DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 6 Episode 1
“Ground Control to Sara Lance”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns for a sixth season with an alien abduction and Ava taking on the role of hungover leader to sort it out.
Of all the Arrowverse shows this is unquestionably the most fun. I’ve repeatedly said that there’s so much about it that sounds utterly ludicrous on paper but the execution is expert level which means that most of the attempted insanity tends to work. A talented production team knows exactly how to juggle a large cast of rich characters and there is never any fear of having fun with all of the available elements. After five seasons under its belt the show still proves that it has what it takes to entertain and that is most definitely worth celebrating.
This episode picks up the morning after the finale of the previous season. Charlie’s farewell gig is over and the team are having to get used to life without her. Before they can even take stock of that they have to deal with the fact that Sara is missing and nobody seems to have noticed. Ava is made aware of it upon realising that she spent the night over the Waverider’s -somehow- only toilet and wasn’t taken to bed at any point. From here she is used as the point of view to succinctly reintroduce the cast and remind audiences of their current situations after nearly a year since they appeared on TV. Mick is his usual surly self having embraced fatherhood to the point that he gives the team a hard time for staying out late and getting drunk, John and Zari are hooking up having given into their mutual attraction, Nate tells the tale of his doomed relationship with the original Zari to a willing David Bowie (Thomas Nicholson), Behrad opens up to a Buckingham Palace guard while dealing with the munchies and Astra is hustling a poker game. In short everyone is exactly as we remember them and have to be prodded into turning their attention to the current crisis. Using Ava as the point of view character for this quick introduction works wonderfully as it brings the viewer right into the story while offering punchy reminders of who these people are.
Naturally the focus has to be on Sara’s whereabouts as nobody has any idea what happened to her. Fortunately David Bowie was filming the evening and caught the whole thing on tape as well as Sara’s gleeful announcement that she planned to propose to Ava therefore offering the perfect reminder of how strong and pure their relationship is. Knowing that knocks Ava through a bit of a loop and forces her to compartmentalise what she’s feeling in order to be an effective leader. Hilariously she makes a list of exactly how she expects the Legends to react to her orders and plans accordingly. A big part of her arc in the previous season was learning how to adapt to their quirks in order to lead them. Her checklist is perfectly in keeping with her character while also showing that progression towards being more flexible when it comes to dealing with the unruly personalities of this particular team. She has found a way to be less rigid within her own limitations and adapted to her current situation so it’s definitely an arc well realised.
The realisation that Sara has been abducted by aliens raises a few concerns as it doesn’t fit in with their typical wheelhouse given the current configuration of the team. Save for a crossover confrontation against the Dominators they haven’t really dealt with aliens so don’t know where to start. Ava’s idea is to contact the DEO only to find out it was levelled in a nice piece of crossover continuity though it’s unclear why they don’t try to contact Team Supergirl instead. It doesn’t really matter but it’s odd that they would go so far with referencing and not take it the rest of the way. In any case it establishes that they are on their own and have to figure out their next move with no assistance. There’s comfort to be found in that time travel would seem to be involved which means that it is at least partly in their area of expertise even if aliens is a notable blind spot for them.
They go through the usual motions such as trying to use technology and magic to find Sara but initially find themselves to be at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed due to having no real idea of the territory. Behrad stumbles across a newspaper article detailing an abductee who might have a connection to the aliens they’re looking for which leads them to Esperanza “Spooner” Cruz (Lisseth Chavez) who after some needling opts to help them track down Sara in exchange for the possibility of being rid of the constant paranoia that comes with expecting to be abducted again. Spooner is an engaging enough character so far even if it’s unclear how she will ultimately fit into the team dynamic. Lisseth Chaves has good energy and is already beginning to forge a dynamic with some of the cast while being an easy fit as another quirky Legends character. Her arrival provides them a connection to the current threat and she is used well within that so far but it remains to be seen how she will fit into the team following this episode.
Sara’s abduction means that she spends the entirety of the episode separated from the team aside from an Astrally projected Ava who accepts her proposal and motivates her to escape. Most of her early scenes are spent interacting with Spartacus (Shawn Roberts) who contrasts her desire for a careful escape plan with reckless bravado that ultimately ends up getting him killed. It’s a fun pairing for a while and his inclusion allows for an organic showing of what the aliens are capable of in order to increase the tension. Spartacus fortunately doesn’t outstay his welcome and is used as a way to showcase Sara’s ability to keep cool in a crisis by having her work with someone who is very much the opposite. It’s an obvious trick to re-establish her character but an effective one.
The rest of her screen time is spent interacting with Gary who turns out to have been an alien all along. This is clearly a reveal that we’re not supposed to think too much about because it makes no sense when placed under the slightest scrutiny. It’s a good reveal in the sense that it provides Adam Tsekhman some strong material to work with and allows for Gary to be seen in a different light but it’s also a very bad reveal because of how little sense it makes. To have Gary be an undercover alien the entire time on a mission to abduct Sara because she is considered to be the quintessential Human actively contradicts many of the previous information that has been delivered about him and only courts confusion when any thought is applied to it. His explanation that he changed his mind after falling in love with the Legends is amusing enough and his desire to help Sara escape her current predicament allows for some strong interactions between them but the absurdity of the reveal -even by this show’s standards- really gets in the way of any credibility it might have.
In general the plot of this episode meanders in a way that makes the pacing feel off. Lots of time is spent running around trying to piece together the situation with little forward movement leading towards any sort of conclusion. It’s clear that the search for Sara Lance will take place over multiple episodes but there was a lot of repeated information and progression was few and far between. It stood out because this show is usually so efficient with plotting that things keep moving at an impressive clip but there was a definite reluctance to actually begin.
Fortunately the characterisation was still strong and carried the show nicely. There are a number of interesting things to watch out for such as Nate’s heartache being something that he will continue to deal with. Pouring his heart out to David Bowie indicates that his contribution won’t be an overly angsty one though it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with there being another version of Zari on the team with her sights fixed on John. Zari and John have convinced themselves that their current connections is nothing more than a casual fling that they are both indulging in but the suggestion already exists that feelings are not far beneath the surface being denied. Astra points out how obvious it is through his acceptance of a healthy smoothie from her that he immediately pours alcohol into upon realising that Astra is onto something. It’s the perfect comedic portrayal of denial in a way that naturally fits John Constantine.
Ava’s arc is around the realisation that Sara is ready to take their relationship to the next level. Their commitment to one another has progressed to leading up to marriage which could mean that there will be a wedding this season that will no doubt be filled with more lunacy than can be imagined by this reviewer. Their relationship has always been complex and well developed without ever feeling that any part of it was becoming stale. Ava accepting Sara’s proposal while in her Astral form was an excellent moment and directly informed the next step Sara took which connected it naturally to the plot. This step forward for both of them also adds to the tragedy of Sara’s absence as they can’t be together to celebrate this milestone.
Characters like Behrad and Mick don’t receive as much attention so it’s largely unclear what may be in store for them this season but there’s plenty of attention given to Astra even if there’s a lack of clarity as to how she fits in. That may well be the point as she’s looking for direction in her own life but for the purposes of this episode the contacts she gained in Hell allowed her to have unique insight that helped the team. She mentions not being sure if she wants to be a part of the team and it could be that the writers are trying to figure out where she fits in that isn’t along similar lines to John. She definitely has a distinct personality but the skillset definitely overlaps which could be something of a challenge particularly if magic does become less useful in the face of the current threat. She is used brilliantly here with her personality put to good use so time will tell.
A strong opening to the season that excels with characterisation and continues to provide the fun that is expected from the show. Using Ava as the point of view character to reintroduce all of the characters along with their particular highlights at this point worked brilliantly as it brought the viewer up to speed while offering punchy reminders of who the characters are after so long off the air. Having Ava work to solve the mystery of Ava’s whereabouts clearly shows how much she has grown as a leader. Her checklist of the expected quirks of the team and how to use them effectively highlights all she has learned and her ability to adapt her style to the randomness of this particular team. The reveal that aliens are involved raises problems as it doesn’t match the skillset of the current configuration of the team though there is some hope brought on by the addition of time travel. The introduction of Esperanza “Spooner” Cruz is a strong one in terms of what she brings to the overall dynamic of the show. She has a fun energy and is used well in this episode though it’s unclear how she will continue to be used.
Sara’s abduction means she spends the entirety of the episode separated from the team aside from a brief Astral interlude with Ava where her marriage proposal is accepted. It’s a strong moment and further establishes the tragedy of her being separated from Ava as well as the rest of the team since they can’t celebrate the next step in their relationship. Sara’s interactions with Spartacus before he’s eaten offers an obvious yet effective reintroduction of Sara’s ability to remain cool in a crisis while contrasting that with Spartacus’ reckless attitude. The reveal that Gary has always been an alien with the mission of abducting her doesn’t stand up under any scrutiny though works to the degree that it gives Adam Tsekhman some strong material to perform. Unfortunately it’s impossible to accept the reveal given how massively it contradicts everything known about the character which gets in the way of any credibility it might have. In general the plot being delivered is distractingly meandering to the point that it barely progresses though the characterisation remains strong with various compelling arcs established here that will definitely be interesting to see develop over the course of the season. In particular Zari and John denying their feelings for one another under the impression they are partaking in a casual fling has a lot of potential and Astra defining her place on the team has a great deal of mileage.
- a succinct and skilful reintroduction to the core cast
- showing the growth of Ava as a leader with her checklist of expected quirks from the team
- the strong moment where Ava accepts Sara’s proposal
- Spooner having fun energy within the team
- John and Zari’s denial over the extent of their fling having potential
- lots of mileage in Astra defining her place in the team
- using Spartacus’ reckless as an appropriate contract to reintroduce Sara’s ability to stay cool during a crisis
- Sara and Gary’s interactions
- Adam Tsekhman having some strong material to work with
- a meandering plot
- the Gary reveal not holding up under any scrutiny
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