DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 4 Episode 15
“Terms of Service”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow gears up for the season finale by raising the stakes for everyone concerned taking stock of character choices leading to this point.
One of the more immediate problems is Gary. His desire to be loved and accepted by the Legends has made him accidentally dangerous as he acts as a barrier to the team taking any real action against Neron. Nothing he does actively threatens their lives but there is a randomness to his actions that makes him dangerously unpredictable. Tabitha finds herself bound to him which means that she has to carry out any madcap wish he can come up with which makes for a hilarious dynamic. In the early part of the episode the story being told is “what if an idiot were to have his wishes granted?” and the results are hilarious. Gary wishes for a third nipple so that he has a spare and generally conjures up scenarios to force the Legends into spending time with him.
Over the past couple of the episodes the writers have been exploring the concept of Gary as the friend/colleague that everyone ridicules and showing what things look like from his perspective. Every workplace has people that are constantly laughed at for being incompetent or simply not fitting into the overarching workplace dynamic. I’ve mentioned before that Gary is actually considered part of the team though it’s clear that he takes the ribbing to heart and it has dented his confidence to the point that he is looking for his own form of revenge. The hilarious thing is that Gary isn’t mean spirited enough to bring the Legends to any harm nor does he want anything bad to happen to them because despite the way he’s treated he likes them a lot and still craves acceptance.
That’s why his wishes are non threatening on the surface and framed around that desire for acceptance. He feels left out for not being invited to book club so he forces Sara, Ava and Nora to participate in his version of it. When that doesn’t really work out he makes himself Captain of the Waverider with Ava and Sara stuck in their chairs awaiting being allowed to take action on Gary’s terms. None of this is threatening and it’s certainly played for laughs but there’s an undercurrent of urgency throughout as Sara and Ava are kept from helping the Legends with the plan to bring down Neron.
Even Tabitha finds Gary frustrating because she really wants to do harm to those who forced her into Hell but she can’t take action unless Gary makes the right wish. Her frustration with Gary is apparent right from the beginning as she suggests horrible things he could do to the Legends only to have him request something utterly ridiculous. It is later revealed that Gary was fully aware of what Tabitha was trying to do and was using his power over Tabitha to protect them. Once again he considers the Legends his friends but doesn’t want any harm to come to them. Of course there is the corruption brought on by his returned nipple that forces his feelings to the surface and compel him to take revenge in them on some way. He goes after the traits he is most jealous of so punishes Mick for being a tough guy, Nate for never having faced bullying his entire life, Sara for being cool and Ava for being the “class president”. These are all things that he would like to attribute to himself one way or another but never could so he take it out on those who innately have those and possibly take them for granted. This doesn’t take into account everything that lies beneath the surface that is presented to the world but that isn’t the point as this is from Gary’s perspective.
Eventually this is resolved and Sara talks about the reason the Legends exist in the first place. Rip Hunter recruited them because they were historically insignificant and that’s something they all carry with them every day. It’s something of a backhanded compliment but it’s designed to let Gary know that they aren’t better than he is and he is one of them. It’s enough to make him feel at least somewhat accepted and change his tactics a little even if that does end up manifesting itself in the wrong way by sending Nora off to Hell. Gary does mean well but he still lacks the common sense required to come up with a decent plan.
Speaking of Hell, John finds himself in the last place he would ever want to be given the reputation he has down there. His main obstacle early on is a Demon named Calibraxis (Jason Simpson). He isn’t well developed but represents every Demon in Hell that has a reason to hate John Constantine and his pursuit in theory adds immediacy to John’s time in Hell. In practice it never comes across that John is in any real danger. His encounter with a Demon prostitute suggests that it is known that he is in Hell but many are keeping their distance out of fear but it always feels as if he is able to roam freely without much trouble. He also doesn’t seem all that alarmed at any point but that could be seen as consistent with John’s general handling of any situation.
John’s plan is to leverage Neron against those in power and argue along the lines of how much of a direct threat he is to their position. Human souls are the top currency in Hell so whoever has the most souls at their disposal effectively calls the shots. John appeals to the Triumvirate -the ruling body in Hell- to help him as he can ensure Neron doesn’t succeed and their seat on the proverbial throne is secure. There’s no denying that this is a lot to take in for a secondary plot of a single episode as there’s enough material here to fill an arc in a John Constantine centric TV show though it’s delivered in such a way that’s easy enough to follow thanks to some awkward exposition from John. It’s not the most sophisticated info dump but it works well enough for the purposes of this episode.
It should also be noted that this marks the introduction of the Arrowverse version of the Devil aka Satan aka Lucifer aka whatever else you want to call him (Beau Daniels) and he’s oddly toothless for the most part. He comes across as more of a bureaucrat more concerned with his political position than being a credible threat on his own. This is perhaps the point as being out of touch offers justification for Neron being able to make a move in the first place.
Thankfully John’s journey to Hell isn’t all red tape and negotiations. His reason for being there is to reclaim Ray’s soul. He also pushes his luck and asks for Astra’s soul as well because he might as well but a spanner is thrown in the works when he is offered a choice of one or the other. With not very much deliberating he chooses Astra but finds that this was a poor decision as her soul has been badly corrupted by her time in Hell and no longer wants to return. Astra (Olivia Swann) taunts him with his failure to save her and reminds him what happens to innocent souls when they spend enough time in Hell. It’s a really powerful moment as John is faced with the mistake that has haunted him for years and finds that she no longer wants to be saved. John now potentially has an eternity to live with the fact that he failed to save Ray and failed to consider what all this time in Hell would do to Astra’s soul. Matt Ryan’s performance in these scenes is excellent; he explores a wide range of emotions for John and the transition from having leverage to having nothing is played perfectly. It does somewhat make up for the lazy design for Hell and the general lack of threat early on.
Neron’s plan to increase his soul ownership involves the launch of an app. In the terms and conditions that nobody ever reads there is a clause whereby downloading the app grants Neron ownership of the downloader’s soul. It’s a very modern way of doing things and the reference to the license agreement never being read by anyone is hilariously on point. The main barrier to Neron’s success is the speed of the modern news cycle preventing him from being in the minds of the public for very long. He thinks that a monster attack on the nation’s capital will be enough to shift the conversation in the right direction for him. It’s somewhat gratifying to think that the short attention span of the Human race in general may be the one saving grace in all of this. Perhaps the finale will detail the Legends attempting to divert the attention of the public onto some sort of cute animal video. It would be just the sort of ludicrous ending that only this show could pull off.
One issue with this episode is that Neron doesn’t seem all that threatening. Brandon Routh plays him as the charismatic and smarmy business man able to deliver a convincing tech conference to trick people into doing what he wants but beyond that he doesn’t actually do al that much. He mistreats Mona and spends a lot of time standing around waiting for things to happen but does very little to move things along on his own. It’s possible he is being saved for the finale where he will really get his hands dirty but for now he’s present yet broadly ineffectual.
Tabitha on the other hand is doing everything she can to manipulate people in her favour. Being Gary’s Fairy Godmother creates certain limitations for her and trying to convince Gary to wish for the revenge that she wants gets her nowhere but turning her attention to Nora is far more effective. At first she makes it appear as if she sees Nora as a kindred spirit on account of them both being Witches and appeals to her as a fellow Witch until encouraging her to take on the Fairy Godmother powers so that Mona can wish to be healed. Of course this is a trick and it frees Tabitha as Nora is bound to Gary. Jane Carr remains excellent in this role and the shift in personality she undergoes when she sheds her obligation to Gary is remarkable to watch. Tabitha is a great villain and the way she plays the situation proves that.
This episode is also a great showcase for Charlie’s growth since joining the team. She is responsible for the jailbreak that saves the magical creatures from being used by Neron and sacrifices herself to ensure that Mona gets to escape safely. This isn’t something Charlie would have done only a few episodes ago so its notable development for her and ties into the overarching theme of found family that this show champions.
An excellent episode that juggles different plots and tones expertly to deliver an exciting preamble to the season finale. Gary as an antagonist of sorts works really well as it furthers the idea that he wants to be part of the team and feels left out of the activities he isn’t included in. Early on it’s the story of what would happen if an idiot was given the ability to wish for whatever they wanted as evidenced by the wishes that aren’t all that threatening. Things like being Captain of the Waverider or being part of the book club are all things he wants but aren’t especially life threatening though they do distract from the problem t hand. Later on it’s revealed that he knew exactly what Tabitha was trying to do and was trying to protect his friends though it was hard for him to resist the urge to punish them for being everything he isn’t. It’s a strong portrayal of the dangers of insecurities. John’s time in Hell is mixed in its execution as the design of Hell itself is somewhat lazy and it initially doesn’t feel as if John is in any real danger. There is also a great deal of awkward exposition around the bureaucracy of Hell that is clumsy yet necessary. The introduction of the Arrowverse version of Satan is oddly subdued which may be the point and could justify Neron’s rise to power. John being offered the choice of saving either Ray or Astra is compelling as it forces John to face the mistake that has defined him in a lot of ways. Matt Ryan’s performance through the realisation that choosing Astra was incorrect due to how badly corrupted she has become is excellent.
Neron’s plan to gain souls through a clause in the terms and conditions of an app he launches is an interesting modern spin on this while offering relevant commentary on how easily people agree to things. His plans are delayed by the speed of the news cycle meaning that the conversation moves on far more quickly than he anticipated so he looks to engineer an attack on the nation’s capital to put him back on top. Despite all his planning and the charismatic tech launch Neron comes across as ineffectual as he doesn’t actually do much over the course of the episode. By contrast Tabitha does a great deal with her manipulation of Nora being the strongest. Appealing to Nora as if she’s a kindred spirit as a fellow Witch is fascinating to watch and Nora’s acceptance of the Fairy Godmother powers makes for a great moment. Jane Carr’s performance is great especially when she shifts away from being bound by the Fairy Godmother rules. Charlie’s growth is also showcased through her selfless sacrifice in order to ensure Mona’s safety which furthers the overarching theme of found family that this show often champions.
- Gary as a nuisance antagonist
- Tabitha’s growing frustration with Gary’s wishes
- the insight given into Gary’s insecurities and how they manifest when he has power
- John making the wrong choice and being tortured for it
- John having to look Astra in the eye and face the true consequences of his life defining mistake
- commentary on how easily people agree to terms and conditions
- Tabitha’s manipulation of Nora playing out across the episode
- the evidence of Charlie’s growth
- Jane Carr and Matt Ryan’s excellent performances
- the lazy design aesthetic of Hell
- John’s journey through Hell not feeling all that dangerous
- Neron being oddly ineffectual throughout
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