DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 5 Episode 4
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow takes a stab at delivering its own take on the slasher genre when the team deal with a serial killer escaped from Hell.
It was only a matter of time before this show tackled the Slasher genre given its love for all things meta. Slasher films lend themselves to parody very easily as so much of their formula has become well known. This also means that it’s difficult to construct a parody that does anything that feels new or clever.
This episode fails to be an especially clever send-up of the Slasher genre as any reference to the tropes common to it are very surface level. Fortunately this doesn’t make the episode a bad one but it does make aspects of the A-plot somewhat tedious as everything plays out pretty much exactly as expected.
As always the characters make everything more worthwhile. Ava’s excitement at dealing with a well known serial killer because she has her own podcast where she details the exploits of serial killers is a really nice touch that feels perfectly in character for her. She has been shown to be obsessive so filling her time with detailed research about famous serial killers is perfectly reasonable given what is known about her. Collectively she and Sara subvert the common damsel trope because it has never made sense for either of them to be in that role. They approach the situation with their usual courage while not forgetting to be cautious in their approach. It’s not overly deep but it’s a solid reminder of how much sense Sara and Ava make as partners as well as couple while also moving Ava forward on her journey to find self validation when after losing what she defined herself by. It’s also always enjoyable to see Ava getting excited about things and casting off the stoic persona she often projects. Revealing that she is a serial killer fangirl is a great insight into the way she thinks.
I mentioned above that the Slasher plot is far from clever and that’s true. The reveal that the killer is actually the mother of who is believed to be guilty is obvious from the moment Kathy Myers (Beth Riesgraf) first appears. From that moment she appears to be unhinged and wholly reliant on what she believes her relationship with her son is so it isn’t hard to figure out that she’s going to be the true killer. Not only that but it would have done Freddy Meyers (Seth Meriwether) a disservice to have him go from meek bullied teen to bloodthirsty killer in the space of a single night. One thing the writers did exceptionally well in a short time was create enough depth around Freddy that it was difficult to believe he could so easily be corrupted. I don’t believe the intention was ever to maintain the sense of mystery around the true identity of the killer because of how unsubtle the clues were but it doesn’t alter the fact that the high level plot didn’t have much to offer viewers.
Once again, the characters are what make it and the focus is firmly on the battle for Freddy’s soul. I’m in two minds about the strength of this story as it’s entirely founded on the possibility of preventing someone from becoming a serial killer. In order for that to work properly it has to be believable that Freddy is heading down that path. Based on what was presented on screen I didn’t get the impression that Freddy was on the cusp of losing his mind and becoming a killer. He was introduced as meek, lonely and socially awkward but there was nothing to suggest that he was capable of doing what he became famous for. In many ways that was the point as he doesn’t become that but it makes the efforts to dissuade him somewhat futile as it doesn’t feel like there’s the necessary element of jeopardy.
The portrayal of his school bullies was very on the nose to the point that they felt like caricatures than real people. Once again, I suspect this was the point as it draws attention to the cast of thinly drawn characters that populate the movies that this episode is sending up but simply copying the familiar tropes does little more than acknowledge their existence. Without something extra to say about it the whole thing plays out as if it were a by the numbers Slasher movie; an above average one for sure but by the numbers all the same.
Despite the issues there were things I really liked about what played out. Seth Meriwether was a great guest star with a lot of presence and easily manages to create a sympathetic character with relatively little material. Tiffany (Jasmine Vega) appears briefly but I really bought into the fact that she comes round to thinking that he doesn’t deserve the prank that she has agreed to play a part in. Seeing them happily married years later is satisfying enough because the beginnings of their relationship works within the confines of this story.
The battle for Freddy’s soul is really Nora’s story and drawing that connection was a really good idea. This is the first time she has properly been seen since the finale of last season so it’s the first opportunity to explore how she feels about her role as a Fairy Godmother. As the episode begins she treats it like a curse as she is whisked through time and space against her will to cater to the whims of whoever she happens to be connected to. It’s easy to see why she might resent that but Freddy shows her that it can be a gift because she can use it to help those in need. Her connection to Freddy starts off with making him look better and helping him to receive the right kind of attention through a well choreographed dance number but ends up being a lot deeper as she is able to impart wisdom based on her own experiences.
Freddy is a teenage boy who isn’t comfortable in his own skin, has a long list of insecurities brought on by how he was treated by others and leads a sheltered life because of his controlling mother. Without seeing how he is characterised it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that those things could add up to him becoming a serial killer. Nora knows how he feels because she was encouraged to lean into her darker impulses due to a less than ideal upbringing. She says “Being truly okay with myself, scars and all, is how the right people truly found me,” which makes for a really profound statement about self acceptance and personal growth. It’s what Freddy needs to hear as there was no way he could have imagined a positive future for himself before meeting Nora. He ends up pointing out to her that she could do that for others and it’s clearly something she likes the idea of.
Nora and Ray’s relationship makes for really endearing viewing as well. Ray is the perfect gentleman as shown by his understanding of her exhaustion when she finally has time to visit him. His influence is clearly positive for Nora as she seems very sedate and happy when around him. Simple gestures like asking him to dance and simply enjoying being in his company at a high school prom show a really different side to her and their chemistry when on screen together is effortless. It’s something I want to see a lot more of as they do make for such a natural pairing. Part of that will be down to the fact that the actors are married in real life but the way this relationship is written also contributes significantly.
John continues to struggle with the part he had to play in Astra taking her place as the current major threat to the team. He returns to the place he once called home and struggles to work up the courage to go inside a sealed room that contains a Witch that also happens to be Astra’s mother. This is yet another thing he can feel responsible for as the loss of her daughter was a contributing factor to her heading down that path. In general there’s nothing really new hear as John says a lot of the same things he has already before ultimately accepting that he has to be the one to talk to Astra’s mother. It feels as if John is on a different show at the moment as his objectives aren’t all that aligned with the rest of the team. Charlie talking to him on his level as someone who has regrets in her own past works well enough because of the performances but there isn’t a lot here that hasn’t been seen from either of these characters elsewhere.
I get the impression that the writers are running out of ideas for Mick as his utilisation in this episode was bizarre. Having him return to his old high school and meet up with an old flame could have been excellent but it largely faded into the background outside of a couple of key scenes. It’s mentioned that Mick was in Juvie at the time of the murders but there was a real opportunity to bring in a younger Mick for Nate and Ray to interact with in the 1989 portion of the episode. A younger Mick worked really well on this show before and there’s no reason it couldn’t have here. It could have grounded his connection to Ali (Lisa Marie DiGiacinto) in a more much tangible way. Mick is always amusing and fun but there are surely better ways to utilise him than most episodes bring.
The alternate Zari’s appearance on the Waverider at the end of the previous episode ends up not being as big a complication as it could be. Behrad locks her in a room while the Legends go about their normal business. This allows plenty of time for Zari to try and make sense of her surroundings as well as what she’s learned about her brother. It has now been confirmed to her that Behrad has been lying about his life to cover up the fact that he travels with the Legends which means that her parents are admiring a life that has been a lie all along which can only make her feel even more marginalised than she already does. She also learns that he stole the Wind Totem which she already suspected and doesn’t understand why he lied about it because she feels that their parents would let him away with anything. This forms another part of her anger towards her brother as she feels it will make no difference to their parents whether Behrad is truthful about what he does with his life or not because they will always favour him for reasons she can’t understand. That resentment radiates off her in their every interaction and it’s entirely justified by her perspective on the familial relationship.
Ultimately Zari tries to cope with the situation by leaning back on what she knows; her keen business mind and ability to solve problems with out of the box thinking. This is something that carries over from the version of Zari that disappeared at the end of the previous season. It’s abundantly clear that the fundamentals of who she is haven’t changed though have been reconfigured into something different. Her flash of her former life allows her to break free of the room she has been locked in though she hasn’t fully understood what that means yet and falls back on what she knows based on her new life. It’s a really interesting way to use Zari in a different way and I love the way Tala Ashe plays the altered Zari. She’s so clueless yet brilliant at the same time and her determination hasn’t changed in the least though is being applied very differently. It was amusing to see her try to navigate 1989 without realising that it was 1989 and all the references she makes to her accomplishments shows that she feels that there are lots of things in her life that she should be proud of. Her decision to stick around on the Waverider to explore what is happening to her while get to know her “real” brother makes a lot of sense though Behrad saying that he likes the idea feels somewhat tacked on.
An uneven episode that leans on Slasher tropes without finding a clever way to make used of them but excels in how many of the characters are used within the story. Ava filling her post Time Bureau time by starting a podcast where she obsesses about the details associated with famous murders is a really nice touch as it’s perfectly in character and offers some development on her journey towards personal validation. Her relationship with Sara is used brilliantly with them working together and collectively subverting the damsel trope. Unfortunately the Slasher plot is very predictable and and it never quite feels like the Freddy character has the potential to become a serial killer based on how he’s characterised. He’s a great guest character and used really well but the tension was never there. Freddy allowed a great opportunity for Nora to receive some meaningful development. It’s quickly established that she resents her role as Fairy Godmother but sees through Freddy the positive impact she can have. The way she makes him feel less isolated by sharing her own experience of being drawn to darkness is excellent and having him let her see the good she can do in her role as Fairy Godmother is a great touch as well. Her relationship with Ray is constantly endearing. It’s clear that Ray as a positive influence on her and their chemistry is effortless which combines nicely with some really strong writing.
Mick feels like a character the writers don’t know what to do with currently. There was a lot of potential in him being a former student at the high school featured in this episode but not enough was done with it. Having a young Mick in the 1989 scenes could have grounded his connection to Ali and gave him far more to do. John feels as if he’s in a different show at this point and largely the same ground is being covered with his guilt over the mistakes in his past and the feeling that he has to handle the problem alone because he feels responsible for it. His conversation with Charlie is well acted but ultimately isn’t anything new from either of them. The alternate Zari continues to work really well because there’s so much going on. Her inferiority complex and recognition that her brother is the favourite child creates an interesting dynamic between them and her finding out that Behrad has been lying about what his life is makes it worse as she feels as if he is being favoured for nothing. The old Zari is buried deep within the alternate Zari’s personality and can be seen in her resourcefulness and determination. She also has a quick memory of her old life that helps her escape. Tala Ashe does an excellent job playing this character and she is being used really well in the context of the current narrative.
- Ava’s podcast being a clever way to show her journey towards self validation
- more excellent depictions of Sara and Ava’s relationship
- Freddy being an excellent guest character
- Nora realising the good she can do through her experience with Freddy
- Ray and Nora’s adorable relationship
- further excellent work done with the alternate Zari
- a by the numbers Slasher plot with nothing clever to say about the genre
- going over well worn ground with John
- the underwhelming Mick contribution
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