DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 5 Episode 13
“I Am Legends”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow maroons the team outside London in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse as the clock ticks down on their temporary immortality.
More than anything else this episode is about the inevitability of death. No matter what someone does to avoid or cheat death it remains the natural end point of any life. This is true of Humans, Metahumans, magical creatures and even time travellers. This episode goes about making this point in many different ways through various characters.
The most glaring exploration of this comes through Astra who has recently become reacquainted with what living on Earth is like through a couple of adventures with the Legends. It isn’t an extensive example of what life on Earth is like but it’s enough to give her a sense of what she has missed and in theory what she might want to have back. Her chief motivation of late has been to bring back her mother because she thinks that will resolve the emptiness she feels on a constant basis. As far as she’s concerned, living a life with her mother would be a flawless experience and everything she does is in service of achieving that goal.
Her perspective is altered when Lachesis shows her the reality of bringing her mother back from the dead by way of a vision of her dying painfully of Cancer. It’s a brutal image that convinces Astra that there’s nothing but tragedy at the end of the road she’s on. Of course it’s an extreme way to dissuade her from her own plan so that she’ll be more amenable to theirs but it also makes a powerful statement about inevitability that can’t be ignored. Astra has had this notion of perfection in her mind for a long time; the idea that bringing her mother back will fix everything that’s broken inside her has sustained her through her time in Hell so learning that her mother would be fated to die in such a painful and tragic way is a lot for her to take and enough to make her lose faith. What she fails to consider is that what Lachesis is showing her could be fake. It’s less powerful as an example if it is fake but it’s possible and Astra doesn’t really consider that. Another more interesting thing she fails to consider is that her mother’s tragic death only represents one moment of their time together. It’s a profound one that would change her on a fundamental level but it is still only one moment. Gary is the one to help her realise that this moment wouldn’t represent the entirety of that relationship. It’s tragic but it would also exist among countless good memories that can always be looked back on. Gary’s point is that life isn’t defined by any one event, it’s defined by the variation of experience and Astra is failing to consider so many beautiful moments that could come before the painful end her mother is fated to experience.
Gary may be the comic relief most of the time and is largely defined by how much an idiot he is but there’s a distinct pure innocence to his character that makes him endearing. You may roll your eyes at Gary but you still don’t ever want to see him wronged or come to harm. It’s a delicate balance that the writing and Adam Tsekhman’s performance consistently nails to make him an essential part of the show. Astra is determined to torture him so that he gives up the rings but Gary encourages her to share one of the positive memories she has of her mother in an effort to convince her that there’s so much more to their relationship than the tragedy she has been shown. With Astra starting to get in touch with her Humanity after a couple of adventures with the Legends she is willing to open up about one of her favourite memories of her mother and begins to understand that there is more to life than misery. Astra having that perspective makes sense as so much of her life has been miserable with her being banished to Hell and having to find a way to survive in that environment.
Astra’s almost childlike outlook on the world is used to great effect in this episode. Her interactions with Lachesis and Atropos are framed through the lens of her being their child. She defied them and is being punished for her actions and she reacts in a really stroppy way. At first she’s a reluctant participant but then outlines some unusual demands for her help in using the Loom of Fate. She wants to get rid of Prunes because she doesn’t like them and wants dogs to remain puppies forever. These are incredibly childish desires and tie into her inability to accept the world for what it actually is. Astra has undergone considerable growth in such a short time but her flaws still let her down and this is shown in the classic comedic style that Legends is known for. It doesn’t entirely work as she seems to change her mind on a whim but it mostly works.
Gary does conduct himself impressively in this episode for the most part. Given the choice you wouldn’t want him to be your only hope but he does a good job dealing with Atropos and Lachesis with the help of a Gideon hallucination brought on by electrocuting himself. These semi-regular episodes where Amy Louise Pemberton gets to play a Human version of Gideon are always entertaining and an interesting challenge for the actor as she usually plays Gideon as imagined by a particular character. Gary sees her as his self confidence which means most of her contribution is to encourage him to be brave in the face of danger and put himself at risk in order to save his friends. It’s a dynamic that works brilliantly because Gary has often needed external input to help him realise his worth. Thanks to this imagined version of Gideon he does realise that he has the skills necessary to be of use and the confidence within him to make use of them. It’s not quite a Die Hard situation though he does open his shirt to reveal a tank top which invites some comparison to that Christmas classic. Imaginary Gideon is a really nice touch especially when Gary sees her to be a lot like his rabbit which prompts the hilarious image of Gideon hopping around. Something that could only happen on this show!
As Gary is trying to sabotage Astra and the Fates -should totally be the name of a band-; the Legends have to deal with a Zombie Apocalypse on Earth started by Atropos to distract them while she and her sister get to work rewriting fate. Zombie Apocalypse movies are known for their high body count which means that it’s hard to make them work as a one shot story in a TV show where the continued survival of the main cast is a necessity. The stakes are automatically reduced by the knowledge that everyone will make it out of it unscathed. That is still true here but this episode manages to subvert this and deliver an episode with meaningful stakes and a strong emotional core. The audience knows that the Loom of Fate is a thing that exists in the background so the fact that everything that happens here will be undone is basically a given but the problem of being cut off from the Waverider with only a finite amount of time to get back to it and make use of the Loom of Fate while their immortality is still intact presents a very simple yet very effective problem for the team to overcome. The Zombie Apocalypse is another complication that doesn’t initially threaten them in the sense that their lives are in danger -at least for everyone except Zari- but it does threaten to slow them down significantly as does the fact that they a stranded a vast difference from the remains of civilisation with no transport to get them there.
These issues allow for some excellent comedic moments such as the bizarre visual of the team dressed in whatever warm clothing John had lying around his house waiting for a bus. It’s hilarious that they would be driven to this and doubly hilarious that they are made to wait for so long that they become frustrated. This show has perfectly captured the frustration of waiting for a bus that seems as if it will never come and I didn’t know how much I needed to see it until after it had happened. It’s also hilarious that Mick loses patience and steals the bus before driving it on the wrong side of the road.
The immortality is used really well throughout with several fatal wounds being used for comedic effect. Ava recovering from a head shot that still hurts a lot is a great example and the team jumping out of a moving vehicle with their own unique approaches to making the leap was inspired as was the aftermath where they endured a painful recovery. This keeps the plot moving and establishes the temporary immortality as something of a helpful nuisance. It still doesn’t help them get where they need to go and only serves to prolong their suffering which is very darkly funny.
Inevitably the clock runs out on their temporary immortality just as an endless horde of Zombies descends on the pub they’ve taken refuge in. The Shaun of the Dead reference is obvious and appreciated while also being used to great effect in terms of giving the characters time to relax for a short time and enjoy being in each other’s company. Their shared reflective moment as they sit around a table having a beer and discussing what they want from life is a definite highlight with every desire making sense for that particular character. Sara is more content than she has ever been with a clear purpose in her life and a stable relationship with the woman she loves. Ava also loves what her life has become because of Sara along with the team, Nate just wishes every day could end with him spending time with his friends, Mick would like to go back to the simple life of being a criminal, Zari wants her brother to be alive and well as she uses her talents to make the world a more inclusive place and John wants Astra to have a happy life with him looking out for her. These are simple and profound declarations from each of the characters that summarise exactly where they are in their lives at this particular moment and serves as a reminder of exactly why this show continues to work. Character is everything and each of them has a distinct voice; John even tries to avoid being vulnerable before being encouraged to open up because that is his character.
John has plenty of great moments in this episode and continues to be paired up with Zari with excellent results. He finds out that he’s immune to the Zombies because they aren’t interested in eating someone who has a damned soul. The visual of him standing around as the rest of the characters battle the Zombies is hilarious and his constant attempts to light up a cigarette as Zari keeps stopping him lead to great interactions between them. Their sexual tension reaches peak in this episode and they act on it though it’s not clear if it will lead anywhere beyond this or if it was a simple case of getting it out of their system. It could lead to a no strings affair or simply be a one time thing; either would work for these characters though hopefully this release of tension won’t impact their interactions in a negative way.
Once the immortality runs out and they are forced to deal with the Zombie horde things play out as they often do in Zombie Apocalypse stories; with the systematic death of the characters involved. They will obviously be brought back because of the Loom of Fate but that doesn’t stop this from being impactful. Sara and Ava form the emotional core of this story with Sara keeping a vision she had secret from the team until the very last moment. She did that because she didn’t want their final day to be coloured by the knowledge of how it would end. It was her decision to accept this outcome and not burden Ava with it so that she could remain hopeful that they will make it out of this. It’s easy to understand why she did that and Sara’s easy acceptance of her death is perfectly in tune with her character who knows more about death than most. She meets her end with courage and goes out fighting which is exactly the way she would want to given the choice. It’s a strong emotional moment that is brilliantly sold by Jes Macallan’s performance as Ava watches Sara be torn apart by Zombies. The episode ends on a hopeful note with Charlie escaping and looking to make a deal with her sisters that will presumably save the team with some significant complications to accompany it.
A strong episode that offers meaningful commentary on mortality while having a lot of fun with the characters and the Zombie Apocalypse idea. The episode makes great use of Gary by playing him in a situation he feels unequipped to deal with. His imaginary Gideon was well placed as a motivating voice who encouraged him to rely on the skills that he already has to deal with the problem at hand. His perspective on live proves to be instrumental in showing Astra that her outlook is very limited and that she has been manipulated. Astra seeing a vision of her mother dying a painful death because of Cancer is brutal and tragic but it doesn’t account for the good memories that she would also have being raised by her mother. Gary is able to help her realise that life is about so much more than the bad experiences and it helps change her mind. This is supported by her recent experiences with the Legends that show her a different way to live and give her an idea of what a sense of community is like. It’s a great exploration on mortality and how death is inevitable even if you do have the power to alter fate. It’s a harsh lesson but a necessary one. Astra’s childlike outlook on the world is also used to great effect with her desires being things like dogs never growing past the puppy stage. It’s a comedic yet effective illustration of how limited her experience really is.
The Zombie Apocalypse plot is another great exploration of mortality and the inevitability of death. Sara having a vision of her own fate that does come true works really well because it highlights the idea that some things can’t be avoided and allows for excellent reflection on the direction that her life has taken. The scene where the Legends sit around a table enjoying a drink and each other’s company is a highlight because it lets the characters share that reflective moment and serves as a reminder of how good this show is at character. Most of the characters do end up dying after Zombies swarm the pub the take refuge in and it’s obvious that will be undone but it doesn’t rob this ending of its power because the episode is about the characters accepting their fates and realising that they are happy with the direction their lives are headed. The upcoming reset button works because the effort put into getting to that point is meaningful. The temporary immortality combined with the Zombie Apocalypse does allow for hilarious hijinks as well which are as great as always.
- the Gary/imaginary Gideon team-up
- Gary helping Astra realise that there’s more to life than tragedy and death
- exploring the inevitability of death through Astra’s perspective
- the inevitability of death also being explored through what the team experiences
- using the temporary immortality and Zombie Apocalypse for hilarious hijinks
- the excellent reflective character moments around the table in the pub
- Sara’s acceptance of her fate
- a brutal yet hopeful ending
- Astra seeming to change her mind on a whim
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