DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 4 Episode 12
“The Eggplant, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow splits the team into groups to tackle separate yet connected plots that revolve around Neron.
Before I analyse the groups linked to Neron I’ll briefly discuss the one that isn’t. Zari, Mona, Mick and Charlie hang around the ship as Zari tries to figure out the perfect text to send Nate to sum up the current state of her feelings for him. The other girls and Mick offer their unique advice on how she should word this text. This does provide a modern spin on the inability to express oneself to the one they have feelings for but it’s not all that interesting to watch unless you happen to be really invested in this fledgling relationship and have a keen interest in text composition. There are some funny lines though Mona pushing Zari to compose this text runs counter to her advice to bide her time from the previous episode. This plot largely seems to exist because there was no organic place for these characters to fit into the other plots.
Nate is still trying to find a way to deal with the death of his father and subsequently learning that all of his clandestine operations were in aid of building a magical themed theme park so that he could give Nate what he wanted as a child. Nate sums up the lunacy of this with the simple line “My Dad made a deal with a Demon to open a theme park!”. I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that this was a ridiculous reveal and, to this episode’s credit, it’s doing what this show always does and embraces it fully for all it is. Nate and Ray visit the park in its construction phase and see all the plans that Hank had for it. They are all based on Nate’s childhood drawings so the whole thing stands as a monument to the affection Hank actually had for his son. It may not have been articulated very well but Nate now knows beyond any doubt that Hank valued their relationship greatly.
Of course it takes him some time to accept that and even be proud of it as clearly shown by him ordering the park be torn down. This is indicative of the unresolved feelings he has that also come into play when he sees that Neron has been captured and rushes to confront him. At this stage of his grief he isn’t able to find a healthy outlet for his pain so lashes out against Neron -understandably- and orders the very thing that represents his relationship with his father be torn down. The interactions between Nate and Ray in this episode are great with Ray playing the part of the supportive friend waiting until the right moment to give Nate the reality check that he needs. The resolution of this is that Nate literally fights for the park to be completed which symbolises his willingness to fight for the relationship and his desire to remember it fondly. It’s a brief arc for Nate but a really endearing one.
The situation with Neron allows for some excellent John and Nora material. Neron employs the classic captured villain tactic of using his captivity to get inside his captor’s heads and make them question fundamental things about themselves. Nora seems to be the easiest target because he already has a connection to her and is literally inside her head. She has previously been established as someone who struggles with her darkness so having the embodiment of darkness in her head creates a strong possibility of her being a problem in this scenario. John isn’t ignorant to this and is initially keeping an eye on her no matter how much she insists. There’s a great deal of friction between John and Nora that Neron clearly takes great joy in picking at. I’m still not sure there is any depth to Neron himself as a threat but the way he takes advantage of the doubt and mistrust that already exists within those that captured him provides some excellent tension.
Nora’s internal conflict is something the episode uses really well. There is the requisite moment where Neron tempts her with the prospect of bringing her father back. It’s easy to believe that she would go for this considering how close she was to her father. Courtney Ford does a lot with her facial expressions to show Nora giving the offer some serious thoughts which gives some sort of an idea as to how seductive Neron’s influence can be. Christian Keyes’ performance is a little too hammy which makes him come across as a moustache twirling villain but the way he manipulates others works because of how the other actors perform. It is also well established that he amplifies the negative emotions of those around him so this is always in mind after his capture.
John has to deal with coming face to face with the face of the man he loves knowing fine well that it isn’t really him. It’s well known that when tested he’s willing to do what it takes such as sending Des to Hell in the first place but it’s far from easy for him to deal with consequences of that and consider the prospect of damaging Des’ body in order to do harm to Neron. It is also the physical embodiment of what John has lost and Neron takes great pleasure in taunting him with it. It should be noted that where possible he keeps his distance because he doesn’t trust himself to maintain his composure when faced directly with him. Outside of the initial establishing of the prison he only tends to enter the room when he needs to such as confronting Nate.
Neron’s efforts to throw John off and foster mistrust are so effective because nothing he says is actively untrue. John is a man consumed by self loathing who uses alcohol as a crutch to prevent himself from dealing with his innermost feelings. One of the most interesting things about him is how self destructive he is and Neron is able to use this to make others doubt how trustworthy he is. This is nothing new but works really well because it draws on John’s established traits in really sinister ways. Ultimately the episode needs to sell the animosity that exists between John and Nora which it does brilliantly.
Spending so much time establishing how seductive Neron’s presence can be makes Nora and John’s victory over him all the more satisfying. It turns out that Nora giving into him is a deception on their part and they use the confusion to exorcise Neron from Des’ body and attack when he’s in his weakened state. It appears to work until Ray rushes in under a mistaken impression and throws off the plan completely. This results in Nora being in some sort of mystical coma and Neron hiding within Ray’s body. It’s a victory with a cost that isn’t fully understood by the heroes which sets up future problems for them to deal with. Nora is especially impressive in this sequence thanks to Courtney Ford projecting real power and confidence as Nora gains the upper hand on Neron albeit briefly. We also learn that he’s trying to find a vessel for his girlfriend Tabitha so that will almost certainly gain traction before long.
A positive consequence of this episode is Des being freed from Neron’s influence and being allowed to live his life. Unfortunately for John, Des wants nothing to do with him after being sent to Hell which is completely understood by John who respects his right to hate him and offers him the chance to forget everything that happened. Des leaves on a particular emotional gut punch by refusing this and essentially cursing both of them to have to live with it. It’s really powerful stuff and draws on the strong work that set up this relationship in the first place. It also reinforces the tragic side of John who seems doomed to live a life of solitude because everything he does seems to affect someone else negatively. It’s possible there may be a happy ending for John and Des down the line though it feels more appropriate for John to continue a nomadic existence where he can’t ever truly settle.
Speaking of settling, the strongest plot belongs to Ava and Sara. Ava has been noticeably absent of late following their break-up. It turns out that she is being groomed as the vessel for Neron’s girlfriend Tabitha and is shunted off to her own personal purgatory in the meantime. Naturally Sara heads in there to save her and finds that Ava’s eternal torment strongly resembles Ikea. Once again, this show takes well known mystical ideas such as a personal Hell and delivers a comedic twist on them that ends up being revelatory to the characters involved.
Ava’s purgatory has four levels to it that she and Sara have to work through in order to bring Ava back. Naturally each of these levels answers a particular issue they have as a couple and forces them to work through the things that keep them apart. The first is the building of a wardrobe which illustrates their clashing approaches when it comes to doing things. Sara’s method is to blindly forge ahead without following the instructions which causes the wardrobe to fall apart almost immediately. Ava encourages following the instructions which results in something that functions but is also notably missing a piece. This is a clear metaphor for Ava’s preference to do things by the book as a contrast to Sara’s cavalier attitude. The missing piece suggests imperfection but Sara assures her that not everything has to be perfect and the finished article is uniquely theirs. Sara asks if that’s enough for Ava and it turns out that it is so they are able to move to the next level. None of this is subtle but it’s a really unique and fun way to explore these issues.
The next level is the selection of a mattress. Each of them have different warranties serving as a metaphor for the length of their relationship. These warranties range from 3 years to 50 years and the price increases the longer the warranty runs. The meaning here is obvious; the more they both invest in their relationship the longer it will run but it’s up to both of them to consider what sort of longevity they may want from it. Ava openly admits that she’s afraid of growing old with Sara and has no idea if that’s what she even wants. Sara admits that her past has coloured her views on the future as she hasn’t ever really considered having one but it’s made clear from her reaction to this that she is in it for the long haul with Ava even if she hasn’t been able to articulate it properly. This is great stuff as it answers the lingering questions that have been hanging over their relationship.
Domestic bliss is next up with dirty dishes, unsorted mail and other such benign issues that every couple would have to deal with together. Ava’s major concern here is that Sara would grow tired of her during the less exciting moments of their relationship. In order to actually work it has to thrive in the mundane as well as the extraordinary. The best part of this is that it’s very real as Sara doesn’t hide her frustrations but is also willing to stick it out. There is a barrier to acceptance on her part as shown by the lack of mail for her. In essence she hasn’t “moved in” yet which is likely the root of Ava’s insecurity.
Sara’s reaction to this is what leads to the fourth and final level which is Sara in a warehouse full of different Ava’s, each with a different gimmick. The temptation here is for Sara to choose the perfect Ava for her but the obvious lesson here is that she already has the perfect Ava for her and won’t accept any substitutes. These four challenges set up a relationship that is very strong but not without its problems and challenges which ultimately makes it very real. This journey they took together makes them a stronger couple as they both learn to accept the other in their entirety. It’s a lot of fun to watch them work through it and heart-warming at the same time.
An excellent episode that delivers fascinatingly heart-warming insight into the Sara/Ava relationship, furthers the Neron plot through great John and Nora interactions while dealing with Nate’s grief in a fun and endearing way. Neron is a fairly cheesy antagonist as characterised but his ability to amplify the negative emotions in those around him makes for a tense collection of scenes where he uses the knowledge he has of Nora and John against them. His creative use of the truth really gets to both of them and there’s a lot of tension where Nora is concerned as she has always struggled with her darkness. Using this expectation to lead to a satisfying victory where Nora and John successfully play Neron is a nice touch and adding the complication of Ray rushing in fuelled by a misunderstanding which leads to Neron inhabiting him while Nora falls into a mystical coma raises the stakes appropriately. One advantage is that Des is freed of Neron’s influence but there’s no happy ending for them as Des can’t forgive being sent to Hell by the man he loves. He refuses to have his memory erased as he wants both of them to live with what happened as a reminder. It’s perfectly on brand for John to remain tortured and alone like this.
Nate dealing with his grief over the loss of Hank works really well. Ray acting as the supportive friend biding his time before issuing a reality check is deployed perfectly and using the theme park as a metaphor for the relationship Nate had with Hank is on the nose but in a good way. The moment Nate literally decides to fight for this monument to that relationship is really satisfying. Sara and Ava’s plot is most interesting as it explores the issues their relationship have in really creative ways. The four levels of Ava’s purgatory answering her different concerns about being with Sara are brilliantly executed. They aren’t at all subtle but the exploration of different aspects of Ava’s insecurities are fascinating along with the acknowledgement that what they have will never be perfect but will always be real. It’s heart-warming to watch them reconcile through working through these together. The only weak link the episode has is Zari agonising over sending a text to Nate that communicates her feelings. There’s little to say about it unless you happen to be invested in this fledgling relationship.
- the Neron plot providing great material for John and Nora
- Nora successfully manipulating Nero
- the tragic conclusion to the John and Des relationship
- Nate accepting the monument to his relationship with Hank
- Ray acting as the supportive friend who supplies Nate a much needed reality check
- Sara and Ava working through their issues in creative and heart-warming ways
- the uninteresting plot surrounding Zari composing the perfect text to Nate
- Neron being a little too cheesy an antagonist
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