DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 7 Episode 11
“Rage Against The Machines”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow delivers the confrontation between the team and their robot duplicates.
The word “unconventional” almost has no meaning in the context of this show since its bread and butter is being unconventional but this season has changed up the formula in a major way with the absence of the Waverider and the team spending multiple episodes stranded in a single time period. This episode marks the start of a movement back to the familiar as the team work to commandeer the duplicate Waverider in order to get back to what passes for normal.
One of the more curious things is that the conversation isn’t around going back to adventuring across the timeline; instead Sara’s objective is to get everyone home. Previous episodes have noted 2021/2022 as “home” though that’s not really true of anyone outside of Sara, Nate and Spooner. Everyone else is from different time periods though as with many things there is an expectation that the audience won’t question it too much. The present day of the Arrowverse is the same year the shows are made in so the Legends consider that year their native time period. Other than the desire to get home it isn’t made clear if this signals the end of their adventures in favour of settling down and simply living their lives. Considering most of the threats they face are either directly or indirectly caused by them stopping may not be such a bad idea.
The majority of this episode deals with the Legends taking on their robot duplicates. It’s as fun as fans of this show have come to accept but it’s also unfortunately very shallow. The Robo-Legends are less characters and more cannon fodder taken down one by one in really creative ways. It’s entertaining but it’s lacking in depth which is unfortunate considering there was an entire episode devoted to characterising the duplicates to varying degrees. Why spend all that time showing that Robo-Sara had the potential to break her programming by questioning the fact of her existence and what she was being made to do by Evil-Gideon? Robo-Sara gets very little coverage in this episode at all with her only use being as a blunt instrument to inflict violence on whoever Evil-Gideon decides deserves it. The most significant shift is that the Robo-Legends are now aware of what they are rather than being tricked into believing they are the originals. One can assume that Evil-Gideon concluded that knowing what they are means less chance of circumventing their programming but that’s just a guess as nothing in the episode confirms this.
It’s unfortunate that the characterisation was stripped away from Rob-Sara as there was a real opportunity to add depth to the episode through her -and perhaps others- questioning the mission imposed on them and seeing the Legends in a different light. The potential also existed to ask existential questions around whether the duplicates are life forms in their own right or merely simulating sentience. It would be an extension of Gideon becoming Human and feed into the explorations of that. Sadly this episode does none of that and focuses on having fun with violent takedowns and multiple cases of mistaken identity.
As I said, what is on screen is really entertaining. Spooner tricking Robo-Gary into eating Robo-Spooner for example worked really well with the added bonus of Robo-Gary exploding thanks to a neatly foreshadowed grenade. Having that and other deceptions work relies on the Robo-Legends being stupid which runs counter to Evil-Gideon’s intelligence and their surgical approach to repairing the timeline as depicted in the episode focussing on them but it was still amusing to see it play out.
It would have been so easy for this episode to get bogged down in the confusion of those deceptions but it outlines everything clearly and presents a plan that’s easy to follow. The first mole is Behrad who helps thin the herd so that they can get on with bringing down Evil-Gideon. The substitutions are carefully chosen and the narrative isn’t overpowered by having to keep track of who is pretending and who is genuine. There is of course a lot of comedy to be mined from Behrad pretending to be a violently sadistic version of himself and not doing it all that well though once again it relies on the villains being stupid enough to not twig what’s going on. The episode consistently leans into farce in that way which works because it was the clear intention.
Another highlight is Zari’s frustration around having to dress down to impersonate her duplicate. Tala Ashe is to be commended for having to play three distinct versions of Zari in this season and making each of them unique. This episode features her playing one Zari pretending to be another which must be quite a challenge. It results in an amusing scene as she struggles to remain in character while talking to Evil-Gideon and the pathetic fight she has with her duplicate is endlessly joyful to watch. It’s so entertaining that it gets around the tired trope of two identical people trying to convince onlookers that they are the real one especially when Zari is the one to resolve the conflict with her victory line being an insult to her duplicate’s fashion sense.
The trouble with the limited depth in the storytelling as a whole is a review can come across as a list of the funniest or most entertaining moments since there isn’t a great deal to analyse. Despite that some of the performances deserve special recognition as does the structure and the pacing. Robo-Nate falling into an Arnie impression for no reason also demands to be called out as a great touch.
Setting up Sara taking Thawne’s place as a potential conclusion to this story was in theory interesting but came to very little in this episode. Thawne’s death seemed to force Sara into honouring the promise she made to take his place if the worst should happen and it does become a point of contention later in the episode when Sara confesses that she’s expected to do so but ultimately there’s an easy solution when Robo-Nate is easily ticked into taking on the responsibility. It is presented as an inspiring display of teamwork where the family don’t give up on one another but it lacks the necessary heft to make it land and renders the threat of Sara being trapped in the role Thawne once occupied toothless.
Fortunately the episode isn’t entirely shallow with some strong characterisation, particularly from Gwyn who acts as the structural hook for the episode with his plan being the one the team follows. Even Sara is overcome by nihilism when she starts to believe the situation is hopeless because the Robo-Legends represent too great a threat for them to defeat. Thawne’s death sends her into a spiral because the prevention of the first World War means that there is nowhere for the Legends to go back to since the timeline would change into something unrecognisable. Her funk doesn’t last long and she shifts into solution mode which includes tasking Gwyn with coming up with a plan since he has the most experience as a soldier among them. It’s a bit of a stretch to put him in charge in this way but it allows the character time to shine and keeps the episode narratively focused as they follow his carefully laid plan. It also presents a possible role for Gwyn on the team in the long term as the man plucked from his own time can only go so far.
Gwyn acting as the general encouraging the Legends to use their intelligence to defeat their opponents draws on his soldier backstory and somewhat justifies the historical necessity of the first World War in that it shaped such a keen tactical mind. It’s also the first example of Gwyn being confident, decisive and in control of the situation around him. It’s a far cry from being overwhelmed by future knowledge and having no idea where he fits. Sara officially confirms his status as a Legend and it appears Gwyn is finding his way to a sense of belonging.
The episode doubles down on the hints of Astra’s maternal feelings towards Gideon. Dialogue has pointed in that direction prior to this but it is now an explicit point. It makes sense because Astra brought Human Gideon into the world and was responsible for helping her acclimate to her new form. It resolves itself very quickly with Astra’s realisation that she is treating Gideon like a child and it’s unfair to do so but it doubles as a further display of Astra’s reclaimed humanity with her showing strong compassion for others. Astra being overprotective makes the ending where Gideon is stabbed by Robo-Astra hit harder than it otherwise would have because of the connection created between them.
With two episodes left in the season it’s unclear what direction it will head in for the conclusion. Aside from the ending it appears that the Robo-Legends threat is dealt with though Robo-Astra may reactivate Evil Gideon. The lingering promise of saving Alun is still to be properly addressed so it could be that the final two episodes take things in a vastly different direction. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there’s a rushed quality to the resolution of this plot with no time spent on making the conflict between the two Legends teams a meaningful one. It’s fun but sometimes fun isn’t enough by itself. This show is capable of real substance so it’s unfortunate it doesn’t deliver here.
A good episode that leans into the fun of dealing with the duplicate Legends while starting to define Gwyn’s role within the team and exploiting the meaningful connection between Astra and Gideon. The majority of the episode deals with the Legends taking on their robot duplicates. It’s fun but shallow with little or no character to the Robo-Legends. The deceptions and methods used to kill the duplicates are entertaining and creative but also rely on the duplicate Legends being stupid which runs counter to how they were depicted in their episode. The episode consistently leans into farce so it’s clearly a choice but the loss of depth after setting up the potential for Robo-Sara in particular to break her programming again is confusing. There was a lot of opportunities skipped over by focusing almost entirely on fun. Tala Ashe deserves to be commended for playing three distinct versions of Zari this season and doing so making all three be different characters. In this episode she has to poorly impersonate Robo-Zari and does so wonderfully.
Setting up Sara taking Thawne’s place only for it to come to nothing is a bizarre choice. The episode treats it as an obstacle and tries to frame it as being something that can be overcome by the family working together but it lacks the heft necessary to sell it. Tricking Robo-Nate into being stuck in that role is too easy an out and renders the suggested threat pointless. The episode is a great showcase for Gwyn who gets over some of his fear and anxiety while leaning into his expertise as a soldier to outline the plan that the Legends need to follow. This keeps the momentum of the episode going and puts Gwyn in a role that works for him. Sara officially confirms his status as a Legend and it appears that Gwyn is starting to find his place. The maternal connection between Astra and Gideon is explicitly confirmed and used well within the narrative. It is resolved quickly but it furthers Astra reclaiming her humanity while making sense given her role in Gideon being in this form. The exploration of this connection allows the ending to hit harder than it otherwise would have.
- the fun and creative ways of dealing with the Robo-Legends
- Tala Ashe excelling in her performance
- capitalising on the Astra/Gideon maternal connection
- exploring this allowing the ending to hit harder
- Gwyn finding his place within the team
- Gwyn’s plan allowing the episode to maintain momentum
- the conflict between the two groups being too shallow
- no character to the Robo-Legends despite it being set up previously
- the threat of Sara taking Thawne’s role coming to nothing
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