DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 7 Episode 5
“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow introduces the scientist that could be the key to returning the team to their own time.
The opening arc of this season where the Legends are stuck in the 1920s trying to find a way home has worked really well. It showcases how the characters adapt to a situation where they have lost all of the usual resources and maintains a constant sense of urgency as they deal with being branded as outlaws, having a diverse group in an intolerant time and work to solve the mystery of how they ended up in this situation in the first place. Added to that is the evolving character dynamics that are informed by their current circumstances.
This episode brings the team to Doctor Gwyn Davies (Matt Ryan taking on a new role); the man identified with the first major step in the invention of time travel. The objective is simply to find out what he knows and see if it’s possible for them to use it to get to the year 2021. Of course it can’t be as simple as that otherwise the episode wouldn’t be very interesting so complications are thrown in the path of the Legends that they need to work through.
One issue is that Gwyn Davies is less than receptive to being approached by people he doesn’t know. He regards Sara as a nuisance and wants nothing more than to get away from her which means that the direct approach of pretending to be a follower of his work won’t work. Sara is nothing if not resourceful and uses her skills to steal the plans. This brings up the next complication around building the time machine. Behrad and Zari are reasonably confident they can do it but believe it will take them at least five years. It’s a measure of hope but not acceptable for Sara and the others because they demand an immediate solution which presents itself when Sara learns that the time machine has already been built and only needs a single component to become operational.
This season, more so than any other has been about preserving the timeline. It’s something that is often brought up but there’s very little evidence of the Legends actually working to make sure the timeline remains intact. Their actions often result in what should amount to radical changes with no real attempt to stop that from happening. It has become an extended joke and at one point their mantra was “sometimes we screw things up for the better”. Rip Hunter when he ran the Time Bureau identified the Legends as the equivalent of a bludgeon to the Time Bureau’s scalpel. He felt that there was a time and a place for that approach to be necessary and the team continued on as they always had, clumsily meddling with history and somehow achieving success. It stops short of being a problem with the show because it’s self aware enough to roll with the inconsistencies and make them part of the DNA.
It stands out this season because Ava in particular is the consistent voice warning against leaving footprints that can alter the timeline in major ways. This has created some amusing compromises such as robbing a bank to take only the amount of money needed while countering them with massive changes like accidentally killing the real J. Edgar Hoover. They are definitely in a complicated set of circumstances and Ava recommending the cautious approach maintains the stakes.
Her warnings aren’t just words as evidenced by this episode. Sara’s impatience results in a cavalier attitude where she takes reckless actions without fully considering the consequences. She sees completing Gwyn’s time machine as a small footprint that won’t have any wide reaching repercussions but the opposite proves to be true when Ava and Gary disappear as soon as Behrad powers it up. Following that the realisation kicks in that Gwyn Davies is known as the man who took the first step towards time travel rather than being the credited inventor which points towards him not actually succeeding. Ava points that out prior to her being erased but it comes with the assumption that he actually does succeed but never gets the credit because he disappears. Naturally none of the characters know the details so they operate on assumptions driven by speculation which is never a good approach.
Ava and Gary’s disappearance confirms that the reckless actions weren’t a good idea and Sara becomes highly motivated to put things right so that Ava will come back to her. She learns that Gwyn is supposed to attempt to travel through time that very evening so works to ensure that happens. Thomas Edison (Chris Britton) having him committed doesn’t help matters so Sara has to break him out to get history back on track. It’s a classic Legends mission where their actions create a bigger mess than the one they arrived to deal with necessitating taking ownership of those mistakes to put things right -or as right as possible- therefore proving that the formula works even under the unconventional arc that is currently taking place.
The disappearance of Ava once again allows for excellent coverage of the Sara/Ava relationship. Upon getting Ava back Sara admits that losing her forced her to consider life without her and the notion terrified her. It could qualify as a wakeup call for her that results in her taking more care when messing with the timeline or it might just be a further example of how much she loves Ava. Either way their interactions are as charming as ever and their relationship remains endlessly watchable. Ava’s disappearance also adds meaningful emotional stakes to altering the timeline that highlights the level of loss that can be associated with seemingly minor changes.
Sara’s rescue of Gwyn from the institution allows for some fleshing out of his character. Instead of trying to force him to take certain actions or distract him she tells him the truth to see if that will encourage his cooperation which leads to a really meaningful exchange where they bond over lost loves. Gwyn reveals that he started working on time travel to get someone that he lost back and asks Sara to promise that she’ll help him achieve this if he does what she asks. He is particularly impressed by the fact that Sara married a woman and there are visual indicators that his lost love is a man so the show is definitely pointing in the direction of Gwyn being someone who isn’t accepted in the time period he lives in. If that’s the case then wanting to experience a future where same sex relationships are tolerated makes sense as a motivation for him. Matt Ryan’s performance as Gwyn is excellent; he is a completely different character from John Constantine and being allowed to use his native Welsh accent helps in creating that. Everything about the performance helps craft this new character. The physicality and attitude are very different along with the emotional beats. So early on it appears that this new character will mesh with the team well.
The running joke of the Legends finding him familiar but being unable to pin down why that is works really well. Various characters attribute the familiarity to him looking like a young Mick with hair, a young Martin Stein or Ray Palmer. At some point the realisation will dawn on someone that he resembles John Constantine but delaying the obvious connection is something the show can have fun with in the meantime. Actors being repurposed into new characters isn’t anything new on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow so having fun with it is a great way to address it.
Zari and Nate are working on the Hoover problem while also trying to figure out the future of their relationship. Having Zari 1.0 in the mix allows for proper investigation of the captured robot due to her technical prowess and she learns that the technology is the same as what can be found on the Waverider. The rogue Waverider is responsible for the construction of these death dealing robots but it remains unknown who is doing this and why they want the Legends killed. One of Hoover’s directives is to kill the Legends and it supersedes all others so someone is definitely gunning for them. There’s a good chance it will turn out to be Bishop but maybe it won’t be. Whatever the answer is it gives the Legends an engaging problem to deal with in the form of a seemingly infinite supply of Hoover robots that want them dead. A Thomas Edison robot also appears to take the place of the accidentally deceased original so perhaps the timeline will be full of robot doppelgängers filling the roles of historical figures that are killed.
More importantly Nate and Zari have the chance to discuss their relationship and where it might be going. They both acknowledge that only one Zari being allowed out of the totem at a time is a problem for them but there’s a potential solution to be found in the dimensional pocket mansion. Since it exists outside of time and space the rules don’t apply and they could in theory live happily together in the mansion. Zari tells him it’s a good idea and outwardly seems excited about it but Robo-Hoover senses her reluctance and sets up the discussion being far from over. Later in the episode Zari equates the reprogrammed Robo-Hoover being in conflict between its original programming and the programming she installed is exactly like their relationship. She confesses to Nate that leaving the totem isn’t something she’s comfortable with because she has a life in there and has found a family. What that means is unclear as we’ve seen no evidence of what her life in there is like but it’s an interesting obstacle to throw into their relationship.
Nate -and the audience- had assumed that her life trapped inside the totem was lonely and difficult but it seems that the opposite is true. Zari asks Nate whether he’d consider the possibility of living in the totem with her which is tabled for now while he thinks about it. It’s unknown at this point whether they’ll manage to figure out a way to be together that fits in with their very different lives but for now there’s a willingness to try which keeps it interesting to see play out.
Astra, Spooner and Gideon are still working on reaching New York to stop the Legends from coming to a bad end but they’ve fallen on hard times with no way to reach their destination. All seems fixed when Astra enchants a rock with a luck spell that supposedly grants the group better fortune. It seems to work very quickly when Erwin George Baker happens upon them looking to break his personal record to reach New York. They encounter further good fortune when Astra is able to convince a cop to let them pass so magic seems to be helping them along.
There is an attempt to analyse the concept of luck through Gideon’s reaction to Astra’s spell that doesn’t quite go anywhere. She describes the idea as a construct used to explain random events in the universe which is a perfectly analytical approach that a computer might take. With her becoming Human the idea is that she needs to open her mind to ideas that go beyond what can be quantified which she does when she comes to believe in the properties of the rock. The problem comes when Astra reveals to Spooner that the spell was a lie designed to make Spooner feel better because she was at a very low point and saw no way they could succeed. This is a problem because Gideon isn’t around to hear this and learn an important life lesson about good intentioned lies for the benefit of friends. That in itself could have been an intriguing concept for Gideon to ponder on top of this.
Aside from the luck based portion of their plot, what it had to offer was really entertaining. Astra, Spooner and Gideon make for an engaging group and there’s a great deal of momentum associated with their constantly failing attempts to reach the rest of the characters. The episode ends with them reuniting and taking a trip to another time period to perhaps begin another extended arc stuck somewhere else. Based on the quality of these five episodes that’s definitely something I wouldn’t object to.
A strong episode that adds meaningful stakes to altering the timeline, introduces an engaging new character and continues to excel in characterisation. The introduction of Gwyn Davies works really well thanks to an engaging performance from Matt Ryan who immediately makes it clear this is an entirely different character. His interactions with Sara where they bond over lost loves are great and the suggestion that Gwyn is someone who doesn’t fit in with his current time period offers believable motivation for his interest in building a time machine. Ava’s disappearance adds meaningful emotional stakes to the warnings against altering the timeline and highlights the losses that could occur with seemingly minor alterations. As always the Sara/Ava interactions are excellent and the strength of the relationship makes them endlessly watchable. The coverage of Zari and Nate’s relationship alongside the ongoing mystery as to who is behind them being stranded in 1925 also works well. Zari and Nate discuss their options and some possibilities are suggested to be explored. They can live together in the pocket dimension mansion but Zari mentions that she has a life and has found a family within the totem that she is unwilling to leave behind so there is a possibility that Nate can live with her in the totem. It isn’t resolved but they are communicating and that’s enough for now.
Astra, Spooner and Gideon remain an engaging group though the attempted coverage of luck as a concept and whether it actually exists falls a bit flat. Gideon learning about Human concepts from a Human perspective is a compelling arc for her to follow but it never completes as she isn’t present when Astra confesses she lied about the luck spell. It was an opportunity for Gideon to learn about well intentioned lies at the same time but since they were separated it doesn’t come to anything. The episode ends with the team reunited and taken to another time period which could provide another interesting extended arc.
- adding emotional stakes to altering the timeline through Ava’s disappearance
- Sara being driven to take more care due to possibly losing Ava
- Sara and Gwyn connecting over lost loves
- Gwyn already making for an engaging addition to the cast
- Matt Ryan’s excellent performance bringing Gwyn to life
- the complex coverage of Nate and Zari’s relationship
- Astra, Spooner and Gideon making for an engaging group
- the commentary on luck not quite coming to anything due to Gideon’s absence from the truth being revealed
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