DC’s Legends of Tomorrow – Season 6 Episode 9
“This Is Gus”
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow delivers something of an origin story for Behrad, comments on representation and explores the complexities of family.
Six seasons in it really shouldn’t surprise me how the oddball approach this show constantly takes to conveying its various messages consistently works but an episode like this one has me come away from it wondering how they managed to pull it off. In a single episode there is an exploration of what inspired Behrad to be so secure with his life choices, strong exploration of the Zari/Behrad sibling relationship, a meaningful family driven story for Mick and an adorable puppet alien to bring it all together.
In true Legends fashion the mission is little more than an excuse to enable what the episode really looks to achieve and it all comes together seamlessly. It begins with Behrad being informed by Gideon that it’s his birthday -apparently the Waverider aligns to a particular calendar somehow, as with everything don’t question it- and appropriately for the sitcom backdrop he assumes there’s a big surprise being planned when everyone else has forgotten all about it. Considering Gideon had to remind Behrad that it was his own birthday it’s hardly surprising but it does set up Zari’s role in this plot through having her directly address what her brother means to her.
I’ll cover that later in the review but first there is the Behrad origin story. The mission takes the team to 2023 Vancouver where Behrad is able to be in the audience for the recording of one of his favourite shows, a sitcom by the name of Bud-Stuy where the lead is a Muslim stoner with dreams that his family disapprove of. It’s well established that Behrad’s parents had a particular path in mind for Behrad that he rejected and it turns out that this sitcom is a big part of why. It’s one of those shows that was cancelled after two seasons but enjoys a loyal cult following that is implied to be stoners watching it in the early hours of the morning. The existence of this show and the fact of the lead being a Muslim is vitally important because Behrad saw himself in that character and actor which opened his mind to alternate possibilities in his own life. It says a lot about the importance of representation in entertainment with Behrad being so heavily influenced by this as well as how personally significant the entertainment we consume can be. For Behrad Bud-Stuy is so much more than a TV show because of how he connected to it and the scope of that influence can be seen in him every day.
Not that this TV show defined his entire identity much as it might seem that way on the surface. What it allowed him to do was have the confidence to find his own way to live his life. Even though the things he enjoyed such as getting high and not studying were looked on as undesirable traits by his parents he still enjoyed them and that show gave him the assurance that he isn’t alone. Many of us question our life choices as Behrad did in his past but watching a failed sitcom validated them for him and eventually led him to the Legends where he could be a part of doing some real good. It’s all very positive and affirming to categorically state why Behrad shouldn’t be ashamed of the way he lives his life. During his time as a member of the team her has never experienced a moment of shame around how he chooses to live his life but there was a point where he did and a failed sitcom helped him overcome that. It’s framed through a comedy lens as are many things on this show but it’s a really strong message that resonates clearly.
The inclusion of the adorable puppet alien named Gus-Gus offers an opportunity to get a sense of what Behrad’s life would be without Bud-Stuy influencing it. Adding an alien to the show is immediately seen as an opportunity to turn it from a flop into a hit which changes Behrad’s relationship to it. Without the cult status it enjoyed through endless late night reruns Behrad didn’t connect to it which turns him into exactly the person he didn’t want to become. It starts with relatively minor changes such as him showing up on time and well groomed to a team meeting and quickly escalates to him wearing a suit, driving a fancy car and wearing a Rolex instead of his totem. His attitude also shifts to being less than desirable therefore cementing the idea that Behrad being anything other than what we know is a very bad thing.
This is brilliantly punctuated through Astra’s reaction to this change. An attraction between them has been bubbling along in the background over recent episodes with Astra actively resisting it presumably because she judges him based on his life choices. Seeing him well groomed and in a suit causes her to take notice on a superficial level but once she sees the behaviour associated with that change she is less than impressed. The obvious message associated with this is that it’s the person inside that counts with superficial details being unimportant. Considering the CW tendency to favour unspeakably attractive actors it’s an interesting statement and in fairness many of the shows they produce work very hard to highlight what lies beneath the attractive outer shell the characters and actors have.
Behrad’s shift in personality turns the mission into a race against time to save him which makes the alien plot a secondary one. The jeopardy is having the new Behrad solidify and it’s made clear how urgent this is through Sara reminding everyone that they lost Zari 1.0 in a similar way. This outlines the emotional stakes and plainly states that the team is what is important. Saving Behrad is a priority and everything they do from then on should be in service of that. Saving him involves restoring the sitcom to its cult status so that the inspiration exists for Behrad to be confident in his life choices. In order to do that they alien needs to go which involves Nate entering the show as a “nosy landlord” to remove Gus Gus from the cast.
Nate being cast in the show provides a few laughs such as his awkward audition but it also says a lot about representation by virtue of him being cast in the first place. Zari takes on the task because she feels that she is the best fit being a trained actor but she is rejected because the studio wants to go in a “new direction”. That new direction is a straight white man rather than a Muslim woman and Zari directly calls that out so that there can be no doubt as to what is being said. It doesn’t come across as tone deaf for this show because the cast is diverse with each of them having plenty of opportunity to share the limelight so it gets to make that observation and have it be meaningful. Zari’s point is a very simple one about representation still having a long way to go. This is supported by the detail of the show itself failing and the implied assumption on the part of the studio that a lot of it has to do with it having a Muslim lead.
Nothing is really said about why the show failed but it’s certainly in the air that this might have had something to do with it. Of course it’s also well known that there are a lot of TV shows that don’t even make it to air for various reasons and many that do fail to survive because they don’t connect with audiences. Bud-Stuy is shown to not be considered all that funny by the audience attending the recording and it certainly seems to fall flat as a sitcom based on the scenes the show depicts. Whether that’s deliberate or not is impossible to say because humour is so subjective but based on the limited view shown in the recording of the show itself it wouldn’t have resonated with me because it seems to be one of those sitcoms that I wouldn’t find funny. Kudos to the writer of this episode if the intention was to create an in universe sitcom that wasn’t actually funny to underscore why it failed. The point isn’t whether the show itself was good enough to have mass appeal, the point is that Behrad connected to it and the reasons behind that are clearly depicted.
Integrity is another idea the episode touches on through the Imran (Shawn Ahmed) character who is at odds with his brother and showrunner Kamran (Saad Siddiqui). Imran’s reason for being on the show is to make something personal to himself that he can be proud of where Kamran is dealing with pressure from the studio to rescue the show from failure otherwise it will be cancelled. It’s the same conflict that Behrad has internally where what he wants from life is in opposition to what is expected. It is framed in a different context but offers comfort in the sense that Behrad isn’t alone while also allowing him to consider that the thing helping to affirm his identity was itself struggling with an identity crisis. This highlights that there are things going on beneath the surface that most won’t be aware of. Behrad giving the pep talk to Imran built around what he learned from watching the show to encourage him to be true to his own version of it was an excellent moment that brings everything full circle even if Imran loses his way temporarily.
The idea of issues existing beneath the surface that most won’t be aware of is a big part of Zari’s arc throughout the episode. She understands that the show is important to Behrad but doesn’t really understand why that is until circumstances for her to explore that. She sees Behrad turn into the worst version of himself motivated by greed and this allows her to see why watching this show was so formative. She may have her own views and judgements on how her brother lives his life but she does recognise that he’s a fundamentally good and kind person who has a very progressive view of how the world should work. Trying to improve him by certain metrics removes who he is and creates a much worse person. Not only that but these changes will have a significant impact on the team so Behrad being himself is highlighted as being instrumental in maintaining the team the way it is.
On top of that it brings Zari’s insecurities to the surface around her own life choices when compared to that of her Totem dwelling alternate self. Zari 1.0 remembers Behrad’s birthday, sacrificed herself to ensure he would live a happy life and generally seems to have everything figured out where Zari 2.0 is dealing with a lot of confusion. Of course the truth is that Zari 1.0 has her own insecurities that she has gotten good at hiding but from Zari 2.0’s perspective she represents a better version of herself that has more going for her. A lot of this is framed through the connection they both have to Behrad but Zari 2.0 feels guilty about having her priorities being focused in the direction of building a company and a brand around herself rather than focusing on what really matters. There is a resolution to that in a way when she agrees to exchange places with Zari 1.0 for a while to give her a chance to live her life. This is major growth for Zari 2.0 who is rapidly becoming more naturally selfless as shown by her partial sacrifice. As always Tala Ashe is to be commended for her ability to play these vastly different versions of the same character.
Mick get a shock when he learns that Lita is pregnant. It connects thematically to the Behrad plot because it taps into being comfortable with life choices. Lita talks about getting carried away with her boyfriend Niko (Louis Lay) and ending up pregnant. She chooses to accept those consequences and have the baby with Niko being in full support of her through this. She still attends college, pursues her own dreams and generally has a strong idea of how she is going to handle this. Mick reacts in his usual over the top way by making his disapproval clear, judging her for making a mess of her life and eventually planning to murder her boyfriend for doing this to her.
As is also standard for Mick he eventually thinks about what is happening and arrives at a more reasonable position. Lita realises this herself and waits for him to get there while also pointing out how absent he has been in her life lately. In some ways it is very familiar beats and it is very predictable where this will end up but the emotional core is very strong and it allows growth for Mick who has to accept that his daughter is an intelligent young woman who faces up to the consequences of her actions and has made very adult decisions about the direction her life is taking. Lita points out that he’s hardly in a position to judge her considering the circumstances that led to her own conception but there’s a sense that Mick’s heart is in the right place and he’s concerned about what she is getting herself in for.
Not mentioned but connecting to this is Mick’s feelings about his relationship with his own parents that he believes taints Lita in ways that he feels guilty for. The short of it is that Mick’s parents failed to do right by him which made him the way he is and informed a lot of his life choices, Mick failed to do right by Lita for much of her life and now Lita is breaking that cycle by ensuring that she does right for her own child. Mick does come to realise that this is ultimately a good thing as shown by him being moved by Niko’s words
The reveal that Mick is also pregnant -sort of- because Kayla implanted eggs into his brain meaning a brood of whatever will be hatching at some point in the near future is hastily thrown in. It comes across as being quite clumsy in execution though the idea that he passes judgement on Lita for being reckless and ending up pregnant when exactly the same thing happened to him is something she has a lot of fun with. There is mention of the close connection Mick has to Kayla which only serves as a reminder of the failure to actually establish that made worse by using the history in his connection to Lita to highlight what a good example of taking time to develop something looks like. It does bring in an interesting idea for the show to explore but the lack of development is clear particularly when found among such strong material.
A strong episode with excellent material for Behrad, a fascinating showcase for the Zari/Behrad relationship and emotionally meaningful content for Mick. Connecting Behrad’s personality to a stoner sitcom with a Muslim lead was a great way to explore why he is the way he is as a character. The sitcom and Behrad’s connection to it highlights the importance of representation as Behrad sees himself in it in different ways. At a time of his life where he was struggling to find his own identity amidst the parental expectations he saw validity in what the show presented to him and it encouraged him to forge his own path without. The worst case scenario is shown when the show changes direction and he becomes a well groomed businessman motivated by greed. Astra is impressed by the aesthetic change but is quickly turned off by his attitude therefore showing what is really important. The person Behrad became because of the influence of that show benefits the entire team so restoring it becomes important as Behrad needs to be back the way he was. Imran’s disagreement with his brother over what the show could be frames Behrad’s internal conflict slightly differently and results in an excellent full circle moment where Behrad uses what he learned from watching the show to encourage Imran to be true to what he thinks it stands for.
Zari is aware that the show is important to Behrad but didn’t understand exactly why or how much until the events of this episode. It draws out her on insecurities and invites her to compare herself to Zari 1.0 who has it all figured out as far as Zari 2.0 is concerned. Of course the truth is far from that but it’s down to how Zari 2.0 perceives herself. Ultimately she comes to accept Behrad for who he is and understand why that is important not just to himself but the entire team. There is real growth to Zari 2.0 when she sacrifices herself -albeit temporarily- to allow Zari 1.0 to live outside the Totem. As always Tala Ashe’s performance is excellent and the character development facilitated by Zari 2.0’s reaction to the events of this episode is very believable. Lita’s pregnancy provides strong content for Mick who confronts his judgemental attitude, his own mistakes and his relationship to his parents. He quickly learns that Lita is facing up to the consequences of her actions while also continuing to pursue her dreams. She is shown to be intelligent and makes adult decisions about her life. Mick comes to understand that and recognises that she is trying to break the cycle of absent or incapable parents in their family. It is a predictable arc but has a strong emotional core. The reveal that Mick is -sort of- pregnant and the mention of his strong relationship with Kayla is clumsy in execution and only serves as a reminder of not being shown that connection. It is an interesting idea but the lack of development is clear especially when surrounded by such strong material.
- Behrad’s excellently developed origin story connected to the sitcom
- highlighting the importance of representation through the impression it made on Behrad
- showing the worst case scenario without the influence the sitcom had on Behrad’s life choices
- Behrad’s personality being shown to be important the rest of the team
- Zari understanding how important this influence was on her brother’s life
- Zari 2.0 comparing herself to Zari 1.0 and growing significantly by analysing this
- her arc culminating in a sacrifice of her own
- Mick confronting his own failings as a parent as well as the failings of his own parents
- having him recognise that Lita is an intelligent young woman who faces the consequences of her actions
- a strong emotional core offsetting the predictable arc for Mick
- uncomfortable reminders of the failure to show Mick’s supposedly strong connection to Kayla
- the reveal of Mick’s -sort of- pregnancy coming across as clumsy in its execution
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