DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 4 Episode 3
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has Ray embrace his inner punk as John considers the implications of time travel.
The idea of putting a straight shooter like Ray in a situation where he has to deal with a group of anarchists is on paper a really good idea as it’s a complete departure from his comfort zone while offering an opportunity to explore who he is as a character and what he brings to the team.
This episode picks up the thread of Ray not telling the team that he let Nora go. It weighs on him because being dishonest isn’t his style and the only person he can talk to about this is Zari who knows the truth and offers him support in her own way as he continues to be torn over how to proceed.
Putting Ray in the midst of a Punk Band is a game of contrasts as they are very much the opposite of how this character is perceived. This episode offers a unique perspective on Ray Palmer in terms of how his teammates see him but also explores how he sees them and what he feels his place within that dynamic is. It’s clear that he is somewhat underestimated by the others as he is made to wait outside in the van while the characters apparently more suited to this particular situation go inside, an assumption is made that he won’t be able to handle the situation that he had put himself in and it is generally believed that he has to be protected in some way even though Sara thinks that he can handle himself.
This perception affects Ray because he feels that the team don’t appreciate his full usefulness which makes him want to rebel in some way and defy the expectations people have of him. Strip away the music, style and abrasive attitude the desire to run counter to expectations is very much the essence of punk and Ray finds this to be a philosophy he can relate to on some level because he does feel the need for a change. Punk is about helping others understand what you believe to be the truth and Ray wants to make his friends realise that he’s capable of so much more than they think he is.
Outside of this there isn’t an awful lot more to say about the Punk plot though it does help Ray realise that bad things can be done for good reasons which makes them somewhat justifiable. It also increases Ray’s confidence in trusting his instincts rather than doubting decisions he has made. Throughout this particular episode trusting his instincts serves him well so it’s reasonable to assume that trusting them will mostly lead him down the right path. He believes that there is some good within Nora that can be nurtured so he has every confidence that his decision was correct.
The friendship that develops between Ray and Charlie (Anjili Mohindra) works really well as they both bond over a desire to simply be themselves. She associates with this particular group of people as they accept who she is presenting herself at that point. She is understanding when learning that Ray hasn’t been entirely honest with them and calls everyone out on their hypocrisy while pointing out the parts of their lives that they turned their back on to pursue the Punk way of life. It becomes very clear to Ray that Charlie isn’t deserving of being sent to Hell and has to make that case to his teammates who are ready to banish her. He makes a case for her survival by pointing out that her violent actions are motivated by self defence and that everyone else on the team would have done exactly the same in her place.
Charlie uses her shapeshifting ability to hold up a mirror to the Legends and let them see that they are more concerned with solving a problem quickly rather than understanding what that problem is. She takes on the form of Amaya to point out that they no longer have a moral compass which has corrupted them in a lot of ways. Her display is enough to dissuade them from killing her and compromise by having John leave her stuck in the form of Amaya which is a genius way to bring back Maisie Richardson-Sellers without cheapening Amaya’s exit. The drawback is that Anjili Mohindra won’t be reappearing anytime soon which is a shame as she made for a really good guest presence.
Having Charlie look like Amaya works as both a surprise as well as a symbol of the connection between Ray and Charlie. He looks at the photo of the Legends in disco gear from “Here I Go Again” and points out how he sees the rest of the team and laments what they have gone on to become. Specifically Amaya was the moral compass as far as Ray is concerned which suggests that he really feels her loss in a really profound way. Charlie taking on her image could be foreshadowing of her taking Amaya’s place as the moral compass in a very different way.
This episode is one of those situations where what exists underneath the plot is more interesting than the plot itself. The episode fails to establish any real stakes associated with the situation because there is very little mention of what will happen if Ray fails other than setting up the scenario. It also never feels like Ray is in any real danger even though there are points where he is at risk of being found out. Those quickly fizzle out which makes the bulk of the episode feel somewhat disposable and far less entertaining than the usual output of this show. It’s still good but far below the usual standard while feeling oddly disconnected from everything else.
Subplots make up for some of that. John Constantine is the newest member of the team so has to find his place within it but he still very much paints himself as a loner and goes out of his way to antagonise other members of the team. Mick in particular becomes a target for him because it’s so easy to wind him up though John is definitely the type to push people’s buttons until they snap. It wouldn’t surprise me if he and Mick come to blows before long.
John decides to remove himself from the group dynamic and goes to visit his mother who amusingly looks after him like a mother would when it seems that he’s drinking too much without any food in his stomach. Zari tracks him down and becomes the sounding board for his inner thoughts. This offers some insight into John as a loner in an emotionally resonant scene where John talks about his mother dying in childbirth and how he sees that as the beginning of all the pain and suffering he has caused over the course of his life. The fact that his father blamed him for killing his mother also says a lot about how messed up John is and shows the audience the root cause for his self loathing. I didn’t quite buy that John was at such a low point that he had resolved to prevent his own birth though I could buy that he wanted to meet his mother and see what sort of a person she was. Still, the “ball-kick paradox” was really amusing even if it introduces yet another inconsistency in the time travel rules of this universe as we have seen people be erased from history before as well as all sorts of other timeline changes that would be impossible if this rule were to be applied across every instance of time travel we’ve seen in the Arrowverse so far.
Zari being added to this plot makes a lot of sense as she is best placed to understand where John’s coming from. So far this season she has been plagued by her desire to change the timeline as well as the knowledge that she can’t do it. This makes her the best person to relate to John and help him understand how unfair the universe can be when the rules prevent them from taking action.
Nate’s early days at the Time Bureau ends up being a great opportunity for him to reflect on his recent break-up. Gary seems to be an excellent addition to any character story because of his ability to insert into whatever story is going on and explore it naturally. In this case, Nate is still hurting after his break-up with Amaya because she left him to start a family with someone else. This was a mutual decision to save the timeline but it also wasn’t what Nate wanted and remains far from easy for him to deal with. Gary has become infatuated with John and feels that he has been dumped when in reality John isn’t exactly the most committed. It’s a relationship that Gary wasn’t quite ready for and he disguises his pain by overcompensating for it with his goofy attitude. It works well and he makes for a fun foil for Nate who has someone engaging to bounce off as he tries out the desk job life. This doesn’t necessarily make Nate interesting but the scenario surrounding him is and for now that’s good enough.
An uneven episode that fails to establish proper stakes in its main plot but makes up for it with engaging characterisation and some fun moments. Ray learning to trust his instincts, break the rules and that some bad things are worth doing if the intention behind them is good. His fast growing friendship with Charlie is engaging and her shapeshifting ability is an excellent way to bring Maisie Richardson-Sellers back into the show as a new character. This means that Amaya’s exit isn’t cheapened and the actor gets to continue in a new role.
John’s visit to his parents before he was conceived is a great opportunity to understand the root cause of his loneliness and self loathing. Zari makes for the perfect addition to this as she understands his desire to change the timeline by preventing his birth which makes her the best person to articulate the reasons why he can’t do that. Nate’s first days at the Time Bureau allow him to process his break-up with Amaya by relating to Gary who has recently been dumped by John. It doesn’t make Nate interesting as such but Gary is always a fun addition that creates somewhat unique situations.
- Ray learning to trust his instincts
- understanding the root cause of John’s self loathing
- Gary’s presence enhancing Nate’s contribution to the episode
- Charlie’s shapeshifting ability creating an excellent reason for Maisie Richardson-Sellers to return without cheapening Amaya’s exit
- failure to maintain proper stakes
- John’s desire to prevent his birth being difficult to accept
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