DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 4 Episode 11
“Séance And Sensibility”
Love -or at least lust- is in the ventilation system on a romantically charged DC’s Legends of Tomorrow where many of the characters confront feelings they have been denying themselves.
Recent episodes have been setting up the possibility of a Nate/Zari romance in the true CW tradition of them just happening to be spending some time together. Attractions often seem to spring out of nowhere on CW shows just because a show hasn’t seen fit to bring two characters together as yet. This episode looks to explore their viability as a pairing through questioning whether the characters think it’s a good idea that that makes for a strong approach for the writers to take.
The episode opens with Hank’s funeral attended by all of the Legends who are there to offer emotional support to Nate. There is a brief conversation where Zari and Nate discuss having to break up for the sake of appearances now that their clandestine investigation of Hank has come to an end with his sudden death. Zari doesn’t seem entirely ready to end this fake relationship and makes the excuse that it isn’t the right time with all the grieving going on around them. This basically indicates that she isn’t repulsed by the idea of her and Nate getting together in a non fake capacity.
Naturally both parties are unprepared to admit that to one another at this point because some consider a will they/won’t they dynamic to be a lot of fun to play with. I’m not saying it’s something I’m completely against and it is certainly preferable to a love triangle but the delayed gratification of seeing a pairing with amazing chemistry get together can be milked to the point of no longer being interesting. Nate and Zari don’t necessarily have great chemistry though not enough time has been spent with them interacting on their own to see how much chemistry they have so that’s a fault of the really busy episodes leading up to this one.
For the purposes of this episode we are to believe that Zari and Nate are dancing around the idea that they have feelings for one another and even though it doesn’t entirely work on its own it does lead to some excellent character development for Zari. She is certainly a character who could have received a lot more attention up until now. We know that she’s from a dark timeline that may or may not be the same one Arrow is building to and we know she has suffered a lot of losses in her life which have caused her to become emotionally closed off. Getting close to someone may mean having to deal with an onslaught of pain associated with losing them at a later point so it’s easier for her to simply not allow herself to grow close to anyone. Obviously she has made exceptions for the Legends who have definitely become important figures in her life but deep personal attachments are something she doesn’t currently have.
It’s noticed early on by the other women on the team that Zari has feelings for Nate and they all have different advice to her with Charlie advising her to “smash Nate”, Sara encouraging her to “smash” someone else to see if she still thinks about him and Nora suggesting the direct approach of simply discussing her feelings with him. In true partial fourth wall breaking fashion Zari points out that they aren’t passing the Bechdel test with this conversation but Sara counters that with a reminder that it’s ok to talk about guys on occasion. There’s no faulting that assessment as not every scene in every show can pass the Bechdel test plus the origins of it are designed to prove a point in a fairly extreme way.
Further to that, nothing about this scene takes away the agency of any of these characters as they all have their own viewpoints on how to handle men and aren’t shy about sharing them. It’s up to Zari to decide what she does with their advice. She remains conflicted about this throughout the episode and ends up butting heads with Mona who is very much the anti-Zari when it comes to romance. Mona is a firm believer in the magic of romance and enjoys the idea that it defies all rational thinking where Zari believes exactly to the opposite to the point that she doesn’t see romance as something that’s real. In her head it’s a construct designed to sell books rather than being something tangible that exists in a given relationship. It’s a cynical outlook that makes a lot of sense considering her difficult background. It also informs her arc for the episode as she has to realise that resigning herself to her desires may be a good thing for her despite how irrational the whole thing may be.
Zari isn’t one to shy away from challenging her perceptions as she decides to take a willing dose of Sanjay’s -aka fake Hindu god Kamadeva– (Sachin Bhatt) love dust in order to open herself up to the feelings that her nature causes her to suppress. This results in her going too far the other way and being consumed by an overwhelming surge of romance which causes her to think that insane things like marrying the man who pretends to be the Hindu God of Human love is a good idea. This is expressed through a full on Bollywood song and dance number where Zari sings about letting go of her inhibitions and being swept up in the romance of the moment. This is nothing short of brilliant as it provides an entertaining, catchy, well choreographed, colourful and thematically relevant musical number that showcases a considerable musical talent from Tala Ashe that definitely should be used to great effect in the future. There’s nothing to stop this show having a full blown musical episode somewhere down the line.
In a stroke of brilliance the episode fully commits to the sheer lunacy of an impromptu Bollywood song and dance number through how the characters react to it. Gideon pipes Zari’s comms through the Waverider for no other reason than to allow Ray and Nora to declare their feelings for one another through verse, Charlie explicitly calls out what’s happening and is clearly really into it and Mona realises what’s happening before resolving to just go with it. In all honesty “just go with it” should be the tagline for this show as there is often no other way to accept what they’re trying to get away with. It shouldn’t work but it does and the show is all the better for it.
The musical number is instrumental -the pun is most definitely intended- in Zari moving forward in figuring out what to do about her feelings for Nate. Mona’s contribution to the song congratulates Zari on opening herself up to romantic connections. Her words help break the spell through simply encouraging her to wait for something real rather than the magically induced romance she is currently engaged in. Unsurprisingly it turns out that Sanjay is something of an immortal emotional con artist with 1000 wives who can’t seem to get enough of making women fall for him. Once Zari realises this she comes to her senses and pledges to herself through song to keep an open mind – and heart- for falling in love sometime in the future. I suspect this will come into play sooner rather than later.
Mona has an interesting emotional journey in this episode. She is still grieving after Konane was killed and all this talk of love only makes her feel worse about what she has lost. Sanjay’s love dust causes her to have a sex dream about him which intensifies her grief and causes her to change into her werewolf form and go after Jane Austen (Jenna Rosenow); our historical celebrity of the episode. The problem is that her novels have disappeared from history thanks to the intervention of Sanjay who kickstarted the sexual revolution a couple of centuries early by having those native to a time period famous for its repression and business based marriages act upon their innermost desires to pursue personal gratification. It’s basically the opposite of what would be expected from a Jane Austen novel which amounts to the crux of that particular joke.
The resident Jane Austen expert is Mona who identifies herself as a hopeless romantic who cites Jane Austen as her inspiration for that way of thinking. This is another example of the “never meet your heroes” trope as Mona finds out that Jane Austen isn’t all she thought she would be. This helps Mona understand the reasons behind Jane Austen’s views on romance after she confronts her for being a liar in werewolf form before forcing an explanation from her. Jane Austen talks about believing that she should only marry for love and rejected the offer of marriage from a man she wasn’t in love with. The reason she called Nora a fool for being a romantic is because she lacks confidence in her ability to be self sufficient due to the constraints of the time. Her rejection of that proposal made her something of a pariah within her community meaning she and her sister will have no support system once her father dies. At this point her novel’s have been rejected by publishers as a result of Sanjay’s interference. She is satirising a society that currently doesn’t exist because everyone is following their innermost desires. This makes her decide to stop writing but Mona encourages her to keep at it because her books are timeless. This conversation gets Jane Austen back on track and validates Mona’s views on romance which then feeds into her advice to Zari as well as giving her confidence that she will eventually find love again.
I’m not someone who knows a lot about Jane Austen nor have I enjoyed what I have read of her work but from a high level view this episode summarises what many will know about her while somehow adding a Bollywood song and dance number to the narrative in a way that could only fit in an episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The musical number compliments the Jane Austen portion of the plot by reaffirming the importance of pursuing relationships based on love. In effect it breaks the spell and gets the people back on track as per the time period that the episode takes place in. If you thought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would be the strangest thing to be associated with Jane Austen then this episode would certainly prove that wrong.
Another relationship that receives attention is Ray and Nora. It’s a difficult time for this budding romance because Nora is believed to be Hank’s killer. Ray believes her to be innocent and hides her on the Waverider to keep her safe. This provides the perfect opportunity for some sexual tension before the musical number makes them outright admit their feelings for one another. Nora’s sex dream featuring Ray is another amusing interlude that plays around with them dancing around one another at this point. There isn’t a lot to say about this other than they have feelings for one another and open up about them when under a musical spell. It’s so much fun to watch and sets up a potential conflict involving Ray defending Nora when the rest of the team will be prepared to believe that she’s guilty.
The other plot is far less interesting and feels tonally at odds with the rest of the episode. This show has always been very good at juggling different tones but the two plots felt like they belonged in completely different episodes. Hank’s funeral always felt like a distraction from the more entertaining narrative even though it was designed to further the main plot of the season. The main struggle for Nate is finding the right words to say about his father. Funerals are often used to remember the best of someone but Nate’s relationship with Hank was strained so he’s unsure whether to deliver an accurate account of their relationship. His mother steps in and tells an affectionate childhood story where Hank did something really endearing for Nate and the other kids but it doesn’t help Nate deal with his unresolved feelings in the way that he needs to. This is fixed when he learns what Hank was doing with the magical creatures and this is where things stop adding up. It turns out that he wasn’t actually torturing them as he was training them to be attractions in a magical themed theme park. This is definitely an unexpected reveal and I have to grant kudos to the writers for delivering me something that I didn’t expect but it also makes no sense when stacked against the available evidence and the shifty way Hank was acting in prior episodes. The scene where Nate talks about finally understanding his father and regretting not being able to get to know him is really touching but is undercut with the nonsense that is this reveal.
John and Mick are working in the background to deal with Hank’s wandering spirit that is tethered because it has unfinished business. This works well enough as it brings his deal with Neron to light ant puts that threat on John’s radar which is exactly where it needs to be in order to progress the plot. It’s fun to see Mick lip syncing to Tom Wilson’s voice and John is used in a much more traditional way that makes great use of his unique skills within the team and the show itself but very little about this really stood out. Neron appearing to John as a reflection of himself talking about all of his failures and highlighting his self loathing before taking the form of Desmond to further taunt him serves as a reminder of the personal stakes in this fight for John and sets the stage for the Legends dealing with the threat they now know about. It’s a strong moment that should have been retooled and used as the focal point of a different episode as it’s hard to accept the serious parts of the plot when the rest of the episode indulges in wonderful lunacy.
A great episode that provides the perfect balance between meaningful character development and the boundlessly entertaining unchecked lunacy that the show has become known for. The suggestion that Zari and Nate will enter into a relationship hasn’t made a lot of sense up until now but this episode runs with that idea and looks into making it a workable next step for those characters. Zari’s past means that she is reluctant to form meaningful attachments because that makes the inevitable loss so much harder to deal with so her arc is about opening herself up to embracing her feelings. A man posing as the Hindu God of Human love helps her do this with his love dust that removes her inhibitions enough for her to tap into that side of herself. This results in a Bollywood song and dance number where Zari sings about embracing the feelings that she has consistently denied herself. It’s a strong emotional arc for Zari and the Bollywood number is very well put together. The way the other characters react is great as well and using it as a way to further the Ray/Nora relationship works really well. Ultimately Zari decides that one day she’ll open herself up to a relationship when the time feels right which makes for significant growth on her part. Mona ties into this as she is feeling apprehensive about her romantic notions after the death of Konane. Learning that Jane Austen apparently doesn’t believe in romance is also a significant blow to her but it turns out that Jane Austen is feeling bitter because her work isn’t being recognised so a conversation allows both of them to get back on track and be true to themselves.
The secondary plot involving Hank’s funeral is far less interesting even though it actually furthers the main plot of the season. Part of the problem is the tonal imbalance that makes each of them feel as if they belong to a completely different episode. The reveal that Hank was training magical creatures to be theme park attractions make absolutely no sense as it doesn’t match up with the clandestine nature of the way he has been acting up until now. It does function as a revelatory moment for Nate who realises that his father had hidden depths that he didn’t get the chance to explore with him but it sacrifices making sense for a subversive joke and that robs this plot of a lot of its tension. John learning about the involvement of Neron in Hank’s actions and being confronted by him when he tries to highlight his failures while reminding him of what he has lost is really strong as it reinforces the personal connection John has to the main threat of the season. It doesn’t work in the context of this episode and should have been retooled as part of a different episode as it’s difficult to accept the seriousness of this when the other story indulges in wonderful lunacy.
- finding a creative way to explore Zari’s reluctance to open up about her feelings
- Mona having her romantic outlook challenged through meeting Jane Austen and understanding her
- the entertaining, catchy, well choreographed, colourful and thematically relevant musical number
- Ray and Nora literally dancing around their feelings
- the Hank’s funeral plot feeling tonally out of place compared to the other one
- Hank’s plan to open a magical creature theme park making no sense in context
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