DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 5 Episode 6
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow displaces Genghis Khan to 90s Hong Kong and has John Constantine deal with his own mortality.
One thing I often praise about this show is its unique ability to juggle a large cast, different tones and plots that couldn’t be more different. Everything typically links together almost seamlessly making the show an absolute joy to watch week on week. It’s one of those shows that would sound ridiculous when described to someone who hasn’t seen it but for those in the know it’s something to behold.
This episode manages to pull off a John Woo inspired action movie inspired plot involving Genghis Khan (Terry Chen) attempting conquest in 90s Hong Kong and an emotionally rich character study built around John Constantine’s inability to accept the inevitability of death without either of them feeling out of place. As always this works because everything is grounded in the characters. This show has done a great job making the characters engaging that I’m certainly willing to follow them into plot and be along for the ride.
Most of the team are involved in the Genghis Khan plot. It involves the usual collection of hijinks such as stakeouts, fight sequences and things going horribly wrong. The biggest loose cannon in this plot is Charlie as she is constantly looking for an excuse to make her mistake while being haunted by mysterious voices in her head. This is linked to her unusual behaviour in the previous episode and the fact that she scattered the pieces of the Loom of Fate across the multiverse.
The episode does a great job with the mystery surrounding Charlie’s actions by dismissing it as a reaction to Charlie and Behrad sleeping together at an earlier point. Nate correctly guesses that something happened between them and it explains away her behaviour as simple awkwardness between the characters. This does feel like it comes out of nowhere to a large extent as Behrad hasn’t been on the show very long and has shared very little screen time with Charlie so there was never a baseline to their relationship to alter. It still works because of how naturally Behrad has managed to slot into the cast as if he has been there for a long and the actors do a great job in the one scene they share together to make it clear that they find it difficult to talk to one another.
This allows for a really strong scene between Behrad and Nate where they discuss Behrad’s feelings about the night he shared with Charlie. He’s upset because Charlie left without saying goodbye but he’s failing to consider that she may have other reasons for being distant with him as their prisoner points out before making a swift and discrete exit. Nate uses this as an opportunity to praise Behrad while also reminding him and the audience that he has the hots for Zari. He also gives him some really simple advice and suggests he just talk to her to find out why she is acting that way. Behrad is a new arrival on the show despite how familiar he feels so quickly; the writers and Shayan Sobhian have done an excellent job building up the picture of who he is. His inability to consider simply talking to Charlie to find out what he wants to know shows him to be a sensitive person afraid of rejection.
Behrad does just as Nate recommends and immediately puts his cards on the table around how he feels about what happened between then and asks that she be honest with him in return. Her reaction isn’t what he expected as she dismisses their encounter as a meaningless and mediocre one which only hurts Behrad more. Charlie is being unpleasant because she thinks it will make her exit easier on everyone else. If she’s mean enough to others then they might be glad that she leaves and not come after her. Behrad sees through it and tries to encourage her to stay but doesn’t stand in her way when she insists. Charlie decides not to leave and ends up being the one to stop Genghis Khan which reinforces how she has found a sense of belonging with the Legends. It’s a really satisfying scene that is well earned and a really badass take down for Charlie.
She opens up to the team about her origins and revels to them that she is one of the Greek Fates, Clotho to be precise. At some point a long time ago she decided that she no longer wanted to spin people’s futures because she believes that people should be free to make their own choices so she destroyed the Loom of Fate and scattered the pieces of it across the multiverse. The problem is that all of the pieces are now collected on Earth Prime following the events of Crisis so she is now faced with the problem of her past coming back to haunt her. She wanted to leave the Legends because her two sisters are in the process of hunting her down and they’ll kill anyone she happens to be with when they catch up with her. Basically she was being cruel to be kind and trying to set it up so that they wouldn’t come after her. As you might expect they all resolve to back her up and help her deal with that problem which is exactly as inspiring as it needs to be and a strong reminder of the baseline “we misfits stick together” theme of the show.
Introducing the Greek Fates as antagonists definitely creates potential to enrich Charlie’s character but may end up being too many antagonists with Astra and the Encore plot still prominent. I generally have faith that this won’t be the case but it’s a definite risk. Providing meaty material for Charlie and building a mythology around her may end up being a great thing for her character and I look forward to seeing how this is folded into the various plots.
The Genghis Khan plot works well enough. He is a very shallow villain as most of them are but there’s enough strong material for the Legends to offset it to some degree. There is an issue with the plot feeling unfocused as the various characters have so many different jobs that it’s a little bit difficult to keep up with where they are and what they’re supposed to be doing. This could be because Sara isn’t around to help focus things in the right direction but what we actually get is hardly bad, just a little messy. The action in this episode is excellent with plenty of nods to John Woo, a clear reference to The Matrix and the unforgettable image of Genghis Khan and his army riding scooters to dodge traffic with ease. It’s just the sort of abject lunacy I’ve come to expect and love from this show. Caity Lotz does a great job working behind the camera though I have missed seeing Sara get involved in some intricate fight sequences. Hopefully her return will facilitate this sooner rather than later.
Astra accelerating John’s cancer at the end of the previous episode is explored in great detail in this episode. I assumed that this was so that he could be sent to Hell and have more time to interact with Astra to better develop his connection to her and beef her up as an antagonist. What actually happens is an intimate exploration of John’s relationship to the Legends, his character flaws and his feelings about death.
There is such a wide range of coverage in such a small amount of time but none of it suffers as there is a complete, well developed arc that builds towards a resolution that works brilliantly. John starting off by making a joke out of it through pointing out that there’s no point quitting smoking under the circumstances was perfectly in character for him as is everything he does following that. It’s natural that John would assume that this is nothing but a minor setback as he lives in a world where the normal rules don’t apply so it should be a simple case of finding the right magical solution to cure him. He tries various things like having a Pooka heal him, arranging for Nora’s most recent charge to wish him to health and pulling together ingredients for various last ditch spells that could save his life. All attempts fail leading to the inescapable conclusion that there’s nothing that anyone can do to save him. Each failure makes him angrier and he takes this out on Ray and Gary who are only trying to help him. He comes across as desperate and pathetic which is the perfect reaction for this character. Matt Ryan has always been great as John Constantine but he does particularly astounding work in this episode as John is tested in ways that he never has been before.
A talking bulldog cane calls him out on his behaviour and points out that he could be spending his final moments on Earth enjoying what little time he has left with two of his friends. They are in short supply for John, largely due to his standoffish personality so he needs to realise that the end of his life doesn’t need to be unpleasant because there are people nearby willing to meet it with him. The transition from him stubbing out a cigarette to Ray picking up vegetables is the perfect visual representation of that realisation sinking in.
The scene where John, Gary and Ray share a meal together is really touching. His statement about not expecting to die while being at home with friends is a really genuine and heart-warming moment of humility from John. He clearly appreciates having people in his life who care about him and wants them to be aware of that before the end. It’s so well done with a palpable sense of warmth, respect and closeness.
Of course, John does have one last trick up his sleeve and drinks poison so that he can have literally one minute with Astra to convince her to reverse what she has done. He appeals to her desire to reconnect with her mother and promises to bring her back. His use of the song that Natalie used to sing to both of them was appropriately chilling and definitely had the desired effect on Astra. John promises that he can fix everything and she reverses what she did to him to give him the opportunity to try. The shift in John’s attitude once he gains a new lease on live is brilliant. All of the emotional barriers he maintains to prevent himself becoming close to other people are immediately restored and he reverts to the standoffish, difficult person he was before. Once again this makes perfect sense for his character.
This is also a great episode for Ray though in a far less obvious way. He is a tenderly supportive presence for John throughout the episode as he contemplates the implications of losing someone he considers a friend. John’s upcoming death forces him to consider what he wants to accomplish in his life as well as reflect on what he has lost before this point. He mentions that he wants to propose to Nora but is reluctant to because the previous two times he was engaged ended badly. John advises him to go for it because there’s no sense in living life with regrets but Ray clearly has to process his feelings before being able to make that commitment. He is often a goofy character known for having excitable reactions to everything that goes on so it’s easy to forget that there’s so much beneath the surface of this character. He is a man who has experienced a great deal of loss in his life and carries a lot of pain beneath the surface so it’s good to see a reminder of that from time to time. Brandon Routh’s performance is so understated throughout but very quietly powerful. He will be missed when he leaves the show.
Another strong episode that near expertly juggles a fun John Woo inspired action plot with an intimate John Constantine character study. The Genghis Khan plot is a great showcase for Charlie and the mystery surrounding her recent odd behaviour. Revealing that she and Behrad slept together is a skilful way to deflect from what’s really going on while establishing a connection between these two characters. There is only one scene that shows Behrad and Charlie behaving awkwardly around one another which is less impactful as there has been no time to establish a baseline for their relationship but the actors make it work. Behrad’s scene with Nate helps establish that he’s a sensitive person afraid of rejection which makes it more impactful when he confronts Charlie who employs the classic tactic of pushing him away so that her decision to leave might hurt him less. The reveal that she’s one of the Greek Fates has a lot of potential to develop Charlie along interesting lines while backing up the idea of the Legends being misfits who have found a sense of belonging together. Genghis Khan is a fairly shallow villain though he works well enough in this episode. There was plenty of well executed action and fun visual gags to keep things interesting as well as Charlie’s badass take-down. It’s possible that Sara’s absence might be the cause of the plot feeling a little too busy as it was difficult to keep up with what the various characters were doing at any given moment.
The John Constantine plot is nothing short of excellent. It’s an intimate study of John’s journey to accepting his death. Having him transition from denial because he lives in a world where normal rules don’t apply to eventual acceptance that there’s nothing to do is a beautifully portrayed journey. His hostility towards Ray and Gary as he becomes more frustrated is perfectly in character and the removal of his emotional barriers as he realises he could spend his last moments in the company of friends is handled brilliantly. Matt Ryan is always good as this character and he’s particularly outstanding in this episode. The complete change in his attitude once he gets a new lease of life as his emotional barriers are restored is also perfectly in keeping with his character. It was brilliantly done and deserves praise. It was also a great episode for Ray albeit in a less obvious way. He is tenderly supportive of John throughout the episode and the experience forces him to consider all his lost as well as what he wants out of his own life. There is a brief reminder that Ray carries a lot of pain with him brought on by all he has lost in the past. Brandon Routh’s performance is powerfully understated; he will be missed when he leaves the show.
- adding meatier plot potential for Charlie
- grounding the Charlie reveal in her relationships with the other characters
- Behrad continuing to feel like a natural part of the cast
- excellent action sequences and memorable visual touches
- the brilliantly executed intimate John Constantine character study
- Matt Ryan’s stunningly layered performance
- reminders that Ray has a lot of depth
- Brandon Routh’s beautifully understated performance
- Genghis Khan being a shallow villain
- the overly busy Genghis Khan plot making it difficult to keep up with the characters
- Sara’s absence being felt
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