’s patience when it comes to hospitality. These scenes are really enjoyable as they highlight Behrad’s casual laid back nature while framing Bishop as something of a wacky child with very exact demands. There are some great touches such as Zari parting with her phone because etiquette demands that she do so and Behrad gradually becoming more impatient as Bishop continues to push.
A conversation with Astra helps both of them appreciate the other’s perspective. Behrad gives her advice about being accommodating and making that work for her while Astra tells him that it’s ok to push back against unreasonable demands. Both are able to take that advice and apply it to their present situations. This results in Behrad refusing to do whatever Bishop asks of him and lets him see that it doesn’t make him a bad person to not please absolutely everyone even when its to his own disadvantage. Behrad and Astra’s scene together also hints at the potential slow burn romance that has been cropping up since last season. Whether it will come to anything is unknown but their dynamic is constantly engaging regardless.
The episode makes some missteps where Bishop is concerned though not through how the character is portrayed. Having him be an entitled nuisance in the background of the Behrad, Zari and Nate plot works brilliantly but is more meaningful contribution is distractingly short lived. It’s well established that he regrets the way he acted and wants to be part of the Legends which results in Behrad coming to accept him as a temporary Legend. When the situation escalates he more than proves himself by both risking and losing his life in service of saving the team. The missteps come with how quickly this all happens. Most of his screen time in this episode is background so there are minimal meaningful interactions between him and other characters.
A suggestion of a strong dynamic exists between him and Gideon and there was definite potential for something interesting between him and Behrad. There are conversations that won’t happen such as between him and Sara where they can discuss decisions she made that indirectly resulted in this outcome. Of course it’s possible he isn’t actually dead and we’ll get all this later but there was a definite rushed quality to his contribution to this episode that stands out as if there was a defined end point and only limited time to reach it.
A strong episode that offers a complex commentary on the journey towards equality, uses the issue as a teachable moment for Astra and continues to provide strong character moments. Astra experiencing both racism and sexism in 1945 provides a strong story for her to work through. Her impatience and contempt for the Human race due to being raised in Hell gives her a unique perspective with the worst being confirmed by how she’s treated in this time period. An emotional/magical outburst provides her the opportunity to effect change and she quickly makes the factory orders of magnitude more efficient through bringing in quality of life improvements that allow the workforce to feel valued. It isn’t explicitly covered but it promotes the idea that an engaged workforce is more productive with very clear results. The main commentary being provided is on equality and how hard fought it was. In particular Astra is confronted with a harsh reality when she pushes for an integrated workforce and the white women walk out in protest. It widens the issue and adds complexity by noting that desiring equality for yourself doesn’t equate to desiring it for others. It’s a disturbingly normal attitude for the time and creates a different problem to solve. Ultimately Astra is proven right to push for this through challenging the remaining workers to finish the job and doing everything she can to make sure they’re cared for. Inviting Eleanor Roosevelt to observe the results pays off in a big way though puts the team back on Evil Gideon’s radar.
Tied to this is Behrad teaching Nate how to be a cordial host and dealing with Bishop’s many demands. His conversation with Astra helps her to see that being accommodating can be worthwhile while Behrad recognises that refusing demands doesn’t make him a bad person. He applies this to his interactions with Bishop and is able to stop the onslaught of requests from Bishop who ends up proving himself to be a capable temporary Legends. Bishop is where the missteps of the episode are to be found as it rushes through content that could have been far more compelling if given greater time to breathe.
- Astra’s unique perspective allowing for interesting exploration of the equality issue
- adding complexity though the white female workers being racist and rejecting integration
- further complexity added through noting that gradual progress is still progress
- Astra giving hope to the workers by making them feel valued
- Behrad and Astra’s meaningful interaction allowing them to see the other’s perspective
- Behrad applying that to rejecting Bishop’s demands
- Biship proving himself to be a worthy temporary Legends
- rushing through the content for Bishop and removing some of its potential
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