DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 5 Episode 2
“Meet the Legends”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns with a mockumentary style episode and a taste of what to expect over the coming season.
There’s no denying that this show operates on a different level to the other Arrowverse shows with its own unique style that sets it apart in the best possible way. Nothing seems to be off the table here to the point that an episode where a camera crew follows the Legends around to chronicle how they operate is one of the more normal things that they’ve done.
This show gets away with a lot and we as viewers let them away with it because they do everything so well but it still has to operate within the framework of the Arrowverse so some things have to remain consistent with the other shows it shares a universe with. I’m referring to Heyworld being established as somewhere the public can go to experience magic. Such a thing doesn’t really match up with what the other shows have established about the world that the various characters inhabit. According to other shows there is an awareness of super powered people, aliens and other such things but there’s a limit to how much they know and the average person has fairly limited interaction with these larger than life concepts.
Part of the aim of this episode is to address this by taking it further and having the Legends be the subject of a documentary film that will be released to the public. The in-universe explanation is that the government were threatening to cut their funding unless the team agreed to be filmed so Ava made the decision and we have an access all areas look at the Legends from an outside perspective. There are good and bad examples of this type of episode with the worst of them being ridiculous and the best revealing things about the characters that wouldn’t be possible in the conventional style. For the most part, this episode is the latter though it doesn’t do everything perfectly.
At its core, this episode is about Sara returning from the events of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and trying to process everything she went through during the crossover. For her this is the worst possible time to be faced with a documentary film crew as she feels the need to be isolated with those that she loves and trusts. The documentary crew serve as an intrusion into her home at the point she needs the familiar surroundings more than ever. They are a violation of her safe space and she reacts with the hostility you would expect to accompany such a violation.
The rest of the characters don’t know how to handle Sara at this point. Ava tells them not to mention Oliver because she thinks that Sara will want to compartmentalise the experience rather than deal with it and the others generally tiptoe around her because they’re not sure exactly how to comfort her. Even though the crew are a family there’s still a distance Sara keeps from them that is wonderfully explored through the team’s inability to help her deal with her melancholy. Ava feels especially guilty because she has no idea how to help Sara deal with this which runs counter to what she perceives the role of a girlfriend to be. Ava’s journey through the episode is about trying to find a way to support Sara in a way that works for her while making sense in the context of their relationship. The fact that this intense emotional journey is surrounded by Legends’ brand silliness serves as a strong reminder of this show’s unique ability to juggle tone while keeping things grounded in meaningful character development.
Once Ava stops overthinking the situation and simply lets Sara know that she is there to support her, Sara becomes a little unburdened. Ava never needed to change the way she acts around her because that’s not what Sara needs. Their relationship is founded on the acceptance of who each of them are so once Ava starts operating on that level Sara feels like she’s in a position to start handling what she’s going through. She doesn’t need people to understand what happened, she just needs them to help her through it and not try to ignore it. The scene where Ava figures out the right thing to say as they look out for one another as they are being attacked is a quick confirmation that they are now perfectly in sync and ready to deal with what Sara is going through together.
This is a great episode for Caity Lotz who has done a lot of great work lately with some really excellent moments during Crisis. I’ve talked a lot about how the Arrowverse consistently provides rich and varied accounts of people handling grief. It’s different for everyone and this is reflected in how various characters react to experiencing loss. At first Sara is both angry and lost with no healthy outlet for her feelings. The afore mentioned violation of her safe space by strangers doesn’t help as shown by her constant desire to get rid of them. She’s dealing with a lot and feels completely overwhelmed by all of it. Caity Lotz’ performance is excellent throughout with some really strong scenes for her.
The documentary crew act as a distraction for Sara but also allow some of the other characters to show boat. Nate is clearly more affected by his experience of death than he’s letting on and is very upset that he wasn’t invited to the crossover no matter how often he says that he’s glad he wasn’t a part of it. He dresses up in an elaborate “smart guy” costume so that he appears cool to viewers and takes any opportunity he can to show off. It’s very in keeping with Nate’s character and suggests that there are things going on within him that he isn’t taking the time to properly address. The camera crew act as a metaphor for the version of himself he projects outwardly when there’s a lot beneath the surface that goes unaddressed. He is also manoeuvred into a situation where he he regains an impression of Zari and is able to tell the others that time has been altered in some way. This makes sense because it makes use of his particular connection to Zari.
Ray is similarly motivated to make himself look good in front of the cameras. He’s eager to do this because he wants to rehabilitate his image following his possession by Neron. Terrible things were done using his body and he doesn’t want to be blamed for it so he tries to let the public see that he’s goofy, charming and very much one of the good guys. He also attempts to cultivate a catchphrase and eventually lands on “Size Matters” which is hilarious. It’s about what you’d expect from Ray Palmer being a famous public figure as long as you ignore the fact that he was once very well known when he was the CEO of Palmertech during season 3 of Arrow. Ray has changed a lot since then and it seems that much of what he was is ignored which is a shame as it means some of him has been lost.
There’s a general theme underneath the silliness in this episode where characters are looking to get back to the person that they used to be. Sara ended Crisis lamenting the loss of the final connection to her former life -as long as you ignore her mother- which suggests that she really misses it. Everything she has been through has shaped her into a very different person but there seems to be a desire for the normality that she once enjoyed. It’s unclear whether this thread will continue for her throughout the season but she’s certainly in a position to question her life choices. Nate and Ray both revisit aspects of their pre-Legends selves in their own ways but the most glaring example is Mick who makes several references to being the one who steals stuff. He ends up being the one to save the Legends from their financial troubles by stealing a very valuable Fabergé Egg before electing to leave behind his life as bestselling author Rebecca Silver because it gets in the way of stealing.
This seems like an odd development for Mick after spending so long coming to terms with his creative streak and being proud of it but it makes a lot of sense when it’s broken down. Arguably Mick had less depth than some of the other characters early in the life of the show -I’m basically ignoring Hawkman and Hawkgirl in this assessment- so had the most raw material to develop. His “tough guy” exterior hiding a sensitive artistic mind that he cultivated in private before being forced into revealing it was an interesting and unexpected development for him. The fact that his creative side was celebrated by so many was something he would never have expected and he definitely got caught up in the romance of it. He became famous long before the rest of the Legends did and he now knows that he doesn’t need it in his life to be fulfilled, particularly when thieving is his first passion. Whether he’ll miss being Rebecca Silver is unknown at this time but for now he’s trying to be true to himself which makes for an interesting step for the character. Passing the Rebecca Silver torch to Mona after a hastily composed love letter is somewhat on the nose and feels like a quick way to get rid of Mona that doesn’t read as in any way organic. If that’s the end of Mona in the show then it does her a disservice given how significant she was in the previous season.
I mentioned earlier that the documentary addresses how public the exploits of the Legends have become and it manages to face this problem head on while getting rid of it in a way that really works. Having all of the characters appear at the first screening of the documentary and tell the audience that it was a hoax while delivering some meta commentary on the problems of time travel, how implausible their adventures really are and the somewhat ropey nature of some of the visual effects was a master-stroke. It allows the events of “Hey, World!” to remain significant while returning the Legends to anonymity. It means that their current adventure has very personal consequences for the characters without having far reaching ones which would ordinarily be a cheat on the part of the writers but on this show it works nicely.
Last season ended with the departure of Zari following a significant change in the timeline. This new continuity has her replaced with her brother, Behrad (Shayan Sobhian). I was impressed by how easily he felt like part of the group dynamic and the lack of attention drawn to his presence. He has lived in relationships with each of the characters, has a defined place on the ship that doesn’t feel like a carbon copy of the role Zari had and lots of personality to boot. It feels as if he has been in the cast for a long time and it’s really odd that nothing about him seems odd. The change in the timeline is mentioned through a problem with Gideon saying random words whenever she talks. The words aren’t random as they relate to Zari in some way such as “Cat” or “Bollywood”. The Legends are unable to recognise the pattern because they don’t remember her but Nate getting an impression of her as well as seeing a message from her will steer them in the right direction. It’ll be interesting to see how her inevitable return causes ripples among the characters particularly with their relationship to Behrad.
The arc of the season receives some attention through John and Gary tracking down a Demon who just so happens to be an an old drinking buddy of John’s. Too much reliance on exposition is avoided by the hilarity surrounding the Demon possessing a young boy which makes it difficult for him to gain entry to drinking establishments. John learns about Astra’s plan through talking to his old Demonic friend and heads back to the Waverider so that he can send himself to Hell in order to sort it out. It’s a brief yet entertaining introduction to the narrative that will define the season and makes great use of the John/Gary dynamic that is always such fun to watch.
Also tied to the main arc of the season is the villain of the week, Grigori Rasputin (Michael Eklund); an escaped soul from Hell that can’t be killed because his soul is still tethered to it. Much of this plot felt tedious and overlong even though there were good character moments and important plot details tied to it. Too much time was spent on Rasputin and the documentary style lessens the stakes of this because most of the characters weren’t taking it seriously. They came across as unusually incompetent through making stupid mistakes such as leaving the director behind with his camera. It doesn’t get in the way of everything the episode does well but many of the Rasputin scenes drag in really noticeable ways. At least we got to see Ray blow him apart from the inside out by entering his mouth and then growing to normal size.
A strong opening to the season that reminds audiences how uniquely entertaining this show is while never losing sight of meaningful character development. Much of the focus is on Sara and her grief over the loss of Oliver. Having many of the characters have no idea how to help her deal with it and Ava being especially distressed because of their relationship is a really nice touch. Sara being especially resistant to the documentary idea ties into her emotional state as the Waverider represents home, family and the only life she has so having strangers documenting the lives of her team feels intrusive to her. Ava figuring out the right thing to say as she and Sara demonstrate how in sync they are in that moment works brilliantly as a resolution. Characters such as Ray, Nate and Mona reacting to sudden fame is also great to watch and seems especially telling for Nate who is clearly affected by his experience of dying while also being upset that he wasn’t invited to the crossover. Documentary style episodes are often revealing for the characters in ways a normal episode couldn’t be so in the case of Nate they act as a metaphor for the version of himself he projects to others while hiding a lot beneath the surface. Ray’s motivation as revealed by the documentary style is to rehabilitate his damaged image because of what Neron did in his body while also trying to cultivate a catchphrase.
There’s a general theme of characters trying to get back to who they used to be in the face of fame. This is most evident through Mick who gives up the fame associated with his Rebecca Silver identity and hands it over to Mona. He does this because he misses being a thief and his role as the famous author gets in the way of that. His growth since the show began has been considerable and indulging his creativity while becoming more comfortable with it has been a big part of that. It seems that he has achieved everything he wants to by exploring that and now wants to get back to his first passion. It’s an interesting development and proves useful in the context of this episode but it remains to be seen what this means for Mick overall. The disappearance of Zari in the altered timeline that began at the end of last season plays into this episode in interesting ways. Behrad is introduced in such a way that he feels as if he has been on the show for a long time. He has lived in dynamics with the characters, his place on the ship is well defined and he has a lot of personality. Already he feels like so much more than a Zari replacement which is certainly impressive. Using Gideon to reference Zari’s more celebrated moments as a clue to her existence was really clever and Nate learning more about her as the episode progresses moves things forward nicely. It’ll be interesting to see how she blends into the current dynamic upon he return. The Legends appearing at a screening of their documentary and talking about how it’s all a hoax while making meta references to time travel problems, how implausible their adventures are and poking fun at the ropey special effects was a master-stroke that returns the Legends to anonymity without diminishing their experiences. John and Gary manage to begin setting up the main season arc through a hilarious aside where John catches up with an old Demon drinking buddy inhabiting a kid too young to go drinking with him which deftly avoids the abundance of exposition within that plot. The major weakness this episode has is the villain Rasputin who receives too much screen time and failed to be threatening because the characters weren’t taking him seriously. At least we got to see Ray blow him apart from the inside out by entering his mouth and then growing to normal size.
- the exploration of Sara’s grief and Caity Lotz’ excellent performance
- Sara reacting to the documentary crew as if they are intrusive and violating her safe space
- other characters having no idea how to support Sara
- Ava’s realisation of how she can provide that support and showing her to be in perfect sync with Sara in that moment through combat
- the documentary style revealing Nate to be deeply affected by his brief death
- Ray attempting to rehabilitate his image after Neron’s possession of his body
- the “Size Matters” catchphrase coming right after Ray blows Rasputin up by growing while inside him
- Mick turning his back on fame and getting back to his first passion
- the Legends telling the public that the documentary was a hoax therefore restoring their anonymity
- strong meta commentary on the show as they convince the public of the hoax
- John and Gary setting up the season arc in a really fun way
- Behrad’s introduction having him already feel as if he has been on the show for a long time
- the clever teases of the previous timeline through Gideon’s Zari references
- Rasputin failing to be a threatening villain with tedious scenes and too much screen time
- Mona’s unceremonious exit
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